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.
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.