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Biggest Military Reform: PM Modi announces setting up of Chief of Defence Staff post; here’s what expert say about CDS

The committee had suggested that the CDS should be headed by a four-star Chief, as the chief military adviser to the Defence Minister. (PTI Photo)

In one of the biggest military reforms, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced the setting up of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) post. The CDS was recommended by the Kargil Review Committee and has been deliberated and discussed for nearly two decades now, say former officers. The committee had recommended the integration of the three services — Army, Navy and Air Force — under a Chief of Defence Staff. This announcement coincides with the country commemorating 20 years of Kargil War.

In his address to the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort on the occasion of 73rd Independence Day, Modi said: “I want to announce a major decision from the Red Fort: India will have a Chief of Defence Staff — CDS. This is going to make the forces even more effective. The new CDS post will oversee all the three wings of the armed forces.”

The History of CDS

Soon after the Kargil operations, an 11 member committee headed by Lt Gen D.B. Shekatkar (Retd) was set up to suggest measures that would enhance the combat capability of the armed forces and to also, balance defence expenditure.

The committee had suggested that the CDS should be headed by a four-star Chief, as the chief military adviser to the Defence Minister.

Experts share their opinion and recommendations with Financial Express Online:

Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia (Retd), former DGMO and Director CENJOWS says: “Prime Minister Modi’s government is known to take hard decisions. The CDS was recommended by the Kargil Review Committee and has been 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.”

The former DGMO says that such a step will also “enhance much-needed jointness and integration among the three services. CDS will be the single point of advice to the government and Prime Minister. The Indian Armed Forces are one of the most battles hardened and combat rich forces in the world, professional and committed, however on account of lack of joint structures they are a military force. Appointment of the CDS is the first step to transform the India military from a force to military power.”

Read| India to have Chief of Defence Staff! What does the big announcement by PM Modi mean?

Lt Gen AB Shivane (retd), former Director-General Mechanised Forces: “A welcome step. The joy of it will depend on how they empower it and the role it plays for sound military-strategic advice and tri-service synergy. Purple is the colour of the future.”

Unless the CDS is made Senior to the Defence Secretary in Allocation of Business (AOB) and Transaction of Business (TOB) and at par with NSA it will be a toothless Tiger. There should be a direct link with the defence minister and Prime Minister which is essential for empowerment. When a CDS is created an integrated defence bureaucracy is required for the office of the CDS to become meaningful. The control of the defence budget has to be transferred to the CDS and he must have a military and civilian bureaucracy to advice him. The CDS in nations that have the concept is the overall boss of all military matters, employment of forces, acquisition, training including international cooperation, and various other aspects that impinge on the ability of the military to perform its primary role at the strategic level. The civilian bureaucracy is concerned with staff matters and policies. Thus the rules of business must be changed with the creation of the CDS, he suggests.

According to him, “Along with this, the government needs to review the archival Rules of Business ie AOB and TOB. The CDS must have a viable tenure of 2 years and not be ceremonial in nature. Till the time we have turbulent borders and proxy war, one among the CDS or CISC at IDS must be from the army.

“The CDS will be a single-point military advisor to the defence ministers on military matters. He should have authority over the three chiefs but the chiefs are overall responsible for the functioning of the three forces. Keeping in mind future warfare enhancement of combat capabilities formation of a cyberspace command and special forces command need greater focus.”

The former DG Mechanised says that CDS ushers an era of transformation for a future-ready force and a truly integrated military power. Single point strategic military advice to PM and CCS is need of the hour in times when the security situation is critical. Strategic Autonomy through indigenous capability building irrespective of individual services turfs is also essential.

Says Brig SK Chatterji (retd), “Modern warfare calls for simultaneous and seamless application of all elements of warfare. It includes resources in the land, air, sea, space and cyber space domains. It also calls for employment of artificial intelligence, machine learning and a host of other elements. For such application of force to be actually orchestrated cohesively, joint planning and application, joint training, joint doctrines and compatibility in equipment and communications is a universal mandate.”

The current model of a Chiefs of Staff Committee, headed by a rotating Chairman and supported by an Integrated Defence Staff, is not adequate. We need a CDS, and immediately undertake the transition to Integrated theatre commands. Only then will we be able conduct warfare in a highly technologically driven battlefield.

In such a technology driven battlefield, non-contact warfare, using means that would often be non-kinetic, would often precede the contact battle. To guard our resources and neutralise enemy systems, we will need to synergise similar such means that we possess or would possess. Threat assessments will need to factor in such issues and evolve joint doctrines to combat these.

“In the area of procurement of equipment, joint planning and processes would ensure inter-say compatibility between the elements of the joint forces applied. It will also provide the advantage of scales in purchases. The CDS would also be the single point of conduct for the services and the nation’s Chief Executive – the Prime Minister. Thus professional advice will be available to the PM on military matters without dilution or possible distortion by the bureaucracy,” points out Brig Chatterji.

If the nation has as its objective a 5 trillion economy, and being the net security provider in the Indian Ocean region, it’s pertinent that our military strength and diplomatic heft ride a steep ascendant graph now on, he adds.

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Source: Financial Express