Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) - Integrating National Security Structures

Issues Details: 
Vol 11 Issue 1 Mar - Apr 2017
Page No.: 
Sub Title: 
The need to have a CDS and Integrated Theatre Commands Military Affairs
Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia, PVSM, AVSM, SM (Retd)
Wednesday, March 15, 2017
The national aim is to “TRANSFORM INDIA TO A MODERN, PROSPEROUS AND SECURE NATION”. As security is a precursor to long term peace, stability and development, securing India is a national imperative. India’s size, strategic location, trade interests and security concerns extend from Persian Gulf in the West, to the straits of Malacca in the East and from the CAR in the North to near the equator in the South and underpin India’s security response.  In view of the strategic spread, it is essential to maintain a credible land, air and maritime force to safeguard own security interests. India’s security concerns are also impacted by a dynamic global and regional security environment. As India transforms from an emerging and rising power to a risen, responsible power and a net security provider in the region, India will need credible military capabilities to meet emerging security challenges, ensure peace, project military power to safeguard national interests and assets including the domination of IOR, assist friendly foreign countries in times of crisis from unconventional threats and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR). 
The Indian armed forces are one of the most combat rich and battle hardened force in the world. Apolitical, secular, committed, dedicated and professional, their many achievements are a testimony to an effective organisation. A Nuclear TRIAD, with many force multipliers such as missile technology, a yet to be exploited space and satellite programme, air to air refuellers, AWACS, ship building capability, growing naval power, indigenous military industry though only with lower and middle end technologies. The weaknesses to seem one to many and need to be addressed. A lack of national security strategy, strategic culture, jointness and integration, higher defence organisation, inadequate budget allocation, archaic procurement procedure, a non-responsive DRDO-OFB-PSUs-DGQA nexus, multiplicity of intelligence agencies and border guarding forces functioning under different ministries, and critical shortages of officers are some of the other weaknesses. The resistance to structural and systematic changes or any change for that matter remains a major weakness. There is a lack of synergy and jointness among the services, often competing for the meagre resource and functioning in conflict rather than cooperation. These need to be systematically addressed. For once we have the Raksha Mantri demonstrating an unprecedented urgency and resolve to challenge the Military hierarchy to initiate structural and systemic changes and ensure a present relevant and future ready military as a primary instrument of not only national security but also national power. In the recently concluded combined commanders conference at Dehradun on 21 January, Prime Minister Modi himself directed the Military leadership to work towards a CDS and equally importantly Integrated Theatre commands.
The felt need and an imperative to appoint a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) has been long debated and acknowledged.  All mega nations have joint structures fully integrated with national security apparatus and policy with a single point adviser from the armed forces.  The Group of ministers (GOM) set up by the Prime Minister in year 2000 in their report categorically stated at Para 6.5 “The functioning of the Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC) has to date revealed serious weaknesses in its ability to provide single point military advice to the government, and resolve substantive inter service doctrine, planning, policy and operational issues adequately.  This institution needs to be appropriately revamped to discharge its responsibilities efficiently and effectively, including the facilitation of “Jointness” and synergy among the defence services”.
This is best achieved by aligning authority and accountability by appointing a single authority to ensure Operational Preparedness in the form of the much deliberated and delayed Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). For the present the Service chiefs will continue to be responsible for operational readiness. 
It is a national security imperative to appoint a CDS with the requisite authority and mandate. Envisaged role of the CDS should be: -
• CDS should have the primary role of being the Principal Advisor to the Prime Minister and the Government, through the Defence Minister, on all matters pertaining to India’s national security.
• CDS should provide ‘strategic vision’ and be responsible for all strategic perspective planning, operational planning and contingency planning.
• In peacetime, the primary role of CDS should focus exclusively on war preparedness having a bearing on strategic operations. Operational Readiness will continue to be the responsibility of the Service Chiefs.
• In terms of war preparedness, the CDS should have a major role inrefinement and integration of operational plans, creation of logistic means to sustain operational plans and ensuring build-up of strategic reserves of arms, ammunition, military hardware, supplies and fuel requirements. In effect, he will be responsible for Financial Planning, Budgetary allocations and force structures of the three services.
• The CDS should prepare the annual Defence Intelligence Estimate and the requirements of Defence intelligence to meet the existent threats, overall.
• The CDS should exercise operational command over Strategic Forces Command and the Andaman and Nicobar Command and other bi-service or tri-service commands that may evolve in the future, like Cyber, Space and Special Operations Command, till the formation of integrated theatre commands.
• The CDS has to be viewed as the ‘Head’ of the Indian Armed Forces in terms of providing strategic control, strategic direction and strategic vision.
• CDS should have the primary role in formulation of defence policies.
Integrated Theatre Commands
The existing seventeen Operational Commands of the three services would need to be regrouped into integrated theater commands based on a judicious mix of the threat envisaged in a theater or on a border and the need for joint and effective war prevention and war fighting strategy. The services are rightly apprehensive on the proposed concepts of Integrated theatre commands as it disturbs the equilibrium and status quo. Resistance to change is natural and expected especially so as most armed forces believe in tried and tested methods and a rigidity of thought. Study of global military systems the world over reveals that all mega nations including China now have adopted the Integrated Theatre Command Model. India could group the existing regional commands of the Three Services into theatre specific Integrated commands. The Western theatre with the operational responsibility of the Pakistan front could comprise of the Army’s Northern, Western, Southwestern and part of Southern commands, the Air Force’s Western, and Southwestern Commands and part of the Naval Western Command. The Northern borders with China could have two theatres given the geographical peculiarities of terrain fractured sectors, with The Northeastern theatre comprising of the Eastern Command of the Army and the Air Force and the Northwestern theatre with Central and part of the Northern Command of the Army and North Western and Central Command of the air force. The Eastern and Western Sea Boards can similarly be given the operational responsibility by grouping part of the Southern Commands of the Army and air Force with Eastern and Western Naval Commands. This will have obvious advantages as the combat power and requisite resources will be synergised under one Theatre Commander.  
India boasts of the second largest Army, the fourth largest Air Force and a blue water capability for the Navy to ensure our territorial integrity against external threats and internal security. What the nation lacks is a credible and single authority to synergise all elements of military power to include DRDO, Indian Ordnance Factories and other structures in addition to the three services, to meet emerging security challenges in the regional and global context. It is an imperative for the government to appoint a CDS with the requisite mandate to effectively meet future security challenges. The Indian armed forces are effective, however they continue to be a military force due to lack of certain suboptimal support structure and integration both intra and inter. As a risen responsible regional power, India needs to transform the Indian Armed Forces from a MILITARY FORCE to a MILITARY POWER.
Military Affairs