Context: A Vacancy of 5 months in the topmost office of the defense service hierarchy is a matter of public anxiousness.

Who is the CDS: Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) is a post that acts as the single-stop advisor to the Government of India in the matters of India's military. The CDS is the head of the Army, Navy, and Air Force and is to be a four-star military officer.

Who was the first CDS: General Bipin Rawat was appointed as the first CDS of this country. He passed away more than five months ago in a tragic helicopter crash.

Significance of the post: 

  • It has been a long-pending reform in the defense services and was recommended by a high-level committee set up after the Kargil war.
  • Post world war II the need for such a post was felt by several countries. Hence in the U.K, the post was created in 1959.
  • The structure of Indian defense forces is scattered and operational under different heads. The army is fragmented into different groups and a lack of coordination has been visible due to poor communication and no unity of command.
  • The hierarchical structure once headed by the Chief of Defence Staff was focused to bring in the long-awaiting reforms like the creation of Theatre commands.
  • Creation of the Department of Military Affairs with the Chief of Defence services as its secretary.

High-level reforms brought -in the Defense sector:

  • Aatmanirbhar Bharat for defense with a focus on Make In India. In 2020 the import of defense equipment was stopped and FDI in defense was allowed up to 74%. This will ensure the development of indigenous technology and self-reliance. 
  • The New Era of Speed & Translucency in Defence Acquisition was started with the adoption of the New Defense Acquisition Procedure (DAP 2020), for promoting indigenous developments in defense & aerospace.
  • Bringing Digital India to the Ministry of Defence with the end to empower and upgrade the Defence sector with digital metamorphosis. A New Cybersecurity policy for MoD LAN was unveiled to address security pitfalls.
  • NCC Mobile app was launched in August 2020. 65 Online Camps of Ek Bharat Shrestha Bharat were conducted.
  • 2020 had the loftiest ever thrust towards modernization in the last 10 years, an increase of 10% in the budget allocation and a procurement reservation of up to Rs 100 crores for MSMEs.
  • Trial and Testing – third party testing has been introduced in DAP 2020, wherein, the option to go to the Directorate General of Aeronautical Quality Assurance (DGAQA) or Directorate General of Quality Assurance (DGQA) or accredited 3rd Party Testing Agencies has been approved.
  • Startup India Scheme with an end to promoting and supporting the launch-ups in the country.
  • Connecting Broader Areas for Better Development and Security with the world’s longest tunnel above 10000 ft, Atal Tunnel.
  • The first-ever indigenously designed modular ground along with Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers Ltd, Kolkata to reduce cost and import reliance for modular islands
  • Fortifying the Defence by adding horsepower to the IAF magazines with an aggregate of 8 Rafale Fighter jets arrived in India. 
  • Women Power in Armed Force Ten streams of the Indian Army were opened for giving a Permanent Commission for SSC Women officers and all Sainik Schools were thrown open for girl scholars.
  • Reforming Defence R&D to boost invention and inseminate a scientific temper. As a major step 5 labs were launched in 2020 with young scientists of age 35 and less.
  1. Artificial Intelligence, Bengaluru
  2. Asymmetric Warfare Technology, Kolkata
  3. Cognitive Sensor Technology, Chennai
  4. Smart Accoutrements, Hyderabad
  5. Quantum Technology, Mumbai
  • Defense Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) linked 108 Systems and Subsystems for the assiduity to design, develop and manufacture in August 2020.
  • Land management was eased out with the Geographic Information System and mapping of17.9 lakh acres of Defence Land created with help of Bhaskaracharya Institute for Space Applications and Geoinformatics (BISAG).
  • A completely digitized Land Management System in the Ministry of Defence to enhance the effectiveness and speed of proffers for land Transfer was launched in October 2020.
  • A new policy that states that no lease or rent to be paid for tunnels erected under defense land was approved in July 2020
  • Reforms in Cantonment Administration by Digital Transformation to ameliorate access, effectiveness, and organization Draft Cantonment Amendment Act was formulated for public discussion
  • General Reserve Engineers Force (GREF) help working above ft will be granted Special Cold Weather Clothing.
  • Indian Defence Forces extended a helping hand to friendly foreign countries in distress under Relief missions like Vande Bharat Mission the navy evacuated 3992 stranded Indians from Iran, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives. INS Kesari provided Covid-19 medical relief including medicines and doctors to 5 countries. INS Airavat provided 270 MT of food aid to Sudan, Djibouti and Eritrea struck by natural calamities. Indian Coast Guard leads rescue operation to save Sri Lanka coast from its biggest oil spill
  • Training facilities for friendly foreign countries enhanced like Malabar naval exercise held with QUAD Nations, Agreement on Reciprocal Provision of Supplies and Services with Japan.
  • The impetus to strategic thinking for defense, the President’s Chair of Excellence on National Security was set up at National Defence College Delhi in  2020.
  • Developing Artificial Intelligence AI-based solutions, MoU was signed between IIT Kanpur and the Ministry of Defense in 2020.
  • Vocal for Local; a complete ban on the sale of foreign goods was imposed on Defense canteens.
  • Increasing the Defense exports should be focused on; the Stockholm International Peace research institute has ranked India 23rd on the arms exporter list.

What is the need of the hour: 

The armed forces and the nation urgently need the head of family i.e the CDS and delaying the appointment is damaging the system rather than benefiting it. All the reforms highlighted above are strategic in nature however their efficiency depends on the top heads who are actually in a position to take big decisions. 

The DMA (Department of Military Affairs) under the CDS took responsibility for planning, procurements, and almost all military matters, reducing the importance of the bureaucracy in the Ministry of Defence (MoD). The nation looked up to the office through the prism of trust and belief in security. 

A CDS is needed now, as the stand-off on northern borders continues, a regime change in Pakistan, and an assertive China on land and water is visible to the whole world. Minor negligence may cost huge prices and the success of such a post in such a short span of time was comparatively beneficial to the country.

Pakistan has its launch pads in PoK full, and diplomacy to handle the Chinese is not yet successful enough. Hence, preparations at home are necessary before the actual war happens. The Ukraine-Russia conflict, Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict, etc all such pop-ups on the world map have necessitated the need for the Chief of Defence Staff.

A post created after the lengthiest struggle should not remain vacant any longer.

Reforms yet pending:

  • Formation of specific Command groups for different regions:
    • A Peninsular command which shall include eastern and western command of the Indian Navy.
    • A dedicated command for Jammu and Kashmir.
    • A dedicated command for logistics requirements of the three services.
    • An Air Defence Command. 

Way Forward: 

India has been gaining strategic autonomy in world affairs and it is the most sought-after reliable partner in the Indo-pacific region. Hence to maintain the strategic deterrence against China in North and South both and to ensure a safe and secure Indo-pacific region India needs a high strength military command to increase its military bargain power.