Friday 01 July 2022, 03:29 PM
CDS : With Requisite Authority and Mandate
By Lt. Gen. Vinod Bhatia (Retd) | Bharat Defence Kavach | Publish Date: 9/19/2019 4:12:39 PM
CDS : With Requisite Authority and Mandate

“The armed forces should review and carry out a strategic rebalance to optimise the combat power and synergise the assets to transform the armed forces from a ‘MILITARY FORCE to a MILITARY POWER’  capable of securing the nation, the people and assets across the full spectrum of conflict.”
                                                                                      Lt Gen Shekatkar Committee Report- Dec 2016

Prime Minister Modi yet again demonstrated an unprecedented political will to give a much needed impetus to Defence Reforms. Thefact that the sanction for appointment of CDS was made by the Prime Minister during his Independence Day address to the nation from the ramparts of Red Fort is indicative of the government’s priorities to streamline and strengthen the National Security architecture.

The appointment of the CDS remained unactioned despite a clear direction and push by PM  himself. While addressing the Combined Commanders Conference in December 2015 onboard INS Vikramaditya, Prime Minister Modi had  challenged senior military commanders to reform their “beliefs, doctrines, objectives and strategies,” spelling  out six broad areas for military reforms , with the primary focus on  defence planning and  enhancing jointness (the ability of the army, navy and air force to operate and function as one entity) by restructuring higher defence organisation. The directions though clear and categorical were not implemented as the first and most important step of appointing a CDS remained in limbo.

A resurgent, risen, responsible India is a global player at best and not a global leader. In the emerging world order India has to claim its rightful place in the comity of nations, a seat on the high table and assert itself as a global leader to protect and protect its national interests. India has grown in stature and power in the political, strategic, diplomatic and economic domain. India boasts of the second largest Army, the fourth largest Air Force and a Blue Water Navy. Despite having the fourth largest Armed Forces in the world, professional, disciplined, committed, battle hardened and combat rich,  India is a ‘Military Force’ and  not a ‘Military Power’.  The Indian Armed Forces lack jointness and integration, with the three services pulling in different directions and often functioning in conflict rather than coordination and cooperation.

The debate and deliberations of appointing a CDS have occupiedcentre stage for nearly two decades, since the Group of Minister (GOM)recommendations  in 2001,  consequent to the Kargil Review Committee Report. The GOM set up by the Prime Minister in year 2000 in their report categorically stated at Para 6.5 “The functioning of the Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC) has to date revealed serious weaknesses in its ability to provide single point military advice to the government, and resolve substantive inter service doctrine, planning, policy and operational issues adequately.

This institution needs to be appropriately revamped to discharge its responsibilities efficiently and effectively, including the facilitation of “Jointness” and synergy among the defence services”. Further amplifying the GOM recommended that the “CDS” may be a four star officer drawn from the three services.  Accordingly, he should rank primus inter pares ( First among equals) in the COSC and function as the “Principal Military Advisor” to the Prime Minister through the  Defence Minister.  HQ IDS was raised in 2003, a well conceived organization, however lacks the requisite authority and weight in apex decision making without a CDS.

Now that the CDS is sanctioned, this major structural infirmity will get corrected transforming Indian Military from a Force to a Military Power. The discussion and debate in the last three weeks has unfortunately been on the ‘Who of CDS’ rather than the ‘What of CDS’.Though it is important that  India’s first CDS is selected with care and we do have the present  Army Chief as the best and preferred  choice, what is imperative is that the CDS has the requisite mandate and authority.

Envisaged role of the CDS should be:-

•    CDS should have the primary role of being the Principal Advisor to the Prime Minister and the Government, through the Defence Minister, on all matters pertaining to India’s national security.

•    CDS should provide ‘strategic vision’ and be responsible for all strategic perspective planning, operational planning and contingency planning.

