Rivalry, red-tapism behind 20-year delay in implementation of Chief of Defence Staff

The IAF was averse to the arrangement as its top leadership always felt that there are lesser resources with them and also, they can switch their role within a matter of few hours. 

Published: 16th August 2019 02:07 AM  |   Last Updated: 16th August 2019 08:46 AM   |  A+A-

Tri-Services guards march during the 73rd Independence Day celebrations at National War Memorial in New Delhi Thursday August 15 2019. | PTI

Express News Service

NEW DELHI: The announcement on the appointment of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) came as a surprise to military officers. It was two decades ago that the recommendation for the creation of such a post was first made by the Kargil Review Committee but bureaucratic apathy, along with rivalry within the three forces, is said to have led to the issue being pushed on the back burner.

The Task Force on Management of Defence had submitted its report in September 2000 to the Group of Ministers, which had in their recommendations on ‘Reforming the National Security System’ in February 2001, suggested creating CDS. 

What pains the expert is that the Kargil Review Committee report, submitted in December 1999, had some far-reaching proposals — CDS among them — to plug the gaps in the operational security arrangements, but it was buried in the files. 

“The Kargil Review Committee was an all-encompassing review of the country’s complete security set-up and it had raised great hope among the military hierarchy, for it was seen to initiate positive changes in the defence management of the country,” says Lt-Gen (retd) Vinod Bhatia, director of the think tank, Centre for Joint Warfare Studies.

Efforts for the integration of the armed forces continued, though. The name of the Service Headquarters was changed to Integrated Headquarters. Tri-services organisations like the Andaman and Nicobar Command and the Strategic Forces Command were created. 

Sixty-six countries in the world, including The Maldives have appointed CDS.

“We are a late entrant and we have a lot of catching up to do,” says Major General (retd) S B Asthana of the think tank United Services Institution. The blame for this delay lies with the services as well as the bureaucracy, he adds.

The IAF was averse to the arrangement as its top leadership always felt that there are lesser resources with them and also, they can switch their role within a matter of few hours. 

Kargil Review Committee proposed CDS post

The Kargil Review Committee had first proposed creating the post of CDS in 1999 in the wake of the conflict with Pakistan, though the proposal was never implemented.

The committee was headed by defence expert late K Subrahmanyam, whose son S Jaishankar is now India’s External Affairs Minister.

This is the first step in transforming military

The Indian Armed Forces are one of the most battle-hardened, professional and committed force in the world.

However, on account of the lack of joint structures, they remain a military force. Appointment of the CDS is the first step towards transforming the India military force to military power.

CDS decision will be a gamechanger for country

The announcement of the appointment of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) is going to be a gamechanger. But we have to realise that the CDS as a whole will not start functioning from tomorrow. It will take time to become fully operational. 

The task for the first CDS is already cut out; he will have a mandate to develop a road map for integrating three services and operationalise it gradually within a stipulated period. We have two active borders and we cannot be off-balance at any stage. 

A capability audit of each force is also needed. After all, capital acquisitions take place with the taxpayer’s money and with this exercise we will be able to know the capability our forces possess. With the new entity of the CDS, force modernisation and capability development will be in sync with each other.

In today’s world, decision making needs to be quick. At times this is slowed by the current arrangement of the Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee (Chairman COSC) where the senior-most among the chiefs is the chairman. It functions on the concept of unanimity. Even one disagreement has the potential to stall a decision, thus increasing the gestation period of a plan.

In the changing nature of warfare where the technologies are getting involved the time loop is getting compressed. So, the new setup will help in saving time taken on making decisions. 

The CDS will be a single point of advice to the government, which will be beyond the single service interests as he will be responsible for the overall security. 

It will also add to the resource optimisation— as a developing country India cannot afford duplication of facilities and other logistics. 

Coming to the position and the seniority of the CDS, it won’t matter much whether he is a five-star rank or a four-star rank. 

In the present arrangement, all Army Commanders, Director Generals, Principal Staff Officers, and even those under them there are Lieutenant general rank officers working and working quite fine.

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