Chief of Defence Staff
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday announced the appointment of a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) who will be above the three Service Chiefs. What does it mean for India and its armed forces. This is one the country’s biggest higher level military reform to bring in jointness and tri-service integration.Chief of Defence Staff
Who is a CDS? Chief of Defence Staff
The CDS is meant to be a single-point military advisor to the government, and to coordinate long-term planning, procurements, training and logistics of the three services. As future wars become short, swift and network-centric, coordination among the three services is crucial. Also as the stress on resources increases and defence budgets remain flat, the way forward is optimisation of resources by joint planning and training.Chief of Defence Staff
The CDS, being above the three Service Chiefs, is expected to play this role by optimising procurement, avoiding duplication among the services and streamlining the process. India being a nuclear weapons state, the CDS will also act as the military advisor to the Prime Minister on nuclear issues.Chief of Defence Staff
WHY CDS WAS NEEDED: WHAT EXPERTS SAID
“Briefly put, the case for a CDS has been built around the argument that it is necessary to have a professional body of the highest standing to facilitate ‘jointmanship’ and render single-point military advice to the government on matters of national security,” former Army chief General NC Vij had said in an article for India Today magazine in 2016.
Explaining his stand, Gen (retd) Vij said the intention behind creating CDS was to “reconcile possible differences” in service-specific opinions to enable the government to arrive at considered military decisions.
“The institution of a CDS is best justified by the importance of strategising for a robust and cost-efficient national defence policy. Implicit in this is the role the CDS would play in fostering inter-services jointness in terms of budgeting, equipment purchases, training, joint doctrines and planning of military operations-an imperative of modern warfare,” Gen Vij had written.
In the book ‘Reforming and Restructuring: Higher Defence Organisation of India’, published by Centre for Joint Warfare Studies, Brigadier (Dr) Rajeev Bhutani (Retd) said, “Probably, India is the only country in the world, where the Secretary Department of Defence — a generalist civil servant drawn from diverse background and who serves in the Ministry of Defence for a fixed tenure — has been made responsible for ‘the Defence of India and every part thereof including preparation for defence’.”
In his 2016 book, Brigadier (retd) Bhutani wondered, “Does it mean that a bureaucrat heading the Defence Ministry will formulate the operational plans for war fighting and Chiefs of Staff will execute it. If that was an anomaly then it should have been rectified by now.”
Meanwhile, reacting to the PM Modi’s announcement, Gen (retd) VP Malik, who was the Army chief during Kargil War said, “Thank you PM Modi for announcing historic step of institution of CDS. This step will make our national security more effective and more economical. It will ensure better jointmanship and multi-disciplinary coordination. Salute!”
So, why had India not appointed a CDS until now?
BEST OF EXPRESS Chief of Defence Staff
Explained: Understanding post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS)
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The current Chairman CoSC is Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa, who succeeded the former Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Sunil Lanba on May 31. When ACM Dhanoa retires at the end of September 2019, he would have served as Chairman CoSC for a mere four months.
In 2015, then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had described the CoSC arrangement as “unsatisfactory”, and its Chairman as a “figurehead”. The post did not further tri-service integration, resulting in inefficiency and an expensive duplication of assets, he had said.
The CoSC system is a leftover from the colonial era, with only minor changes being carried out over the years. Apprehensions in the political class about a powerful military leader, along with inter-Services bickering, have long worked to disincentivise the upgrade of the post.
The first proposal for a CDS came from the 2000 Kargil Review Committee (KRC), which called for a reorganisation of the “entire gamut of national security management and apex decision-making and structure and interface between the Ministry of Defence and the Armed Forces Headquarters”. The Group of Ministers Task Force that studied the KRC Report and recommendations, proposed to the Cabinet Committee on Security that a CDS, who would be five-star officer, be created.
In preparation for the post, the government created the Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) in late 2002, which was to eventually serve as the CDS’s Secretariat. However, over the past 17 years, this has remained yet another nebulous department within the military establishment.
Who at present advises India’s Prime Minister on military matters?
In effect it is the National Security Adviser. This has been especially so after the Defence Planning Committee was created in 2018, with NSA Ajit Doval as its chairman, and the foreign, defence, and expenditure secretaries, and the three Service Chiefs as members.
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More Support for CDS
Another 14-member task force, headed by Naresh Chandra, a former bureaucrat who held offices in the ministry of defence and prime minister’s office, also recommended the creation of the post of a permanent chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee (CoSC).
The CoSC, which is a post held by the national security adviser by default, was to be a full-time post held by the senior-most among the three service chiefs.
The case for a CDS has been built around the argument that it is necessary to have a professional body of the highest standing to facilitate ‘jointmanship’ and render single-point military advice to the government on matters of national security, former Army chief General NC Vij had said in an article for India Today magazine in 2016.
Chief of the Defence Staff (United Kingdom)
The Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) is the professional head of the British Armed Forces and the most senior uniformed military adviser to the Secretary of State for Defence and the Prime Minister. The Chief of the Defence Staff is based at the Ministry of Defence and works alongside the Permanent Under Secretary, the Ministry’s senior civil servant. The Chief of the Defence Staff is the British equivalent position of what in NATO and the European Union is known as the Chief of Defence.