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Chief of Defence Staff must be suitably empowered, says Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh

The name of the first CDS is likely to be announced this month and Army Chief General Bipin Rawat is a front-runner for the position.

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New Delhi: Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh said Tuesday he hopes the post of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) will be empowered enough to make a difference. Officers across military ranks are awaiting with bated breath for the name of the first CDS, which is likely to be announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi this month.

Army Chief General Bipin Rawat is a front-runner for the new position, as reported by ThePrint earlier.

“I hope the CDS is suitably empowered. It is a historic decision taken by the prime minister,” Singh said, when asked during a press conference Tuesday on what he felt about the new post.

He also added that the Navy has given its comments to the Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee (CoSC), which is currently headed by Army Chief Bipin Rawat and earlier by the former IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa.

The CoSC was part of the Implementation Committee which was set up by the government to finalise the responsibilities and an enabling framework for the CDS, who will also act as a single point person to the prime minister on defence-related issues.

Also read: Army, Air Force & Navy studying each other’s laws to bring into effect Joint Services Act

Will CDS be another ornamental post

Many in the military, however, fear that the post of the CDS will be similar to the existing position of the Chairman Chief of Staff Committee (CoSC) — a largely ornamental designation which is taken over by the senior-most officer among the three service chiefs till retirement.

CDS is likely to be a four-star officer similar to the three chiefs of the armed forces but will be first among equals. Being a four-star officer also means the CDS will be below only the cabinet secretary.

“The fear is that he will be just another upgraded post of the CoSC without any actual power to push through reforms or matters within the civilian bureaucracy besides of course the military,” a senior officer told ThePrint.

The officer also said the service chiefs should have an open line to the prime minister even if there is a CDS in place. While operational control of the forces would still remain with the three service chiefs, the CDS will focus on integration of three services, theatre commands, budgetary and the acquisition process.

The CDS will also be heading the Strategic Forces Command (SFC), Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC), Cyber Command, Space Command and the Armed Forces Special Operations Command.

The post of the CDS was first recommended after the 1999 Kargil conflict to ensure better coordination between the three services. A high-level committee headed by K. Subrahmanyan, which was set up to examine the gaps in the country’s security structure, had recommended a CDS-like position.

A Group of Ministers formed in 2001 and headed by the then deputy prime minister L.K. Advani had further studied the recommendations of the Kargil review committee and proposed the creation of a CDS.

In 2012, the Naresh Chandra Task Force had suggested creating the post of a permanent chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee (CoSC), comprising the chiefs of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force. The senior-most among them would act as the chairman.

In 2016 again, former defence minister Manohar Parrikar had told reporters that he was in favour of the post of a CDS, and said a proposal would be made to the prime minister.

Also read: An Indian Army officer’s photos will be all over South Korea next July. Here’s why


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  1. A simple question from a layperson who does not understand matters of defence : Given a choice, would an officer wish to be Army Chief for three years, or CDS ? Pakistan mein toh yeh sawaal hi nahin uthta.

    • Good that you are asking as layperson, first and foremost CDS will not only be from Army but can be from Air Force and Navy also. He will be the senior most to 3 Service Chiefs.

      • Without wishing to be immodest, sir, I have forgotten more than you will learn in life. Zara dhyaan se padha aur phir likha kijiye … RR and I have signed a truce. Aap bhi kar lijiye.

        • Regarding truce, if you stop writing pro-Ms/Cs comments, then we may think of. Don’t be a brainwashed congi who are in cohorts with islamists.

      • Read the heading carefully. As is my wont, that is all I read, not the column, and it conveyed to me that this would be an ornamental post, lacking the functional authority a serving Chief. Hence a big fuss will be made for a fifth star. 2. If a retiring Army Chief becomes CDS, it will be like a retired Foreign Secretary becoming NSA. Continues to meddle in the Foreign Office, diminishing the aura of his successor.

    • To carry this proposition further. If we are now comfortable with the idea of deep selection and the resultant supersessions – I am not – then the last person to be appointed CDS should be someone who has completed a full tenure as service chief. Eating one’s cake and having it too. Instead, prepare a zone of consideration of the six to eight brightest three star officers from the three services and choose the best to be CDS. His sheer brilliance should carry the day. 2. Now to return to my rhetorical question. If this officer is an Army Commander, given an honest choice, would he wish to be COAS or CDS for three years and then retire ? His answer would make clear the actual worth of this new post.

      • This just proves you have no idea about defence Forces. Def Service and bureaucracy is two different and very opposite organisations in India. Def Service is based on Discipline, Chain of Command unlike civilian bureaucracy. So comparing cases of hypothetical conflicts between NSA and foreign secretary in the context of def service is preposterous and shows your lack of understanding about Def Services.

        Now, coming to the point of CDS: this post will not be ornamental. It will be senior to Service Chief and it looks like one who has been a service chief before will be selected for this post. The age may be increased to 63-64 from 62 ( present service chiefs retirement age) in this case. Now, regarding army commander being appointed to CDS. It can or cannot be for the first instance but will surely not be a precedent. I think they are putting a criteria of one to have served as Chief before.
        It will not be five star rank l, as India follows system similar to UK (Field Marshal) not US (General of the Army) system. Five star rank ( Field Marshal) can only be given to a General if war has been won/or the forces performed better in a war (falkland war etc).

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