Chandigarh: Greater power for crucial defence acquisitions, a presence in vital inter-ministerial bodies and achieving jointness among the three services. These were some of the points put forth Sunday by a panel of defence experts on the possible role of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) amid growing speculation that the Modi government will announce a name for the position by the end of this year.
The panel discussion was at a session on the “creation of the post of chief of defence staff” on the third and concluding day of the Chandigarh Military Literature Festival organised by the Punjab government.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his Independence Day address this year had announced the creation of a CDS post. Following this, a committee headed by NSA Ajit Doval was formed to draw out the charter and modalities for the post.
Former defence secretary and Chhattisgarh Governor Shekhar Dutt said the biggest task before the CDS would be to ensure jointness between the three services and that he should be in a position to ensure that any external challenge can be tackled by the defence forces.
“This jointness is not for linguistic purposes. It is for operational purposes,” he said. Adding that while CDS is absolutely required, Dutt said there is a greater requirement for a full transformation of the defence structures, such as in formations, operations and remodeling of organisations.
“We ought to have certain integrated theatre commands….Nobody outside in the civil world will have any comprehension of what has to be done. It has to come from within (armed forces),” he said.
Highlighting the experience of the United States in terms of joint operation commands, Lt Gen. Sanjiv Langer (retd) said the desired approach for integrated theatre commands would need an integrated Ministry of Defence, professional staff at PMO and Presidents Secretariat and preparation of Integrated General Staff.
He said that uniformed men from the armed forces should be deputed permanently in the Ministry of Defence, and the CDS would play a 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.
‘CDS should ensure strategic conventional military capabilities’
Air Vice Marshal Manmohan Bahadur said the CDS should ideally be given a one-line mandate of ensuring strategic conventional military capabilities.
He cited the statement of former Air Chief B.S Dhanoa who Friday said that someone has to be held responsible for delaying critical technology like multi role fighters to the services by continuing negotiations for 10 years.
“It can be the CDS,” he said.
Bahadur said the CDS should formulate synchronised joint plans leading to prioritisation of acquisition of capabilities required by the three services.
“With the CDS having the casting vote (on defence acquisitions) that’s where some sort of budgetary control comes in. He would have the overall picture…core competencies of each service will get its due,” he said.
He, however, cautioned that it can’t happen in isolation.
“CDS can propose but someone else is responsible for the money,” he said, adding that there is a requirement of specialist cadre in the defence ministry who would understand the needs of the services.
The CDS has to merge the capabilities the services require and the procedures which the ministry requires, Bahadur said.
He added that the CDS should be made a permanent members of all committees related to strategic policy group, nuclear command authority etc and should be made a part of all the inter-ministerial discussions that are related to matters of national security.
Stating the other factors which would contribute to a strong and effective CDS, he said there should be a revamp of the higher defence organisation and a greater military presence in defence ministry.
‘CDS will fill a vital gap’
Lt Gen. Satish Dua, former chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee of the Indian Armed Forces, said that while India started jointness with the triservice National Defence Academy, somewhere down the line, jointness in services was lost.
“With the CDS, at least newer structures like cyber and space commands (agencies now) will start working together and not in silos,” he said.
“We need a better interface between the leadership, bureaucracy and armed forces and that is a gap, which the CDS may fill,” he said.