Leadership Reshuffling in the Indian Navy

Recently, the Indian Navy shuffled five senior officers for important assignments at Naval Headquarters and Integrated Staff Headquarters, Ministry of Defence (Navy).

Vice Admiral Ravneet Singh

Appointed the Deputy Chief of Naval Staff (DCNS) in place of retired Vice Admiral Sadashiv Pawar; he is a graduate of National Defence Academy and was commissioned in Naval Aviation. He has commanded various frigates and destroyers during his service, also holding the distinction for more than 2500 flight hours in 10 different aircraft.

Ravneet led the Sea Harrier Training and Frontline Operational Squadron INAS 300, a.k.a. “White Tigers” and Indian Naval Air Station 551 a.k.a. “The Phantoms”, both of which are formations of Indian Naval Station Hansa in Goa (western seaboard). Later, as a Commodore, Ravneet became Officer Commanding of INS Hansa, paving the way for induction of MiG-29Ks and Sea Harriers attached to aircraft carriers, apart from piracy and anti-narcotics operations. He has served as a Defence Adviser in three countries (Kenya, Tanzania, and Seychelles), all of which are in East Africa.

Upon promotion to Rear Admiral, Ravneet served as an Assistant Controller Carrier Projects (ACCP) and Assistant Controller Warship Production and Acquisition (ACWP&A) at Integrated Headquarters, Ministry of Defence (Navy). He was then appointed as the Flag Officer Goa Area and Flag Officer Naval Aviation (FOGA and FONA). In this capacity, he oversaw the entire gamut of field operations for naval aviation, covering the entire western seaboard.

Upon promotion to Vice Admiral, Ravneet was retained at Western Naval Command as the Flag Officer Commanding Western Fleet (FOCWF) and later Chief of Staff. Later, he was appointed as the Director General – Project “Seabird”, an Indian naval infrastructure project that is setting up INS Kadamba as one of the largest naval bases in Asia. Prior to his recent appointment, Ravneet was posted to Integrated Headquarters (Navy), Ministry of Defence as Chief of Personnel, having served for well over a year.

Vice Admiral Dinesh K Tripathi

Appointed Chief of Personnel in place of outgoing Vice Admiral Ravneet Singh; he is a graduate of National Defence Academy and was commissioned in the navy’s Executive Branch, specialising in Communication and Electronic Warfare. He has commanded various vessels during his service. In 2008, he was awarded the Robert E Bateman’s International Essay Award at the US Naval War College.

Dinesh has served as the Fleet Operations Officer of the Western Fleet. As a Captain, his stints included Principal Director Network Centric Operations at Naval Headquarters. His appointments as a Commodore include Director of Naval Operations (he would later be elevated to Director General of Naval Operations immediately preceding his current appointment).

Upon promotion to Rear Admiral, he was the Assistant Chief of Naval Staff (Policy and Plans) at Naval Headquarters, where he was part of the team behind the promulgation of the Indian Naval Indigenisation Plan (2015-2030). Dinesh was later transferred to the Eastern Naval Command as Flag Officer Commanding Eastern Fleet (FOCEF). In this capacity, he was instrumental in materialising the Bharatiya Janata Party’s “Act East” policy, supervising the Overseas Deployment to Malaysia and Thailand for extended maritime cooperation and naval diplomacy.

On promotion to Vice Admiral, he was appointed Commandant of Indian Naval Academy and then as DGNO.

Vice Admiral Sandeep Naithani

Appointed Chief of Material, responsible for the entire maintenance and life-cycle support for the Indian Navy, including engineering systems and IT infrastructure; he graduated from National Defence Academy and was commissioned into the Electrical Branch. He specialises in Radar and Communication Engineering. During his career, Sandeep served onboard the aircraft carrier Viraat in various capacities.

As a Commodore, he was the Commanding Officer of INS Valsura, the navy’s torpedo training school.

It remains to be seen whether this is a standalone occurrence or if there is a planned placement of US-groomed senior officers in the future.

Upon promotion to Rear Admiral, he served as Assistant Chief of Materiel (Modernisation) in Naval Headquarters, Admiral Superintendent at Naval Dockyard Mumbai, Chief Staff Officer (Technical) at Western Naval Command, Director General Naval Projects at Mumbai, and Programme Director at Headquarters Advanced Tactical Vessel Programme (ATVP).

Upon promotion to Vice Admiral and before his current appointment, he served as Controller of Warship Production and Acquisition (CWP&A) at Integrated Headquarters, Ministry of Defence (Navy).

Vice Admiral Rajesh Pendharkar

Appointed DGNO in place of Vice Admiral Dinesh K Tripathi; he is a graduate of National Defence Academy and also US Naval War College, where he earned the Robert E Bateman’s International Essay Award for his paper titled “Soft Power for Military Leadership in the 21st Century: Overcoming Cross-Cultural Barriers”. He specialises in Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW).

As a Commander, Rajesh was a Visiting Fellow at The Henry L Stimson Centre (US), where he wrote a paper proposing enhanced maritime Confidence-Building Measures (CBMs) between India and Pakistan through Search and Rescue (SAR) agreements and Maritime Risk Reduction Centres (MRRCs). He particularly advocated for a bilateral incidents-at-sea agreement between the two countries based on the US-Russia model.

As a Captain, he was the Commanding Officer of the frigate INS Shivalik, missile corvette INS Kora and the now-decommissioned aircraft carrier Viraat (having earlier served as Executive Officer on the same carrier).

As a Rear Admiral, he served in the tri-services Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) as the Assistant Chief of Integrated Defence Staff, later moving to Chief Staff Officer (Operations) in Western Naval Command. He was then posted as the Flag Officer Sea Training (FOST), his most recent appointment.

Vice Admiral Kiran Manikrao Deshmukh

Appointed CWP&A; he holds a Master’s degree in Engineering and is an alumnus of the prestigious IIT Chennai. He was commissioned into the Engineering Branch. During his career, he has served ashore and onboard several ships, including INS Ranjit, Ranvir and Tabar.

As a Commodore, he was Command Engineering Officer in Eastern Naval Command, Principal Director Ship Production, and various appointments at Naval Dockyard, Vishakapatnam.

Upon promotion to Rear Admiral, Kiran served as Assistant Chief of Materiel (Dockyards & Refits) at Integrated Headquarters, Ministry of Defence (Navy) and Chief Staff Officer (Technical) at Eastern Naval Command. Later, prior to his new appointment, he was posted as Admiral Superintendent Naval Dockyard Vishakapatnam.

Observations

The reshuffling, though routine, sets a precedent. Vice Admiral Dinesh K Tripathi and his successor Rajesh Pendharkar both received higher command training in the US and served on senior leadership stints in the Eastern and Western Naval Commands, respectively. It remains to be seen whether this is a standalone occurrence or if there is a planned placement of US-groomed senior officers in the future.

Vice Admiral Ravneet Singh’s diplomatic experience in East Africa could be used to promote functional cooperation with the Ministry of External Affairs.

Zaki Khalid

Zaki Khalid is a strategic analyst and freelance commentator based in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. His areas of interest include national security, geopolitics, cyberspace and maritime affairs. He is also the founder and editor of 'Pakistan Geostrategic Review (PGR)', an independent platform publishing a premium newsletter and podcasts on geostrategic developments. He can be reached on Twitter @misterzedpk.

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