Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his Independence Day speech announced that Indian Defence Forces will soon have its first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). The issue has been under consideration for nearly two decades now.
A high-level committee was set up in the wake of the Kargil conflict in 1999 to identify gaps in India’s security system. The need for a CDS to ensure better coordination amongst the three services was one of its major findings. A group of ministers tasked to
Structure of Indian Defence Forces
The primary role of the Indian Armed Forces is to maintain territorial integrity, defend country against insurgency and foreign aggression, provide assistance to civil community in an event of a natural or manmade disaster, subscribe troops for UN peace keeping missions and finally, maintain a high standard of operational preparedness to face all the above eventualities.
The Ministry of Defense (MoD) or Raksha Mantralay is charged with the responsibility of coordinating and supervising all agencies related to the overall defence of the nation, including, the functions of the government in national security and the upkeep of Indian Armed Forces.
The Ministry of Defence consists of four Departments: Department of Defence, Department of Defence Production, Department of Defence Research & Development, and Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare.
The Department of Defense Production is responsible for the indigenous production of equipment used by the Indian Armed Forces, with 41 Indian Ordnance Factories and eight Public Sector Undertakings (HAL, BEL, BEML, BDL, MDL, GSL, and GRSE).
The Defence Secretary functions as head of the Department of Defence and is additionally responsible for coordinating the activities of the four Departments in the Ministry.
Indian Armed Forces, with the President of India as its Supreme Commander, comprises of four militaries (Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard) and two paramilitary organisations (Assam Rifles and Special Frontier Force, e.g. Ladakh Scouts).
Indian Armed Forces is the world’s third-largest (after USA and China) and maintains strength of 1.3 million active personnel and 2.1 million on the reserve list (after superannuation from the forces/ on retirement all personnel remain on the reserve list for two years and can be called back on active duty in certain extraordinary circumstances). The strength of paramilitary personnel is 1.3 million.
The Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC) & the Integrated Defence Staff (IDS)
The Chiefs of Staff Committee was appointed on 01 October 2001. The primary aim of setting up the COSC was to fulfil the need of providing an institutionalised framework for Defence Management at the highest level.
All the three service chiefs, i.e. Army, Navy, Air Force and the chief of the Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) compose the Chiefs of Staff Committee. The Scientific Adviser to the Minister of Defence is invited to attend, if and when required.
The heads of the three services of Indian Armed Forces are:
- General Bipin Rawat: Chief of the Army Staff (COAS), 27th COAS, assumed office on 31 December 2016.
- Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa: Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), 22st CAS, assumed office on 31 December 2016.
- Admiral Karambir Singh: Chief of the Naval Staff (CNC), 24th CNS, assumed office on 31 May 2019.
Conventionally, the member of the Chiefs of Staff Committee (service chief), who has been the longest on the Committee, holds the appointment of the Chairman of COSC. The present Chairman of COSC is Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa.
The three service chiefs hold the authority to advise the Defence Minister and normally through him the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs is informed regarding all military matters which require ministerial consideration.
The Integrated Defence Services (IDS) is in effect the principal functional arm and Secretariat to the Chiefs of Staff Committee. It was created by the Government on 23 November 2001, based on the recommendations of the Group of Ministers which were set up in 2000 (post-Kargil) to review India’s defence management.
The HQ IDS is staffed by officers and personnel from all the three services, with the primary aim of bringing about a high degree of synergy between the Armed forces.
The IDS is headed by the Chief of Integrated Staff as the Chairman. The present Chief of the Integrated Defence Staff is Lt Gen PS Rajeshwar.
Chief of Defence Staff
At present, the senior-most chief from any of the three services assumes the appointment of the chairman of COSC. Hence, there is no permanency in this “single point contact” agency, created with the view to bring about synergy in tri-service operations. Also, the tri-service command is headed by a three-star officer junior to the military chiefs who are four-star.
In order to remove adhocism, improve continuity and promote jointness in planning, operations and modernisation of the three armed forces, the decision that was taken after the Kargil conflict of creating the appointment of Chief of Defence Staff, will be implemented soon.
The post of the Chief of Defence Staff will be held by a five-star General, who will be senior to all the three service chiefs. The CDS will be a single point contact for advice on all military matters by the government.
Moreover, future battlefields will require complete synergy between the three services during combat to achieve operational success. The Chief of Defense Staff will be a central agency who will have the complete military resources at his disposal. The same will ensure the economy of effort, quick and effective deployment and optimum utilisation of resources available with the three services.
Furthermore, he will be in charge of the tri-services command at Andaman and Nicobar islands, the strategic command in-charge of nuclear weapons along with the upcoming cyber and space command.