The announcement on creation of the post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) marks the biggest military reform in India and comes in the backdrop of a rapidly changing security scenario in the region. The decision stands out from among a string of announcements, made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his address from the ramparts of the Red Fort on the occasion of the 73rd Independence Day celebrations, because of significance it holds for the country. Having an integrated command system has been one of the long-felt needs of defence forces. The idea got further push and acquired a sense of urgency in the aftermath of lessons learnt during Kargil war in 1999. The CDS will serve as a single-point military advisor to the government, and to coordinate long-term planning, procurements, training and logistics of the three services. As future wars are expected to become short, swift and network-centric, coordination among the three services is crucial. Also, as the stress on resources increases and defence budgets remain flat, the way forward is optimisation of resources by joint planning and training. Being above the three Service Chiefs, the CDS is expected to play this role by optimising procurement, avoiding duplication among the services and streamlining the process. India being a nuclear weapons state, the defence chief will also act as the military advisor to the Prime Minister on nuclear issues. The new set-up will bring in greater alacrity, coordination and efficiency in decision-making and help in meeting the emerging security challenges.
The military modernisation, which has not received due priority over the last few decades, is expected to get a fillip with this mega reform move. Bureaucratic lethargy, archaic procedures for acquisitions of weaponry and long delays in delivery of promised indigenous weapons have been the key problem areas adversely affecting the combat readiness of armed forces. Hopefully, this could change in near future as the CDS will drive the modernisation programme. The future military strategies must be driven more by technology. A high-level committee headed by K Subrahmanyan, set up to examine the gaps in the country’s security structure soon after the Kargil conflict, had recommended creation of CDS post to ensure better coordination among the three services. Later, a Group of Ministers, headed by the then Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani, also favoured the creation of the post. A Task Force, headed by Naresh Chandra, had recommended in 2012 the appointment of a permanent chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee (CoSC) with senior-most among them to act as chairman. Modi has now shown the boldness to meet this long pending demand. Currently, major countries like the United States, France, the UK and China have a Chief of Defence Staff.