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. It was first officially suggested in 1999 following the Kargil War through the recommendations of the Kargil Review Committee. Although a long-talked-about position in India, 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.
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. 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. India is the only large democracy which does not have a single point military advisor; with all P5 countries having one.
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. 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. 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. 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. 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.
The matter had opposition over the years on various fronts. 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. There were also fears that such a post would be too powerful. 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.
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. 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.
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. 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.
The CDS will come under the Right to Information Act.
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