The appointment of Indian Chief of Defense Staff (CDS) has created a rift among the military leadership. The matter has been transformed into a national debate owing to its significance for the military reforms. The plan to create the post of CDS was made soon after the Kargil war due to the lack of coordination between the tri-services. Therefore, it was decided to create a post that could work over the head of three services chiefs. According to a Mumbai city-based security analyst Sameer Patil, “the decision to create the post was taken, but it was long due because there were persistent turf battles between the three services.”
The current delay in the appointment of CDS is also because of the inter and intra-services competition to take the lead. As both serving and retired officers can be selected for the post, therefore, the struggle to wear the top-most rank is intense. Present Chief of the Army staff and temporary CDS General M. M. Naravane is retiring at the end April this year, which gives a hint for the delay in the appointment. General Naravane after the death of General Bipin Rawat in a mysterious helicopter crash is the top contender for the post of CDS. Indian Army is reliving its past when the extremists of RSS had an influence on the army during the 1950s. According to a report by CIA, an assassination attempt planned by top rank military officers and RSS leaders was made to eliminate the then Commander-in-Chief General Carriappa of the Indian Army. There has also been a major reshuffle in the top military brass of the Indian army just before the retirement of General Naravane that clearly indicates that he wants to bring the people of his choice to the top ranks. Being at the position of Chief of Defense Staff requires gaining the confidence of the top ranks in the tri-services, which seems lacking.
The post of CDS since the time it was created constructed a competition among the top ranks for the surge of power and a point of criticism for the defense analyst. Pravin Sawhney declared “the post of CDS as a source of political power for PM Modi while disrupting the operational capabilities of the Indian Armed Forces.” Sawhney added that “CDS position can make the Indian military weak.” He further said that “PM Modi by creating this post has tried to ensure the civilian dominance in every affair to further its political agenda.”
Such a flawed command and control is not only dangerous for India but also for the whole region. Any internal rift can result in a disaster. The power surge in India has always translated into an aggression on the border with Pakistan, making the region into a nuclear flashpoint that must be addressed.
The unrestricted authority attached with the post of CDS has made it a source of power struggle within the armed forces of India that may lead to many other helicopter crashes and killing of many other senior army officials. The political move of Prime Minister Modi by creating this post for personal interest can prove to be detrimental for the Army. Indian Army is already struggling to streamline its chain of command. The commanding officer of South-Western Command Lt. General Alok Kher and his second in command Lieutenant General KK Repswal had a scuffle that ended after COAS intervened. Such flawed command and control chain and the surge of power can prove inimical for the forces.
*About Author: Humais Sheikh has done his Masters in Defence and Strategic Studies from Quaid-I-Azam University, Islamabad. He is ex. Vice President of Defence and Strategic Studies Student’s Society.