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Won’t copy models of the West: CDS Rawat

Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By
Jan 01, 2020 11:57 PM IST

General Rawat’s first public comments after taking over came on the day PM Narendra Modi said the appointment of the CDS was a “momentous and comprehensive reform” that would help India face challenges of modern warfare and that the position carried the “tremendous responsibility of modernising our military forces”.

India’s first chief of defence staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat on Wednesday said he would work towards creating theatre commands to prepare the military for future battles, adding that India’s armed forces need not necessarily imitate the models devised by western militaries for this. The three services are not in agreement on theaterisation.

Gen Bipin Rawat takes over as the CDS on Wednesday.(ANI)
Gen Bipin Rawat takes over as the CDS on Wednesday.(ANI)

General Rawat’s first public comments after taking over came on the day Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the appointment of the CDS was a “momentous and comprehensive reform” that would help India face challenges of modern warfare and that the position carried the “tremendous responsibility of modernising our military forces”.

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Theaterisation refers to placing specific units of the army, the navy and the air force under a Theatre Commander. Such commands will come under the operational control of an officer from any of the three services, depending on the function assigned to that command. Experts believe that theatres are key to the way battles will be fought in the future.

“I think there are methods of doing theaterisation. I think we all are copying Western methods and what others have done. We can have our own system. We will work out a mechanism. We have to study and work with the three services to come out with a mechanism that suits the Indian system,” Rawat said, responding to a question from HT on the Indian Air Force’s traditional resistance to theaterisation.

In April 2018, then IAF chief Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa disapproved of the concept of theatre commands, saying it would require the creation of more assets. “Compartmentalising will require more assets. We believe in one country, one theatre,” he said, pointing out the pitfalls of cherry picking concepts of western warfighting. Two former IAF chiefs HT spoke to also opposed the idea of theaterisation.

As CDS, Rawat’s mandate includes facilitating the restructuring of military commands for optimal utilisation of resources by bringing about so-called jointness in operations, including through establishment of theatre commands.

IAF chief Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria said the appointment of a CDS was a “big and bold” step. He said the onus was now on the three services to fully support the CDS and make the model succeed.

The government expects the CDS to bring about jointness among the three services in operations, logistics, transport, training, support services, communications, repairs and maintenance within three years. Rawat said the objective could be achieved in the time-frame laid down by the government.

“I want to assure you, that the army, the navy and the air force will work as a team. The CDS will keep control over them, but action will be taken through teamwork,” he said, adding that he would be impartial in his new role.

Rawat outlined his role with a new math equation. “As a team, we will work towards a goal where 1+1+1 (the three services) is either five or seven, and not three. What I mean is, the synergised effort should not be the sum of the whole… it should be much more. And we have to achieve that through integration,” he said.

Rawat said he would focus resource management, better utilisation of funds, joint training and uniformity in procurement. He added that his head feels lighter in the peaked cap that is part of his new uniform, after wearing the Gorkha hat for 41 years.

In a series of tweets, PM Modi talked about the significance of the appointment of the CDS and the department of military affairs under the four-star officer.

“Creation of the Department of Military Affairs with requisite military expertise and institutionalisation of the post of CDS is a momentous and comprehensive reform that will help our country face the ever-changing challenges of modern warfare,” the PM tweeted.

A gazette notification issued by the government on Monday created the new department of military affairs or Sainya Karta Vibhag that will be headed by the CDS. The new department is an addition to the four existing verticals in the defence ministry — the departments of defence, defence production, defence research and development and ex-service welfare.

“On 15th August, 2019, from the ramparts of the Red Fort, I announced that India will have a Chief of Defence Staff. This institution carries tremendous responsibility of modernizing our military forces. It would also reflect the hopes and aspirations of 1.3 billion Indians,” Modi said in another tweet.

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. Over the years, several committees also recommended that a CDS be appointed but successive governments failed to create the post. However, PM Modi on August 15 announced the creation of the new post for better cross-service cooperation.

“As the first CDS takes charge, I pay homage to all those who have served and laid down their lives for our nation. I recall the valiant personnel who fought in Kargil, after which many discussions on reforming our military began, leading to today’s historic development,” the Prime Minister tweeted.

The government cleared the appointment of the CDS on December 24 and appointed Rawat on Monday with effect from December 31. As CDS, Rawat will act as the principal military adviser to the defence minister on all matters related to the tri-services.

“I am delighted that as we begin the new year and new decade, India gets its first Chief of Defence Staff in General Bipin Rawat. I congratulate him and wish him the very best for this responsibility. He is an outstanding officer who has served India with great zeal,” Modi said on Twitter.

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