In one of the biggest military reforms, India would finally get a Chief of Defence Staff, a four star general like the chiefs of the Army, Navy and IAF. 

He would be a first among equals and would act as the single point military adviser to the government. In all probability, Army Chief, General Bipin Rawat who retires on December 31, 2010 will be named as the new CDS of India. 

The announcement was made by Union minister, Prakash Javadekar, following a Union Cabinet meeting. He said that the CDS will head the department of military affairs, which would be under the defence ministry. Further the CDS would also have an appropriate mix of both civilians and military officers and the CDS would facilitate the restructuring of the military commands for optimal utilisation of resources by bringing about jointness in the operations. The CDS would also have a second role and would be the permanent chairman of the chiefs of staff committee.

A huge national security reform:

The CDS would make a huge difference in several ways to the Indian military. There are several areas which have not been examined closely. They include procurement, military diplomacy and planning. The CDS being a single point advisor would make a huge difference in all these key areas.

In all, there have been 13 five-year defence plans starting from 1962, post the China war. The major problem that was noticed is that these plans fell short due to lack of prioritisation. One of the key problems noticed was that there was duplication and the lack of an institution to take care of India’s military needs.

Several such issues would be taken care of with the appointment of a CDS. He would integrate the operations of the three forces and also play a key role in advising the government on key defence and strategic issues. The advise given by the CDS would be binding on the three service chiefs.

Another glaring problem that was found was relating to the procurement. There are two stages of procurement which are the qualitative requirements for conducting of trials. It was noticed that there were inordinate delays. There were also issues with regard to expertise or professionalism. It has been pointed out several times in the past that there is a need for greater professionalism in these two areas.

The CDS would bring about a major change in these areas as he would be the over all in charge. With a dedicated team under the CDS, these processes would be overseen by professionals and this would help in expediting the procurement process.

While the Army, Navy and Air Force would continue to have operational commands of their own, the CDS would play a key role when it comes to coordination. The coordination would particularly come in handy when it comes to budgeting, procurements, logistics and also training.

When the political will was lacking:

In the aftermath of the Kargil War, the government had set up the K Subrahmanyam Committee. It was this committee that had recommended the post of a CDS. Further, another committee headed by Naresh Chandra was set up to suggest reforms in higher defence management. This committee too had suggested the creation of a CDS.

The recommendations stated that the CDS would focus on coordination between the three service chiefs in terms of budgeting, logistics and training. Despite the recommendations being made, no government had the political will to take a call on the creation of the post.The bureaucracy in particular felt that the CDS would become a super general. It was also felt that the creation of this post would not be in the interest of the country.

This was however a perception that had been created as it is made clear that the chances of a CDS becoming a super general was not possible as the three chiefs would have operational commands of their own.

The need for a more effective military:

The announcement that the post of a CDS would be created was made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his Independence Day address. Prior to that he was advised that in order for the military to become more effective, there is a dire need for the forces to integrate under the CDS. 

The PM took note of the fact that inter-departmental rivalries with regard to procurement, budgeting and tactics would prove costly both during war and peace time. During the deliberations, the PM made it clear that the world is changed today and the landscape of warfare is an altered one today. This was not the time to think in a fragmented manner. He also said that several nations have recognised issues and have taken measures to rectify the problem. The PM felt that the decision had to be taken in order to prioritise India’s long-term security goals.

The doctrine of coordination:

While India took large strides in terms of its military capabilities, it is also important to note that military diplomacy is also very crucial. The CDS would play a crucial role in this aspect. The CDS would also play a key role in the doctrine of jointmanship.

This doctrine is about coordination and integration of strategy capabilities and the execution of the same by the three services.
Experts have pointed out in the past that the three service chiefs are prone to protecting their own turfs. The CDS would play a crucial role in ensuring jointmanship. In other words, the three service chiefs would come together under the CDS for all major decisions as opposed to pay and pension related issues that they would get together in the past.

The two-front war:

The government will also have a clear policy on defence diplomacy and the CDS would ensure that this is implemented. Jointmanship and visits of the higher military authorities are some of the issues that come under diplomacy and the CDS would be a central figure to ensure that these processes go on smoothly.

These issues are extremely crucial in the event of a two-front war on the northwest and northeast borders. In such an event, there would be a need for pinpointed military application. Take for instance, the case of China, which has divided its Army into theatre commands and military regions.
Overall if one looks at it, it may be said that integration is the key for good military. Currently the defence ministry is in charge of implementation and the service headquarters being out of the decision making does not make it a good delivery model. Several defence experts have said they found it strange that the defence secretary is responsible for the defence in India. Coupled with this fact is the three service chiefs who are anxious to protect their turf.

The CDS would play a major role in integrating the defence operations and planning. It was also noticed during the Kargil war that the Air Force was fighting its own war. It was found that the IAF when called to assist the Army did not have the appropriate weapons and tactics. The CDS would in turn ensure better coordination and bring the entire military under one turf to suit India’s defence needs.