Gen Bipin Rawat 1st Chief Of Defence Staff
It is official now! The nerve wracking suspense over who will be named as India’s first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) is now finally over! Gen Bipin Rawat has been named officially as India’s first CDS. He will head the newly created Department of Military Affairs (DMA) which will focus on promoting jointness in procurement, training and staffing for the tri-services and will act as the principal military adviser to the Defence Minister on all matters pertaining to the tri-services. This announcement was made just a day before his retirement as the Indian Army Chief.
Needless to say, this latest, landmark and extremely laudable development can be rightly termed as the most significant reform in top military management in India in last few decades! This comes just four months after PM Narendra Modi had himself announced in his Independence Day speech about the creation of the post for more effective coordination between the three armed forces which generally has been found wanting! But now CDS will ensure that there is complete coordination and cooperation between the three armed forces!
It may be recalled that Gen Bipin Rawat was commissioned into the Army in 1978 after graduating from Indian Military Academy where for his outstanding performance he was awarded the Sword of Honour! He was commissioned into the 5/11 Gorkha Rifles. It was under his leadership that Indian Army Brigade saved a key Congolese province from being overrun by rebels. Lieutenant General Babacar Gaye who was the then Force Commander of the UN mission in Congo while applauding his mettle wrote in the commendation awarded to him that it was due to his “leadership, courage and experience” that North Kivu’s capital Goma never fell, the country’s eastern region was stabilised and the main rebel group was forced to come to the negotiating table.
It may also be recalled that it was under his dynamic leadership that the 2015 Myanmar surgical strike was conducted successfully. He supervised a cross-border operation against insurgents belonging to NSCN-K. Many insurgents were eliminated in this surgical strike which certainly took the world by surprise and compelled even China to not take India lightly anymore!
Not stopping here, it was Gen Rawat who was the real planner and strategist behind the 2016 PoK surgical strike against the militant launch pads in PoK after the Uri attack in which Pakistan lost many of its soldiers and terrorists also whereas India did not suffer any casualty! In his three-year term, he has brilliantly, boldly and bravely led the armed forces from the front for which he must be applauded, appreciated and admired to the hilt! For first time at least in my life have I ever seen India responding such swiftly as we saw in his tenure for which he deserves full credit along with the NDA government led by PM Narendra Modi who gave the stamp of approval due to which it again won with a comfortable majority in Parliament!
No wonder, the government rightly believes that Gen Rawat who will be the country’s fourth four-star General after the Army, Navy and Air Force Chiefs fits the bill for the new CDS post because “he can push the boundaries to drive the desperately needed integration among the three services. It has been rightly reported in several newspapers that, “He was not a status-quoist as the Army Chief. He pushed issues ranging from slashing non-operational flab to the proposed setting up of integrated battle groups for greater combat capability.” It is also expected that, “As the CDS, permanent chairman of the chiefs of staff committee and head of the new department of military affairs (DMA) in the defence ministry, he will need to push the three Services even more to truly integrate in planning, procurements, logistics, doctrines and training to begin with.” One is pretty sure that Gen Rawat will rise to the occasion just like he did while serving as Army Chief!
To recapitulate, the creation of a CDS was suggested almost two decades ago by the Kargil Review Committee (KRC) in February 2000. It proposed comprehensive reforms in India’s national security apparatus and one of the most vital recommendations was the appointment of a CDS for improving the cross-service synergy. This is what Centre has done now most rightly!
We need to pay attention here to the glaring fact that though the government has said that the CDS will not exercise any military command, including over the three service chiefs, it is expected that Gen Bipin Rawat will be the “first among equals” because he is senior to all the other Chiefs in terms of service. Gen Rawat has now another challenging task ahead now which he has most willingly accepted instead of just retiring! He will have his work cut out to fulfil his wide-ranging mandate for which he is fully prepared!
