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Coordinated steps ahead

Coordinated steps ahead

Two decades after the idea was conceived, the office of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), who will head the Department of Military Affairs becomes a reality as we march into a fresh decade. Officially suggested for the first time after the Kargil War in February of 2000 the recommendations of the Kargil Review Committee and been a long mulled-over position in India, it was on Independence Day that the Prime Minister brought to highlight this idea and stressed the importance of creating this post. CDS is the professional service chief who will head the Indian Armed Forces and the senior-most uniformed military adviser to the Government of India. General Bipin Rawat who retired as the Chief of Army Staff of December 31, 2019, is appointed to serve as the first CDS till December 2022. On December 24, 2019, the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) made a formal announcement of the creation of this post: a four-star general, a tri-service Chief who will lead the defence forces and perform other roles such as head of the Department of Military Affairs under the Ministry of Defence. Considering how the nature of warfare has changed in recent times and that there has been a marked shift with respect to traditional military approach, the Chief of Defence Staff's is a critical position in this era of hybrid warfare, and will contribute to augmenting jointmanship, tri-service effectiveness and enhance the overall combat capabilities of the country. The CDS will assume the role of being the main "military" advisory—as against the 'defence' advisor—acting as the single-point military advisor to the government and Prime Minister. India was the only large democracy to not have had a single point military advisor so far. Although with a history of two decades since inception and materialisation, the idea of creation of such a post goes back to the times of Lord Mountbatten and General K V Krishna Rao advanced creation of the post of Chief of Defence Staff in June 1982. Following the Prime Minister's Independence Day speech from the ramparts of Red Fort in 2019, a committee 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, finalised the powers of the CDS.

The India armed forces have been institutions of awe-inspiring professionalism and ethics that have managed to keep itself from the shadow of politics. Functioning independently and yet often times beyond its fullest potential has been the hallmark of India's defense forces. One question that, however, remains is that if such a political insertion necessary for a defense system that has won wars and has the heritage of remarkable leadership? This question may hold relevance in the present context but is a redundant one with a view of the future because the further altered dynamics of warfare will certainly necessitate the backing of such a system. As General Bipin Rawat took over as India's first Chief of Defence Staff on Tuesday and heads the newly created department of military affairs he will have the same perquisites as the three service chiefs (who are also four-star Generals). Apart from heading the department of military affairs, he will also hold the charge of permanent chairman, chiefs of staff committee (CoSC).The foremost challenge for the country's first CDS is to integrate the armed forces into the government edifice so that they may fully participate in decision-making processes of the government. Yet another key responsibility is to facilitate the restructuring of military commands for optimal utilisation of resources by bringing about jointness in operations as and when necessary. The recommendation of the Kargil Review Committee in February 2000, headed by K Subrahmanyam, held that the appointment of a CDS should serve as a means to provide single-point professional military advice to the political leadership. Meaning thereby that a coordination not just between the three arms of the defence forces but also between the military as a consolidated unit and the government is a necessary step in modern statecraft from the perspective of defense and security. While the CDS will be the principal military adviser to the defence minister on all tri-services matters, the three service chiefs individually will continue to advise the political heads on matters exclusively concerning their respective services. A focus on promoting jointness in procurement, training and staffing for the tri-services will take india's defence system to the next level. The age of 65 as been set as the maximum serving age for the CDS, putting the post at par with the Comptroller and Auditor General, the Chief Election Commissioner, and the Central Vigilance Commissioner with respect to their retirement from the office. The three service chiefs end their term after three years of service or when they turn 62, whichever is earlier. With the instating of the Chief of Defence staff, a major transformation of traditional military mindset may be looked forward to. The armed forces have been working separately since Independence with no inherent concept of jointness per se. Invested with the massive responsibility to restructure to restructure military matters and methods of operations, the critical prerequisite of 'jointness' of the forces cannot have the scope of dominance of any one service over the others.

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