Chief Of Defence Staff

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Context: In his Independence Day speech of the second term as the Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi made a far-reaching announcement for India's defence forces. PM Narendra Modi said his government has decided to establish the post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) for the three services – the Indian Army, the Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force.


  1. The Chief of Defence Staff is a single-point advisor to the government on all matters related to the military. The officer appointed as the Chief of Defence Staff heads all the three arms of the military — the army, navy and air force-thus making India's armed forces integrated. The post is aimed at ensuring better coordination between the three services.
  2. The three forces will continue to have their own chiefs. However, the four-star officers heading these three services will report to the Chief of Defence Staff.
  3. The Chief of Defence Staff will be a 'first among equals', a fourth four-star officer who will be senior to the three other service chiefs.


  1. It is necessary to have a professional body of the highest standing to facilitate 'jointmanship' and render single-point military advice to the government on matters of national security and to reconcile the possible differences in service-specific opinions to enable the government to arrive at considered military decisions.
  2. CDS would play an important role in fostering inter-services jointness in terms of budgeting, equipment purchases, training, joint doctrines and planning of military operations-an imperative of modern warfare


  • The recommendation for creating the post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) was first made after the 1999 Kargil War.
  • A high-level committee that was set up to examine the gaps in the country's security system in the wake of the Kargil War had recommended that the three services should have a Chief of Defence Staff.
  • The committee had said this person, a five-star military officer, should be the single-point military adviser to the Defence Minister.
  • Besides the high-level committee on Kargil War, a group of ministers that was formed in 2001 to explore necessary reforms required to improve India's national security had also favoured creating the post of Chief of Defence Staff.
  • However, no action was taken on the recommendation.
  • Moving in a similar direction, in 2012, the Naresh Chandra Task Force recommended that post of a permanent chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee (CoSC) should be created. The CoSC comprises chiefs of the Indian Army, Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force. The senior-most among them would act as the chairman. However, the Chairman of Chiefs of Staff Committee is effectively the first among equals and does not wield real power like a Chief of Defence Staff would.

Is there any similar post in other countries?

  • Most countries with advanced militaries have such a post, albeit with varying degrees of power and authority.
  • The United States Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC), for example, is extremely powerful, with a legislated mandate and sharply delineated powers.
  • He is the most senior military officer and military adviser to the President.
  • The Chiefs of the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and National Guard too, are members of the JCSC.
  • All, including the CJCSC, are four-star officers, but by statute, only the CJCSC is designated as the “principal military adviser”.

What are the arguments against having a Chief of Defence Staff?

  • There’s no clear blueprint for the office to ensure its effectiveness.
  • India’s political establishment is seen as being largely indifferent towards security matters, so they’re incapable of ensuring that CDS works.
  • Militaries by nature tend to resist transformation.
  • In the Indian context, critics fear, the absence of foresight and understanding might end up making the CDS just another case of “jobs for the boys”.

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