Complete List of Indian Army Chiefs

Complete List of Indian Army Chiefs
The Chief of Army Staff is the highest officer of the Indian Army.
Complete List of Indian Army Chiefs
The Chief of Army Staff is the highest officer of the Indian Army.

The Indian Army is a legacy of the British Army with its structure and the organisational foundation laid under the British rule in India.

Few know, the Indian Army had two British Commanders-in-Chief, post the country’s independence on August 15, 1947, before India got its first Indian Commander-in-Chief. The position of Chief of the Army Staff was created in 1955 and continues to this day.

In 2019, India got its first Combined Chief of Defence Staff (CDS).

The Commander-in-Chief (1947 – 1955)

General Sir Rob Lockhart (August 15, 1947 – December 31, 1947)

General Lockhart was a British Army officer who was appointed independent India’s first Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army. He supervised the transition process.

General Sir Roy Bucher (January 1, 1948 – January 14, 1949)

General Bucher was the second British officer to be appointed as the second Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army.

General (later Field Marshal) Cariappa (January 15, 1949 – January 14, 1953)

General Cariappa was the first officer of Indian origin to be appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army. January 15, the day he took over as the C-in-C, is celebrated as Army Day every year. On May 15 1993, the government conferred him with the rank of Field Marshal.

General Maharaj Rajendra Sinhji Jadeja (January 15, 1953 – March 31, 1955)

General Sinhji, as he was popularly known, was the last Commander-in-Chief serving till March 31, 1955. From April 1, 1955, he was appointed the first Chief of the Army Staff.

The Chief of Defence Staff (2019 – present)

General Bipin Rawat (December 31, 2019 – Incumbent)

General Rawat is India’s first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), a position created to integrate and optimise administration and operations of the Indian Defence Forces.

On January 1, 2020, General Rawat took office as CDS and will serve a three-year term. The need to have a single-point military advisor to the government was felt after the Kargil War in 1999 and in line with the prevailing practice among all P-5 nations.

The Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) (1955 – present)

General Maharaj Rajendra Sinhji Jadeja (April 1, 1955 – May 14, 1955)

Having served as the last Commander-in-Chief, General Sinhji took over as the first Chief of the Army Staff on April 1, 1955.

Unit of Commission: 2nd Lancers (Gardner’s Horse)

General S.M. Srinagesh (May 15, 1955 – May 7, 1957)

Unit of Commission: 19th Hyderabad Regiment

General Srinagesh completed his school from England before joining the University of Cambridge in the UK. He decided to pursue a career in the military and was among the early Indians to be nominated for training at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. He served as GOC-in-C of Westerns and Southern Command before taking over as COAS.

General K.S. Thimayya (May 08 1957 – May 07 1961)

Unit of Commission: 19th Hyderabad Regiment

General Thimayya is remembered as one of the finest officers to lead the Indian Army. He commanded the 19th Hyderabad Regiment (later 2 Kumaon) in the battle against the Japanese Army in the hills of Burma. He served as Army Commander of Westerns, Southern, and Eastern Commands before taking office as the COAS.

General P.N. Thapar (May 8, 1961 – November 19, 1962)

Unit of Commission: 1st Punjab Regiment

General Thapar served as the Army Chief during the Indo-China War 1962. He resigned before the war ended on November 21, 1962.

General J.N. Choudhuri (November 20, 1962 – June 7, 1966)

Unit of Commission: 7th Light Cavalry

General Choudhuri led Operation Polo, Indian Army’s entry into Hyderabad in 1948, forcing the Nizam’s accession to India. He took over as Army Chief in the immediate aftermath of Gen Thapar’s resignation in 1962. Later, he raised the Border Security Force (BSF).

General P.P. Kumaramangalam (June 8, 1966 – June 7, 1969)

Unit of Commission: Regiment of Artillery

General Kumaramangalam was among the officers of the King’s Commission – those recruited and trained under the British Indian Army. After taking over as Army Chief, he initiated a modernisation program which resulted in India’s victory during the 1971 Indo-Pak War.

General SHFJ Manekshaw (June 8, 1969 – December 31, 1972)

Unit of Commission: 12th Frontier Force Regiment

The Indo-Pak War 1971 was fought under his command. A brilliant officer, he delayed India’s entry into the conflict until the Army was fully prepared. The move proved to be to India’s advantage and led to the creation of Bangladesh.

