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Modi govt likely to split post of CDS & Secretary DMA, both held by General Bipin Rawat

Office of CDS was responsible not only for integration of armed forces, but also bureaucratic work as Secretary DMA. Now, Chief of Integrated Defence Staff could be Secretary DMA & report to CDS.

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New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government is looking at possibly splitting the post of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) and Secretary, Department of Military Affairs (DMA), both of which were held by the late General Bipin Rawat, ThePrint has learnt.

Sources in the defence and security establishment said that while the process to appoint a new CDS is on, following the death of India’s first CDS General Rawat, on 8 December 2021, the government is also looking at possibly finetuning the role.

This is being done based on the experience of the office of the CDS, which was responsible not only for the integration of the armed forces, but also a lot of bureaucratic work as the Secretary DMA.

“There is a thought process that the post of the CDS and the Secretary DMA could be split. The Chief of Integrated Defence Staff (CISC), which is equivalent to a ‘commander-in-chief’ rank, could be made the Secretary DMA and he will report to the CDS,” a source in the defence and security establishment said.

Following the death of General Bipin Rawat, former Army chief, General M. M. Naravane —being the senior most — took over as Chairman, Chief of Staff Committee (COSC), and was looking after the work being done by the CDS. General Naravana retired last month, however, and IAF chief, Air Chief Marshal V. R. Chaudhari, as senior most officer is likely to take over as Chairman COSC.

The work of the Secretary DMA, moved to the Defence Ministry for final approval, through the CISC.

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DMA will still be run by uniformed personnel

In May last year, for the first time in history, uniformed personnel from the Army, Air Force and Navy were formally appointed as additional secretary and joint secretaries in the Ministry of Defence.

They were all appointed in the DMA.

The post of the CDS has been in demand for long, but more specifically since 2001 following a review after the Kargil War of 1999.

While the demand within the military was for a five-star General (or equivalent) position, the CDS became a four-star post.

But what took many in the military circles by surprise, was that the CDS was also Secretary DMA, thus becoming one of the secretaries in the Defence Ministry — like the secretary, Defence Production and secretary, Ex-Servicemen Welfare.

The surprise was because a four-star General (or Equivalent) is above the secretary rank in protocol, but in the new system, the CDS was also a secretary.

The DMA was an addition to the four existing verticals in the Defence Ministry — the departments of defence, defence research, defence production and development and ex-service welfare.

New CDS appointment?

The government is yet to take a call on who the new CDS will be, despite the post lying vacant for nearly five months.

Government sources said that the process is on and also pointed out that work of the CDS office and that of the DMA is on since arrangements are in place.

“The senior most among the service chiefs becomes the Chairman, COSC. So the work is being done. As far as the DMA is concerned, the work load of the Department of Defence has increased, but this is temporary,” a source said.

As reported by ThePrint, those being considered for the post of CDS, include the three service chiefs and retired four and three-star officers of commander-in-chief ranks.

It is understood that a top decision-making body within the government has approved changes in certain rules that allow the possibility of bringing back a retired officer to the post of CDS.

However, a decision has not been taken on whether a retired or serving officer will take over as the CDS.

Sources said that if it is a retired officer, the front runner is a three-star Army officer, known for planning of operations, with knowledge of both the Western and Northern theatre.

It is also understood that if a serving officer is brought in a the CDS, he is unlikely to be from the Army.

(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)

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