Chief of Defence Staff – post, role and responsibility

First Chief of Defence Staff IndiaChief of Defence Staff is the head of Indian Armed forces and a uniformed military advisor to Government of India. General Bipin Rawat, former Chief of Army Staff is the first CDS of India.

Kargil Review Committee recommended the creation of position of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) in 1999 which was officially proposed by Group of Ministers (GoM) in 2001.  However, due to several reasons including the turf war between different arms of defence forces and between civil bureaucracy the post of CDS was not formalized for nearly 20 years. Finally in his independence day speech Prime Minister Narender Modi announced the creation of the post and setup a committee to formalize the position.

In the notification dated December 30, 2019 the Government of India carved out a new department “Department of Military Affairs” which will be headed by the new CDS. Four important elements were removed from the direct ambit of Defence Secretary and put under direct control of CDS. Responsibilities of CDS now include all works relating to three armed services, their headquarters and territorial army; non-capital purchases for defence forces, promotion of jointness in procurement, training and operations of the three armed services.

How does creation of CDS help India’s Defence Mechanism?

This was long overdue and almost a necessity in the time of short-term, intense but technology-driven and multi-pronged warfare. With CDS in place there will be a single point-of-contact in coordinating with the three armed services to synergise functioning, training, logistics, planning and procurements among the forces and evolve a unified and targeted crisis response module. This will enable better utilisation of existing limited resources, better harvesting of intelligence for a unified approach to preparedness and build a robust expert advisory that can guide the political executive of the day on swift and decisive action, given the worsening nature of conflicts worldwide.

With creation of the DMA, headed by CDS, the military will, for the first time, be admitted into the central edifice of the GoI and become a participant in policy-making. Designation of the CDS as Principal Military Adviser (PMA) to Defence Minister will enable unhindered access to MoD, accelerating the process of decision-making and accord of approvals.

CDS will also be the permanent Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee from now on. he will be able to devote undivided attention to the administration of tri-service organisations and take measures to engender “jointness” amongst three services. In the approaching era of dwindling defence budgets, a crucial function of CDS will be “prioritising” the capital acquisition proposals (or “wish-lists”) of individual services. He will have to ensure that the “defence rupee” is spent judiciously; on warfare-capabilities considered vital for national military power.

CDS will also administer the Strategic Force Command and will be the key functionary in nuclear command chain as Principal Military Advisor to Prime Minister. This measure will go a long way in enhancing the credibility of our nuclear deterrent.

The post of Chief of Defence Staff is part of a ”momentous and comprehensive defence reform”, which will help the country face the ever-changing challenges of modern warfare.