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News: Recently, the first chief of defence staff General Bipin Rawat died in a helicopter crash almost five months ago. The post remained in cold storage after the 1999 Kargil conflict. The first-ever CDS was appointed in 2019. The post of the chief of defence staff is significant for reforms in the Indian Armed forces.
Armed Forces Reforms Across the World
Around 70 countries, including the US, UK, France and Germany, have a CDS-like post for integration in military planning and operations.
The US has 11 unified combatant commands, which include six ‘geographical’ theatre commands to handle different parts of the globe and five ‘functional’ commands that handle nuclear arsenal, special operations, space, cyberspace and transport.
In 2016, China re-organised its People’s Liberation Army into five theatre commands. It improves the PLA’s command-and-control structures and boosts offensive capabilities against the enemy. For example, China’s Western Theatre Command handles the entire Line of Actual Control (LAC).
Issues in front of the Indian Military Forces
India is the world’s third-largest military spender. However, it is plagued with haphazard planning, ineffectual policies, piecemeal reforms and the poor domestic defence-industrial base. Therefore, India is the world’s largest arms importer, accounting for 11% of global imports.
Indian armed forces grapple with shortages of fighters, submarines, helicopters or different kinds of ammunition.
India is facing border disputes. For example, there is an ongoing border crisis with China in eastern Ladakh.
There are challenges of military modernisation due to pressure of the ballooning salary and pension bills.
There are the new warfare domains of space and cyberspace as well as clandestine operations. For example, China has developed cyberweapons to destroy an adversary’s military assets, strategic networks, energy, banking, transport and communication grids even before the actual kinetic war kicks off.
What is the status of services/theatre commands in India?
At present, there are existing 17 single-service commands (army 7, IAF 7 and navy 3). In addition, India currently has only two unified commands, the ‘geographical’ Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC) and the ‘functional’ Strategic Forces Command (SFC) to handle the nuclear arsenal.
It is proposed to subsume 17 single-service commands under 4 integrated commands. This would ensure avoiding wastage of manpower, infrastructure and resources. The commands will prepare the forces for integrated land-air-sea operations.
Functions and Importance of the newly created position of the chief of defence staff (CDS)
The CDS is important to accomplish the task of building a lean, mean, integrated warfighting machine within budgetary constraints. The annual defence budget is unlikely to see a dramatic hike due to competing demands from other sectors in a developing country like India.
The position is the prime driver behind the far-reaching restructuring of the Indian armed forces.
He can build military capabilities of India with proper inter-service prioritisation in tune with India’s geopolitical objectives. Therefore, the first CDS has proposed the creation of the four integrated commands in India. These commands would have the assets and manpower of army, navy and IAF under a single operational commander in each theatre.
He can promote synergy among the army, navy and IAF in planning, procurements, logistics, doctrines and operations.
Recently, the CDS has been responsible for creation of the small tri-service Defence Space Agency, Defence Cyber Agency, and the Armed Forces Special Operations Division.
There is also the urgent need to right-size the armed forces by slashing the non-operational flab and infusing cutting-edge military technologies.
Various government initiatives are facing criticism. For example, the ‘Tour of Duty’ scheme, proposal to make Short Service Commission (SSC) more attractive like grant of paid study leave to a golden handshake at the end of their tenures of 10-14 years etc.
Source: The post is based on an article “A New CDS Is Urgently Needed” published in The Times of India on 3rd May 2022.