Addressing the nation on Independence Day on Thursday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that the armed forces in India will have a Chief of Defence Staff.
“Our armed forces are the pride of India. To further sharpen coordination between all the three forces. India will now have a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). This is going to make the forces even more effective,” Prime Minister Modi said.
The Chief of Defence Staff is a proposed position that was recommended by a Group of Ministers – led by the then Deputy Minister LK Advani – set up in 1999 after the Kargil War. The CDS is a combined head of the Indian Army, the Air Force and the Indian Navy and will act as the single-point military advisor of the Defence Minister of India. The appointment is likely to be someone who is senior to the three serving chiefs or one of the three serving chiefs in rotation.
General VP Malik, who was the Army Chief during the Kargil War, calls this a major step in the national security organisation which was being considered for the last 20 years but nobody took a decision.
“Now that we are going to have a CDS, his direct responsibility will be, of course, all the nuclear outfits and all the nuclear organisations and outfits that we have, including the strategic command. The other responsibility would be of ensuring coordination and jointness so that all the three services work together and the inter-operability improves amongst the three services. Plus if there are any differences among the services, he will be able to sort it out and he will also have the direct access to the Prime Minister and will be kind of a consultant of defence issues,” General VP Malik says.
He adds that the appointment may be more economical because it may do away with a certain amount of duplication that we have among the three services.
However, former Air Marshal PK Barbora says that move will be beneficial only if the CDS is part of the system and is made part of the Cabinet as well.
“Now, to understand what is in the politicians' minds or the higher echelons of security and strategy, the Chief of Defence Staff should be sitting in the Cabinet under all circumstances, because then he will have a better idea of the government's thinking. Secondly, he will have a better idea with how the government deals with external and international issues and thirdly he would also be privy to how the govt is dealing with many issues like finances and internal security also,” the former Air Marshal says.
The former IAF chief feels that the move to appoint a Chief of Defence Staff is still ‘too early,’ since a CDS is very effective when it comes to strategic issues.
“In India, we have too many internal issues. I also feel that charter of duties that the CDS will be given, may or may not fit into our present Indian context. I feel that till the time we become a greater regional power, it may be a little bit too early, in my opinion, since like I said, we are not privy to all the government's thinking,” he adds.