Appointment of CDS will fill a void in India’s defence system Editorial 16th Aug’19 IndianExpress

Headline : Appointment of CDS will fill a void in India’s defence system Editorial 16th Aug’19 IndianExpress

Details :

PM announcing the creation of CDS:

  • One of the most significant announcements made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Independence Day in 2019 is the creation of a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS).
  • The CDS is expected to be a four-star military officer, who would act as the single point adviser to the government on military matters.
  • The CDS would also coordinate amongst the three services and bridge the differences.
  • The appointment of the CDS will make the armed forces more effective. 
  • The CDS should be one with a good understanding of the global security environment and functioning of the three services. 

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Significance of having a CDS:

  • Modern military battles cannot be fought by each service fighting independently. 
  • The present Indian Armed Forces are colonial constructs and were configured primarily to serve the interest of their colonial masters during the great wars. 
  • The restructuring of armed forces, therefore, is required necessarily as the future wars are going to be short intense affairs where all organs of the state are likely to be employed simultaneously. 
  • Such a scenario would require unity of command, which is feasible only when the country has a unified command structure led by the CDS. 
  • Office of CDS has been a long pending demand of the defence forces. It was also recommended by both the Kargil Review Committee led by K Subrahmanyam in 1999, as well as the Committee of Experts set up by Ministry of Defence under the chairmanship of General D B Shekatkar. 

Earlier efforts at creating a CDS:

  • The Kargil Review Committee had recommended a CDS as well as a Vice Chief of Defence Staff (VCDS).
  • A group of ministers headed by the then Deputy Prime Minister examined it and recommended CDS with a tri-service joint planning staff. 
  • Accordingly, the Headquarters Integrated Defence Staff (HQIDS) was created in 2001. 

They failed as bureaucrats created hurdles:

  • Despite the importance of the office of CDS, political insecurities and bureaucratic stranglehold over the Ministry of Defence have prevented it from coming into effect.
  • In 2001, the bureaucrats succeeded in stalling the appointment of the CDS by creating the perception that it would be far easier for a CDS to stage a coup. 
  • Consequently, an anomalous situation was created wherein the HDQIDS has been functioning without a head for the past 18 years.
  • Ineffective office of Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee (CISC) was created:
  • The VCDS was reconfigured to create the office of the Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee (CISC).
  • The absence of the CDS has limited the ability of CISC to mediate between the three services.
  • More significantly, being lower in rank, he could not find acceptance as the sole adviser to the government in a rigidly hierarchical organisation like the military.

Making CDS effective:

  • Access to highest levels: For the CDS to be effective, he must have direct access to the defence minister and through him to the prime minister.
  • Non-rotational appointments: The post of CDS should not be a rotational appointment; the government must select one after interviewing top officials of the three services.
  • Also, to begin with, all defence land and capital budget must be put under the CDS and appointments in inter-service organisations must be made essential for further promotions. 
  • The government may take inspiration from the US Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act and push the three services.

Challenges:

  • Despite the PM’s announcement, it is not going to be a smooth affair. 
  • Bureaucratic resistance: The bureaucrats afraid of losing their salience will create bottlenecks. 
  • Services resistance: On top of that, individual services, afraid of losing their turf, are bound to resist the CDS’s involvement in their affairs. 

It should be followed by Integrated Theatre Commands

  • The mere creation of the office is not enough. 
  • This will need to be augmented by restructuring of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and creating integrated theatre commands. 

Conclusion:

  • After the reorganisation of MoD and establishment of theatre commands, they should directly be responsible to the defence minister through the CDS for all combat operations. 
  • Each service chief should majorly be responsible for equipping, organising and training of the forces. 
  • The creation of the CDS will need to be followed up with further reforms to reconfigure the armed forces to meet India’s aspirations to be a global power.

Importance:

GS Paper III: Defence & Security

Section : Defence & Security

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