Chief of Defence Staff: A revolutionary idea whose time has come

The need to create a CDS was first proposed by the K Subrahmanyam committee, which was constituted following the Kargil war in 1999.

Published: 16th August 2019 01:43 AM  |   Last Updated: 16th August 2019 08:40 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: Indian military’s higher defence management got a big push on Thursday with Prime Minister Narendra Modi announcing the creation of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) on Independence Day to enhance tri-service synergy.

“To further sharpen coordination between the forces, I want to announce a major decision from the Red Fort: India will have a Chief of Defence Staff — CDS,” he said. 

The CDS will be above the chiefs of the Army, Navy and the Air Force and will be the single-point adviser to the government. It is unclear as of now if the CDS will be a five-star or four-star officer. The current chiefs of the three services are four-star officers. 

“It was overdue. It is going to remove duplication of work. This will make our forces operationally more effective,” said retired General V P Malik, who was the Army chief during the Kargil war and was an integral part of the process that reviewed the military structure. 

“For example, even small things like missile storage is nibbling resources. These missiles, whether with the Army or the IAF, can be stored at a common place to save financial resources,” he added.

The need to create a CDS was first proposed by the K Subrahmanyam committee, which was constituted following the Kargil war in 1999. About 66 countries in the world have a unified chief.  

The creation of the CDS is expected to be the first step towards restructuring the entire military set-up as plans to create theatres or area commands are in the pipeline.

In the theatre system, all formations of the army, air force and the navy in a particular theatre are put under the command of one officer. The theatre commander can be from any of the three services. 

Experts said the restructuring into theatres would take four to five years. The theatre system is best followed by the US, where the entire military is divided into six operational commands and they are deployed worldwide. 

“The CDS will help with the theorisation process and have command of tri-services establishments like the Andaman and Nicobar Command, Strategic Forces Command, Tri-services training institutions,” said ex-Admiral Arun Prakash. 

The operational doctrine of the defence forces has changed from being defensive to offensive defence. This was witnessed in the Balakot operation.

“The government has decided to pursue the strategy of offensive defence,” said former Air Chief S Krishnaswamy.

“The CDS was a welcome step. But a lot needs to be done before a fully functional CDS with his support staff and the reorganised defence machinery is up and running,” he said.

Over the years

  • A high-level committee set up to examine the gaps in India’s security system in the wake of the Kargil war in 1999 had recommended the appointment of a Chief of Defence Staff.

  • A group of ministers analysing the required reforms had also favoured appointing a Chief of Defence Staff.

  • In 2012, the Naresh Chandra Taskforce had recommended creating the post of a permanent chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee.

  • Yet, the political establishment dithered for 19 years. They instead created a chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee.

  • The decision was delayed due to a lack of political will. Also, the services feared the creation of CDS would mean encroachment on their turf.

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