Field Marshal SHFJ Manekshaw (January 1, 1973 – January 14, 1973)

Unit of Commission: 12th Frontier Force Regiment

His contribution to the Indo-Pak war of 1971 earned him the rank of Field Marshal and retired soon after.

General G.G. Bewoor (January 15, 1973 – May 31, 1975)

Unit of Commission: 10th Baluch Regiment

Gen Bewoor was a King’s Commission officer. It was during his tenure as COAS, India carried out its first nuclear test – codenamed Smiling Buddha, at Pokhran in Rajasthan on May 18, 1974. Gen Bewoor was present at the site. With the test, India joined the select group of nations possessing nuclear weapon capability.

General T.N. Raina (June 1, 1975 – May 31, 1978)

Unit of Commission: Kumaon Regiment

Gen Raina had a distinguished career. He lost an eye due to a grenade blast but continued to serve various positions with distinction. In 1975, he refused to involve the Army during the infamous Emergency, declared by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

General O.P. Malhotra (June 1, 1978 – May 31, 1981)

Unit of Commission: Regiment of Artillery

During the 1965 Indo-Pak War, Gen Malhotra (then Brigadier) commanded 1 Artillery Brigade, part of 1 Armoured Div, fighting in the Khem Karan sector. He served as Chief of Staff, IV Corps during the ’71 Operations in Bangladesh.

General K.V. Krishna Rao (June 1, 1981 – July 31, 1983)

Unit of Commission: Mahar Regiment

Gen Krishna Rao commanded 8 Mountain Division, which saw action in Sylhet during the ’71 Operations in Bangladesh. Post-retirement, he served two terms as Governor of Jammu and Kashmir.

General A.S. Vaidya (August 1, 1983 – January 31, 1986)

Unit of Commission: 9th Deccan Horse

He played an active role in the Indo-Pak Wars of 1965 and 1971, earning the Maha Vir Chakra for the two wars, respectively. He was the Army Chief when Operation Bluestar took place to free the Golden Temple of heavily armed militants. Post-retirement, he was assassinated by militants in Pune on August 10, 1980.

General K. Sundarji (February 1, 1986 – April 30, 1988)

Unit of Commission: Mahar Regiment

He was responsible for raising India’s Mechanized Infantry and initiated moves to introduce greater use of technology in the Army. He initiated Operation Brasstacks on the western front, testing the Cold Start concept involving decisive action, speed, mobility, and technology. Under his command, India launched Operation Pawan in Sri Lanka to flush out Tamil militants.

General V.N. Sharma (May 1, 1988 – June 30, 1990)

Unit of Commission: 16th Light Cavalry

Gen Sharma comes from a distinguished family of military officers. He is the younger brother of Maj Som Nath Sharma, the first recipient of India’s highest military honour, the Param Vir Chakra (PVC). Gen Sharma is also the brother of Lt Gen Surendra Nath Sharma.

General S.F. Rodrigues (July 1, 1990 – June 30, 1993)

Unit of Commission: Regiment of Artillery

The Bombay-born General Rodrigues is perhaps the only Army Chief to be a qualified pilot for the Army Air Observation Post, an artillery support wing which helps direct accurate Arty fire on the enemy. He successfully flew missions during the 1965 Indo-Pak War, besides serving as GSO II operations with XXXIII Corps during the 1971 Indo-Pak War.

General B.C. Joshi (July 1, 1993 – November 18, 1994)

Unit of Commission: 64th Cavalry

General Joshi served as a staff officer to a UN Mission in Gaza and as a military advisor in Australia. During the 1971 Indo-Pak War, he commanded an Armoured Regiment in the western sector. In 1990, he raised the Rashtriya Rifles to fight insurgency in J&K. On November 19, 1994, he suffered a massive cardiac arrest and passed away in the military hospital. He is the first and only army chief to pass away while in office.

General S. Roychowdhury (November 22, 1994 – September 30, 1997)

Unit of Commission: 20th Lancers

General Roychowdhury saw action in the Chamb-Jaurian sector as commander of an armoured regiment during the 1965 Indo-Pak War. During the 1971 Indo-Pak War, his regiment took an active part in the Jessore-Khulna sector in East Pakistan. In later years, he took over the Army Training Command (ATRAC) as GOC-in-C.

