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For better synergy, country to have a Chief of Defence Staff, says PM Modi

Addressing the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort on the occasion of 73rd Independence Day, the PM stressed the need for more synergy between the Army, Navy and Air Force.

india Updated: Aug 15, 2019 23:22 IST
Sudhi Ranjan Sen
Sudhi Ranjan Sen
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the nation from the rampart of Red Fort during the 73rd Independence Day, in New Delhi, India, on Thursday, August 15, 2019.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the nation from the rampart of Red Fort during the 73rd Independence Day, in New Delhi, India, on Thursday, August 15, 2019.(Mohd Zakir/HT PHOTO)
         

India will have a Chief of Defence Staff, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on Thursday, giving his approval to a long-pending proposal aimed at creating a post that would act as a single-point military adviser to the government and is expected to ensure better coordination among the country’s three forces.

Addressing the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort on the occasion of 73rd Independence Day, the PM stressed the need for more synergy between the Army, Navy and Air Force at a time when the security situation is changing.

WATCH| PM Modi announces Chief of Defence Staff position, what it means

“To further sharpen coordination between the forces, I want to announce a major decision... India will have a Chief of Defence Staff [CDS]. This is going to make the forces even more effective,” he said in his address, drawing praise from veterans who welcomed the decision on a proposal pending since the Kargil war with Pakistan in 1999.

A high-level committee will advise the government on “the modalities” of appointing a CDS, officials aware of the developments said. This panel will give its report to the government in three months, by November 2019. The committee comprises the defence secretary, and the Chief of Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) to the Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee (the senior-most military officer handling tri-service affairs), among others.

Chief of Army Staff General Bipin Rawat could be India’s first CDS, said the officials cited above. General Rawat, the 26th Chief of Army Staff who retires in December 2019, will be the senior-most military commander in November, which could qualify him for the role, the officials said on condition of anonymity.

It is not clear whether the CDS will have primacy over the three chiefs of staff or will be equal in rank. There are differing views within the government on this. Similarly, the tenure of the CDS is not clear.

“Issues like foreign cooperation, tasking and posting of defence attaché, training, [and] managing of forces — all of which are handled separately by the three forces — will surely come under the CDS. Managing and training for helicopters, used by all three forces, is also likely to come under the CDS,” said one of the officials cited above.

Lieutenant General Satish Dua (retd), a former IDS chief, said these issues will be addressed by the committee and will ultimately be a political call. “Whether the CDS has a role in non-operational issues will depend on political leadership,” he said.

Lieutenant General Vinod Bhatia (retd) said, “The three chiefs — Chief of Army, Navy and Air Force — will be responsible for operational preparedness, whereas the CDS will be responsible for defence preparedness of the country.” Bhatia, a former Director-General of Military Operations, added, “The Kargil Review Committee has been deliberated and discussed for nearly two decades now. The appointment of the CDS with the requisite mandate will enhance the combat effectiveness of the armed forces, achieving better synergy and cost-effectiveness.”

The K Subrahmanyan committee, set up to look into defence reforms in a holistic manner after the 1999 Kargil war, recommended the appointment of a CDS. Subsequently, the Naresh Chandra committee was set up to suggest reforms in higher defence management. It underscored the importance of a CDS, but wanted a watered-down version as it recommended in 2012 the creation of the post of a permanent chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee.

The headquarters of IDS — formed just after the Kargil war for the integration of policy, doctrine, war-fighting and procurement by employing best management practices — will become the secretariat of the CDS.

Separately, the current chairman of Chiefs of Staff Committee (CoSC), a person who advises the defence minister and the Union Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs on “all military matters which require ministerial consideration” could be discontinued. “The post of the CoSC becomes redundant after the CDS is formed,” another official who did not want to be named said.

Lieutenant General Dua described the formation of a CDS as a “game-changer.” “...there are competing demands, priorities” of each of the three forces, and “there are areas of divergence,” Dua said, explaining the importance of a CDS.

First Published: Aug 15, 2019 22:34 IST

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