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Chief of Defence Staff: Who will be the first-ever CDS? Here’s what naval chief said on newly created position

Huma Siddiqui
Indian Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh (ANI Image)

With the announcement for the first-ever Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) expected to be announced any time this month, the views of the Services have been taken care of by the Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC), which is part of the Implementation Committee. The government had set up the Implementation Committee whose main task was to finalise the responsibilities and to set a framework for the CDS. The CDS is expected to be the single point person to the prime minister on matters related to defence.

Expressing hope that "The CDS is suitably empowered to carry out all the responsibilities that he is given," said Indian Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh, adding, "The committee has submitted its report to the Government. It should be an empowered CDS which will be able to make a difference."

As has been reported earlier the present Indian Army Chief General Bipin Rawat is a front-runner for the new post of CDS.

Expert View

An Implementation Committee headed by National Security Advisor has been working to set the ground rules and layout exact responsibilities and framework for the CDS. These are as yet not finalised. According to experts, the first CDS would face major challenges to streamline the onerous task of generating synergy and jointness between the three services.

As things stand today each service has been used to pursue things from their individual viewpoint and it is the Ministry of Defence that has been playing a balancing role to streamline things. There is a requirement for jointness in operations, intelligence, financial planning, training, procurements and human resources to optimise the dwindling resources. Also, the issue of compatibility of equipment and doctrines needs urgent attention.

The first CDS has major challenges ahead and would need to re-energise and optimise the resources of Headquarters Integrated Defence Staff.

Being the Single point of Advisor to the government on "all matters military" would be the most crucial role for the CDS and for that he will have to take along all the three services. Services follow a very strict hierarchical line and it would be prudent that an individual who is senior to all three service chiefs is appointed to the post to streamline the functioning of the CDS.

From all indications so far General Bipin Rawat who has been the Chief of Army Staff and who superannuates on December 31, 2019, after a full three-year term seems to fulfil the criteria for the coveted post. He would need to manoeuvre his way through the minefield of inter-service rivalry and Ministry of Defence to make a success of the appointment of `CDS'.

Sharing his views, Brig SK Chatterji (retd) says, "Everyone familiar with the issue CDS is awaiting the announcement. Though, it would seemingly be preferable that the senior-most Chief be appointed as the CDS, no such parameters have been defined for selection to the appointment of CDS. In this case, should the government decide to appoint the present Chief of the Army Staff as the CDS on his completing his tenure as the Army Chief, there is no problem. However, it also sets a precedent which the government may not like to be bound by in future appointments of the CDS."

Keeping in view the fact that the services are a hugely the hierarchical organization, the choice of the current Army Chief, and using his experience as Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee seems to be the easiest the answer, Chatterji says. "However, the CDS also playing the role of being the single point of contact for the Prime Minister, should such a role be really exercised tomorrow, brings in the issue of the CDS being the one amongst the three service chiefs who enjoys the PM's confidence and can be his confidante."

According to Chatterji, "The decision is of course at the political leadership level, but as it stands today, should the grapevine be believed, all indicators point to Gen Rawat being appointed the CDS. However, Prime Minister Modi is known for springing surprises and it would be better to await an announcement, rather than taking it for granted."