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Editorial of the Day (16th May): The CDS that Should be

Context

  • The Indian military’s ongoing restructuring into integrated theatre commands (ITC) is gaining traction, with plans for appointing a Vice Chief of Defence Staff (Vice CDS) and a Deputy Chief of Defence Staff (Deputy CDS).
  • This development is cautiously welcomed, though a review of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) post is merited for further clarity.

The Evolution of the CDS Position

  • The CDS position was created in 2019 to address the lack of jointness among the armed forces.
  • The CDS serves as
    • a four-star general, the first among equals with the service chiefs, and
    • also acts as the Secretary to the Government of India in the Ministry of Defence and
    • the Principal Adviser to the Defence Minister on inter-service issues.
  • This complex role requires a balance of military expertise, bureaucratic acumen, and political advisory.

First CDS and Challenges

  • General Bipin Rawat was appointed as the first CDS in January 2020.
  • However, his tenure was cut short by a fatal air accident in December 2021, leaving many of his initiated policies in limbo.
  • The Modi government took nine months to appoint Lt Gen Anil Chauhan (retd) as the second CDS in October 2022, a decision that raised eyebrows due to the unprecedented recall of a retired officer.

Proposed Changes

  • The introduction of a Vice CDS in four-star rank raises questions about rank hierarchy and the role of service chiefs.
  • The Maritime Theatre Command’s proposed base in Coimbatore is also a point of contention.
  • The report suggests that the bureaucratic role of the CDS could be transferred to the VCDS, allowing the CDS to focus on military matters.

Challenges and Considerations

  • India faces a two-front operational tasking along its land borders with China and Pakistan, along with unresolved territorial disputes and state-sponsored terrorism.
  • Enhancing combat efficiency and preparing for new threats posed by technological advancements are crucial.
  • Since the creation of the CDS position in 2019, there has been no significant improvement in India’s overall combat efficiency.

Looking Ahead

  • The new government taking office in June will need to make resolute and objective decisions regarding the evolution of the CDS institution.
  • The CDS must maintain professional independence and uphold the oath of allegiance to the Constitution.

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