NEW DELHI – India has announced the names of new chiefs of its army and air force, along with the heads of the country’s spy agencies.

Lieutenant General Bipin Rawat will take over as the new chief of army staff from General Dalbir Singh Suhag as the head of the 1.3 million strong force, the defence ministry said on Saturday.

“Government has decided to appoint Lt Gen Bipin Rawat, vice chief of army staff, as the next chief of army staff with effect from afternoon of December 31,” the defence ministry said in a tweet.

Air Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa has been chosen as the new chief of the Indian Air Force, the ministry said.

They are the first high profile defence appointments by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government.

ww1Rawat has served in the India-held Kashmir along the Line of Control, where troops of the nuclear-armed nations have been locked in almost daily cross-border firing for months. He has also served in the insurgency-hit northern states and along the border with China.

The new chief was handpicked for the top job over two senior officers, a rare decision for the Indian army which follows seniority in appointments. He will succeed General Dalbir Singh Suhag as COAS and assume his duties in January 2017.

The government also announced Anil Dhasmana as the new chief of India’s external intelligence agency, Research and Analysis Wing, while Rajiv Jain will head the domestic agency, Intelligence Bureau.

Both will take up their new roles in January, local media reports said.