Creation of the post of Chief Of Defence Staff: A New Dawn For Indian Military?
Student of MA in Defence and National Security Studies from Panjab University. Areas of expertise- Defence, Strategic Issues and International Relations.
On the first day of 2020, General Bipin Rawat, the erstwhile Army Chief, assumed office as the first ever Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) in an elaborate ceremony with all the three service chiefs present at his Guard of Honour. The appointment was in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement about the creation of the office of CDS from the ramparts of Red Fort on Independence Day last year. Rawat was replaced by General Manoj Mukund Naravane as Army Chief and assumed office on the same day as him.
A new department to be called ‘Department of Military Affairs’ (DoMA) is exclusively created which is to be headed by the Chief of Defence Staff. The areas to be dealt by the department include the Armed Forces- namely the Army, the Navy and the Air Force, Integrated headquarters of the Ministry of Defence comprising the Army, Navy, Air Force and Defence Staff headquarters and Territorial Army. It will also include in its ambit the works related to the three services and procurement exclusive to them except capital acquisitions. Among the major works shifted to DoMA are matters related to creation of major infra like naval bases, army stations etc, counter insurgency operations, the size and composition of the army, deployment of forces on the border, supply of arms and ammunition to neighbouring nations, aid to civil authorities, and promotion matters of senior officers. Even though the CDS is envisioned to be an independent
authority and does not fall in the chain of command, its area is too wide to deter it from encroaching upon the authority of the three service chiefs. It could potentially create a discontent amongst the latter, thus defeating the very purpose for which it was conceived.
Hailed as a longstanding military reform by many within the ranks, it was first recommended by the Kargil Review Committee in 2001. The CDS will perform dual roles as the single point military adviser to the Defence Minister and as the Chief of newly created Department of Military Affairs. Even though the CDS will not enjoy any command authority, he will be the ‘first among the equals’ in the way that his word will be the last in matters of promotions, travels, appointment to key posts and overseas assignments. Thus, making him a single point authority and centralizing power which could be lethal keeping in mind the fact that it could lead to speculation and apprehension with the servicemen. In addition, he will also perform an
advisory role in the Nuclear Command Authority (NCA).
There are a host of duties that General Bipin Rawat is expected to perform in his capacity as the Chief of Defence Staff including creating a synergy between the three services, promoting jointmanship and integrating operational capabilities in theatres or zones where two or more
services overlap. He will be expected to reduce inter-services frictions and take on board all service chiefs for making decisions that concern the military and their operational readiness. The CDS will have to be fair in his decisions as he would be responsible for procurement and acquisition endemic to the three services and eliminate any bias that he has in the favor of the army so as to maintain balance and fraternity among the three branches of the military. Since, the army enjoys the lion’s share in the defence budget, it will be the prerogative of the CDS to clear the air as and when required so that the navy and the air force don’t feel that their interests have been compromised. He will also have to advice the Department of Defence in matters of revenue. Thus, a lot of confidence building has to be done in the days to come.
The major domain of the Chief of Defence Staff is the Department of Military Affairs (DoMA), fifth under the Ministry of Defence in addition to Department of Defence, Department of Research and Development, Department of Defence Production and Department of Ex-servicemen welfare. The DoMA to be headed by Gen. Bipin Rawat will have 2 Joint Secretaries, 13 Deputy Secretaries, 25 Under Secretaries and 22 Section Officers. It will have in its purview the training policy, training establishments and cadre management of the services. Defence diplomacy with the neighboring countries will also be incorporated under the department. The mandate of the DoMA will include promoting jointness in procurement, restructuring of the military commands, optimal and fair utilization of resources and establishment of Joint Theatre Commands. However, to streamline operations and promote jointness, there is a
need to conduct trilateral exercises at regular intervals than just establishing a joint command for optics. The DoMA must also specify the role and responsibilities of the Joint Command to establish coherence and build confidence for mere rhetoric might not suffice.
The post of Chief of Defence Staff is an ambitious one which has been advocated by the Military and The Executive alike. If implemented in letter and spirit, it will accelerate India’s vision of becoming a formidable regional power as the CDS will be armed with the authority to send
expeditionary forces, carry out military diplomacy and supervise overseas military assignments single-handedly. In addition, the success of the newly created post will lie in the coherence and camaraderie between the three services which is also the purpose for which it is conceived. The role of the CDS should be objective and independent and should not in turn, subsume or diminish the roles of the Chiefs of the three services. The CDS must bear in mind that he is a facilitator and not a central authority of power. It is an open secret that General Bipin Rawat enjoys proximity with the PMO. He must tread the path with caution and avoid making political statements. He must maintain military propriety and not exceed his powers. Lastly, the CDS should remember that he’s the man of military and must avoid, on all costs, becoming the man of the government. Only time shall tell if it is a new dawn for the Indian Military.