Lt General Manoj Pande will take over as the next Army chief from General M M Naravane on April 30, becoming the first ever officer commissioned in the Corps of Engineers to head the 12lakh strong force.
The government has gone by the seniority principle in announcing the next Army chief, with Lt-Gen Pande being the senior most Lt-Gen in the force. The country’s next chief of defence staff, however, is yet to be announced well over four months after Gen Bipin Rawat’s untimely death in a helicopter crash, though Gen Naravane is considered to be the frontrunner.
A CDS can serve till the age of 65, while the Army, Navy and IAF chiefs serve till 62 or for three years,whichever is earlier.
Lt Gen Pande, who turns 60 on May 6, will take over as the Army chief at a time when there are still no signs of any de-escalation in the almost two-year long military confrontation with China in eastern Ladakh.
He is well-versed with China, having first served as the 4 ‘Gajraj’ Corps commander in the north-east, which looks after both the Line of Actual Control as well as counterinsurgency operations, and then later as the general officer commanding-in-chief of the Eastern Command from June 2021 to Jan 2022 before he became the Army vice-chief.
“Lt Gen Pande will have to take forward the transformation of the manpower-intensive Army into a lean, mean and future-ready fighting machine, with a much better teeth-to-tail ratio,” a senior officer said.
Commissioned in the Corps of Engineers (The Bombay Sappers) in December 1982, Lt Gen Pande opted for the ‘general cadre’, which includes the ‘combat arms’ of infantry, armoured corps and mechanized infantry, on his promotion to the rank of Brigadier from Colonel.
As a ‘general cadre’ Brigadier, Lt Gen Pande went on to command an infantry brigade along the Line of Control with Pakistan in J&K with Pakistan, and then a mountain division in the high-altitude area of western Ladakh as a Major General.