Delayed appointment of CDS despite the presence of high-powered consultative and advisory bodies and think tanks sustaining India’s top military and strategic planning is derogatory for India at national as well as international level. The silence over the CDS’s nomination is intriguing owing to importance of the seat. On one hand the slogans of ‘Atmanirbhar’ (self-sufficiency) initiatives are being chanted and on the other the senior most position of the armed forces is still waiting to be filled.
The chair of CDS is empty in India for the last five months after the mysterious death of former CDS General Bipin Rawat in a helicopter crash. Speculations are being made in the top brass of military regarding the next appointment of CDS. In recent days after the retirement of COAS General MM Naravane surmise over the next CDS now centers around the recently retired military personnel as possible contenders. It is speculated that the appointment of CDS was intentionally delayed so that General Naravane may get enough time to retire and become the contender for the chair of CDS. Questions are being raised both at national and international level that was there no competent retired or serving military officer who could be appointed as CDS after the death of General Rawat?
Another speculation that gained credibility in the military circles is that CDS appointment is a sinister scheme hatched by the bureaucracy, forever trying to put one over the services to keep them subordinate to civilian rule. It further asserts that the power-hungry civil servant lobby in the Ministry of Defense (MOD) is worried to get the control back over different spheres which they lost to General Rawat after he became the CDS. “This delay (in appointing a CDS) has put us in an undesirable situation, as this is one post that cannot be left vacant for long,” said former COAS General V.P. Malik. The CDS post is as, if not more, important than that of the three service chiefs and the enduring delay in fixing the appointment had triggered “speculation and suspense”, he added.
Though the appointment committee of the cabinet, which since 2016 still comprises of two members – Home Minister Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the exclusion of any input from high-powered federal security and defense planning committee is surprising. The military policies around the globe are formulated with the valuable input of such federal security and defense planning committees. Defense Policy Group (DPG) and Strategic Policy Group (SPG) that are the overarching bodies responsible to prepare military capability plans, augment military diplomacy, fast-track material acquisitions, and managing India’s defense and security strategy. This indicates a major discord and a malicious design over the appointment of CDS. The political meddling in such an important military affair proves that BJP is only concerned with enhancing of its political influence and strengthen the RSS nexus of extremism rather than working for the country’s better future. Ongoing tussle and wrangling between the Indian military top brass and bureaucracy is likely to deepen with the passage of time causing fissures within the rank and file of Indian Armed Forces.
About Author: Humais Sheikh is an independent defense analyst. He has completed his Masters in Defense and Strategic Studies from Quaid-I-Azam University, Islamabad.