CDS and the path to jointmanship-Editorial-The Hindu-10-01-2020
The announcement on a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) last year and the appointment of Gen. Bipin Rawat as the first CDS has been one of the key policy decisions made by the Narendra Modi government in its second term. In the aftermath of an emphatic election victory in May 2019, Mr. Modi pushed the needle on a long-pending reform for the establishment of a CDS, which was recommended by the Kargil Review Committee in 2001. The CDS will be “first among equals” in that he will consult and solicit the views of the services, but the final judgment will be the CDS’s alone and he will be the principal military adviser to the Defence Minister.
The CDS will be “first among equals” in that he will consult and solicit the views of the services, but the final judgment will be taken by CDS alone.
His views will be confined to the acquisition matters exclusive to each service and won’t extend to the procurement of big-ticket items such as warships or fighter aircraft, which will remain under the firm control of the Department of Defence (DoD).
CDS will enjoy the rank of Secretary within the DoD and his powers will be confined to only the revenue budget.
The CDS will be the single-point military adviser to the Defence Minister on matters involving all three services and the service chiefs will be obliged to confine their counsel to issues pertaining to their respective services.
The CDS is also vested with the authority to provide directives to the three chiefs.
Additionally, the CDS will lead the Department of Military Affairs (DoMA) dealing with the three services.
While the CDS does not enjoy any command authority, in his capacity as DoMA, he will wield control over issues governing promotions, travel, appointment to key posts, and overseas assignments. Consequently, the CDS will enjoy a substantial amount of influence.
Above all, his core function will be to foster greater operational synergy between the three service branches of the Indian military and keep inter-service frictions to a minimum.
Fundamentally, the CDS will perform two roles:
One, as the single point military advisor to the Defence Minister.Two, as head of the DoMA. Advisory role in the Nuclear Command Authority (NCA)
Since the CDS will also administer the Strategic Forces Command, this measure will go a long way in enhancing the credibility of our nuclear deterrent.
Given the differing interpretations of India’s nuclear doctrine voiced by the Government of India (GoI) functionaries from time to time, the CDS would do well to initiate an early review of the doctrine.
Significance of this:
With the creation of the Department of Military Affairs (DMA) headed by CDS, the military will, for the first time, be admitted into the central edifice of the GoI and become a participant in policy-making.
Designation of the CDS as Principal Military Adviser (PMA) to Raksha Mantri (RM) will enable unhindered access to MoD, accelerating the process of decision-making and accord of approvals.
There are concerns over matters relating to service parochialism.
If the CDS privileges support for parent service, it is likely to have opposition from the other two services.
Any parochialism could potentially derail the primary objective of creating the CDS — promoting synergy and shaping acquisition priorities both within and between the services.
CDS’s role is not simply about tri-service cooperation, it is equally about fostering better cooperation between the MoD bureaucracy and the services and ensuring that projected and planned acquisitions of the services do not exceed capital allocations.
Indian Army consumes the lion’s share of the defence budget. As it is a manpower-intensive fighting force, pruning the number of personnel in the Army will remain perhaps the most vexed challenge.
The final challenge facing the CDS will be the extent to which he can encourage the services to support indigenisation.
Cost-saving is not simply about reducing manpower in the Army, it is equally about getting all the services, particularly the capital-intensive services, to rally behind a committed enterprise to support the native Research and Development for production and eventual deployment of weapons systems, which when procured from abroad drive a massive hole in the budget.
Steps that can be undertaken
There are no instant remedies, but one pointer is towards greater investment in Artificial Intelligence (AI) over the long term, a process that has already begun, but will require a dedicated push from the CDS over the course of his tenure.
The application of AI technology is likely to lend itself to tanks and artillery systems, as is visibly evident from the vigorous pursuit of AI by China’s People’s Liberation Army.
To ensure adequate availability of expertise, civilians will need to be inducted into DMA and military personnel into DoD. This will require the CDS to vigorously pursue enabling amendments to GoI Business Rules and the Central Staffing Scheme.