Govt amends rule, sets Chief of Defence Staff’s maximum age limit at 65 yrs
In a precursor to the announcement of who India’s first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) will be, a gazette notification issued on Saturday set 65 as the maximum serving age for India’s “first among equals” in the armed forces.
The appointment of a CDS was cleared by the government on December 24. The government has not announced the name of the country’s first CDS, but serving army chief General Bipin Rawat is widely seen as the front-runner for the top post. He finishes his term as army chief on December 31. “Provided that the Central Government may, if considered necessary, in public interest , so to do, give extension of service to the Chief of Defence Staff…for such period or periods as it may deem necessary subject to maximum age of 65 years,” said the notification, which comes under the Army (Amendment Rules) 2019.
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It puts CDS on a par with the Comptroller and Auditor General, the Chief Election Commissioner and the Central Vigilance Commissioner in terms of retirement age. The three service chiefs end their term after three years of service or when they turn 62, whichever is earlier.
The Union Cabinet last week cleared the appointment of a CDS who will be a four-star general (like the three service chiefs) and head the department of military affairs in the defence ministry. In a statement, the defence ministry said one of the functions assigned to the CDS would include “bringing about jointness in operation, logistics, transport, training, support services, communications, repairs and maintenance of the three services within three years of the first CDS assuming office.”
Though the government has said the CDS will not exercise any military command, including over the three service chiefs, it is expected that the person holding the post will be a first among equals, also because he will be senior to all the other chiefs in terms of service.
If Rawat is appointed CDS, as is widely anticipated, he is expected to have a tenure of three years and three months in the top job.
“As new structures are coming up with the appointment of the CDS, a longer tenure till the age of 65 will give him stability and continuity to fulfil his mandate,” said Lt General Satish Dua (retd), who was the senior-most military officer handling all tri-service affairs until November 2018.
The CDS will also serve as the 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. The appointment of CDS — pending for almost two decades after the Kargil Review Committee (KRC) recommended it — is a major reform in India’s higher defence management.
According to the government, while the CDS will act as the principal military adviser to the defence minister on all tri-services matters, the three service chiefs will continue to advise the minister on matters exclusively concerning their respective services. He will have the same salary and perquisites as the three service chiefs. The CDS will also head the department of military affairs, which will focus on promoting jointness in procurement, training and staffing for the tri-services.
The KRC recommended the appointment of a CDS as a means to provide single-point professional military advice to the political leadership. After the Kargil war, the Group of Ministers (GoM) in 2001 also strongly recommended the creation of a CDS. But successive governments were unable to build political consensus around a CDS before Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the creation of the post this August 15.