By Rohit Srivastava
Two weeks after the historic bill to change the constitutional status of Jammu and Kashmir, Union government is all set to give India its first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). This is going to be the most important reform in the defence sector. The announcement was made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his Independence Day speech.
“To further sharpen coordination between the forces, India will have Chief of Defence Staff, CDS which will make the forces even more effective,” Modi said.
India has been debating the need for CDS since it was recommended by the Kargil review committee in 1999. In 2012, the Naresh Chandra Task Force made a similar recommendation for a permanent chairman chief of staff committee.
The announcement did not make it clear whether the CDS will be a four-star or five-star general.
The CDS is expected to be the single point of advice to the government on all military matters.
Speaking on the need for the CDS, Lt Gen D B Shekatkar (retd) said, “If we had the CDS earlier, we may not have suffered such high causalities during Kargil war. Our response to the attack on parliament (2001) and Operation Parakaram would have been different.”
Opining on who should be the first CDS, he said, “Government should consider immediate challenges. Land borders are more vulnerable and challenging. Loss of territory is just not acceptable to Indians.”
“We believe in the concept of Matribhumi (Mother Land) and Bharat Mata (Mother India).”
“First CDS and one thereafter should be from Army, later from Air Force, Navy and then by rotation,” he added.
Lt Gen Shekatkar was the Chairman of the Committee of Expert (CoE) constituted for the restructuring of the armed forces. The first recommendation of the committee was the appointment of CDS. Among many recommendations to reduce the teeth to tail ration, it asked for immediate reduction of 25,000 soldiers.
The main contender for the CDS, Indian Army Chief General Bipin Rawat is retiring on December 31.
The next step, in defence reform, should be the downsizing and right-sizing of the Ministry of Defence, three services and integration of service headquarters with the ministry.