Modern hybrid warfare has brought overhaul reform in the security architecture of India. Changing from the earlier military structure, the government brought the concept of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) into the defence structure to synergize the operational capabilities of all three defence forces. The main goal was to bring unanimity in defence acquisitions, strike capabilities and overall policy initiatives. With the aim, a CDS post was envisaged and General Bipin Rawat became the first CDS to hold that post with effect from 31 December 2019. But the unfortunate demise of General Rawat in a helicopter accident left the post vacant and now the government in search of a new CDS has issued a change in defence rules.
With the Amendment expanding the horizon of the eligibility
On 6 June 2022, the government of India issued three gazette notifications related to the amendment in three defence personnel rules & regulations.
First notification related to the amendment in Army Rules, 1954 inserting a new section states, “The Central Government may, if considered necessary, in the public interest, so to do, appoint as Chief of Defence Staff, an officer who is serving as Lieutenant General or an officer who has retired in the rank of Lieutenant General or General but has not attained the age of sixty-two years on the date of his appointment.
Provided that the Central Government may, if considered necessary, in the public interest, so to do, extend the service of the Chief of Defence Staff for such period as it may deem necessary subject to a maximum age of sixty-five years.
A similar amendment was made in the Air Force Regulations, 1964. Which states “the Central Government may, if considered necessary, in the public interest, so to do, appoint as Chief of Defence Staff, an officer who is serving as Air Marshal or Air Chief Marshal or an officer who has retired in the rank of Air Marshal or Air Chief Marshal but has not attained the age of sixty-two years on the date of his appointment”.
Further amending the Naval Ceremonial, Conditions of Service and Miscellaneous Regulations,1963, the government is empowered to appoint as Chief of Defence Staff, an officer who is serving as Vice Admiral or Admiral or an officer who has retired in the rank of Vice-Admiral or Admiral but has not attained the age of sixty-two years on the date of appointment.
…or officers who have retired in the rank of Lt Gen or Gen but have not attained the age of 62 years on the date of appointment (2/2) pic.twitter.com/tP8hn8xaTh
— ANI (@ANI) June 7, 2022
This effectively means that the Govt is permitting the appointment of serving three-star officers (Lt Gen/Air Marshal/Vice Admiral) or retired three-star or four-star (Service Chiefs) officers as Chief of Defence Staff who are below the age of 62 years.
BIG. The Govt has just amended the Army/Navy/Air Force Acts permitting the appointing of serving THREE-star officers (LtGen/AirMarshal/ViceAdmiral) or retired three star or four-star (Service Chiefs) officers as Chief of Defence Staff "if considered necessary in public interest". pic.twitter.com/8uq5FBw2BB
— Shiv Aroor (@ShivAroor) June 7, 2022
Importance of CDS for the Indian Defence Architecture
The biggest hindrance in uniting the power of all the three defence forces in one military officer was believed to be dangerous for the democracy. It was seen that wherever there has been a military coup in a country, there are high chances of installing all the military power in one military officer.
But the development of hybrid warfare and the mature functioning of our democracy provided the conducive ground for the creation of CDS. With effective checks and balances in the decision making power, it was ensured that the three defence forces stimulate their functionality according to the modern security threats.
In a way, CDS becomes the main link of operationality of military functioning and the government’s defence policy making. The CDS plays the role of:
- Principal Military Advisor to Defence Minister on all tri-services issues
- Administration of the Tri-Service organizations/agencies/commands
- Member of Defence Acquisition Council chaired by Defence Minister
- Military Advisor to the Nuclear Command Authority
Legacy of first CDS General Bipin Rawat
The much-needed military reforms were operationalised in the form of tri-service integration and coordination, and equipment acquisition by the first CDS General Bipin Rawat.
He was of the view that fifth-generation wars will be asymmetric and fought across entire spectrums, including land, air, sea, cyber, information, and economies. General Rawat aligning with the modern warfare system set up five theatre commands to combine army, air force, and naval assets and create joint combat capability. Once operationalised, these commands will replace the current 17 service-specific commands.
The operationalisation of theatre command dividends during the border stand-off with China in eastern Ladakh since mid-2020. The Army and Air Force pressed into service their assets like the Akash missile system and Su-30 fighter aircraft during the long stand-off, and the Navy deployed gunboats and P8I maritime patrol aircraft for surveillance at Pangong Tso.
The result of the first CDS firmness is also reflected in the defence acquisitions. It became efficient, indigenous and free from the international defence lobby. He was of the view that “India could not fight wars on the borrowed strength of foreign equipment”. So he aggressively pushed for the indigenous research & development of weapons.
It was his visioned idea that India was able to achieve its target of 64% of the capital acquisition budget for defence from the domestic industry in 2021-22.
So to maintain the same level of integrity and military acumen by the next CDS, it is very necessary to have thorough research for the appointment. The amendment in the three defence personnel rule will expand the reach of eligible candidates for the post. The reduction in age and rank for the appointment gives the idea that government is ready to give more value to the candidate’s military acumen and integrity than the rank.