With General Manoj Mukund Naravane set to retire as Indian Army chief by April end, the ministry of defence has proposed names of four senior-most officers—one of whom will be picked for the top post.

Lt Gen Manoj Pande, Lt Gen Jai Singh Nain, Lt Gen Amardeep Singh Bhinder and Lt Gen Yogendra Dimri are in the fray to become the 28th chief of Army staff. Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led appointment committee of the cabinet will take a final call from the shortlisted candidates.

Traditionally, the government declares the name of the succeeding chief two to three months before the superannuation of the current chief. The idea is to give sufficient time to the new person to understand and coordinate with the present chief for the continuation of the work.

Among the four contenders, two officers are from the Corps of Engineers and one each from infantry and armoured corps. Lt Gen Manoj Pande, who is vice chief of the army, is the senior-most army officer when General Naravane retires on April 30. If Lt Gen Pande becomes the chief based on the seniority principle, he will be first from the Corps of Engineers to rise to the top rank. Engineers are considered as the combat support arm and provide support to main combat arms that include infantry, armoured, mechanised infantry and artillery on the battlefield. In war, combat engineers provide mobility to own forces by constructing bridges, tracks and helipads; on the other hand, the engineers denies the same to the enemy by creating obstacles such as laying mine-fields and demolition of bridges.

An alumnus of the National Defence Academy, Lt Gen Pande was commissioned into the Corps of Engineers in December 1982. Lt Gen Manoj Pande, who took over as the vice chief of the Army in February, came to the Army headquarters after commanding the Kolkata-based Eastern Command. In his 39 years of military service, he has commanded an engineer regiment during Operation Parakram in the Pallanwala sector along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir. Operation Parakram was the Indian military's massive mobilisation towards the Pakistan border after the 2001 attack on the Parliament by a Pakistan-backed terror outfit. Lt General Pande has commanded an engineer brigade in the western theatre, infantry brigade along Line of Control, a mountain division in the Ladakh sector and a corps in the northeast. He was the commander-in-chief of the Andaman and Nicobar Command before he took charge of the Eastern Command.

Next in line is Lt Gen Jai Singh Nain, who is heading the Army's Pune-based Southern Command. Lt Gen Nain is an alumnus of Sainik School, Kunjpura and National Defence Academy, Pune. He was commissioned in June 1983 into the Dogra Regiment, and will be the senior-most infantry officer at the time of General Naravane's retirement. It is a rare occasion, when only a single officer from the infantry finds a place among shortlisted candidates to be in the race to become the Army chief.

In his military career, Lt Gen Nain commanded his battalion in Jammu and Kashmir on the Line of Control and in a strike Corps of Southern Command, a mountain brigade in north east, an infantry division responsible for dominating the Line of Control in north Kashmir and a strategically important corps on the western front. He has been an instructor at Infantry School and a military observer at the United Nations mission in Iraq and Kuwait.

Lt Gen Amardeep Singh Bhinder, chief of the Jaipur-based South Western Command of Army, an alumnus of National Defence Academy and Indian Military Academy, was commissioned into the Deccan Horse in June 1983 which he later commanded. In a career spanning 38 years, Lt Gen Bhinder has commanded an armoured brigade, an armoured division and a Strike Corps. He has been the Deputy Chief of Army Staff (IS&C) at Integrated Headquarters of Ministry of Defence (Army) New Delhi, before taking over Sapta Shakti Command (South Western command) in Jaipur.

Lt Gen Yogendra Dimri, head of the Army's Lucknow-based Central Command, is an officer from the Corps of Engineers. He was commissioned into the Corps of Engineers (The Bombay Sappers) on December 17, 1983, and carries a rich operational experience having commanded an assault engineer regiment during Operation Parakram, an engineer brigade in a Strike Corps, an infantry brigade on the Line of Control, a counter insurgency force in Jammu & Kashmir and the Sudarshan Chakra Strike Corps in the deserts.