General V.P. Malik (October 1, 1997 – September 30, 2000)

Unit of Commission: Sikh Light Infantry

General Malik commanded an Infantry Brigade in J&K, and later a Mountain Div. It was under General Malik’s tenure India fought the Kargil War with Pakistan in 1999.

General S. Padmanabhan (September 30, 2000 – December 31, 2002)

Unit of Commission: Regiment of Artillery

Gen Padmanabhan served as GOC of an Infantry Div, GOC of XV Corps, Director General Military Intelligence, GOC-in-C Northern Command, and GOC-in-C Southern Command, before taking over as Chief of the Army Staff.

General N.C. Vij (January 1, 2003 – January 31, 2005)

Unit of Commission: Dogra Regiment

Commissioned into the Dogra Regiment during the 1962 War with China, General Vij took part in the action at the Walong sector in present-day Arunachal Pradesh. He was the Director of Military Operations during the Kargil War in 1999. He commanded I Corps and IV Corps besides serving as GOC-in-C Southern Command.

General J.J. Singh (February 1, 2005 – September 30, 2007)

Unit of Commission: Maratha Light Infantry

A third-generation military officer, General JJ Singh is the first Sikh officer to be appointed Chief of the Army Staff. The Maratha Light Infantry officer served as GOC-in-C of Western Command and the Army Training Command (ATRAC).

General Deepak Kapoor (September 30, 2007 – March 30, 2010)

Unit of Commission: Regiment of Artillery

General Kapoor took part in the 1972 Indo-Pak War and later served as Chief of Operations United Nations Operations in Somalia II (UNSOM II) in 1994-95. He commanded XXXIII Corps, GOC-in-C ATRAC, GOC-in-C Northern Command before taking over as COAS.

General V.K. Singh (March 31, 2010 – May 31, 2012)

Unit of Commission: Rajput Regiment

General Singh is the first Commando to take over as COAS. General Singh trained at the United States Army Infantry Training School, Fort Benning, and the United States Army War College at Carlisle, Pennsylvania. He commanded II Corps and served Eastern Command as GOC-in-C before being appointed COAS.

General Bikram Singh (June 1, 2012 – July 31, 2014)

Unit of Commission: Sikh Light Infantry

General Bikram Singh is the second Sikh officer and a Commando to serve as COAS, and he also served as Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee (CoSC) of the Indian Armed Services.

During the Kargil War in 1999, he was Director in Military Operations (MO) Branch and served as the spokesperson of the Indian Army.

General Dalbir Singh Suhag (July 31, 2014 – December 31, 2016)

Unit of Commission: 5 Gorkha Rifles

General Suhag is the third Gorkha Regiment officer, after Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw and General Bewoor, to serve as COAS. A third-generation, the soldier studied at the Sainik School in Chittorgarh before joining the National Defence Academy in Pune. He served as Army Commander Eastern Command before being appointed as Vice Chief of the Army Staff. On July 31, 2014, he took over as Chief of the Army Staff.

General Bipin Rawat (December 31, 2016 – December 31, 2019)

Unit of Commission: 11 Gorkha Rifles

General Rawat is the son of Lt Gen Laxman Singh Rawat and commissioned into the 5th Battalion of 11 Gorkha Rifles, the same regiment as his father’s.

General Rawat has wide experience in both counter-insurgency and high altitude warfare. He commanded III Corps and then served as Army Commander Southern Command before taking over as COAS.

General Manoj Mukund Naravane (December 31, 2019 – Incumbent)

Unit of Commission: 7th Sikh Light Infantry

General Naravane is the present Chief of the Army Staff. He has served in counter-insurgency operations in the northeast and J&K. Gen Naravane commanded II Corps before his appointment as GOC-in-C Army Training Command (ATRAC). Later he took office as Army Commander Eastern Command and then served as Vice Chief of the Army Staff. He took over as COAS on December 31, 2019.

Related Links:

Indian Army: A Guide to Its Regiments and Battalions

Women Who are Breaking The Glass Ceiling in The Armed Forces