Creation of CDS a big step

The Union cabinet’s decision to create the post of a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) is the culmination of a thinking and debate over a long period. Though the idea of a CDS has been around for many decades it came into focus only after the Kargil war in 1999. The K Subrahmanyam Committee recommended the creation of the post and the Group of Ministers that studied the report endorsed it. Though governments have accepted the idea in principle, it did not take a concrete shape as multiple stakeholders debated the nature of powers and responsibilities that should go with the position. There were apprehensions in the top officialdom and the political establishment over the creation of a high military position above the three service chiefs. There have also been differences among the services on the issue, especially due to apprehensions over how it would affect each service. The Modi government has, however, taken a decision. 

As proposed now, the CDS will have the same rank as the service chiefs. He will be first among equals but will not exercise any military command. He will also head the Department of Military Affairs within the Ministry of Defence. The CDS will also be the permanent chairman of the existing Chiefs of Staff Committee and a member of the Defence Acquisition Council and the Defence Planning Committee. The CDS will have responsibility for coordination among the three services in equipment and arms procurement, training and staffing. This should help bring about better synergy between the forces and to prioritise requirements and optimise the use of resources, especially at a time the military budget is shrinking. The CDS will also be responsible for the proposed restructuring of military commands and bringing about jointness in operations through the establishment of joint theatre commands. Most importantly, the CDS will function as the single point of military advice to the government.

While these broad descriptions of the CDS’ functions have been drawn up, it is to be seen how the post will evolve into a position with real and defined powers. Much will depend on the person who comes to hold the position first and shapes the office and the institution. The Prime Minister has said that “after the formation of this post, all three forces will get effective leadership at the top level.’’ The CDS should serve as an effective and useful bridge between the military and the civilian leadership and between the services. There is a strong case for better operational links between the forces and no service can remain in a silo when the nature of security threats, technologies and requirements are all changing. The CDS will be the most important cog in the wheel of much-needed military transformation.  

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