The Union Cabinet on Tuesday approved the creation of the post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) and the charter of duties. The creation of a CDS, who will be above the three Service Chiefs, has been a long pending demand as part of higher level military reforms for a single point military advisor to the government.
“The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved to create the post of CDS in the rank of a four-star General with salary and perquisites equivalent to a Service Chief,” a government statement said. The CDS will also head the Department of Military Affairs (DMA) to be created within the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and function as its Secretary, it stated.
Official sources said the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), which discussed the issue, had approved the recommendations of the Implementation Committee headed by the National Security Adviser (NSA) on the role and charter of the CDS. Army Chief Gen. Bipin Rawat, who is set to superannuate on December 31, is the front runner for the post. Vice Chief of the Army Staff Lt. Gen. Manoj Mukund Naravane has already been appointed as the next Chief of the Army Staff (COAS).
Mr. Modi, in his Independence Day address this year, announced the appointment of a CDS. Following this, the Implementation Committee was constituted to determine and finalise the “exact responsibilities, an enabling framework” for this new post. The government also recently informed Parliament that the CDS would come in the ambit of ‘Right to Information Act , in accordance with the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005.
Role and responsibilities
The armed forces will be brought under the ambit of the DMA and will deal with works relating to the three Services and procurement exclusive to the Services except capital acquisitions, as per prevalent rules and procedures. 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 Minister on matters exclusively concerning their respective Services, the statement said, adding that the CDS would not exercise any military command, including over the three Service Chiefs, so as to be able to provide impartial advice to the political leadership.
In his capacity as the Permanent Chairman, COSC (Chiefs of Staff Committee), the CDS would administer tri-Services organisations, agencies and commands related to Cyber and Space. The CDS will also be a member of the Defence Acquisition Council chaired by the Defence Minister and Defence Planning Committee chaired by the NSA. In the strategic domain, the CDS would function as the “Military Adviser to the Nuclear Command Authority” chaired by the Prime Minister.
The recently created specialised tri-Service divisions, special operations, cyber and space will come under the ambit of the CDS. The government recently named two star officers from the Services, who will now oversee the setting up of the organisations.
While each of the division will draw personnel from all three Services, the Special Operations Division, headquartered in Agra, will be headed by the Army. The Defence Cyber Agency (DCA), based in Delhi, will be headed by the Navy and Defence Space Agency, based in Bengaluru,by the Indian Air Force.
Following Mr. Modi’s announcement, the recent Army Commanders Conference debated the need for creating arrangements and structures to synergise and pave the way for effective integration and discussed the “requirement of a Joint Services Act.” Currently, each Service has individual Act passed by Parliament.
As part of higher level military reforms, a number of committees, the Kargil Review Committee, the Group of Ministers (GoM) Report, the Task Force on National Security and the Lt. Gen. (retd.) D.B. Shekatkar Committee have studied and recommended the creation of CDS or Permanent Chairman, COSC. In 2012, the Naresh Chandra Committee recommended the appointment of a Permanent Chairman as a midway to allay apprehensions over the CDS. Currently, the most senior of the three Chiefs functions as the Chairman of the COSC but in an additional role and the tenures have been very short.
The CDS was also one of the 99 recommendations made by the Shekatkar panel, which submitted its report in December 2016 and had 34 recommendations pertaining to tri-Service integration.
The issue of a single point military adviser and the creation of theatre commands have been on the agenda of the government in the previous term as well. This was emphasised by Mr. Modi in discussion with the Combined Commanders Conference at Dehradun in 2017.
A pointer to the impending announcement was made by Mr. Modi in his speech on Kargil Vijay Diwas this year where he stressed on “jointness”. He said it was time to connect among three Services in terms of “action and system.”