Editorial Notes

[Editorial Notes] Significance of the post of CDS

Defence of India and every part of defence policy is conducive to the national security and interests of the nation. For a country like India, which lives in a hostile neighborhood and has extreme geo-political importance, the need for integrating the armed forces into one for a greater synergy increases.
By IASToppers
January 20, 2020


  • Introduction
  • The idea to create CDS
  • What is CDS?
  • Impacts on India’s security scenario
  • Concerns
  • Conclusion

Significance of the post of CDS

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  • The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) has approved the creation of a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS).

Significance of the post of CDS

  • Recently, a Department of Military Affairs (DMA) was instituted with Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) as its head.
  • Bipin Rawat has been appointed as the first Chief of Defense Staff (CDS) of India. He will remain on the post till the age of 65 years.

The idea to create CDS:

  • The proposal for setting up a Chief of Defence Staff has been contemplated around 20 years ago after the Kargil war of 1999 by the K. Subrahmanyam committee.
  • Naresh Chandra committee recommended the appointment of a Permanent Chairman of Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC) in 2012, but there was an absence of consensus.
  • Hence, the creation of a Department of Military Affairs (DMA), with a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) at its head, on New Year’s Day 2020, is the most significant development in the national security domain since Independence.

What is CDS?

  • He will be the single-point military adviser to the government as suggested by the Kargil Review Committee in 1999.

What is CDS

  • CDS oversees and coordinates the working of the three Services. He will integrate the operations of the three forces i.e. Indian Army, Indian Air Force, and the Indian Navy.
  • The Chief of Defence Staff will also play the role of military advisor on important defense and strategic issues for the Prime Minister and Minister of Defense of the country.
  • CDS will be a member of the Defense Acquisition Council headed by the Minister of Defense and will act as the head of the Department of Military Affairs.
  • He will be the military advisor to the Atomic Command Authority.

Impacts on India’s security scenario:

1. Enabling hassle-free communication between the stakeholders:

  • With creation of the DMA, headed by CDS, the military will, for the first time, be admitted into the central edifice of the GoI and become a participant in policy-making.
  • Designation of the CDS as Principal Military Adviser (PMA) to RM will enable unhindered access to MoD, accelerating the process of decision-making and accord of approvals.
  • To ensure adequate availability of expertise, civilians will need to be inducted into DMA and military personnel into DoD. This will require the CDS to vigorously pursue enabling amendments to GoI Business Rules and the Central Staffing Scheme.

2. Key decision making body:

  • The Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC), a key military body has been dysfunctional for decades because its chairmanship is held by one of the three chiefs on a part-time, rotational basis.
  • Historically, the chairman COSC has lacked the authority as well as capacity and inclination to tackle tri-service issues of substance. With the CDS now being designated “permanent chairman COSC”, he will be able to devote undivided attention to the administration of tri-service organizations and take measures to integrate the three services.
  • In the approaching era of dwindling defence budgets, a crucial function of CDS will be “prioritizing” the capital acquisition proposals of individual services and ensure that the “defence money” is spent judiciously.

3. Key functionary in the nuclear command:

  • The designation of CDS as PMA to the Nuclear Command Authority will give it a strong hold in taking nuclear operations decision, which till date were ambiguous as it had no deciding body.
  • The CDS will also administer the Strategic Forces Command, this will go a long way in enhancing the credibility of our nuclear deterrent.
  • Given the differing interpretations of India’s nuclear doctrine voiced by GoI functionaries from time to time, the CDS would do well to initiate an early review of the doctrine.

4. Coordinating Joint operations:

  • The mandate of the DMA includes facilitation of “jointness in operations” through establishment of joint/theatre commands.

jointness in operations

  • While contemplating creation of integrated exercises, it will imply operational control of forces from the chiefs to theatre commanders, which will be looked over by CDS.


  • The designation of CDS, a four-star general in the pay-grade of cabinet secretary, as head of DMA, may create issues of equivalences, since the other four departments of MoD are headed by secretary-rank officers.
  • One alternative would be to delegate the financial and administrative powers of CDS to his 3-star chief of staff (deputy) and designate him as secretary DMA. The other alternative would be to follow the British laws and bring the post of defence secretary on par with the chiefs and CDS.
  • The essence of jointness lies in the fact that the appointment of CDS is tenable by 4-star officers of all three services. Ironically, the new rank badge created for CDS, seems designed only for army uniforms and an admiral or air chief marshal may not be able to wear it.


  • In the recent times when there is a flat budget for defence services, the need to increase the coordination among the three army wings by optimizing the use of limited resources increases. Hence, CDS will be instrumental in coordinating long-term planning, training, procurement and logistics of the three army wings.
  • As all the major countries, especially the nuclear-weapon states, have a CDS and India lives in a hostile neighborhood, keeping in mind the security and aspirations of the country to be a global power, there is a vital need of integrated security mechanism, with an efficient lead.
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