Why Lt Gen Anil Chauhan is an excellent choice for CDS as India's military challenges mount

General Chauhan is no doubt faced with major tasks the first being to push forward and give impetus to the plans for the reorganisation of the Armed Forces into Integrated Theatre Commands among other measures to bring in synergy and efficiency

Maj Gen Jagatbir Singh September 29, 2022 13:36:49 IST
Why Lt Gen Anil Chauhan is an excellent choice for CDS as India's military challenges mount

Lt Gen Anil Chauhan (retired) becomes India’s Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), nine months after the country’s first CDS, Gen Bipin Rawat, was killed in a helicopter crash. News18

On 28 September 2022, Lieutenant General Anil Chauhan (Retired) PVSM, UYSM, AVSM, SM, VSM was appointed as the next Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) and shall also function as Secretary to Government of India, Department of Military Affairs with effect from the date of his assumption of charge and until further orders.

In a career spanning nearly 40 years, Lieutenant General Anil Chauhan has held several command, staff and instrumental appointments and had extensive experience in counter-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir and North East India.

An alumnus of 58 NDA Course, he was commissioned into 6/11 Gorkha Rifles in June 1981 from IMA, Dehra Dun. General Chauhan has held important command, staff and instructional appointments in the most varied terrain and challenging operational environments during his career. Among the important assignments, he commanded a Division in Baramulla in Jammu and Kashmir and 3 Corps in Dimapur. In both these assignments, he was also intimately involved in counter-insurgency operations. He has also been the Director General of Military Operations at Army Headquarters. General Anil Chauhan retired in May 2021 as the Eastern Army Commander.

Post-retirement Lieutenant General Anil Chauhan had taken over as the Military Advisor in the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) from Lieutenant General Vinod Khandare in October 2021. This appointment would no doubt have given him the right orientation as he has been contributing to policies regarding the country’s security and strategic interests.

In December 2019, the government approved the creation of the post of CDS who would also function as the Principal Military Adviser to the Defence Minister and Permanent Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC). In addition, the DMA was created as the fifth department in the Ministry of Defence (MoD) with the CDS functioning as its Secretary. The CDS was viewed as a long outstanding requirement and its implementation was rightly considered one of the biggest reforms by the present government in higher defence management.

General Bipin Rawat who had served as the 27th Army Chief from 31 December 2016 till 31 December 2019, took over as the first CDS on 1 January 2020. Unfortunately, he, along with his wife and 12 others were killed in a tragic helicopter crash on 8 December 2021 in the Nilgiris in Tamil Nadu while on his way to address the prestigious Defence Services Staff College in Wellington. It has now taken nearly ten months to appoint his successor. Incidentally, both General Bipin  Rawat and Lieutenant General Anil Chauhan belong to 11 Gorkha Rifles.

In June this year, the Service Rules of the Army, Navy and Air Force were amended which allowed retired Service Chiefs and three-star rank officers of the three Services to be eligible for the post of CDS. However, by setting an upper age limit of 62 years on the date of appointment, retired Service Chiefs were mostly ruled out. Ever since that Lieutenant General Anil Chauhan’s name has always been at the forefront for the appointment as the CDS.

While the tenure of Service Chiefs is three years or up to 62 years of age, the age limit for the CDS is 65 years with no fixed tenure defined. Born on 18 May 1961, Lieutenant General Anil Chauhan will therefore serve as the CDS till May 2026.

Though there has been speculation in the media that being a Lieutenant General he will be junior to the three Service Chiefs, however, this is not the case. All three Service Chiefs are from the 61st NDA Course and are a year and a half junior to him in service seniority.

The CDS is responsible for the coordination of equipment and arms procurement, training and staffing among the three Services. The CDS acts as the principal military advisor to the Defence Minister on all matters related to the tri-Services and military advisor to the Nuclear Command Authority. He, therefore, wears three hats — Permanent Chairman of Chief of Staff Committee; Secretary, Department of Military Affairs (DMA); and CDS.

The DMA is responsible for joint planning, determining procurements and almost all military matters, reducing the importance of the bureaucracy in the MoD. The mandate of the DMA includes, among other things, the facilitation of restructuring of military commands for optimal resources by bringing about jointness in operations, including through the establishment of joint/theatre commands.

As 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 has responsibility for coordination among the three Services in equipment and arms procurement, training and staffing.

The CDS acts as the principal military advisor to the Defence Minister on all matters related to the tri-Services and military advisor to the Nuclear Command Authority. He also assigns inter-Services prioritisation to capital acquisition proposals based on the anticipated budget and is also charged with bringing about reforms in the functioning of the three Services with the aim to augment combat capabilities.

He is also responsible for integrating the resources of the three armed forces to meet operational and administrative ends, and in modernising their equipment needs, through inter-se prioritisation for capital procurement, in times of shrinking budgets and burgeoning revenue expenditure.

In an era of decreasing capital budgets and increasing revenue expenditures, a crucial function of the CDS is “prioritising” the capital acquisition proposals of individual Services. He has to ensure that the “defence budget” is spent judiciously on capabilities considered vital for national military power while balancing the projections and ‘wish lists’ of individual Services. .

There needs to be synergy between the Services when the Armed Forces project their capability requirements. Joint planning and determining procurements to build joint capabilities are unlikely to happen without a CDS heading the DMA. Studies to create Theatre Commands, which gained prominence, need to be given due impetus. Studies of previous conflicts have revealed the gaps in jointness and integration, and the appointment of the CDS was based on the recommendations of the Kargil Review Committee. The ongoing Ukrainian war has also highlighted the necessity of jointness and integration.

There is no doubt that the appointment of the CDS is imperative. The country is faced with accumulating strategic issues on its borders. National security threats are on the rise. Further, the increased collusion between China and Pakistan is a reality.

General Chauhan is no doubt faced with major tasks the first being to push forward and give impetus to the plans for reorganisation of the Armed Forces into Integrated Theatre Commands among other measures to bring in synergy and efficiency. The theaterisation drive slowed down after General Rawat’s demise and accelerating this long-awaited military reform will be one of his top focus areas.

This task now falls on his shoulders to build consensus and take the reorganisation process forward. Detailed studies have already been carried out in the recent past to fine tune the modalities.

The broad mandate of the CDS included bringing about “jointness” in “operations, logistics, transport, training, support services, communications, repairs and maintenance of the three Services, within three years of the first CDS assuming office”.

A significant achievement of General Rawat was the thrust given to indigenisation or ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’. This initiative was driven jointly by the CDS led by Headquarters Integrated Defence Staff, the three Services, and other verticals of the Ministry of Defence, including DRDO, Public Sector Undertakings and Ordnance Factories. The war in Ukraine has now added urgency to the need for indigenous critical military technologies and systems and reduced dependence on imports.

The other issue which will no doubt be on the top of his agenda is the transformation being carried out as far as the recruitment policy is concerned with the introduction of the Agnipath scheme, he no doubt will be at the forefront of implementing these changes as well as dealing with the sensitive issues of the proposed changes regarding the ‘traditions and customs’ of the forces.

The importance of having a CDS as the country’s highest-ranking military officer lies in the crucial role he is required to play as the formal ‘one point’ source of advice to the government on operational and administrative matters pertaining to the Armed Forces.

All those who have served alongside Lieutenant General Anil Chauhan are unanimous in their view that he is an excellent choice for this appointment and will do his best in the interests of the nation and organisation.

The author is an army veteran. Views expressed are personal.

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