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Chief of Defense Staff 

  Jul 23, 2020

Chief of Defense Staff 

Why in news?

The Honorable PM on the Independence Day Speech, 15th August 2019, had announced for creation of a post of Chief of Defense Staff (CDS). Hence, the government on 30th December through official gazette notification created such post with Ex-Army Chief, Bipin Rawat as the first CDS.

What is CDS?

The CDS is a high military office (4 star General equivalent in rank to other service chiefs) that oversees and coordinates the working of the three Services, and offers seamless tri-service views and single-point advice to the Executive (in India’s case, to the Defense Minister) on long-term defense planning and management, including manpower, equipment and strategy, and above all, “jointmanship” in operations. 

It is said that the CDS is a ‘dual-hatted role’. What does that mean?

The dual-hatted role refers to the two hats the CDS wears: one of the permanent Chairman of Chiefs of Staff Committee which has the three service chiefs as members, and the other of the head of the newly created Department of Military Affairs (DMA) in the ministry. The former is a military role while the latter is a role in the government; it is as the head of DMA that his major responsibilities within the ministry will be discharged.

Why it has been in demand since its inception?

Kargil Review comm- 1999- K . Subramanyam committee highlighted

-systemic issues bedeviling our National security structure(NSS)

-including poor coordination and technological inadequacies.

-GoM formed(2001) - to undertake a review of NSS

Recommendations covered-

Intelligence, Internal Security, Border management, and Defense management

-Creation of CDS (all recommendations were accepted except this one)

-appointment of NSA

-strengthening of intelligence coordination mechanism

-upgrading technological capacity of security agencies

-sharpening institutional responses to traditional and emerging internal security challenges 

-2012- Naresh chandra committee recommended- midway for COSC- which exists today- headed by senior most of all three chiefs- tenure very short, additional role

-2016- Lt. General - D.B. Shekatkar- also recommended for creation of CDS

-Recently established Tri-service Space and Cyber agencies (CDS will subsume it as one of its responsibilities in future)

-Defense Planning Committee was created in 2018, with NSA Ajit Doval as its chairman, and the foreign, defense, and expenditure secretaries, and the three Service Chiefs as members.

Need for CDS

Role of CDS becomes critical in the time of conflicts- as has been highlighted by various committees/commissions appointed (CDs is being seen above interservice rivalries and giving integrated view)

1- Pervasive feeling among higher rung of defense personnel that they are not formally involved in Decision-making on defense planning (enabling Perspective planning) and strategy for eg. India is the only country where Armed Forces HQ is not within MoD (govt. structure). This structure has led to cumbersome, opaque and antiquated decision-making process from administrative requirement to weapon procurement.

2- From Operational perspective- today military/defense dimension extends from land, water and air into domains of space, cyber, electronics and info, hence, effective defense preparedness requires- joint ness of all wings of defense 

3- Optimization of resources- avoiding duplication/redundancies (3 different services buying the same thing)

4- Single point Military adviser to govt.-synergize long-term planning, procurement, training and logistics of all the three services.

5- Global experience-many leading and major democracies have CDS or equivalent single point post- for eg. USA

6- In future - CDS may eventually lead to formation of Integrated tri-service theatre Command- intended to create vertical integration of all the 3 forces

7- Pave way for Indigenization and modernization of defense sector- self-reliance.

8-The CDS is also seen as being vital to the creation of “theatre commands”, integrating tri-service assets and personnel in the US military. India has 17 Service commands at different locations and duplicating assets 

Note--He would provide coordinated military advice to Defense Minister, incorporating perspectives of individual services. He would develop National Defense Strategy(which itself would flow from National Security Strategy) that factors in traditional and non-Td threats as well as Int. security requirements and ext. strategic objectives 

What are the apprehensions regarding CDS?

1- From Services chiefs- that it might undermine their authority (over their forces).

The experiences from many countries of theatre command have reinforced this fear.

2- All powerful CDS may distort civil-military balance in our democracy (however, many countries have that and despite CDS having operational control over forces- it has not diluted civilian control over their governance)

3- As the CDS have been created under Defense Ministry (CDS as head of Dept. of Military Affairs) whose head is still going to be Defense Secretary, there is apprehension of tussle between the two.

4- Ministry of Defense (MoD) bureaucracy - losing its hold over Armed forces.

Global experiences so far-

More than 70 countries including USA, China, France and Britain have equivalent posts.

In 2016, China integrated its military and other police and paramilitaries into five theatres from the earlier seven area commands, each with its own inclusive headquarters, one of which has responsibility for the Indian border. In contrast, India’s border with China is split between the Eastern, Western, and Northern Commands. 

Way forward-

As the global experience suggest, appointment of CDS has been a top-down process.

These concerns and apprehensions may arise in the short-run which is natural as it dismantles the long existing structure, however, given its benefits, concerns will gradually fade away in long run as-