Chief of the Defence Staff (India)

Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) is a proposed position for the combined chief of the Indian Army, Air Force and Navy.[1] It was first officially suggested in 1999 following the Kargil War through the recommendations of the Kargil Review Committee.[2][3] Although a long-talked-about position in India,[4][5] the official call was made public by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his Independence Day speech on 15 August 2019 at Red Fort, New Delhi.[6][7]

It is considered that the Chief of Defence Staff is a critical position in today's era of hybrid warfare, and will help increase jointmanship, tri-service effectiveness and overall combat capabilities of India.[8] It is speculated that whereas the Defense Secretary will be the main "defence" advisor, the CDS will assume the role of being the main "military" advisory, acting as the single-point military adviser to the government and Prime Minister.[9] India is the only large democracy which does not have a single point military advisor; with all P5 countries having one.[10]


The idea of creation of such a post goes back to as early Lord Mountbatten. General K. V. Krishna Rao advanced creation of the post of Chief of Defence Staff in June 1982.[11] However, officially, it was only following the Kargil Review Committee's recommendation in 1999 that the Group of Ministers (GoM) officially proposed the creation of the post of CDS in 2001.[3] Following committees, including the Naresh Chandra task force in 2012 and the Lieutenant General D. B. Shekatkar Committee in 2016, also proposed their own versions of a CDS.[12] The process of consulting all parties involved began in 2006. In 2017, the Cabinet Committee on Security started the process of making the final decision related to the creation of a post for the CDS.[13][14][15] The post of Chairman of the Chief of Staff Committee (Chairman-COSC) had been formed as a precursor to the post of CDS, responsible the national military strategy.[16]

The matter had opposition over the years on various fronts.[17] After the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971, Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Pratap Chandra Lal, had threatened to quit if the post of CDS was created.[18] There were also fears that such a post would be too powerful.[18] In 2001 the government was on the brink of making the then Admiral, Admiral Sushil Kumar, the CDS. A date had been fixed including other formalities. However, due to turf wars, among other reasons, the idea was scrapped.[10]

Following the Prime Minister's announcement, a committee was announced on 23 August 2019 under the National Security Advisor, consisting of the Cabinet secretary, the defence secretary and the Chairman of the Chief of Staff Committee (C-COSC) among others, to make final the powers of the CDS. The committee was to submit its report within six weeks.[19] By November 2019, government sources reported the committee had largely completed its tasks and would release an official charter and enabling framework for the post of CDS by mid-December.[20]

Description of the proposed post

As proposed, the CDS would be a four-star officer selected from among the serving senior flag officers of the Indian Armed Forces and would serve for either two or three years; retired officers would not be appointed. Sources said appointing the senior-most serving chief would mean the officer could serve till the age of 64.[21] While being "first among equals" among the service chiefs, the CDS would be a single-point military advisor whose advice would be binding on the service chiefs and who would have the authority to direct them, along with authority to create theatre commands as needed. The holder of the post would also be the head of all tri-service command structures, assisted by a deputy, the Vice Chief of Defence Staff to replace the former post of Chief of Integrated Defence Staff.[20]

The CDS will come under the Right to Information Act.[22]

See also


  1. "PM Modi announces creation of Chief of Defence Staff". The Hindu. PTI. 15 August 2019. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 15 August 2019.CS1 maint: others (link)
  2. Pandit, Rajat (16 August 2016). "India to finally get chief of defence staff, 20 yrs after it was mooted | India News - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 16 August 2019.
  3. Mukherjee, Anit (21 August 2019). "A top post, its promise and peril". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 25 August 2019.
  4. Kanwal, Gurmeet (27 September 2018). "Where is India's Chief of Defence Staff ?". The Economic Times. Retrieved 15 August 2019.
  5. Panag, Lt Gen H S (20 June 2019). "Modi must appoint chief of defence staff – and prove India's political class isn't fearful". The Print. Retrieved 15 August 2019.
  6. "PM Narendra Modi's mega announcement: India will now have Chief of Defence Staff". India Today. 15 August 2019. Retrieved 15 August 2019.
  7. "Independence Day 2019 Live Updates- India will have a Chief of Defence Staff: PM Modi in I-Day speech". Hindustan Times. 15 August 2019. Retrieved 15 August 2019.
  8. Subramanian, Nirupama (16 August 2019). "Explained: Understanding post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS)". The Indian Express. Retrieved 16 August 2019.
  9. Singh, Rajneesh (Summer 2017). "Harmonising Military–Bureaucracy Relations in Defence Ministry: Some Thought" (PDF). CLAWS Journal via Centre for Land Warfare Studies.
  10. Unnithan, Sandeep (23 August 2019). "Chief of Defence Staff: Can the new superchief call the shots?". India Today. Archived from the original on 23 August 2019. Retrieved 25 August 2019.
  11. Elkin, Jerrold F.; Ritezel, W. Andrew (1984). "The Debate on Restructuring India's Higher Defense Organization". Asian Survey. 24 (10): 1069–1085. doi:10.2307/2644220. ISSN 0004-4687. JSTOR 2644220.
  12. P, Rajat (15 August 2019). "PM Modi: India to have new post of Chief of Defence Staff". The Times of India. Retrieved 15 August 2019.
  13. Pubby, Manu (11 July 2018). "India may soon have Chief of Defence Staff". The Economic Times. Retrieved 15 August 2019.
  14. PTI (15 December 2016). "CCS to take final decision on Chief of Defence Staff post". Firstpost. Retrieved 15 August 2019.
  15. Kanwal, Brig Gurmeet (12 December 2013). "Chief of Defence Staff must be Appointed Immediately". Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses. Retrieved 15 August 2019.
  16. Rej, Abhijan; Joshi, Shashank (2018). India's Joint Doctrine: A Lost Opportunity (PDF). Observer Research Foundation. p. 8. ISBN 9789387407497.
  17. Roche, Elizabeth (15 August 2019). "Army chief Bipin Rawat may be first chief of defence staff". Livemint. Retrieved 15 August 2019.
  18. Sinha, S.K. "The Chief of Defence Staff" (PDF). Journal of Defence Studies. 1 (1): 133–137 via Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses.
  19. Shishir, Gupta (23 August 2019). "NSA Ajit Doval-led panel to set terms for Chief of Defence Staff position". Hindustan Times. Retrieved 25 August 2019.
  20. Gupta, Shishir. "India's first Chief of Defence Staff will direct three service chiefs". Hindustan Times. Retrieved 24 November 2019.
  21. Balla, Abhishek. "Age, tenure selection criteria: Challenges in appointment of chief of defence staff". India Today. Retrieved 24 November 2019.
  22. PTI; 2019 (3 December 2019). "Chief of defence staff to come under RTI Act; NSA-led panel submits report". The Times of India. Retrieved 3 December 2019.
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