NEW DELHI : Bipin Rawat, who will retire on Tuesday as the Army Chief, has been appointed as the first chief of defence staff (CDS), an official statement said. It said the appointment was with effect from Tuesday until further orders.

Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh congratulated Rawat and wished him on Twitter. “Many congratulations to General Bipin Rawat as he takes charge as India’s first Chief of Defence Staff. My best wishes to him on this new mission as the principal military advisor on all matters related to the armed forces."

On 26 December, the cabinet committee on security (CCS) cleared the creation of the post of CDS, which was first proposed after the 1999 Kargil war. The CDS will function as the sole point of reference for the defence minister in matters of warfare and nuclear issues. The CDS will be a four-star general, head the department of military affairs and report to the defence minister on warfare and defence strategy for all three Armed Forces.

According to D.P.K Pillay, a former Indian Army officer and research fellow, Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis, a Delhi-based think tank, Rawat is the ideal choice for the post. “We know him as a seasoned battle-hardened military commander. The decision to have him as the first CDS is the right direction if the objective of CDS is to fructify."

The appointment of a CDS will streamline India’s Armed Forces, and comes at a time when India’s relations with Pakistan is at a low. Tension had escalated after the two neighbours engaged in an aerial dogfight in February following a terror strike in Jammu and Kashmir that killed 40 paramilitary personnel. India’s recent decision to withdraw the special status of J&K and to reorganize it into two Union territories to be ruled directly from Delhi has also irked Islamabad.

The move to appoint a CDS is in line with the recommendations of several panels on security matters to streamline India’s defence apparatus. A single chain of command was seen as desirable.

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