7 things to know about the Chief of Defence Staff and why it was needed
The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government has green-lit the appointment of India’s first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) who will be a four-star General and head the newly-created department of military affairs in the defence ministry.
The development, perhaps the most significant reform in top military management in India, comes four months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced in his Independence Day speech the creation of the post for more effective coordination between the three armed forces.
As the government gets ready to announce who will be the country’s first CDS, here are seven things you must know about the new appointment and why it was needed:
While the CDS would act as the principal military adviser to the defence minister on all tri-services matters, the three service chiefs would continue to advise the minister on matters exclusively concerning their respective services i.e. army, navy and the air force. The CDS will have the same salary and perquisites as the three service chiefs (who are also four-star Generals).
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The CDS will not exercise any military command, including over the three service chiefs, so as to be able to provide impartial advice to the political leadership. Apart from heading the department of military affairs, the CDS would also don the hat of Permanent Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee (CoSC). Until now, the chairmanship of the CoSC was held in rotation by the senior-most service chief for short periods and the arrangement was found to be unsatisfactory.
The department of military affairs would focus on promoting jointness in procurement, training and staffing for the three services through joint planning and integration of their requirements. It will also facilitate the restructuring of military commands for optimal utilisation of resources by bringing about jointness in operations, including through establishment of joint/theatre commands.
The appointment of a CDS was one of the most significant recommendations made by the K Subrahmanyam-led Kargil Review Committee (KRC) that was constituted in the immediate aftermath of the 1999 Kargil war to examine lapses that allowed Pakistani soldiers to occupy strategic heights, the initial sluggish Indian response, and suggest measures to strengthen national security. The KRC report was tabled in Parliament in February 2000.
A year later, in February 2001, a Group of Ministers (GoM), under then home minister LK Advani, submitted its report to then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The GoM was set up in April 2000 to review the national security system against the backdrop of the KRC recommendations. It recommended that a CDS be appointed. But the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) decided that the appointment of a CDS be taken up later after holding talks with different political parties.
Successive governments failed to build political consensus on appointing a CDS for almost two decades. However, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on August 15 this year announced the creation of the new post. The appointment of a CDS will address the fragmented approach of the armed forces and bring about much-needed synergy. The existing model for cross-service cooperation (chairman, CoSC) was weak, with each service working in its own silo. The efforts for jointmanship in the military were proceeding slowly, resulting in duplication of efforts, wastage of resources and delay in decision making.
Just like the service chiefs, the CDS will be a member of the Defence Acquisition Council and Defence Planning Committee. He will not be eligible to hold any government office after demitting the office of CDS. Also, there will be no private employment for him without prior approval for a period of five years.