•    In peacetime, the primary role of CDS should focus exclusively on war preparedness having a bearing on strategic operations. Operational Readiness will continue to be the responsibility of the Service Chiefs.
•    The CDS should prepare the annual Defence Intelligence Estimate and the requirements of Defence intelligence to meet the existent threats, overall.

•    The CDS should exercise operational command over Strategic Forces Command and the Andaman and Nicobar Command and other bi-service or tri-service commands that may evolve in the future, like Cyber, Space and Special Operations Command, till the formation of integrated theatre commands.

•    The CDS has to be viewed as the ‘Head’ of the Indian Armed Forces in terms of providing strategic control, strategic direction and strategic vision.

•    CDS should have the primary role in formulation of defence policies.

Having demonstrated the political will to finally sanction the appointment of CDS it now remains to be seen whether or not the political authority can overcome the resistance from the bureaucracy and take it to a logical conclusion in an empowered CDS. The devil will lie in the detail, the government will need to amend the The Government of India Allocation of Business Rules (AOB) , 1961 as promulgated  by the President of India under Article 77 of the Constitution as also  the Transaction  of Business rules (TOB) 1961. The amendments must be initiated concurrently with the sanction of CDS, as past experience is indicative of dilution of political decision in implementation. A case in point is the GOM recommendations on integration of service HQs and MoD. The Integration is only in name and the service HQs continue to remain attached offices to MoD as the AOB and TOB rules were not amended.

The envisaged role is best  achieved by aligning authority and accountability.  The CDS should have the requisite  authority to effectively carry out the envisaged role. He should not only be “first among equals” in warrant of precedence and protocol but also an integral part of decision making at the apex level. The CDS should be a part of the CCS much like the Cabinet Secretary. The CDS should also have a major say in the decision making process of the Defence Planning Committee. Certain additionailities and tweaking of the existing structures at HQ Integrated Defense Staff ( IDS)  will also be required.

The CISC will now be appointed as the Vice Chief of Defence Staff and assume the role of coordination among the principal staff officers of not only HQ IDS but also among the three services including the Vice Chiefs Committee (VCC), the various principal staff officer committees (PSOCs). HQ IDS will also need to gear up to provide the much needed staff support to the CDS in running an operational directorate much like the DGMO. This role can be performed by the existing Deputy Chief of Staff ( Operations) and his staff at HQ IDS. The CDS however should not be expected to have a magic wand to resolve numerous pending issues specially defence modernisation, jointness and integration. CDS will take time to evolve and get accepted.

The Challenge for the MoD and the CDS will be to ensure a smooth transition, overcoming the many hurdles of single service priorities and mind sets. Militaries world over are known to be rigid and resist change, the Indian armed forces are no exception. The first CDS will have to be both firm and fair with a long term vision, judicious and accommodating in his approach, ensuring the armed forces remain present effective and future ready.  The MoD on its part should ensure that the authority of CDS is primary and single service interests do not degrade or undermine the functioning of CDS.

To ensure a smooth transition,  for the present and in the near term Service Chiefs should continue to be responsible for operational readiness. One suggested method to manage this transition is to appoint a CDS  with the mandate to ensure “Defence Preparedness”, whereas the Service Chiefs continue to be responsible for ‘Operational Readiness’ ie  war waging /war fighting till such time as other systems and structures  in place.

Lt. Gen. Vinod Bhatia (Retd)

(The author is Director Centre For Joint Warfare Studies (CENJOWS) and Former DGMO, Indian Army)




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भारत डिफेंस कवच की नई हिन्दी पत्रिका ‘डिफेंस मॉनिटर’ का ताजा अंक ऊपर दर्शाया गया है। इसके पहले दस पन्ने आप मुफ्त देख सकते हैं। पूरी पत्रिका पढ़ने के लिए कुछ राशि का भुगतान करना होता है। पुराने अंक आप पूरी तरह फ्री पढ़ सकते हैं। पत्रिका के अंकों पर क्लिक करें और देखें। -संपादक

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