Prime Minister Narendra Modi meeting Army Chief General Bipin Rawat, Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh and Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa at Red Fort in Delhi.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi meeting Army Chief General Bipin Rawat, Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh and Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa at Red Fort in Delhi.Twitter

The Cabinet Committee of Security (CoS) on Tuesday approved the creation of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), a combined chief of the Indian Army, Airforce and Navy. The much-awaited proposal was finally announced by Prakash Javdekar, the Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change and Minister of Information and Broadcasting after the meeting of Union cabinet. The CDS will act as a single point military advisor to the government and will be the "first among equals" among the service chiefs. Notably, India was the only large democracy which did not have a CDS. All the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has a single-point military advisor. However, the government is yet to name the country's first CDS but as per sources, current Army Chief General Bipin Rawat is the front runner.

Rajnath Singh flies IAF Light Combat Aircraft Tejas
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh gets ready to board the Light Combat Aircraft Tejas of the Air Force (IAF) at HAL airport in Bengaluru.IAF/twitter

 Chief of Defence Staff: Roles and Responsibilities

In a detailed Roles and Responsibilities of the CDS, the government announced that a new department, Department of Military Affairs within the Ministry of Defence will be created which will be headed by the Chief of Defence Staff. The CDS will be a four-star general from any of the tri-service with salary and perks equivalent to the Chief. Moreover, the CDS will be given raised to the rank of Secretary which means he will have the power under the Rules of Business.  

The CDS will function in the Department of Military Affairs (DMA) on the issues exclusively related to Military matters. Since the DMA will have the required expertise in managing the military affairs, the armed forces will fall under the ambit of the department. Further, the ministry will have a mix of civilian and military officers at every level. The department will promote jointness in procurement, training and staffing of for the services. It will also facilitate the restructuring of military commands for optimal utilisation of resources by conducting joint operations.

Arjun Mk 1A
Arjun Mk 1A TankCredit: Indian Army

 Why does India need a Chief of Defence Staff?

The proponents of the idea of Chief of Defence Staff have argued that the position has a critical role to play in today's era of hybrid warfare. Further, the position will ensure increased jointmanship, tri-service effectiveness and overall combat capabilities of India. Although, the antagonist view argues that since is yet to become a global power and lacks a theatre command, the creation of CDS may lead to friction within the forces.

Indian Navy
Sailors from the Indian Navy stand on a submarine as Indian as well as foreign warships began to line up off the Bombay coastCredit: Reuters

 Origin of CDS proposal

The post was originally recommended during the early days of India's independence. However, it was after the Kargil Review Committee's recommendation in 1999 that the Group of Ministers (GoM) officially proposed the creation of the post of CDS in 2001. Besides, the Naresh Chandra task force in 2012 and the Lieutenant General D. B. Shekatkar Committee in 2016 also proposed for a single-point military advisor with some difference in its functioning. The process picked up pace after Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Independence Day announcement of installing a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS).