Editorial Simplified : A Cut Above | GS – III

Relevance :  GS Paper III


Consequent to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement from the Red Fort, the proposed structure for the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) has been deliberated upon. We should soon be seeing the first CDS take charge.

The debate

The proposed charter of the CDS, his powers and status, etc, has been debated intensely. One school of thought recommends an evolutionary, incremental expansion of the role, while some feel he should be given greater operational control ab initio.

What should be the answer to this dilemma?

  • Retention of existing warfighting structures, while the CDS takes control of newer organisations being set up for tackling future threats, has some merit.
  • Development of future technologies and means to face emerging threats in the cyber, space, missiles domain, nurturing of AI-based platforms, usage of drones for various roles and such modern conflict realities is indeed important. These advancements are extremely costly, and the CDS can facilitate optimal, cost-effective integrated development and deployment of such structures.
  • Modern war and warfighting has tremendous economic costs. Defence budgets are invariably inadequate to meet the “wishlists”, and intense prioritisation of capabilities is inevitable. The CDS can be the vital fulcrum to undertake such prioritisation and rationalisation, and, therefore, can play a stellar role in the perspective planning and development function.
  • Considering the high cost of future technology, the CDS can also contribute towards optimisation of existing structures. Such review of existing establishments and manpower should also be an assigned task for him.
  • Future conflict situations would possibly need integrated application of fighting formations and resources, with unitary operational control of deployed elements. The CDS would be better placed for integrated employment of war fighting potential, and therefore logically needs to be part of the operational control chain.

Way forward

  • The CDS should not become another interposed level between the Raksha Mantri and the service chiefs, whose access to the minister should remain as prevalent.
  • In effect, the CDS should be in charge of newer domains and organisations, and be well poised to optimise, cut costs and prioritise different service demands.
  • He could be an effective mentor for realising our military-industrial power potential, and for modernisation and capability enhancement.
  • His tri-service position makes him the most suited driver for the integrated application of warfighting resources and facilitates unitary control in integrated operations.
  • The CDS also has a primary advisory role, and therefore should not be boxed into administrative efficiency roles, but must be in the operational control chain.
  • In the interim, the CDS may not override the operational responsibility of the service chiefs, and in due course, his operational responsibility can expand and become more “hands-on”.


Thus, it is clear that the CDS would play a far more critical role in the national security apparatus, than the three service chiefs. Our higher defence organisation would finally mature, and be more in tune with our rising power ranking.