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.
WHAT IS THE CHIEF OF DEFENCE STAFF?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
WHY CDS WAS NEEDED?
- 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.
- 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
KARGIL WAR AND NEED FOR CDS
- 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”.