Appointment of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) - Editorial

Chief of The Defence Staff (CDS)

The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) has agreed on the initiation/creation of four start posts, named Chief of Defence Staff (CDS).  The current Prime Minister of India, Mr Narendra Modi announced the creation of the mentioned post (Chief of Defence Staff (CDS)) from Red Fort on August 15, this year.  India will soon witness its very first Chief of Defence Staff. Currently, the Indian Army works without any Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) or we can say there is no provision of CDS as such made yet.

Presently there is the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC), it constitutes the chief of all three-armed forces (Army, Navy and Air Force). COSC is called upon and works as a team during an urgent and emergency situation.

Background Information for the new post of, Chief of Defence Staff (CDS)

The Kargil Review Committee (KRC) suggested and put forward the idea for the appointment of CDS, in order to provide a single key point of military advice, or a unified military advisory position to help political leadership, i.e. Defence Minister in decision making and coordinate armed forces to work together.

Person wearing military uniform shooting an airsoft pistol in crouched position
Photo by Dominik Sostmann / Unsplash

The Kargil Review Committee (KRC), was set up in the wake of the Kargil war, the year 1999. The committee shockingly found, a lack of required communication among all three-armed forces (Army, Navy and Air Force). This, the committee devised the solution to solve this deadlock situation by the introduction of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) for better and immediate communication.

Soon after the Kargil War, the year 1999, the Group of Ministers (GoM) suggested the immediate creation of a unified military advisor position i.e. the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). But the successive political parties and their political turmoil failed to create the necessary political groundwork around the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). But this issue was addressed and solved by the current Prime Minister of India, Mr Narendra Modi and on August 15, 2019, he announced the creation of the log awaited post-Chief of Defence Staff (CDS).

About Chief of Defence Staff (CDS)

  • The officer holding the post, of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) shall be considered the highest-ranked officer of all armed forces of India.
The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) shall be responsible for providing his suggestions and recommendation to the central Govt. Body, respective to all three-armed forces (Army, Navy and Air Force).
  • CDS will be the unified military advisor or single point of contact, to the Prime Minister and Defence Minister of India. This is more convenient than ever before.
The aim of creating the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) post is to eliminate the communication gaps and built better coordination between all three-armed forces.
  • The committee formed was led by Mr Ajit Doval, chairman of the National Security Advisor (NSA), who helped in finalizing the methods, procedures and responsibilities of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS).

Unified Military Advisor Single Point Decision Maker for Current Situations

  • In the year 2017, the Indian intelligence agency and national security officials mentioned that the lack of CDS was already a big hindrance to India’s combat ability.
Coastal Defence Gun, Middle East, World War I, circa 1918
Photo by Museums Victoria / Unsplash
  • With the long proxy war with Pakistan to the west of India and the deadlocked dispute with the Republic of China in Doklam in the Eastern part of India, the intelligence and security recommended the single chain of commands was crucial or vitally important to strengthen India’s defensive capabilities.
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Photo by Michael Mráz / Unsplash
  • Currently, all our armed forces are capable and standing strong, but operating on their own. It would be unwise to expect, all of them to suddenly work together since they rarely had worked together, hence a unified chain of command, i.e. Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) was necessary to bring them together to work under one roof and under one command.
  • The appointment of a Unified Chain of Command, CDS in this case, will ensure the seamless workflow across all three-armed forces, thorough integration and built better strategic alignment among all three-armed forces (Army, Navy and Air Force).

Work to be undertaken or Efforts for CDS for “Jointness” in India’s armed forces.

  • The post of CDS has to initiate the total transformation of the traditional and conventional military mindset. The CDS need to restructure and reorganise the military command into a required hierarchy to reflect the crucial prerequisite ‘jointness’ - the vision of all three-armed forces working together towards a common goal.
Photo by Sebastián León Prado / Unsplash
  • This is a very massive task or effort for CDS. Since our independence in 1947, all three-armed forces (Army, Navy and Air Force) have been working distinctively with no scope for ‘jointness’.
  • This will be changed and change has to come soon with immediate effect, for a wide variety of reasons including optimal utilization of resources and security atmosphere in the region.
  • CDS will bring massive change (since India’s independence, in 1947) and restructure the hierarchy for a better chain of commands across all three-armed forces for effective deployment of security forces in the region.

Important Notes

  • First CDS: General Bipin Rawat (earlier as General of Chief of the Army Staff - COAS)
  • From Date: 01st January 2020
  • Tenure or Term: Three Years (Till 31st December 2022)


Many countries in the world (mostly developed countries) such as the United States, United Kingdom, Japan, and China already have a system in place like the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). These systems may have different names such as Chief of Staff, Commander-in-Chief, Supreme Commander, etc.

However, the appointed incumbent (an official who holds an office) needs to be given the term of at least three consecutive years for him/her to implement the ambitious vision of ‘Jointness’ as constructed in the cabinet note.

This post of CDS requires completeness, i.e. this JOB of CDS is strategic and requires personal attention and supervision at every level of implementation. There is no room for an unfinished job for a successor to take on and finish.

Some initial hiccups are resistance is expected in early implementation but changes have been made eventually for things to fall in place as per procedural norms and protocols are worked out between all three-armed forces, the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) and the defence minister of India.