General Studies IIIInternal SecuritySecurity

Chief of Defence Staff


Chief of Defence Staff to chair important meeting to sort out issues on theatre command.


  • The Chief of Defence Staff of the Indian Armed Forces (CDS) is the head of the military staff of the Indian Armed Forces and the chief executive of the Department of Military Affairs.
  • As the highest-ranking serving officer in the Indian Armed Forces, the CDS is the commanding officer and chairperson of the Joint Commanders and Staff Committee – making them the chief military adviser to the government of India and the Ministry of Defence.
  • As the professional head of the armed forces, the Chief of Defence Staff is also aided by the newly formed office of Vice Chief of Defence Staff, the nation’s second highest ranking military officer, and the three chiefs of staff of the army, navy and air force, who are the leaders of each respective branch.
  • The first and current CDS is General Bipin Rawat, who took office on 1 January 2020.
  • The CDS has been sanctioned the role of being the main military adviser, acting as the single-point military adviser to the government and Defence Minister. 
  • India was the only large democracy which did not have a single point military advisor; with all P5 countries having one

History of the Chief of Defence Staff

Although the idea of the creation of the Chief of Defence Staff position has been floated post the independence of India, it was officially suggested through the recommendation of the Kargil Review Committee after the end of the Kargil War  (which ended on July 26, 1999). Subsequent commissions such as the Naresh Chandra task force in 2012 and the Lieutenant General D.B. Shekatkar Committee in 2016 had also proposed their own versions of a Chief of Defence Staff position.

On his independence day speech on August 15 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the creation of the Chief of Defence Staff. A formal statement was issued by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) on 24 December 2019 about the creation of the Chief of Defence Staff

Duties and Functions of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS)

  • To head the Department of Military Affairs in Ministry of Defence and function as its Secretary.
  • To act as the Principal Military Advisor to Raksha Mantri on all Tri-Service matters.
  • To function as the Permanent Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee
  • To administer the Tri-Service organizations/agencies/commands.
  • To be a member of Defence Acquisition Council chaired by Raksha Mantri.
  • To function as the Military Advisor to the Nuclear Command Authority.
  • To bring about jointness in operation, logistics, transport, training, support services, communications, repairs and maintenance, etc of the three Services.
  • To ensure optimal utilization of infrastructure and rationalise it through jointness among the Services.
  • To implement Five-Year Defence Capital Acquisition Plan and Two-Year roll-on Annual Acquisition Plans, as a follow up of Integrated Capability Development Plan.
  • To bring about reforms in the functioning of three Services with the aim to augment combat capabilities of the Armed Forces by reducing wasteful expenditure.

Service Conditions

  • The Defence Ministry had recently amended the Army, Air Force, and Navy rules by allowing the Chief of Defence Staff to serve up to a maximum age of 65 years.
    • According to the existing rules, an Army Chief has a tenure of three years or up to the retirement age of 62 years, whichever is earlier.
  • He will not be eligible to hold any government office after demitting (resigning) as the CDS.

Significance of CDS

  • Synergy between Armed forces and Government: CDS’ role is not simply about tri-service cooperation, it is equally about fostering better cooperation between the Ministry of Defense bureaucracy and the Armed services.
    • Since 1947, there are three Service Headquarters (SHQ) designated as “Attached Offices” of the Department of Defense (DoD).
    • Due to this, communication between SHQ and DoD takes place largely through the medium of files.
    • With the creation of CDS as Principal Military Adviser (PMA) to Defense Minister, the process of decision-making will be accelerated.

  • Jointness in operations: The Chiefs of Staff Committee-COSC (predecessor of CDS), has been dysfunctional because its chairmanship is held by one of the three chiefs on a part-time rotational basis.
    • Historically, the chairman COSC lacked the authority as well as capacity and inclination to tackle tri-service issues of substance.
    • With the CDS now being designated as “permanent chairman of COSC”, he will be able to devote undivided attention to the administration of tri-service organizations.

  • Operationalisation of Theatre Command: Creation of DoMA will facilitate the operationalisation of joint/theatre command.
    • Although a successful template for joint operations was created in the Andaman & Nicobar Command, the lack of political direction and indifference of the COSC has led to inactivity of this joint command.
    • Theatre commands would need staff with the knowledge and experience to deploy land, maritime and air forces. Given the disruptive impact of each of these measures, they would best be implemented by the CDS.

  • CDS as a key functionary in the nuclear command chain will also administer the Strategic Forces Command.
    • This measure will go a long way in enhancing the credibility of India’s nuclear deterrent.
    • The CDS would also initiate an early review of India’s Nuclear Doctrine.

  • In the approaching era of dwindling defence budgets, a crucial function of CDS will be “prioritizing” the capital acquisition proposals of individual services.
    • He will have to ensure that the “defence rupee” is spent judiciously; on warfare-capabilities considered vital for national military power, and not on pandering to service demands.

Reforms need to be carried out by the Chief of Defence Staff

  • Among the initial reforms by the Chief of Defence Staff was much awaited structural change through the creation of theatre commands. following are its key points –
  • There are indications for the creation of two to five theatre commands to deal with challenges on various fronts effectively.
  • Each command will have units from Army, Navy and Air-force working in synchronization with each other to produce effective results.
  • Each command shall operate independently and thus can act upon the task with agility and in a short time.
  • Commands may include a peninsular command which shall include eastern and western command of Indian Navy, a dedicated command for Jammu and Kashmir, a dedicated command for logistics requirement of the three services, and an Air Defence Command among others.

Source: The Hindu


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