India’s first Chief of Defence Staff will direct three service chiefs
India’s first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) is expected to be announced next month — along with the appointment of a new army chief to replace Gen Bipin Rawat, who is retiring on December 31 — with powers to direct the three service chiefs and to create new theatre commands for an optimal military response in case of hostilities.
While the implementation committee, appointed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and headed by national security adviser Ajit Doval, is still to define the charter for the CDS, people familiar with the matter said the chief will be a single-point military adviser to the government, as suggested by the K Subrahmanyam-led Kargil Review Committee.
The people cited above also said that the CDS “will not be a paper tiger”, but someone whose advice will be binding on the three services chiefs.
They added that apart from being responsible for promoting jointmanship, the new CDS will be heading all tri-service structures, with the existing post of Integrated Defence Staff being converted into the Vice Chief of Defence Staff. The current IDS chief Lt Gen PS Rajeshwar is being posted to India’s only tri-service command at Andaman and Nicobar islands. He will succeed Vice-Admiral Bimal Verma, who is retiring on November 30.
Jointmanship, a key military doctrine, refers to coordination and integration of strategy, capabilities and execution across the three services.
The people said that though the CDS will carry four stars (like chiefs of the three services do), he will be the “first among equals”, with the task of prioritising hardware for future Indian military needs, allocating tri-services assets to the new theatre commands, and designating tasks to these formations.
The new CDS will be at the heart of Indian military diplomacy, spelling out the new jointmanship terms to break silos between the three services, which, experts say, have been prone to protecting their own turfs while joining hands only on common issues such as pay and pension.
Jointmanship, as military experts including former service chiefs have pointed out, is more important in the event of a two-front war on India’s northwestern and northeastern borders. China has already divided the People’s Liberation Army into military regions and theatre commands for pinpointed military application. The Pakistani armed forces, meanwhile, operate on a joint staff headquarters concept, with the army playing the lead role under its Corps Commanders.
Former Northern Army commander Lieutenant General BS Jaswal (retd) said jointmanship is extremely important to optimise all the resources that are available in the armed forces. “It is especially important in the light of the philosophy of theatre commands,” he added.