NEW DELHI :
The Indian Armed Forces were headed for a more streamlined system of reporting and decisionmaking with the Union cabinet approving the post of the chief of defence staff (CDS) on Tuesday.
Amid heightened military movement along India’s western borders with Pakistan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced from the ramparts of the Red Fort on Independence Day that work was on to appoint a CDS.
The ministry of defence (MoD) is likely to make the appointment soon, after the cabinet committee on security (CCS), on Tuesday morning, approved the recommendations of several expert panels, including the Kargil Review Committee.
“The government has approved the creation of post of chief of defence staff. The officer to be appointed as chief of defence staff will be a four-star general and will also head the department of military affairs," Union minister for information and broadcasting Prakash Javadekar said at a press conference, adding that the CDS will act as the “principal military adviser to the defence minister on all tri-services matters".
The move, envisaged after the Kargil war in 1999, was put on the back-burner, despite authorities recommending the need for creating a post for a single command centre in matters of warfare and nuclear weaponry.
The government’s approval comes after the Kargil Review Committee, Report of Task Force on National Security (Naresh Chandra Committee Report), and the Committee of Experts on Enhancing Capability and Rebalance Defence Expenditure (General Shekatkar Committee Report) chalked out a strategy for higher defence management.
In 2017, intelligence and security officials had said that the absence of a CDS was hampering India’s combat capabilities. With a proxy war ongoing with Pakistan on India’s western front and a stand-off with China in Doklam in the East, security officials said a single chain of command was imperative to strengthen India’s collective defence might.
“As of now our forces are very good. But each force is operating in a silo. However, they cannot be perceived as formidable because they have no experience or habit of working together in any situation. They have rarely worked together and a single, unified chain of command is required to make the working of the three forces (army, navy and air force) seamless," said a senior security official, requesting anonymity.
Another senior official, also requesting anonymity, said while the modalities of the post had been worked out, the appointment of a single-point contact was to ensure “synergy, integration among all three services and better strategic alignment". He added that the chief of defence staff will carefully “pursue the Armed Forces’ objectives" to ensure better effectiveness “in a dynamic security requirement".
Some defence experts however, were sceptical, and questioned the efficacy of the post. “It is a decision after a very long gestation period. The decision is a step in the right direction, but the fear is that it may end up as another layer, like an onion peel in the multilayered and often opaque decisionmaking apparatus we have," said D. P. K Pillay, former Indian Army officer and research fellow with the Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis (IDSA), a Delhi-based think tank.