Modi announces creation of Chief of Defence Staff in I-Day speech; all you need to know about post which would 'unite the forces'

At the Independence Day flag hoisting, at the Red Fort in Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the creation of the post of a CDS or a Chief of Defence Staff, to 'help unite the forces'.

FP Staff August 16, 2019 18:07:24 IST
Modi announces creation of Chief of Defence Staff in I-Day speech; all you need to know about post which would 'unite the forces'
  • At the Independence Day flag hoisting, at the Red Fort in Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the creation of the post of a CDS or a Chief of Defense Staff

  • This announcement led to a lot of speculations that Lt Gen Bipin Rawat will be the frontrunner for the post

  • Here is an explainer on who a CDS is and what his role is in the administration and running of the Indian Government

Prime Minister Narendra Modi Thursday announced the creation of the post of a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) to "help unite the forces". In his speech, which lasted nearly 95 minutes, Modi didn't mention what exactly a CDS would do, but it is understood that he will be the head of the tri-services.

Modi added that the CDS will ensure synergy among the three services and provide effective leadership to them.

Although the proposal for the post of a CDS was long-drawn — a committee set up to examine the country's security system in the wake of the Kargil War of 1999 had called for the appointment of a Chief of Defence Staff as an adviser to the defence minister — it wasn’t implemented due to a number of reasons. But before one gets into that, it's important to understand the role and responsibilities associated with the post.

Modi announces creation of Chief of Defence Staff in IDay speech all you need to know about post which would unite the forces

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the nation from the ramparts of Red Fort. PTI

Who is a Chief of Defence Staff and what does he do?

A CDS coordinates the working of the three forces, for better administration and defence planning. He is also the principal military advisor to the head of the State, which in this case would be President Ram Nath Kovind, and the head of the executive, which is Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He is also required to provide seamless single-point military advice and strategic resources to the government in times of crisis.

India has a similar equivalent, known as the Chief of Staff Committee (CoSC), but it is said to be a very feeble attempt at trying to cope for the lack of a CDS. The seniormost amongst the army, navy and air force service chiefs — Bipin Rawat, Karambir Singh, Birender Singh Dhanoa, respectively — becomes the head of the CoSC, which in this case is Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa.

Dhanoa took over as head of CoSC on 31 May from Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lamba, however, he will be in office only for a few months as he is to retire on 30 September. Bipin Rawat will be next in line for the post, who is also set to retire on 31 December after three years in office.

Why did it take so long to introduce the concept in India?

In the Journal of Defence Studies Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant General SK Sinha mentions a few reasons why the concept, if so badly needed, wasn't introduced in India.

He mentions how the fear of the defence services becoming too powerful, the feeling among the smaller services — particularly the air force — of army dominance in defence policy formulation, and the inhibitions of serving service chiefs that their position would get undermined if the CDS were to be appointed, were few of the reasons for the same.

During times of conflict, like the Kargil War, the country saw the need for a CDS the most. When joint operations of the army, navy, and the air force were required to help stop the infiltration of the insurgents, better communication between the three forces could have helped quicken the process of ousting the militants and insurgents from the country.

Today, a lot of countries with advanced militaries have a CDS who overlooks the decision and administration of the forces. Countries like the USA, UK, France, China, all have a CDS in place.

Who currently looks after the defence matters of the country? 

Ajit Doval, Chairman of the Defence Planning Committee created in 2018, is currently the national security advisor. He looks after various decisions related to the forces. General Bipin Rawat, the frontrunner for the post of CDS, is the 27th Chief of Army Staff of the Indian Army.

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