Welcoming the Prime Minister’s announcement that the country will have a Chief of Defence Staff, former Army chief General (retd) V P Malik Thursday said this was long overdue. He said the appointment of a CDS will make the three services more effective by improving jointmanship and inter-operability. In the long run, it will also make the forces more economical.
“The appointment of a CDS has been under consideration for the last 20 years. It was first recommended by the Kargil review committee and then again by the Group of Ministers in 2002. But for some reason or the other, it was not accepted,” Gen Malik, who was Army chief during the Kargil war, said.
He said there were political leaders who had not understood the concept correctly. “Some even went to the extent of thinking that it will make the military too strong.”
There were some differences among the three services, he said, and opposition from the bureaucracy. The appointment of the CDS, he said, will spell a major organisational change at the level of national security organisation, particularly for the defence services.
Recalling the Kargil war, Gen Malik said he did not really miss having a CDS at that time though it would have helped at the lower level.
“It was a limited war over a front of 160 km. As chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, I was able to ensure cooperation at the higher level though there were initial differences. But I did feel there wasn’t enough jointness at the lower level.”
On the future steps, he said, “We already have an integrated defence staff. The CDS, once appointed, will head it. He will be the military advisor to the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS). He will also head the nuclear set-up, the strategic command etc. He will be able to give a holistic approach to our defence planning which at present tends to be competitive and uneconomical.”
Asked whether it will lessen interference of career bureaucrats in defence matters, Gen Malik said he hopes that the CDS will be part and parcel of the decision-making loop. “In the current environment, politico-military strategy is very vital and it cannot be dealt with in watertight compartments. The armed forces require greater versatility and flexibility,” he said.
Lt General (retired) Satish Dua called the appointment of a CDS a “game changer” and a “force multiplier”. He said India is the only country where the military is “not integrated” even as “all other major militaries are”. Today, he said, “we have a very weak system, a collegiate Chiefs of Staff Committee… a very weak system for security.” The CDS, he said, will be the “single-point advisor”.
Former Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major said the appointment of a CDS “is a great step forward in the reforms for higher defence management. It’s a very good decision taken by the management and should be implemented as fast as possible”.
The idea of a CDS was mooted in the aftermath of the Kargil war. An expert committee headed by strategic affairs expert K Subrahmanyam had recommended several structural reforms for the defence establishment. After the committee submitted its report, a Group of Ministers, headed by then Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani, mentioned the establishment of the office of a CDS because the Chiefs of Staff Committee “has not been effective in fulfilling its mandate”.
The GoM said that “creation of a CDS would ensure provision of single point military advice to the civil political executive” and the CDS will consult the chiefs before advising the government.