To appoint the next Chief of Defence staff (CDS), the government on Tuesday has formally notified the amendments to the rule book under which retired officers under the ranks of Lt General or General will now be eligible to the post. And the announcement of the next CDS is expected to be made soon.
“The appointment has been vacant for six months and it is imperative that a CDS be announced in view of the accumulating strategic adversities being faced by our country on its borders as also to steer the much needed and delayed, theaterisation as well as to ensure synergy between the three Services,” opines Maj Gen Jagatbir Singh (Retd).
The announcement for the next CDS is expected to be made soon; this position has been vacant since the sad demise of India’s first CDS Gen Bipin Rawat in a fatal helicopter crash last year in December. There was no line of succession in place for the CDS. Late Gen Rawat’s tenure was to expire in March 2023.
What is the new notification?
The new gazette notifications for the three armed forces have specified that any officer (serving or retired) and below the age of 62 holding a rank of Lt Gen or General or equivalent can be the next CDS.
The Government of India has amended the Service Rules “In exercise of powers conferred by Section 191 of the Army Act 1950 (46 of 1950), the amendment reads: “As per the notification, the government may consider officers who are serving as Lieutenant General equivalent, General equivalent or officers who have retired in the rank of Lt Gen or Gen but have not attained the age of 62 years, for the post of CDS”.
The notifications of Air Force and Navy are on similar lines. The notifications of all the three services have also specified that the service of the CDS could be extended up to 65 years of age.
With the age limit set to 62 years, all the former Chiefs of Service who have already retired are now ruled out.
According to reports, the government has already identified around 30 officers (serving and retired) and is in the process of examining their records which includes their medical history, fitness levels before the name is finalized. This list includes the names of five senior most officers of the three forces.
This means that the current chiefs of the three services and around 12 serving officers of the Commander-in-Chief rank as well as those retired officers who held the rank of Commander-in-Chief in the last couple of years.
When was the position of CDS created?
Following a long standing recommendation of the Kargil Review Committee, the position of CDS was created in 2019. The primary reason for the creation was for single point military advice to the leadership.
Indian Army veteran Maj Gen Jagatbir Singh welcomed the new set of guidelines of the government that rules out all former Chiefs, any retired Army Commander who is up to the age of 62 is eligible.
Theaterisation & Synergy between the three Services
Sharing his views with Financial Express Online, Maj Gen Jagatbir Singh says, “The ongoing Ukrainian Conflict has also highlighted the need for joint structures. Gen Rawat was mandated to and was in the process of pushing through the necessary reforms to enable the forces to be equipped to handle the future challenges. Since his tragic death the movement forward on these issues has naturally suffered.”
“Further, he was wearing three hats, Chairman COSC, Secretary DMA and CDS. There was also a view that bureaucracy is keen to retain some of the responsibilities that had been vested in the CDS. This will be detrimental .There is no doubt that single point advice on security related matters can only be given by the CDS.”
“Ironically, while the appointment of the CDS was considered one of the biggest reforms by the present government, there has been considerable delay in appointing his successor. There is a crying need for the appointment of the CDS who is responsible to define the countries Military and security policies, carry out force restructuring and optimization and prioritization of resources as well as ensure jointness,” Maj Gen Jagatbir Singh adds.
“Old Wine New Bottle: Reincarnation of CDS an evolving concept,” says Indian Army Veteran Lt Col Manoj K Channan.
While sharing his views with Financial Express Online, Lt Col Manoj K Channan has flagged few points which include:
• What is the status of the Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee?
• Are the Service Chief’s not competent to give Military advice to the Raksha Mantri?
• What is the relevance of the current Military Advisor to the Defense Secretary?
• Since the Service Chiefs are ruled out, in a pyramid structure which is hierarchical in nature, what would be the line of a three-star on serving four-star chiefs?
• Do we need to read more than the obvious in the amendment, to state the obvious of a “political commissar”, who would use his influence with the political leadership and the bureaucracy to enforce the will of the government?
• Is this amendment and the appointment of the CDS going to help in any manner, during active operations, with theatre commands?
• Is the amendment of rules in any way to pave way for further restructuring of the organizations of the Army, Navy and Air Force, to be headed by a three-star ranked officer, who would in time come to be senior?
• The age bar of 62 years is indicative of that, though not stated.
“Let’s wait and watch as to what the political leadership rolls out, as it should not be another ‘marketing blitz’ with no substance in trying to be equal amongst leading nations of the world, by this appointment,” Lt Col Manoj K Channan, Indian army veteran opines.