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A roadmap for General Rawat – analysis


In a surprise announcement of the Red Fort walls on Independence Day in August 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had declared his intention to appoint a Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS). A committee headed by National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval—who also heads the Defense Planning Committee (DPC)—was appointed to develop modalities and prepare a letter of responsibilities for the CDS. With the former head of the Indian Army, General Bipin Rawat, who has taken on India’s first CDS, a long-standing gap in the management of greater defense has been met.

The creation of the CDS post was one of the main recommendations of the Group of Ministers (GoM), headed by former Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani, who discussed the report of kargil’s Review Committee. Several analysts have called this an incomprehensible omission for which three reasons were cited. First, there was a lack of political consensus on the establishment of the CDS post. Second, civil bureaucracy was never in favour of the concept of CDS. And, thirdly, there was some opposition even within certain sectors of the armed forces to the idea.

The first item on the agenda of the CDS should be the formulation of integrated operational plans. In fact, the CDS must be critical to obtaining approval from the Minister of Defence for an integrated triservices operational directive. It is well known that the operational plans of the armed forces are single-service plans, and lack the synergy that comes from integrated planning. It is also well known that in 1962, the Indian Air Force (IAF) received no attacking role to play during the war with China when it could have made a great contribution. In 1965, the Indian Navy was not even informed of plans to launch a three-sided attack across the international border (IB) in Pakistan.

It’s repeated ad nauseum that the 1971 war was a well-coordinated triservice effort that led to a great victory. The fairly limited coordination that was achieved during the war with Pakistan in 1971 was mainly due to the personalities of army, navy and air force chiefs. During the 1971 war, Field Marshal Sam Maneckshaw was able to take his naval and air force colleagues along with him because of the personal relationship he had established with them. However, there were several failures in the planning and conduct of land and air campaigns and it cannot be said that India fought a coordinated “air-to-ground” war.

Indian intervention in Sri Lanka was a disaster from the point of view of joint planning. The Kargil conflict of 1999 is the only real example of a coordinated effort. Even here, there were initial hiccups and it took several weeks for the IAF to begin bombing the sangars of Pakistani intruders (ad hoc bunkers) on the Indian side of the LoC.

It therefore emerges that operational planning must be perfectly integrated into modern conventional conflicts. After gaining some experience in CDS-led operational planning, it will be time to graduate from the integrated theater commands to further optimize the planning and execution of joint operations.

Will nuclear command and control have any impact? India’s prevailing security environment is marked by regional instability with a nuclear overhang. More than ever, it is now necessary for national security decision-makers to provide “single-point military advice” that takes into account operational strengths and weaknesses, and the interdependence of each armed forces by the other, to meet complex emerging challenges in a nuclear environment.

This council can only come from a CDS that will be the chief military adviser to the prime minister who runs the Nuclear Command Authority (NCA). The CDS will accelerate the operational preparedness and use of India’s nuclear forces. While India’s nuclear doctrine and policy are guided by the NSC, its implementation is entrusted to services and a joint approach is mandatory here. The Strategic Forces Command (SFC), established for the planning, coordination and control of India’s nuclear weapons, should operate directly within the framework of the CSD, even as functional control over nuclear warheads and nuclear weapons “remains in the civil political direction.

The CDS will have several other important responsibilities. Policy planning for optimal aerospace industry exploitation, information warfare, cybersecurity and issues such as electromagnetic spectrum management, including frequency management, electromagnetic compatibility ( EMC), electromagnetic interference (EMI), electronic emissions policy (EEP), and offensive use of non-communication devices, such as electronic warfare radars, will legitimately be the domain of the CDS and the Integrated Staff of Defense (IDS) of Headquarters.

As tri-service Aerospace Command, Cyber Command and Special Forces Command rise to address emerging challenges in these fields and to better manage all available resources, they will work directly under CDS.

On the non-operational side, training institutions such as the National Defense College, the Defense Management College and the National Defense Academy and organizations such as the Department of Armed Forces Medical Services, the Department of Stores Canteens and a number of others must be placed under the direct command of the CDS for better synergy in its operation and the optimal exploitation of its potential.

While the CDS should be the chief planner of integrated operations, the heads of the Army, Navy and Air Force should continue to oversee the development and procurement of weapons and equipment for their respective services, training in specialized training and control of administrative issues such as annual budget management, wages and allowances, maintenance support and medical services, etc. However, a Deputy Chief of The Defence Staff (VCDS) should have been appointed to lead the newly created Department of Military Affairs. The current Chief of the Integrated Chief of Staff of Defense should have been renamed VCDS.

Gurmeet Kanwal is former director of the Center for Earth Warfare Studies (CLAWS), New Delhi

The opinions expressed are personal

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