Chandigarh Military Lit Festival Discusses Role of Chief of Defence Staff

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Chandigarh: With the possibility of a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) likely to be in place in the coming year, what role the person holding this post will play in the nation’s defence set up ranging from acquisitions to the various committees pertaining to national security was discussed by a panel of defence experts.

Participating in the discussion on “Creation of the post of Chief of Defence Staff,” on the concluding day on December 15 of the Military Literature Festival organised by the Punjab Government in Chandigarh, a panel of defence experts expressed their views on the possible role of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS).

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Former defence secretary and Chhattisgarh Governor Shekhar Dutt said the biggest task before the CDS would be to ensure jointness between the three services and that he should be in a position to ensure that any external challenge can be tackled by the defence forces.

“This jointness is not for linguistic purposes. It is for operational purposes,” Dutt said adding that while CDS is absolutely required, there is a greater requirement for a full transformation of the defence structures, such as in formations, operations and remodeling of organisations.

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“We ought to have certain integrated theatre commands….Nobody outside in the civil world will have any comprehension of what has to be done. It has to come from within (armed forces),” he said.

Giving the example of US in terms of joint operation commands, Lt Gen Sanjiv Langer (retd) said the desired approach for integrated theatre commands would need an integrated Ministry of Defence, professional staff at PMO and President’s Secretariat and preparation of Integrated General Staff.

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He said that uniformed men from the armed forces should be deputed permanently in the Ministry of Defence, and the CDS would play a role in fostering inter-services jointness in terms of budgeting, equipment purchases, training, joint doctrines and planning of military operations, an imperative of modern warfare.

Air Vice Marshal (Retd) Manmohan Bahadur said the CDS should ideally be given a one-line mandate of ensuring strategic conventional military capabilities.

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He cited the statement of former Air Chief BS Dhanoa who said that someone has to be held responsible for delaying critical technology like multi role fighters to the services by continuing negotiations for 10 years.

“It can be the CDS,” he said.

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“With the CDS having the casting vote (on defence acquisitions) that’s where some sort of budgetary control comes in. He would have the overall picture…core competencies of each service will get its due,” he said.

He, however, cautioned that it can’t happen in isolation.

“CDS can propose but someone else is responsible for the money,” he said, adding that there is a requirement of specialist cadre in the defence ministry who would understand the needs of the services.

The CDS has to merge the capabilities the services require and the procedures which the ministry requires, Bahadur said.

Lt Gen Satish Dua, former chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee of the Indian Armed Forces, said that while India started jointness with the triservice National Defence Academy, somewhere down the line, jointness in services was lost.

“With the CDS, at least newer structures like cyber and space commands (agencies now) will start working together and not in silos,” he said.

“We need a better interface between the leadership, bureaucracy and armed forces and that is a gap, which the CDS may fill,” he said.