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Chief of Defence Staff and top-level military reforms

It’s now over five months since the country’s first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat was killed in a chopper crash in the Nilgris in Tamil Nadu along with his wife and 12 other military personnel onboard. The Government is yet to announce a successor to the country’s top military post. The reason for the delay, official sources say, is because the Government is reassessing the concept of the post as well as the Department of Military Affairs (DMA) and is looking to streamline the setup.

What is the role of the Chief of Defence Staff?

The Government’s decision in 2019 to create the post of a CDS, a long-pending demand to bring in tri-service synergy and integration, is the biggest top-level military reform since independence.

In December 2019, the Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi had given approval to create the post of CDS in the rank of a four-star General with salary and perquisites equivalent to a Service Chief and then Army Chief Gen. Rawat was appointed to the post.

The CDS would is also the Principal Military Adviser to the Defence Minister and Permanent Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee (CoSC).

In addition, the DMA was created as the fifth department in the Ministry of Defence (MoD) with the CDS functioning as its Secretary.

The broad mandate of the CDS includes bringing about jointness in “operations, logistics, transport, training, support services, communications, repairs and maintenance of the three Services, within three years of the first CDS assuming office.”

He will act as the Principal Military Adviser to Defence Minister on all tri-Services matters. However, the three Chiefs will continue to advise the Defence Minister on matters exclusively concerning their respective Services,” a Government statement had said while adding that the CDS will not exercise any military command, including over the three Service Chiefs.

The CDS is also meant to bring about synergy and optimise procurements, training and logistics and facilitate restructuring of military commands for optimal utilisation of resources by bringing about jointness in operations, including through establishment of joint/ theatre commands. The CDS will also evaluate plans “for ‘Out of Area Contingencies’, as well other contingencies such as Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR),” officials had stated. The specialised tri-service divisions — special operations, defence cyber and defence space — were also brought under the ambit of the CDS.

Interestingly, while capital procurements are still with the DoD, the prioritisation is with the CDS. In the last three years, the Government had also announced a series of measures to cut down on defence imports and promote indigenous defence manufacturing.

Why the rethink?

Official sources said that with the experience of the last few years of having a CDS, there is a rethink that the appointment of a CDS in itself wasn’t enough and there are several issues with respect to roles and responsibilities, issues of equivalence among others. “This made the Government pause, look back and reassess the entire reform process,” one official said on condition of anonymity. There is also dichotomy in the roles and responsibilities with the several hats worn by the CDS and also overlap in responsibilities between the DMA and DoD, officials stated while also adding that there is also a rethink on the ambitious timelines set for the creation of theatre commands and also the number of commands and their envisaged format.

While several options are being looked at, one of the ways to go forward would be to have a CDS with operational powers who will after due legislative changes have theatre commanders report to him while the Service Chiefs will look after the raise, train and sustain functions of respective Services, an official said. In this direction, it is being looked at if the Chief of Integrated Defence Staff to the Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee (CISC) can function as the Secretary DMA reporting directly to the CDS.

What has been the progress on theatre commands?

An ambitious agenda was set for the first CDS to reorganise the Indian armed forces into integrated theatre commands, which would be the biggest reorganisation of the military in 75 years and fundamentally change the way the three services operate together. Extensive studies were carried out by the Vice Chiefs of three Services on the theatre commands — land-based Western and Eastern theatre commands, maritime theatre command and an integrated air defence command. Gen. Rawat had stated that the Army’s Northern Command would be left out of the ambit for now and integrated at a later stage.

However, differences continue to remain on certain aspects with the Air Force having some reservations with regard to the air defence command and the naming and rotation of the theatre commands among others. Additional studies were ordered, which are currently underway but the overall process has stalled in the absence of a CDS and continued differences.

THE GIST
In December 2019, the Union Cabinet had given approval to create the post of CDS in the rank of a four-star General and then Army Chief Gen Rawat was appointed for the post. 
The mandate of the CDS includes bringing about jointness in “operations, logistics, transport, training, support services, communications, repairs and maintenance of the three Services, within three years of the first CDS assuming office.”
There is now a dichotomy in the roles and responsibilities with the several hats worn by the CDS and also overlap in responsibilities between the DMA and DoD


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Printable version | May 17, 2022 11:01:15 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/chief-of-defence-staff-and-top-level-military-reforms/article65419500.ece