Chief of Army Staff, General Bipin Rawat could be the first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) – the formation of which was announced by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi from the ramparts of the Red Fort in his address to the nation on 73rd Independence Day.
A high-level “implementation committee” has been appointed to advise the government on the “modalities” of appointing a Chief of Defence Staff, senior officials who did not want to be named said. The committee will give its report to the government in three months – November 2019. The Implementation Committee comprises the Defence Secretary and the Chief of Integrated Defence Staff to the Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee among others.
General Rawat, 26th Chief of Army Staff, retires in December 2019 will be the senior-most military commander and is therefore the most likely to be first CDS, officials aware of the details who did not want to be named said.
It is, however, not yet clear whether the CDS will have primacy over the three chiefs of staff or will equal in rank with the other three chiefs. There are differing views within the government. Similarly, the tenure of the CDS is not clear. “Issues like foreign cooperation, tasking and posting of defence attaché, training, 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,” a second senior official said.
“These issues will be addressed by the implantation committee and will be ultimately a political call,” the former Chief of the Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) Lieutenant General Satish Dua told Hindustan Times and added, “whether the CDS has a role in non-operational issues will depend on political leadership.”
The CDS will be the single point of advice on military matters to the Government.
“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,” former Director-General of Military Operations, Lieutenant General Vinod Bhatia (retd) said.
“The Kargil Review Committee has 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,” he said.
The current headquarter of the Integrated Defence Staff (HQ IDS), formed just after the 1999 Kargil War for the integration of policy, doctrine, war fighting and procurement, will be the secretariat of the CDS.
The current Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee (CoCS) – a stop-gap measure that advises the Defence Minister and Union the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs on “all military matters which require ministerial consideration” is likely to be discontinued. “The post of the CoCS becomes redundant after the CDS is formed,” a third defence ministry official who did not want to be named said.
The former Chief of the Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) Lieutenant General Satish Dua described the formation of the CDS as a “game-changer”.
Despite being in uniform “there are competing demands, priorities” of each of the three forces and “there are areas of divergence,” General Dua said explaining the importance of the CDS. The CDS will be able to bring more synergy and coordination within the three forces, he said, asserting that a CDS “will emerge as a force multiplier” because of improved synergy.