CHIEF OF DEFENCE : New Power New Structure and New Resposibility

It’s been a late to talk on this but it is such a big Historic decision that it deserves a Talking . It was announced on 15th Aug , 2019 by our Honourable Prime Minister NARENDRA MODI that an integrated designated post of CHIEF OF DEFENCE STAFF will be established for all the 3 services – the Indian Army , the Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force to ensure proper coordination and integration amongst them . It is one of the landmark decisions of Modi Government which will be remembered for quite long .

From there on any matter pertaining to any of these 3 departments , the CDS will act as single-point military advisor to the Government as he will have the power in equal to a Secretary ; actually he will be one of the 6 secretaries (6th) in Defence Minsitry and a pointsman for services and only reporting the NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR (NSA) . He will not lead any troop on ground and only administer the tri-services and it’s divisions along with the Defence Cyber Space and the proposed division for Space . But will also be responsible for promotion , posting , budget process , foreign assignment and travel .

Retired General BIPIN RAWAT has taken over the post as was being speculated . He retired from the General post on 31st December . He has had a long illustrious career in Army . The 27th Chief of Army was previously on Eleven Gorkha Rifles in 1978 . He also has a stupendous academic record in defence subject only from M. Phil to PhD and he is a defence intellectual publishing many articles regarding the subject . He has experience in high altitude warfare and counter insurgency and has also won Gallantry on two occasions . But along with such a dashing record he is believed to be very aligned to this Government . His statements in support of CAA and the one about Deradicalising Camps confirm the same .

How significant this move is can be traced back to the fact that this post was first mooted after the KARGIL War in 1999 by the Kargil Review Committee led by noted strategic expert KRISHNASWAMY SUBRAHMANYAM to the 14-member Task Force chaired by former Cabinet Secretary NARESH CHANDRA . The proposal came after some gaps and flaws were found in our defence system of which main were lack of coordination between the 3 forces and colossal failure of our Intelligence . K SUBRAHMANYAM use to say that “Politicians in India enjoy power without any responsibility , Bureaucrats wield powers without any accountability and the Military assumes responsibility without having any clear direction”. This move is believed to bring an end to this problem .

After that along with these panels many ministers including then Home Minister L.K. ADVANI carve out a 5 Star Rank General – CDS . But the proposal didn’t move for nearly two decades due to lack of consensus . You all will be surprised to know that even during British Era , there was a single commander in chief for all 3 services . But soon after independence this arrangement was discarded and separate commanders were appointed for all 3 . They weren’t allowed to issue any order on behalf of Government , even in procurement terms they could only make recommendation at max . The prime reason for not creating the CDS post was the fear that 5 Star will hinder the maintenance of civilian control of defence leading to dreadful cases like Military Coup . Specially under ex-prime minister NEHRU’s regime this proposal came a multiple times but this fear always prevented hum from saying Yes .

This move has been deemed so important because it will streamline and improve the coordination between the 3 forces and also allow the Government to issue an integrated command . According to the present structure there is a Chairman of the Staff Committee (CoSC) comprises of all the 3 forces and the senior most among them acts as Chairman and maintains coordination among them . In addition he will also be monitoring Nuclear policies . It is also believed that this post will help to clamp down the Red Tapism and unwanted Bureaucracy .

If we have a look over other countries who have adopted such a structure . US has a Six fold defence force comprising Army , Air Force , Navy , Marine Corps , Coast Guard and the newly established Space Force has a CHIEF of STAFF of ARMY (CSA) having similar role that of CDS . UKs defence forces , from which India has said to modelled it’s own also has a Permanent Secretary as well as a CDS . Other than that Australia , Singapore , Thailand , Sri Lanka are among the others having a CDS .We need to have a look at the present structure to know the significance of this move .

At current there are 19 Commands out of which only 2 are Tri-service command ; Andaman and Nicobar command and Strategic Forces Command (Nuclear Assets) . He will head a newly conceptualized Department of Military Affairs (DMA) as it’s Secretary .
He will have all the defence related financial powers having direct access to the defence minister .
He will also monitor procurements , training and staffing through a joint and integrated planning requirements .

  • The defence policy and all it’s policy and preparation for defence in times of war will come under him .
  • But it’s specified that any files related to defence policy will still go through defence department .
  • Also , the purchases for defence saw a change in it’s official name from “Procurement exclusive to defence services” to “Capital Acquisition exclusive to defence services”
  • National Defence College and Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis has been brought under Defence Secretary citing it’s remit broader than military matters .

DMA or SAINYA KARYA VIBHAAG is the fifth new department under Defence Ministry after Departments of Defence , Defence Production , Defence Research and Development and Ex-Servicemen Welfare . Each of them is headed by a Secretary ranked officer except DMA which is headed by CDS , and they all will directly report to the Defence Minister .The 8 Major functions that have come under CDS out of which 4 have come from the ambit of Defence Secretary :

  1. Three armed service
  2. Their respective headquarters
  3. The Territorial Army and works relating to the Army
  4. Navy and Airforce

While the rest 4 are Non-Capital purchases and related to promoting jointness in Procurement, Training and Operations besides encouraging use of Indigenous Equipment.Another important task is going to nuclear policy formulation .But even after this being a milestone move there exists some drawbacks and questions to ve answered :

  • Instead of being a 5 Star as was proposed the CDS will continue to be a 4 Star . He should have been superior to all three service chiefs but he is kept only at Equivalent to them .
  • In other words he will remain holding the post of permanent chairman of (CoSC) , earlier which has been rotating between the senior most service chief .
  • A point has been raised by strategy expert PRAVIN SAHWNEY that in current format CDS won’t be able to help in war preparedness and will only help Modi Government politically . He actually raised question on government’s biasedness and selfish political motive .

As we can make out of all these facts and opinions that CDS Gen. Rawat will be facing an uphill task on bumpy terrain . Tasks such as to integrate all the COMMANDS under one Umbrella avoiding Duplication or Overlapping among the forces and of constructing integrated military commands is a big challenge . This is a problem area with deep implications as no service or force will like to lose or share any control . And to fulfil this task defying all odds would require experience of as high stature as of Gen. Rawat . So I would like to congratulate him and wish him all the Best for this job and I hope that this will always be a historic and game changing chapter for our Military and for the greater good of our country .



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