Does India need Chief of Defense Staff system?

Does India need Chief of Defense Staff system?

Does India need Chief of Defense Staff system?

  • Chief of Defense Staff is to be the head of the armed forces, army, navy, air force combined, and they are responsible for policy making.
  • All major democracies like UK, France, Australia, Brazil, China, etc have Chief of Defense Staff.
  • India has Chief of Army, Chief of Navy and Chief of Airforce who do not play any role in policy making.
  • After Kargil War in 2001 there was a demand for the creation of CDS but to no effect.
PM Modi earlier in April 2016 called for Permanent Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee (PC COSC) to establish ground rules in this matter and generate a report. Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar has hinted that it is no longer a distant dream and that India could soon have its Chief of Defense Staff.

The 11-member committee has presented its 550-pages report to the Defense Ministry which might soon announce our very first Chief of Defense Staff. The CDS will act as an advisor to the defense ministry on all military matters. He will hold an authority over the three respective chiefs. Cyber space command and Special Forces command will also be included.


1. More coordination: The three armed forces of our nation function separately with hardly any coordination amongst them. There is an Integrated Defense Staff Headquarters which was set in 2001 in the aftermath of Kargil war but since there is no CDS, there is no effectual functioning in the system which is supposed to act as a single point advisory of all the three.

2. Separating bureaucracy: Currently all policy and coordination making is at the hand of defense ministry which leaves a wide gap between civilians and military heads. Their recommendations and views are not given the required weight in the vicinity of CDS. It usually leads to major delays in policy-making and operations.

3. Faster process: Since we lack a common head of defense, there is usually some loss of time between the passage of ideas and orders from army chiefs to defense ministry. At current situation when border security and force with neighboring nation are at peak, it is important that a common medium of conversation is developed.

4. Long pending need: CDS has been the need of our nation since a decade. The overwhelming responsibility of the chief of three defense services often results in neglect of one of the other role. The system will otherwise continue to remain disintegrated and lead to newer problems in times to come when special force needs and cyber space commands are to be taken into consideration.

5. Cost effective: There will be no additional cost in setting up office for CDS as the joint headquarters were already established. Making strategies and implementing them will also save on cost as they become more synergized and standardized. There will be capital acquisition plans within inexpensive financial regime.


1. Glitches: CDS will have equal voting rights as the service chiefs but when the two service chiefs differ in opinion on a matter, the ministry of defense will intervene and settle the issue. The whole point of single point advisory will be a lost cause when two chiefs differ in opinion and defense ministry gets the final rule in the matter.

2. No operational power: The PC COSC is expected to bring coordination within the three defense services but he will have no operational power which is another confusion that has no solution in the Indian context. Simply copying idea from the West if not going to be productive for a nation that has an entirely different system and functioning.

3. The same functioning: Our existing system has the arrangement of rotational chairman of the COSC ever since the HQ IDS was set up. They are also in the same way responsible for military hardware acquisition process, tri-service commands, and jointmanship which are expected of the CDS, the only difference being the less than two year tenure.

4. Bureaucracy will still rule: It is evident already that the bureaucracy does let HQ IDS to merge with defense ministry and hence the whole point of military synergy is lost. The intervention of bureaucracy will still continue even with the new system.

Some believe that CDS was the need of hour 10 years back and some believe that it could still help in the coordination and synergy making within the three armed services. The committee has presented its reports and the defense ministry might surprise the nation one fine day with the announcement of our very first CDS.
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