Source: The Hitavada      Date: 01 Nov 2017 11:25:35

THE sense of urgency which the Government is reportedly attaching to the issue of creation of a new position of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) makes it apparent that a new approach to national security is emerging at the highest level. If this new post gets created in the near future, it would surely impact the overall command-and-control systems in the Indian Armed Forces, which is actually the need of the changing times. 

Until now, the top echelons of the Government were rather unwilling to make the change. For, they seemed to be happy with the existing system of having the senior-most of the Services chiefs to preside over the Committee of Defence Chiefs. In all these years, the Government did not find much amiss in the system because of the fairly good understanding among the three Services and other arms in national defence. Even through the wars India fought in the past seventy years, the issue of having a joint chief did not bother anybody because everybody believed that there was a fairly good cooperation and coordination among all the Services.

Unfortunately, very few could sense the chinks in the armour. In almost all the wars that India fought, there were issues that stayed unresolved as regards inter-Services communication and coordination. As warfare started becoming more and more technology-oriented and defence needs more complex, the need for a joint command and a single top commander also made its imperative. As the situation in the Indian sub-continent started becoming more edgy, the Indian leadership realised the importance of heightened defence-preparedness. The idea that the Indian Armed Forces can have a joint chief started making a greater sense against the background of the changing situation.

The first instance when the need for a joint chief arose when Pakistan invaded in India in 1965 and the Armed Forces were found wanting in coordination. A better coordinated effort would have ensured an outright Indian victory, which was not actually the case. Despite this, the Indian political leadership continued to be wary of the idea of a joint chief. In the 1971 war, there certainly was a better coordinated effort which led to an unprecedented military campaign that changed the world’s political map for ever. However, even in that war, and also subsequently in the Kargil war, the need to have a joint chief continued to assert itself. The political leadership, however, did not favour the idea of a joint chief for reasons never explained fully at any level.

Whenever a case was made for creation of the position and appointment of a person as joint chief, replete with examples of other countries, the political leadership paid only a lip service to the cause but did not actually budge. That kept everybody guessing, and the issue remained unresolved.

Now, however, things are changing for sure. The idea of a joint Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) has started gaining a larger acceptance not just at the Services level but also at the political level. Things seem to have come to a point when the Government may give an active consideration to the proposal made at several points in the past some years. Obviously, when such a position is created, it would not remain merely a decoration.

For, in the current complexities of modern warfare, a joint command is the most critical need of Armed Forces of the massive size as those of India. The CDS will, naturally, be the senior-most of commanders in all Forces, but also a man with clear and well-defined vision of the political dimension of national defence. He will not just be a leader of Armed Forces but also sort of a national leader in the uniform. In the changing scenario, such a position is quite likely to make a critical difference to national defence.