Army chief Bipin Rawat likely to be first Chief of Defence Staff
16 August 2019
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday announced that the government would create the post of a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) that will integrate the operations of all three services - the Army, the Navy and the Air Force - a major policy announcement for the three armed forces of India.
The idea of having a common defence chief, propounded decades ago, was originally aimed at providing a single point of reference for the government on all matters of national security. The CDS was to be a five star rank general – a rank above the chiefs of the army, navy and air force.
A high-level committee set up to examine the gaps in the country’s security system in the wake of the Kargil War in 1999 submitted its report, this was one of the many recommendations it had made.
Speculation is that the current army chief Bipin Rawat, could be named to the post.
A group of ministers reviewing the national security system some time later had also favoured appointing a chief of defence staff. But a decision on the matter was left pending in the wake of opposition from within the three services.
In 2012, a task force headed by former cabinet secretary Naresh Chandra had recommended creating the post of a permanent chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee - a post of a four star general equivalent to the three service chiefs. It was seen as a compromise given the resistance to the creation of the post of CDS.
At present however, there is no permanent CoSC - the senior-most chief amongst the three services dons the mantle of chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee and it is post held in rotation by the three chiefs.
“Our country has been debating for long about reforms in armed forces and many commissions and their reports underline the same. To further sharpen coordination between the forces, India will have Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), which will make the forces even more effective,” Modi said in his Independence Day speech.
Modi said, to keep up with the changing times and emerging security threats, however, there was a need for the forces to ensure better coordination among the three wings of the armed forces.
"Reform is also necessary. Defence reform has been in the works for a long time now and reports have been tabled several times. The rules of war are changing and India can’t think in a bubble. Our forces need to move together and can’t be falling behind. Coordination should be in tandem with the other. I have decided that Chief of Defence Staff will be created. And all three forces will have one chief and this will help unite the forces," Modi said.
The post of a CDS, along with a tri-service joint planning staff HQ, was first formally mooted by the Kargil Review Committee and the associated Group of Ministers (GoM), as a fundamental defence reform to usher much-needed synergy among the Indian armed forces. While tri-service joint planning was established in the form of the HQ Integrated Defence Staff (IDS), the appointment of a CDS continued to be held in abeyance due of lack of consensus among the political leadership and the armed forces.