Chief of Defence Staff (CDS): India

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The post of Chief of Defence Staff {CDS}, India, and its necessity, 1999-2015; The Times of India, Dec 22, 2016

See graphic:

The post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), India, and its necessity, 1999-2015

Integrated theatre commands

2018: Government amends rules

Rajat Pandit, Govt moves on integrated theatre commands, March 17, 2018: The Times of India

Tri-service chief, history, Integrated theatre commands
From: Rajat Pandit, Govt moves on integrated theatre commands, March 17, 2018: The Times of India

Amends Rules To Bring Three Forces Under Single Leadership

India has finally taken the first step towards eventually having integrated theatre commands, where all the manpower and assets of the Army, Navy and IAF are under the operational control of a single three-star general, by amending command and control rules for joint organisations and establishments.

Sources said the government has notified new “statutory rules and orders” to ensure an officer from any one service can now “exercise direct command” over personnel from the other two services, who are all governed by different acts and rules, in tri-service organisations.

The move has been implemented especially for the strategically-located Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC), which was established as India’s first theatre command in October 2001 but has largely failed to achieve its potential due to internecine turf wars among the three services, general politico-bureaucratic apathy, fund crunches and environmental concerns.

“It might seem a minor structural reform but represents a huge cultural, fundamental shift in the Indian military system, where the three services often pull in different directions. If the country is to have a chief of defence staff (CDS) and theatre commands in the years ahead, this tweaking of the Army, Navy and IAF rules is the first step towards it,” said a top source.

The naval commander-inchief of the ANC can now directly control and discipline Army and IAF officers and other personnel under him, even as similar moves are afoot to eventually bring all land and assets under him in the archipelago. “It will serve as the template for theatre commands in the future. Moreover, we need a fully unified approach in ANC due to the expanding Chinese threat in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR),” he added.

The NDA government had initially shown some drive for meaningful reforms in the country’s higher defence establishment in the shape of creating a CDS post and theatre commands to ensure much-needed synergy in training, logistics, planning, procurements and operations among the 1.5-million strong armed forces.

There was, for instance, even a proposal to create integrated theatre commands in the shape of one or two (one each for west and east of Nepal) for the northern border with China, a western command for Pakistan, a counterinsurgency operations command and one or two peninsular commands for the maritime borders.

But nothing concrete has come out of it. The armed forces currently have 17 single-service commands, with only two unified commands in ANC and the Strategic Forces Command to handle the country’s nuclear arsenal.

China, meanwhile, has reorganised its 2.3-million People’s Liberation Army into five theatre commands to crank up its offensive capabilities as well as establish better command-and-control structures. Its western theatre command now handles the entire Line of Actual Control with India instead of the earlier Chengdu Military Region in the east and the Lanzhou Military Region towards the north.


Aug: CDS position sanctioned by govt

Rajat Pandit, Gen Rawat top pick for CDS post?, August 16, 2019: The Times of India

In Aug 2019 the post of a CDS was sanctioned by the govt
From: Rajat Pandit, Gen Rawat top pick for CDS post?, August 16, 2019: The Times of India

Implementation Panel To Work Out Modalities By November

PM Narendra Modi’s announcement of the chief of defence staff post in his Independence Day speech on Thursday led to intense speculation in strategic and military circles, with the majority view being that Army chief Gen Bipin Rawat will be the frontrunner for the job.

Sources said an “implementation committee” will work out the modalities and the role of the CDS by November. IAF chief Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa will retire on September 30. Gen Rawat’s tenure is till December 31.

The three services, which have to truly integrate to face the challenges of technology-driven futuristic wars, will get effective leadership at the highest level with the CDS post, the PM said in his speech. In effect, the CDS will rank higher than the Army, Navy and IAF chiefs, even if he is a four-star general like them, and eventually pave the way for unified theatre commands instead of the present single-service ones, sources said.

Sources said the CDS will handle all tri-service issues and push for “greater jointness” among the Army, Navy and IAF, which often pull in different directions without any inter-service prioritisation, to systematically build the country’s military capabilities within budgetary constraints.

“Though a four-star general like the three chiefs, the CDS will be ‘first among equals’ in the hierarchy. But the Army, Navy and IAF chiefs will have operational command of their forces. A five-star CDS is not envisaged as of now but let us see how the exact structures pan out,” the source said.

A prominent section of the defence establishment believes that India needs a five-star CDS — with overall operational control as well — to crack the whip in the rank-conscious environs of the over-15-lakh-strong armed forces.

But others contend that an all-powerful “general no. 1” is unlikely given the long-standing politico-bureaucratic concern over such a post, with some sections in the past even erroneously stressing that it could set the stage for a possible military coup.

Successive governments have used the ruse of the “need to consult various political parties” to keep the CDS post in cold storage ever since it was strongly recommended by both the Kargil Review Committee in 1999 as well as the L K Advani-led group of ministers’ report in 2001.

The intense rivalry and turf wars among the Army, Navy and IAF also put paid to all such plans. In 2012, the Naresh Chandra Taskforce pitched for a permanent chairman of the chief of staff committee (PC-CoSC) — a diluted version of the CDS — with a fixed two-year tenure. The CoSC currently comprises the three service chiefs, with the most senior among them acting as its ex-officio chairman till he retires.

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