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Navy gets military baton

New Delhi, Sept. 20: The command of the Integrated Defence Staff has passed from the army to the navy two years after the converged military structure was formed on the recommendations of a group of ministers.

Vice Admiral Raman Puri is to take over from Lieutenant General Pankaj Joshi — who retires — in the first passing of the baton in the outfit that began with ambitious plans but is yet to prove its mettle.

Lieutenant General Joshi was put in charge of the outfit with the designation “chief of Integrated Defence Staff to the chairman, chiefs of staff committee” in October 2001. He was the first lieutenant general to be given a guard of honour by the three services.

His installation was highly symbolic of the Indian military taking to convergence and unified commands like in the US. But in the two years that have passed, the IDS has been little more than a military think tank that is a cousin to fighting forces.

The IDS is on a par with the tri-service Andaman and Nicobar Command and the Strategic Forces Command that is theoretically the custodian of nuclear weaponry. The baton in the Andaman and Nicobar Command, by rotation, will also pass to the army. An officer for the post has not yet been named. The Strategic Forces Command is headed by the air force.

The IDS and the tri-service command are still experimental military commands. Officers seconded to these branches sport an amalgam of army, navy and air force insignia on their uniforms irrespective of the parent service to which they belong.

The defence ministry has also announced a reshuffle in the navy.

Vice Admiral Arun Prakash, flag officer commanding the western naval command, will take over as the vice chief of naval staff. He will replace Vice Admiral John de Silva who retires

Vice Admiral .P. Bansal, who heads the tri-service Andaman and Nicobar Command, will take over as flag officer commanding the eastern fleet

Vice Admiral Madanjeet Singh, who was in the southern naval command, has been asked to take over as flag officer commanding the western fleet

Rear Admiral Rakesh Kala has been made chief of staff (not equivalent to commander) of the Andaman and Nicobar command.

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