Does India Require Chief Of Defence Staff Post

The talk of appointing a Chief of Defense Staff has been going on for quite some time now. 

After the Kargil fiasco an expert committee was set up under the chairmanship of K Subramanyan to look into all aspects of national security; with one of its key recommendations being the appointment of a Chief of Defense Staff.

Subsequently the Naresh Chandra committee was set up to suggest reforms in higher defense management,it also underscored the importance of a CDS but pitched for a watered down version in terms of a permanent Chairman Joint Chief of Staff.Last year Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar also hinted that Government would soon create a post of Chief defence staff post.

Issues in the Current System in India

1. The higher defense management in India is currently along the lines of the Joint Chief of Staff model of the USA, with the senior most chief (Army, Navy and Air force) appointed as Chairman JSOC. The Defense Secretary acts as an interface between the armed forces and the political executive.

2. The Armed Forces are still considered as "Attached Offices" of the Ministry of Defense and it is the Defense Secretary who is responsible for the defense of the country. This invariably leads to greater gap between the civilian and military bureaucracy.

3. It’s the Defense Secretary who represents India in all professional forums and acts as the adviser to the Raksha Mantri, consequently depriving the political executive of the expert advice of the service Chiefs.

4. India is the only country with an MoD sans military professionals, with bureaucrats lacking a military background and knowledge ruling the roost, hiding their ineptitude and incompetence in their respective cocoons and without accountability, making money through scams and appeasing their political bosses. As a result, we lack a cohesive national security strategy; national security objectives remain undefined; higher defence organisations aren’t streamlined; there is little synergy within the military; the military-industrial complex remains in a pathetic state

5. One up man ship games played by the permanent executive like placing the service Chiefs at a level lower than Cabinet Secretary Rank results in unnecessary protocol and ego issues thereby lowering the overall efficiency.

6. The problem with the existing separate military headquarters is that there is a turf war between the three wings with each seeing things with its own perspective and requirement.

What is the CDS model?

1. The CDS model envisages a close degree of coordination and synergy among the tri services by appointing a person who would be the head of military operations and the most senior advisor to the government on all matters related to the military.

2. The charter of CDS will be the coordination of cyber and space functions, rationalizing the capabilities of individual services, and plans and procurements for force development which consider fiscal resources and optimization of logistics.

3. The government envisages the PP COSC as having a two-year tenure and an equivalence in rank and protocol with the service chiefs.

Advantages of CDS model?

1. The three Armed Forces function largely as separate executive entities without adequate coordination. The Integrated Defense Staff Headquarters (HQ IDS) set up, based on the GOM recommendations in 2001, in the absence of the CDS - i.e. its head, has no effective powers to coordinate the functioning of the three, as a cumulative, integrated structure for optimized pay-offs.

2. All policy and coordination functions are carried out by the Ministry of Defense (MOD). 

3. Policy-making on operations, procurement and joint logistics proposals therefore either gets delayed or stuck, without justification and accountability in the absence of background knowledge. This is worrying as the security environment in India’s neighborhood is rapidly deteriorating.

4. The institutionalized direct interface of the political leadership with the military, through the CDS or Permanent Chairman Chief of Staff Committee, will provide a single, all-encompassing coherent and cohesive perspective, instead of disaggregated individual single service formulations. This will correct the anomaly of civic-military interface during the shaping/ deterrence phase, during operations, or after the occurrence of unsavory situations.

5. Current structure in India is that The senior most Service chief holds the post of Chairman Chief of Staff Committee  is inadequate Since he has dual role as he is also the Chief of his own service Combined responsibility is not only overwhelming, often resulting in neglect and delay, but it can also place two roles in conflict. Appointing either the CDS or Permanent Chairman COSC would separate the two roles and bring the requisite professional focus to each

6. All support organisations for either the CDS or PC COSC, including the IDS Headquarters and tri-service Commands, are already established and functional. Hence, there are no cost implications.

7. The organisational advantages expected to accrue from the proposed reform include holistic management of national security for optimised results, and single point military advice on matters of national security including nuclear weapons.

8. The proposition also augurs well for strategising of a cost effective and robust national defence policy; synergised and calibrated triservice contingency planning; capital acquisition plan within an affordable fiscal regime.

Limitations of the proposed CDS Model?

1. The whole idea behind appointing a PC COSC is to break down silos within armed forces and create synergy in the fighting force. However how can the  proposed PC COSC bring synergy within the three services when he has no operational powers over the military?

2. As and when the CDS is established, he will have equal voting rights as the service chiefs, and where two service chiefs don't agree, the MoD will arbitrate". Now if a CDS is to be a “single point advisor”, where is the question of two chiefs not agreeing? 

3. The PC COSC will be responsible for all military hardware acquisition processes, tri-service commands and for “jointmanship” within the forces for optimum utilisation of resources. Many security experts believe that This is no different from the current arrangement of having a rotational chairman of the COSC since raising of HQ Integrated Defence Staff (IDS), other than that the rotational incumbent normally has a tenure of less than two years.