Has the proposal initiated during the NDA regime to create the post of CDS (Chief of Defence Staff) got caught in political quagmire? The issue of appointing a single-point military advisor to the government has conveniently been consigned to a limbo for lack of unanimity amongst the professional soldiers and the political class.
After the Kargil war, the Group of Ministers (GoM) set up by the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had strongly recommended the creation of CDS, who would also control and manage strategic forces, ensure prioritisation of defence planning and bring about jointness amongst the armed forces.
The government has either failed or not done enough to build political consensus to create the CDS. Some within the armed forces are asking in hush-hush tones if the concept of CDS will serve any good or end up becoming an autocratic institution. In a fractured vote, former service chiefs too are not in agreement with each other on the need for CDS.
General VP Malik (retd), who was the Army chief during Kargil, told HT: "This is a professional requirement which has been recognised world over in both democratic and non-democratic countries. The CDS is crucial for bringing about synchronisation amongst the three services and the Ministry of Defence and also for fine-tuning of the defence planning in furtherance of our strategic and operational requirements."
However, Air Chief Marshal S Krishnaswamy, a former Air Chief, didn't agree with General Malik's viewpoint. "As a single-point military advisor, the CDS will be highly vulnerable to political influences. Let us not ape the West, where the political leadership is mature and understands the imperatives of national security."
He added that the Navy chief was the Chairman, COSC, during 'Operation Parakram', essentially involving the land and air forces. But, he performed admirably in the driver's seat.
"Future conflicts will be swift and short. Leadership will have to be delegated to commanders at lower level. A lead-footed CDS hardly appears a realistic concept," Krishnaswamy added.
Former Navy chief Admiral Arun Prakash told HT, "The COSC is no substitute for the CDS. But differences within the armed forces are a good excuse for the political class not to act on it." Batting for CDS, Admiral Sushil Kumar, a former Navy chief and Chairman COSC, said the Chairman, COSC was susceptible to pulls and pressures from his own service and the CDS would guarantee a dispassionate approach.