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New CDS takes charge, expected to ensure synergy of Armed Forces

Gen Chauhan, who is an expert in military operations and has closely dealt with crisis with China, will carry forward the modernisation, theatrerisation to ensure synergy among Army, Navy, Indian Air Force (IAF) and integration of Indian Armed Forces.

New CDS takes charge, expected to ensure synergy of Armed Forces
Image Credit: Ministry of Defence

India’s second Chief of Defence Staff Gen Anil Chauhan took over charge on Friday (September 30) in a grand ceremony on the lawns of South Block and his day started with meeting Defence Minister, Rajnath Singh and the top military officers.

He will have three roles — these are CDS, Permanent Chairman of Chief of Staff Committee and Secretary, Department of Military Affairs (DMA).

Image Credit: Ministry of Defence.

Gen Chauhan, who is an expert in military operations and has closely dealt with crisis with China, will carry forward the modernisation, theatrerisation to ensure synergy among Army, Navy, Indian Air Force (IAF) and integration of Indian Armed Forces.

Image Credit: Ministry of Defence

The biggest challenge before him would be to end the colonial hangover, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently pointed out, within the force. Another alarming situation before Gen Chauhan would be influx of Afghanistan based terrorist in disputed Jammu and Kashmir region. 

The new CDS who is considered to be an expert in dealing with unreliable Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has ensured that de-escalation and disengagement at disputed areas along the 3,500-km-long Line of Actual Control (LAC) is done on India’s terms and conditions.

Gen Chauhan faces a herculean task to ensure that India produces military platforms and weapons to be used by the forces and are exported to friendly nations in line with PM Modi’s push for ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ (Self Reliant India).

The new CDS will also have to ensure that the tri-services gets adequate budget from the government to carry forward the process of modernisation of the forces,  barring capital acquisitions. The tri-services chiefs also have high expectation from the new CDS so that the critical projects like third aircraft carrier for Indian Navy and procurement of fighter jets for Indian Air Force (IAF), which was almost shelved by his predecessor Gen Bipin Rawat – who was killed in plane crash – gets back on the track.

Image Credit: Ministry of Defence.

Defence procurement and budgeting

He will have to focus on budgeting and rationalising the same for each Service and work towards joint planning and acquisition. While making a list, he will have to take into consideration the emerging threats and the changing world and use of high-end technology to fight wars. The acquisition has to be prioritised accordingly as the requirements will be from tri-service.

Does India need more gunship helicopters, instead of the shoulder fired anti-aircraft missiles or there should be focus on technology for future warfare.

Challenges related to theaterisation

He will be overseeing a monumental military transformation which is inevitable as India gears up to the realities of 21st century warfare. “The establishment of theatre command was one of the priority areas. It is a work in progress and the smooth transition will be a challenge that will require sagacity in approach and close inter-service coordination in implementation. Improving the widening civil (bureaucratic) – military divide and ensuring integration of the Service headquarters into the decision making loop in the Ministry of Defence (MoD) will be a major challenge but essential for an effective national security architecture,” says Commodore Anil Jai Singh, Vice President of the Indian Maritime Foundation.

Also ReadIAF not “Support Arm’’ says the new chief; Bats for joint ops and integration

Differing views of Veterans
The appointment of a retired 3-star officer as CDS has turned the institutional sanctity of military service on its head. While this is probably a regular feature in making constitutional civilian  appointments, the armed forces have a certain structure – by elevating a retired officer, the government is signaling that there is no serving officer competent enough for the role, or is there more to it than just professional competence.

Image Credit: Ministry of Defence

“When the eligibility criteria for the appointment of a CDS were widened to include even retired officers, the indications for the future were there for all to see. There has been a 10-month gap in appointing a CDS which is surprising in military appointments but obviously the government has good reason for this. However, be that as it may, the new CDS has his work cut out for him,” says Commodore Anil Jai Singh, who is a former submariner of the Indian Navy.

According to him, “Gen Anil Chauhan will be inheriting Gen Rawat’s legacy – he tried to bring about a monumental transformation in a short time which obviously was not fully thought through at the time. His understanding of joint operations, adequate understanding of maritime and role of the air force came in for criticism within the organisation as well.”

While the military will be undergoing its ‘biggest restructuring since independence’, there is little or no talk of any reorganisation of the civilian bureaucratic structure in the Defence Ministry to reflect the evolving dynamic of 21st century security.

Will the CDS be able to make that difference?
“A balanced approach to indigenisation and ‘atmanirbharta‘ so as to achieve the desired results without compromising combat capability of all the three services is another challenge. In 75 years, despite fighting numerous wars and with existing external and internal security challenges, there is no articulated national security strategy. It is important to have a comprehensive understanding of national security to be able to harness the country’s comprehensive national power towards addressing its security challenges,” Commodore Anil Jai Singh tells Financial Express Online.

He also expresses hope that the CDS will not accept a subordinate role in the Ministry of Defence as a Secretary of one of its departments and leave that to the VCDS. “There is a lot more that the CDS will be expected to initiate and achieve, besides the above. Veterans affairs, which are not part of his charter, need his attention. Issues like OROP have been handled less than satisfactorily so far. The list is endless. The Government has chosen a man who is professionally well respected and, for the sake of the armed forces, it is hoped that he will prove himself more than equal to the task.”

Image Credit: Ministry of Defence

Another view
“Firstly, I am happy that after a tenuous pause of nine months, the government announced the appointment of a new CDS. Gen Bipin Rawat’s legacy and untimely demise left behind a void that wasn’t easy to fill. Reforms and restructuring of the Indian military needs a leader who can rise above personal affiliations and, when needed, take the odd ‘unpopular but necessary’ decisions,” says Cdr KP Sanjeev Kumar (Retd).

“Given this background, new CDS Gen Anil Chauhan’s fairly long tenure in the new seat will not be without its challenges. Primary among these will be bringing in a sense of balance in the “primus inter pares’’ status of the CDS that has been upset by this deep selection. This is the first time a retired 3-star general from Indian armed forces has been brought back 16 months after retirement to assume charge as a 4-star General,” he opines.

“While meritocracy and “comfort factor” with those in government has its place, I do feel there are certain spheres and specific orbits where the gravitas of rank and seniority must be respected. In a steeply hierarchical organisation, tectonic shifts have the potential to create fissures that won’t mend easily. The elevation of Gen Chauhan, one hopes, does not complicate internal equations between DMA & the serving Chiefs whose cooperation & consensus is vital to the transformation sought to be achieved by the office of CDS.”

“Now that a new trend has been set, let us move forward with positive energy. May the important matters of restructuring and transformation proceed with fresh impetus, taking all stakeholders along,” Cdr KP Sanjeev Kumar (Retd) states.

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