‘IAS_Fraternity’ believes India’s CDS will be ‘toothless paper tiger’

New Delhi, August 17, 2019 : Creation of post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) was recommended by Group of Ministers in 2001, while deliberating upon the 1999 Kargil War. A decision in this regard was to be taken after consultation with political parties. The consultation process however could not be completed because all political parties did not respond. Subsequently, Naresh Chandra Task Force (NCTF) on National Security had recommended creation of the post of Permanent Chairman Chief of Staff Committee in 2012. Both the proposals were simultaneously under consideration of the Government.

Last year in February, the government informed Parliament that “Creation of appropriate military command structures is a complex exercise involving operational, technical, logistical and financial aspects, and is reviewed from time to time.  Appropriate measures are being taken from time to time to ensure inter-operability between the Services including through joint training and exercises.”

After 18 years when it was first recommended, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on August 15, 2019, announced from the ramparts of Red Fort that India will soon have a CDS.

“The world is changing today, the scope of war is changing, the nature of war is changing. It is becoming technology driven; in the circumstances India too should not have a fragmented approach. Our entire military power will have to work in unison and move forward. Things cannot move smoothly if anyone from the Navy, Army and Air Force is a step ahead from the other two forces, while the other two are lagging behind. All the three should move simultaneously at the same pace. There should be good coordination and it should be relevant with the hope and aspirations of our people.  It should be in line with the changing war and security environment in the world and today I want to announce an important decision from Red Fort. The subject experts on the issue have been demanding this for a long time. Today we have decided that we will now have a Chief of Defence Staff- CDS and after formation of this post all the three forces will get effective leadership at the top level. The CDS System is a very important and compelling task in our dream to reform the strategic pace of Hindustan in the world”, Modi said in his Independence Day address.

This announcement opened a Pandora box and retired bureaucrats, defence forces veterans, journalists, self-proclaimed experts started ‘discussing’ the issue in News channels studios, Facebook, Twitter etc. While many appreciated the move, there is a section in the bureaucracy which believes their position will be undermined.

A Twitter handle @IAS_Fraternity said that the bureaucracy will oppose the move. There are talks of turf war between bureaucrats and defence forces.

“Now even senior echelons are convinced. The proposed Chief of Defence Staff will be identical twin of Pakistan’s Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, UK’s Chief of Defence Staff & India’s current Chairman of Chiefs of Staff Committee. No need to panic. Proposed CDS will be a 4 star rank officer, first among equals. Operational command will remain under service chiefs. CDS will have largely ceremonial and coordinating role without supervision. Defence Secy to function as it is. CDS will be chosen on rotational basis from army, navy and air-force. He’ll be ‘principal military advisor’ to RM on military operations and strategies and chair meetings related to it with service chiefs. Defence Secy will remain ‘principal defense advisor’. CDS will be wholetime position and have fixed tenure of 3 years or retirement at 62 whichever earlier. A toothless paper tiger with limited executive powers. Army, Navy, Air Force Acts won’t see any or much amendments”, a series of tweets from this handle stated on Friday.

Earlier on Thursday after the PM’s announcement, the same handle tweeted, “We have faith in incumbent Defence Secretary Shri. Sanjay Mitra that he’ll address all concerns related to Chief of Defence Staff. He has played important role in drafting the proposal of CDS, the reason why he got 3 months extension after retirement.”

Talking about CDS in other countries, it said, “UK has both the Permanent Secretary MoD & #CDS. CDS focusses on military operations & strategy while Perm. Secy MoD (equiv. to our Defence Secy) remit concerns on administrative & financial policies and ensure better coordination.”

Former diplomat KC Singh tweeted while replying to creation of CDS post, “Yes, depends if existing power centres cede space. #CDS isn’t an operational post, even in US. He advises (alongside Under Scy Def in UK). Even NSA is meant to be an adviser. But Doval micro-manages ops like Kashmir. So back to Q- will PMO/Def Min allow CDS to advise PM/cabinet.”

Former Army Chief Gen VP Malik tweeted, “Thank you PM Modi for announcing historic step of institution of CDS. This step will make our national security more effective and more economical. It will ensure better jointmanship and multi-disciplinary  coordination. Salute!”