Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a Chief of Defence Staff will be the head of the three services.
“Our forces are India’s pride. To further sharpen coordination between the forces, I want to announce a major decision from the Red Fort. India will have a Chief of Defence Staff – CDS. This is going to make the forces even more effective,” PM Modi said in his 93-minute speech from the Red Fort.
A Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), though a four-star officer of either the Army, Navy or Air Force, will be senior to the service chiefs and the single point of contact between the armed forces and the Prime Minister. The CDS is meant to streamline and prioritise defence spending to meet the requirements of India’s national security.
A Chief of Defence Staff to oversee the military was first recommended by a committee set up after the Kargil war of 1999. The committee was set up to examine the lapses in security after the war which was triggered by Pakistani soldiers infiltrating into India and occupying key heights in the mountains of Kargil.
It called for a Chief of Defence Staff as a single-point military adviser to the Defence Minister.
The concept was strongly backed by Manohar Parrikar, who was Defence Minister for two years during PM Modi’s first term.
After the Kargil Review Committee report, a Group of Ministers headed by then Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani had explored it and recommended the post of CDS with a tri-service joint planning staff headquarters. The recommendation did not progress over the years, reportedly because of the lack of political consensus and objections from some sections of the armed forces and the bureaucracy.
In the present structure, the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee is Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa but he does not function in the capacity of a CDS, being proposed now.