Chief of Defence Staff: The what, who, why and how

Chief of Defence Staff: The what, who, why and how

Prime Minister Narendra Modi receives the guard of honour as he arrives at the historic Red Fort on the occasion of 73rd Independence Day, in New Delhi, Thursday, Aug 15, 2019. (PTI Photo)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced in his sixth Independence Day speech that his government has decided to establish the post of Chief of Defence Force Staff (CDF) for the three Defence services -- the Indian Army, the Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force. 

What/who is the Chief of Defence Staff?

This position is an integrated designation, wherein the official acts as a single-point advisor to the government, for all matters concerning the three defence forces - the  Army, the Navy and the Air Force.

The primary role of this position will be to work towards increasing operational coordination among the services and deal with India's national security with a comprehensive approach, officials said, reportedly.

The designation demands specific job-requirements, like handling training and logistics, long-term planning and procurements of the three services.

The post requires the official to focus on the development of the services by optimising procurement, avoiding duplication among the services and streamlining the process.

Why is this integration an important milestone for the services?

The proposal for a CDS was first mooted after the Kargil conflict in 1999. The proposal was made the committee appointed by K. Subrahmanyam, a prominent international strategic affairs analyst, journalist and former civil servant in the administrative cadre of Madras Presidency.

The proposal was to set up a high-level committee to examine the gaps in the country's security system in the wake of the Kargil war in 1999 had recommended the appointment of a CDS with five-star rank. For two decades the proposal did not move forward or receive a proper response, due to lack of consensus.

In 2012, the Naresh Chandra Task force had recommended creating the post of a permanent chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee.

This can also mean the government made to set up integrated theatre commands.

(Theatre here refers to an area where critical military activities or events are initiated or ongoing. A ‘theatre command’ is a unified command of the three Services, under a single commander,  bearing all their resources, for geographical theatres that are of security concern.)

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh tweeted that the announcement by Modi on the CDS has been made keeping in view the much-needed reform to streamline and further improve the coordination among the three forces and their functioning.

"CDS will have a long lasting and a positive impact on India's security," he said.

What is the present structure?

The Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee comprises the Army, Navy and IAF chiefs and the senior-most among them acts as its chairman.

At present, the CoSC coordinates the affairs of the tri-service. Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa is the serving CoSC and he is due to retire on September 30.

After Dhanoa, Army Chief Gen Bipin Rawat is set to become the chairman of CoSC, by seniority according to reports. Rawat is due for retirement on December 31.

Do any other countries also have a CDS?

Nations who especially comprise nuclear-weapon states have a CDS. The United Kingdom’s Defence Forces, from which India had modelled our own, have a Permanent Secretary (i.e a Defence Secretary) and also a CDS.

Australia, Singapore, Thailand and Sri Lanka are among the many nations who also have a CDS.

What is the next step?

The Defence Ministry will now initiate the process of creating this position and this is expected to take a few months, according to reports.

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