Defence In-depth analysis

CDS, point-person btw the armed forces & political leadership

Marila Latif

Among professional militaries, there are essentially two drivers for creating a CDS, or its equivalent. The first is to have a senior and experienced military officer functioning as a point-person between the entire armed forces structure and the political leadership. This officer is supposed to have the gravitas to fulfil all challenging tasks, so the onus is on Gen Bipin Rawat to live up to the demands. Except that the bureaucratic sleight of hand has put him at a disadvantage even as his tenure has just begun- CDS Rawat, as secretary of the DMA, will be the ‘single point’ adviser to Defence Minister Rajnath Singh. This arrangement had long been a demand, although not of the entire military fraternity.

The second driver for creating a CDS is that the three armed forces – Army, Navy, and Air Force – have implemented, or are in the process of implementing, an amalgamation in command and conduct of operations. Since jointers is already in the air, the CDS is simply the icing on the cake, so to say. It is the military base, functioning in healthy jointers, upon which sits the peak of the pyramid, a CDS. Except that in India’s case, it is not so – and is made doubly difficult by a playing field not being level. Not that it was in the first place, but the hope remained that, as the CDS position gets sanctioned, the field would also be prepared accordingly.

he Narendra Modi government has created a new tip of the military pyramid, the Chief of Defence Staff, and has given its first appointee General Bipin Rawat three years to construct the base on which the future of India’s armed forces is to stand. This tall order has already been undermined by the infamous bureaucracy and its sleight of hand.

The task has been made more difficult for Gen Rawat with some deft bureaucratic rewriting of the rules of business that accompanied the announcement. This has gone largely unnoticed in the cacophony around the new military office, the Department of Military Affairs (DMA). But it makes for a worrisome long-term picture, especially since the new goals become that much more difficult to achieve.

This means that the defence secretary will formulate the policy and decide on modern equipment with which the armed forces will go into combat. And, yes, the CDS will not exercise any military command.

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