On Day 1 as CDS, Gen Bipin Rawat moves towards setting up of joint Air Defence Command, but integration of forces a key challenge

  • After handing over the reins of Chief of Army Staff to General Manoj Mukund Naravane after completing three years of the post, General Bipin Rawat was appointed as the first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) on 1 January 2020

  • Creation of the CDS as single-point military adviser to the government was strongly recommended by the Kargil Review Committee in 1999

  • The government has now created a new Department of Military Affairs in the Defence Ministry and it will be headed by newly-appointed CDS, according to an official order issued earlier this week

After handing over the baton as Chief of Army Staff to General Manoj Mukund Naravane, General Bipin Rawat has now moved on to play a new role, and a rather unprecedented one. The four star-decorated general was appointed as the first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) of India on 1 January 2020. His appointment is seen as a watershed moment for India's military planning, which until now relied on the combined wisdom of chiefs of three forces and the defence secretary.

The creation of the post of CDS is expected to bring in a convergence among the three services for effectively dealing with future security challenges.

According to The Print, the colour of his uniform would remain olive green but there would be significant changes to represent all the three forces. The CDS uniform would also not have the four stars on the collar that chiefs have. The service ribbons, however, will remain in place, reports ANI.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a series of tweets, called the creation of the DMA and institutionalisation of the post of CDS a momentous and comprehensive reform that will help the country face the ever-changing challenges of modern warfare.

Creation of the CDS as single-point military adviser to the government was strongly recommended by the Kargil Review Committee in 1999. "This institution carries tremendous responsibility of modernizing our military forces. It would also reflect the hopes and aspirations of 1.3 billion Indians," said Modi.

The CDS will be the first amongst equals as permanent chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee and will act as "principal military advisor" to the defence minister on tri-services issues. However, the other chiefs will also report directly to the defence minister on matters relating to their services. The CDS will not have any military command over the chiefs of the three services.

The CDS is a four-star general, just like the other chiefs, and his pay and perquisites remain unchanged.

Air Defence Command

In one of his first decisions, Rawat has issued directions to prepare a roadmap by 30 June to create a joint Air Defence Command to enhance the security of India's skies. But integration is a task easier said than done.

The decision is neither unique nor something unheard of as the idea for a CDS, and hence an integrated armed force, can be traced back to Lord Louis Mountbatten, the architect of India’s higher defence organisation. However, it is the one strategically important task that can be a thorn in the side of the CDS labouring to bring about such reforms.

Currently, the three services have 17 commands and it has long been held that modern warfare requires the three services to function in an integrated fashion. However, the inner rivalry between the three forces and bureaucratic obstacles have primarily defeated any efforts for deep-rooted reforms. The Indian Air Force, for one, has been traditionally seen as a force obtuse on relenting control of Indian skies for the sake of better coordination with the other two forces, who also inadvertently need limited but crucial air support in their operations.

As  Mohan Guruswamy points out in his article, the air force has a record of waging obdurate turf wars. It fought a long battle to keep all military helicopters under its control till good sense finally prevailed and the army was allowed the use of Chetak helicopters for routine sorties, tactical supply and medical evacuation.

In such a scenario, attempts to set up a combined Air Defence Command  in coordination with army and navy may meet with some resistance from the air force top brass. But the strategic importance of unification of India's air combat capacity can not be undermined. The air force is a revenue intensive force and by enabling other forces to draw from its pool of resources will not only strengthen the other two wings, but also ensure optimal utilisation of resources.

It is in this backdrop that Rawat's decision to to prepare a roadmap by 30 June to create a joint Air Defence Command is being watched.

Apart from this, another key area where Rawat seems to have focused is in inclusion of the Indian Coast Guard in matters of national defence. The force is a significant but largely underappreciated wing of India's defence. The coast guard not only monitors India's long sea coast, but is also crucial in intercepting infiltration bids and other security threats. Absence of physical barriers on the coast and presence of vital industrial and defence installations also enhance the vulnerability of the coasts to illegal cross-border activities, which is why the force remains a small but strategic umbrella for India's defence.

General Rawat has directed that all three services must consult coast guard in a time-bound manner on matters of national security. Decisions will, however, be taken to ensure optimisation of resources, the defence ministry said. It also said the CDS stressed that all must work towards accomplishing desired results and coming up with healthy views and ideas.

Some of the areas identified for bringing in tri-services jointness and synergy include setting up of common "logistics support pools" in stations where two or more services have their presence, they said.

After taking charge, he held a meeting with important functionaries of Integrated Defence Staff and directed heads of various wings to come up with recommendations to bring in inter-service synergy and jointness in a time-bound manner, officials said. He also underlined that efforts will be made to cut out infructuous ceremonial activities which are manpower intensive, officials said.

 On Day 1 as CDS, Gen Bipin Rawat moves towards setting up of joint Air Defence Command, but integration of forces a key challenge

File image of General Bipin Rawat. PTI

As CDS, Rawat will be the Principal Military Advisor to the defence minister on all tri-services matters besides helming the newly set up Department of Military Affairs (DMA).

The CDS will have a key role in ensuring optimum utilisation of allocated budget, ushering in more synergy in procurement, training and operations of the services through joint planning and integration. The other major mandate of the CDS is to facilitate indigenisation of weapons and equipment to the maximum extent possible while formulating the overall defence acquisition plan for the three Services.

Department of Military Affairs

The government has now created a new Department of Military Affairs in the Defence Ministry and it will be headed by newly-appointed CDS, according to an official order issued earlier this week.

The DMA will have an integrated headquarters of the Defence Ministry comprising of the Army headquarters, the Naval headquarters, the Air headquarters, the Defence Staff headquarters, and the Territorial Army.

This new department will handle matters relating to the three forces, and procurement exclusive to the services, except capital acquisitions.

Besides this, the department is tasked with promoting the use of indigenous equipment by the services.

With the latest changes, the Defence Ministry will have five departments under it and these are the Department of Defence, the Department of Military Affairs, the Department of Defence Production, the Department of Defence Research and Development, and the Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare.

The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi had on 24 December, approved the creation of the post of Chief of Defence Staff. "The Chief of Defence Staff will also head the Department of Military Affairs (DMA), to be created within the Ministry of Defence and function as its secretary," an official statement had said.

With inputs from agencies

Find latest and upcoming tech gadgets online on Tech2 Gadgets. Get technology news, gadgets reviews & ratings. Popular gadgets including laptop, tablet and mobile specifications, features, prices, comparison.

Updated Date: Jan 03, 2020 14:21:01 IST