Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Insights into Editorial: Decisive shift: On Chief of Defence Staff

Insights into Editorial: Decisive shift: On Chief of Defence Staff



Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) has approved the creation of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) post. It will be a four-star post.

The country will soon get its first Chief of Defence Staff. Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced to create this post from Red Fort on 15 August this year.

At present, the army works without Chief of Defence Staff (CDS).

There is Chairman of Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC) where chiefs of all three armies represent in the committee. Whenever any emergency or urgent situations come up, COSC calls for the meeting and all three chiefs works as a team.


Background for the post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS):

A committee set up to review flaws in the country’s security system suggested the appointment of CDS as the unified military advisor to the Defence Minister in the wake of the Kargil War of 1999.

The Kargil Review Committee (KRC) recommended the appointment of a CDS as a means to provide single-point professional military advice to the political leadership and also get the forces to work together.

The committee found a lack of communication among all three armies. It was advised that a CDS can play a major role in such a situation.

After the Kargil war, a Group of Ministers (GoM) also strongly recommended the creation of CDS in 2001. But successive governments failed to build political consensus around the CDS before PM Modi on August 15 announced the creation of the post.


About Chief of Defence Staff:

The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) will be the highest-ranked officer of India’s armed forces.

CDS provides his recommendations to the central government about all three armies – Air Force, Army, and Navy.

The CDS will serve as the unified military advisor to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defense.

The CDS will also advise on nuclear matters in the situation of war. However, tenure of Chief of Defence Staff has not yet declared.

The purpose of creating the Chief of Defence Staff post is to increase the coordination between the three armies.

A committee was formed under the chairmanship of National Security Advisor Ajit Doval to finalize the modalities and responsibilities of CDS.


Single, unified chain of command is required for present circumstances:

  • In 2017, intelligence and security officials had said that the absence of a CDS was hampering India’s combat capabilities.
  • With a proxy war ongoing with Pakistan on India’s western front and a stand-off with China in Doklam in the East, security officials said a single chain of command was imperative to strengthen India’s collective defence might.
  • As of now our forces are very good. But each force is operating in a silo.
  • However, they cannot be perceived as formidable because they have no experience or habit of working together in any situation.
  • They have rarely worked together and a single, unified chain of command is required to make the working of the three forces (army, navy and air force) seamless.
  • The appointment of a single-point contact was to ensure “synergy, integration among all three services and better strategic alignment“.
  • The chief of defence staff will carefully “pursue the Armed Forces’ objectives” to ensure better effectiveness “in a dynamic security requirement“.


Tasks for CDS for ‘jointness’ in working:

  • The job calls for total transformation of traditional military mindset. The CDS has to restructure the military commands into appropriate theatre or joint commands for which a critical prerequisite is ‘jointness’ — a term that envisions the various arms of the armed forces working in unison towards a goal.
  • This is a very tall order, considering India’s experience. Since Independence, the armed forces have been working separately, with no concept of jointness.
  • All that will have to change, and change quickly, for a variety of reasons, not least the security environment in the region.
  • Restructuring of military commands for optimal utilisation of resources by bringing about jointness in operations, including through establishment of joint/theatre commands.
  • That is an important role, which also points to a reform roadmap for the future — towards the eventual creation of joint theatre commands.



There are some countries in the world, including America, China, United Kingdom, Japan, have a system like Chief of Defence Staff.

However, they have different names for this post like – Supreme Commander, Commander-in-Chief, Chief of Staff, etc.

It is also necessary that the first incumbent is given a term of three years so as to be able to carry the ambitious vision laid out in the cabinet note through to its conclusion.

The job is strategic, requires personal supervision, and cannot be left unfinished for the successor to finish. Given the challenges and the limited time-frame within which to accomplish it, allowances will have to be made for attendant hiccups.

Some teething problems can be expected in the beginning but things are bound to fall in place as norms, processes and rules are worked out between the three services, the CDS and the defence ministry.

It will require the navigation of entrenched institutional interests, hierarchical powers and military traditions, to lay the foundations for a strong and functional CDS.