Understanding Post Of Chief Of Defence Staff (CDS)

By moderator August 16, 2019 12:40

Prime Minister of India, in his Independence Day speech, announced for the creation of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), as a higher-level military reform while integrating tri-services. The post of CDS will help in integrating the efforts, training, operations and planning in the coordination of all the three wings (Army, Navy and Airforce) of armed forces.

The Post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS):

  • The post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), who will be above the three Defence Service Chiefs, acting as a single-point advisor to the Government of India.
  • The CDS will provide an effective service at the top defence level in the country and will play a critical role in times of conflict synergising the efforts of all three defence services.
  • It will advise the Government on long-term defence planning and management which will include manpower, strategy, equipment and above all, ‘joint manship’ in operations.  
  • The creation of the post of CDS will be sequenced with the formation of tri-service theatre commands which will represent vertical integration of the three forces.
  • Although all the Chiefs of Defence Forces are four-starred officers, it is not clear yet, whether the CDS will be a four-starred or five-starred officer.

Earlier Provision:

  • Before the announcements for CDS, India was having a Chairman, Chief of Staff Committee  (CoSC).
  • The senior-most Chief among the three defence services used to be appointed as a Head to the CoSC.
  • The CoSC system was a British arrangement since the colonial era, with some minor changes over the years.
  • Without any legislative and structural back-up. CoSC was a toothless office with its Chairman as merely a ‘figurehead’. 
  • The post could neither further tri-service integration nor could manage any cooperation from all services at any conflict situation together. 
  • Thus, the office had become inefficient and expensive duplication of assets. 

Propositions for CDS:

  • The Kargil Review Committee (2000) for the first time had proposed for establishing the CDS as an apex decision-making body, managing the national security and structuring an interface in between the Defence Ministry and the armed forces headquarters. 
  • A CDS, as a five-star officer, to be created, was then proposed to the Cabinet Community on Security by the Group of Ministers Task Force appointed to study recommendations of the KRC.
  • An Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) was then created as a secretariat for CDS in late 2002 but remained idle.
  • After nearly 10 years, the Naresh Chandra Committee (2011), on defence and security, was appointed. The committee proposed for:
    • A water-down structure of CDS secretariat.
    • The Chairman in the rank of a four-star officer.
    • Tenure of the Chairman of two years  
    • More authority and powers than the Chairman of the CoSC

The necessity for CDS in India:

  • The Kargil Review Committee (KRC), after the Kargil conflict experience, had recommended for more coordination among the three services. 
  • India is the only major democracy among others, where the Armed Forces Headquarters is outside the apex of governmental structure.
  • Service Chiefs of the defence forces are loaded with their operational roles as ahead.
  • Long term defence planning suffers due to routine day-to-day priorities during operation.
  • Views and expertise of commanders for the highest level defence management decisions can not be coordinated well to the Executives like the Prime Minister or the Defence Minister, impacting the performance at the situation.
  • With the peninsular geography, the need of tri-service assets and personnel is felt over a period of time using ‘theatre commands’ like the US military.
  • With neighbours like China and Pakistan and terrorist activities at the border, a strong tri-service coordination is needed and a Chief as a head, integrating all these defence services is a must with structural and legislative back-up.

Arguments against the CDS:

  • Decisions at the political level.
  • Resistive nature of militaries for transformations.
  • A CDS with direct access to the PMO will hamper the control of MoD over the services.

Provisions in other Countries:

    • Most countries with advanced militaries have provisioned for such a post, though with varying degrees of power and authority. 
  • USA: The United States Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC) is an extremely powerful body with the most senior military officer and military adviser to the President. 
  • UK: The United Kingdom has a Permanent Secretary, equivalent to the Defence Secretary as a military strategic commander and a professional head of the British armed forces. 

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By moderator August 16, 2019 12:40