India will have a Chief of Defence Staff: PM Modi

The prime minister said the CDS will ensure synergy among the three services and provide effective leadership to them. Photo credit: YouTube

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday unveiled the creation of the post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), who would be the single-point military adviser for the government, as the prime minister used his sixth Independence Day address to publicise one of the biggest defence reforms since Independence.

“Our forces are India’s pride. To further sharpen coordination between the forces, I want to announce a major decision from the Red Fort. India will now have a CDS. This is going to make the forces even more effective,” Modi said.

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The idea for having a CDS first found favour with a Group of Ministers (GoM) headed by then Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani after a high level committee set up to review the Kargil War recommended the creation of the post.

To be placed above the chiefs of the Army, Air Force and Navy, the CDS will have an integrated view of India’s military needs and strategic imperatives rather than looking at issues from the perspective of an individual service.

While the job of the individual service chiefs would be operational preparedness of the forces they command, the CDS will be responsible for defence preparedness.

Former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee accepted the GoM recommendations but kept the decision on the CDS implementation in abeyance. The two UPA governments followed the same trend citing lack of political consensus.

In 2012, another high level task force headed by former bureaucrat Naresh Chandra recommended having a permanent chairman to the Chief of Staff Committee till a decision is taken on the CDS. But even that decision wasn’t implemented as the NDA government toyed with the idea.

For synergy, the three services currently function through a Chief of Staff Committee headed by the senior-most military officer by rotation in the absence of a CDS. Besides, there is the office of the Chief of the Integrated Defence Staff, who coordinates among various units of the armed forces.

An implementation committee has now been formed to advise the government on the modalities to implement the CDS decision. One of the issues before the panel would be to decide whether the CDS would be a five-star officer (a rank above the service chiefs) or a four-star one just like the three other chiefs.

Indian Army chief Gen Bipin Rawat, who is slated to retire in December 2019 as India’s senior most military officer, is widely speculated to be the first CDS.

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