Chief of Defence Staff (CDS)


  • Recently Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his Independence Day address announced the appointment of a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS).


  • The announcement comes 20 years after a review committee on the Kargil War had suggested it.
  • The announcement was made for the creation of the post of Chief of Defence Staff to provide “effective leadership at the top level” to the three wings of the armed forces, and to help improve coordination among them.
  • The timing of the announcement is significant because it comes in a year of rapid-fire changes in the top echelons of the Army and Air force.
  • At present India’s Prime Minister receives advisory on military matters from the National Security Adviser. This has been especially so after the Defence Planning Committee was created in 2018, with NSA Ajit Doval as its chairman, and the foreign, defence, and expenditure secretaries, and the three Service Chiefs as members.

What is the office of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS)?

  • The CDS is a high military office that oversees and coordinates the working of the three Services.
  • The three forces will continue to have their own chiefs. However, the four-star officers heading these three services will reported to the Chief of Defence Staff.
  • It offers seamless tri-service views and single-point advice to the Prime Minister on long-term defence planning and management, including manpower, equipment and strategy, and above all, “jointsmanship” in operations.
  • The officer concerned will be in a position to advise on matters related to all the three services — Army, Navy and Air Force — thus making India’s armed forces integrated.
  • The Chief of Defence Staff will be a ‘first among equals’, a fourth four-star officer who will be senior to the three other service chiefs.


  • The recommendation for creating the post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) was first made after the 1999 Kargil War.
  • A high-level committee that was set up to examine the gaps in the country’s security system in the wake of the Kargil War had recommended that the three services should have a Chief of Defence Staff.
  • The committee had said this person, a five-star military officer, should be the single-point military adviser to the Defence Minister.
  • Besides the high-level committee on Kargil War, a group of ministers that was formed in 2001 to explore necessary reforms required to improve India’s national security had also favoured creating the post of Chief of Defence Staff.
  • Moving in a similar direction, in 2012, the Naresh Chandra Task Force recommended that post of a permanent chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee (CoSC) should be created.
  • The CoSC comprises chiefs of the Indian Army, Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force. The senior-most among them would act as the chairman.
  • One of the reasons why a decision on creating the post of Chief of Defence Staff could not be taken in the past 20 years was that a political consensus could not be created on it.
  • In 2016, the government informed Parliament that this consultation process could not be completed because all political parties had not responded.

Why was CDS needed?

  • The case for a CDS has been built around the argument that it is necessary to have a professional body of the highest standing to facilitate ‘jointmanship’ and render single-point military advice to the government on matters of national security.
  • CDS would play a role in fostering inter-services jointness in terms of budgeting, equipment purchases, training, joint doctrines and planning of military operations-an imperative of modern warfare
  • It is believed that this step will make our national security more effective and more economical.
  • In the book ‘Reforming and Restructuring: Higher Defence Organisation of India’, published by Centre for Joint Warfare Studies, Brigadier (Dr) Rajeev Bhutani (Retd) said, “Probably, India is the only country in the world, where the Secretary Department of Defence — a generalist civil servant drawn from diverse background and who serves in the Ministry of Defence for a fixed tenure — has been made responsible for ‘the Defence of India and every part thereof including preparation for defence’.”
  • In most democracies, the CDS is seen as being above inter-Service rivalries and the immediate operational preoccupations of the individual military chiefs. The role of the CDS becomes critical in times of conflict.
  • Most countries with advanced militaries have such a post, albeit with varying degrees of power and authority. The United States Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC), for example, is extremely powerful, with a legislated mandate and sharply delineated powers.

Source:India Today

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