Understanding the roles and responsibilities of the Chief of Defence Staff India


The article gives you a comprehensive understanding of the roles and responsibilities of a newly added post of Chief of Defence Staff. He is a single-point military advisor to the Defence Minister of India, integrating Army, Navy and Air forces of the country. This article can provide you useful insights for the competitive exams with the probable discussions at the end of the article.

On 30 December 2019, Bipin Rawat was appointed as the first-ever Chief of Defence Staff. CDS, in short, would head the Department of Military Affairs and would act as a single-point military adviser to the Indian bureaucracy integrating the three forces in decision making. For the streamlined process of operational cohesiveness among Army, Navy and Air force and the inclusion of effective strategic planning, there was a dire need of a common officer from the fraternity who could serve as the viable link between military chiefs and the political leadership.

The same year, on Independence Day, PM Modi stressed the need for coordination among the tri-services to work in unison without drifting apart in the changing war needs. To accomplish individual brilliance into jointness excellence the Kargil Review Committee 1999 suggested the post of a single-point military adviser. Then comes the Naresh Chandra Committee amplifying the need for such post with D.B. Shekatkar Committee recommending the post be called as CDS.

CDS roles and responsibilities

Being a single point adviser, CDS has to remain on guard fulfilling the roles and responsibilities in many areas of operation and planning. The operational and military command of the services would be under the leadership of the respective chiefs but to bring them on one table would be an endeavor of this four-star rank officer. The theatre commands would be passed by the CDS for planning and he would have a prime role in reducing the duplication of assets in the period of limited Defence Budget.

The communications and logistics are deemed to be streamlined to reduce the budget overrun. The CDS will convey the needs of the services to Defence Minister with an integrated approach. To check the availability of weaponry and to stop the acquisition of the same items would be in the list of tasks as well. For instance, in the past, the army and air force had filed a separate official need for helicopters of almost the same specification and due to the fragmented approach, there was no way to address the usage of resources cohesively. To cope up with these financial constraints and also the operational loopholes the role of CDS demands a great effort towards efficiency especially in times when we are in continuous conflict with our neighbors.

Furthermore, CDS will be a member of the Defence Acquisition Council under the Ministry of Defence. He has been given a role too as the adviser to PM led Nuclear Command Authority. So as the principal advisor the domain of responsibilities is inclusive of bringing jointness in operations, logistics, transport, training, support services, communications, repairs, and maintenance with a say in acquisitions.

With the responsibilities there come the challenges and one of the major is not having the power of capital acquisition. The acquisition of equipment rest with the defense secretary with executive power at his disposal. The CDS will be able to prioritize among the acquisitions according to the need of the hour but would not have any say in the last signature for processing the desired acquisitions and this could delay the availability of certain items required at a certain time. Undoubtedly, the duplication of assets can be reduced to some extent but the timely availability of items could be an issue as the acquisitions are vested with bureaucracy.

Nevertheless, this the big step towards integration especially when the rivals are marking their aggression by the mode of land, water, and air as well. The US, Chinese and European all have the same post with different names with the same function of integration of the services.

Discussions on CDS roles and responsibilities

  • From the exam point of view, one should read the highlights of the above-mentioned committees like Kargil Review Committee, Naresh Chandra Committee, and others to understand the various facets of military affairs regarding operations, posting, staff, and acquisitions.

  • The Chief of Defence Staff is a much refined and powerful up-gradation of Chief of Staff Committee having much authority binding on the three chiefs to work cohesively. The upper limit of holding the CDS office is 65 years of age and the four-star officer rank is the requirement for the office.

  • The fragmented approach of the Indian military before CDS is seen as we have 17 single-service commands stationed all over India so for example, if we have high tension in Kashmir then Northen Command based in Udhampur could get help from the Army Training Command based in Shimla through the order of CDS. Otherwise, because of the lack of connectivity, the two bases could be engaged in certain other sets of training not beneficial for emergent situations.

  • The capital acquisition is also discussed and one has to study the highlights of the Defence Procurement Policy(DPP 2016) which was in the news recently for the inclusion of domestic partners. The ministry of defense website can be visited for the analysis of the functions of various departments like Department of Defence, Department of Defence Production(headed by Secretary), The Department of Defence Research and Development(headed by Secretary), The Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare(headed by Secretary).


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