Be it noted, Admiral Arun Prakash who retired as Navy Chief and who was Chairman of Chiefs of Staff Committee (CoSC) in October 2006 said that the principal challenge for the country’s first CDS will be to integrate the armed forces into the government edifice to enable them to participate fully in decision-making. Admiral Prakash who was the Commander-in-Chief of India’s first tri-services command at Port Blair and who headed the Andaman and Nicobar Command during 2001-02 very rightly pointed out that, “Another challenge would be to integrate the department of military affairs with the department of defence. He will have to work out an arrangement for cross-postings – civilians and uniformed personnel – between the two wings of the defence ministry. He will also have to integrate the acquisition requirements of the three services and groom people to take over theatre commands in future.”
According to the Union Defence Ministry, one of the key responsibilities of the department of military affairs under Gen Rawat would be to facilitate the restructuring of military commands for optimal utilisation of resources by bringing about jointness in operations, including through the establishment of joint/theatre commands. Such commands will come under the operational control of an officer from any of the three services, depending on the function assigned to that command. Presently, we see that the three services are not in unison on theatre commands.
It must be noted that Air Chief Marshal PV Naik who retired as IAF Chief and Chairman of CoSC in July 2011 minced no words to say that, “Theatrisation should not be done in a hurry. The Indian armed forces don’t need that at the moment. The CDS will have to deal with all those issues. He will also have to set up robust structures for cross-service cooperation.”
On its part, the government has said that while the CDS will act as the principal military adviser to the Defence Minister on all tri-services matters, the three Service Chiefs will continue to advise the Minister on matters exclusively concerning their respective services. The department of military affairs will focus on promoting jointness in procurement, training and staffing for the tri-services. The CDS will provide “single point military advice” to the government as well as function as the military advisor to the PM-led Nuclear Command Authority. Also, though the three Services Chiefs will retain full operational control over their forces, it has to be appreciated that the CDS will still clearly be the “first among equals” in the hierarchy.
While it is true that the CDS will decide the Inter-Service prioritization of arms procurements based on the anticipated budget and usher in reforms to augment combat capabilities which is a good thing certainly. But what has been left untouched is that the actual capital acquisitions and the purse strings will still be controlled by the Defence Secretary and this must change now and it is CDS who must be having control over purse strings because having served in Army for more than 40 years, he knows better as to where the money can be spend best!
It is good to note that a gazette notification issued on December 28 set 65 years as the maximum serving age for the CDS. It puts the post of CDS on par with the Comptroller and Auditor General, the Chief Election Commissioner and the Central Vigilance Commissioner in terms of the retirement age. This will ensure that Gen Rawat is at the helm of affairs for 3 years which will very rightly give him adequate time to effect the necessary changes which cannot be done overnight!
To be sure, the official statement said that, “Government has decided to appoint General Bipin Rawat…as the Chief of Defence Staff with effect from 31.12.2019 and until further orders and extension in service of General Bipin Rawat…with effect from 31.12.2019 and till such period he holds the office of CDS.” The Indian Army’s Twitter handle said that, “Chief of the Defence Staff shall pursue greater coordination amongst the three Services and ensure unison in employment of military power in line with the dynamic security requirement.” Until now, what we witnessed was that the Chairmanship of the Committee which consists of the three service chiefs was held in rotation by the senior-most service chiefs for brief periods and the arrangement was found to be unsatisfactory.
So, it needs no rocket science to conclude that CDS was the crying need of the hour and it has now finally come into existence! Gen Bipin Rawat was the best man for this top job as he has earned a niche for himself in his various capacities and most importantly as the Chief of the Army Staff about which I have already described in detail! Lt Gen (retd) BS Sandhu who has known Gen Rawat since almost 45 years and was his coursemate at NDA rightly said that, “General Rawat is extremely hardworking and bold in pursuing the organisation’s objectives. He has the ability to think differently and take tough decisions without bothering about the accompanying criticism.” Lt Gen Rakesh Sharma (retd) who was Gen Rawat’s Commanding Officer in the late 1990s too rightly said that, “General Rawat is the rare amalgam of intellect and hard work. He is extremely upright and fair.”
Without an iota of doubt, Centre led by PM Narendra Modi deserves all the real credit for ending decades of uncertainty on this key issue as the need for it was felt most during Kargil war! But no political party and no PM could muster enough courage till some time back to take the bold initiative on this front! Finally, we see PM Narendra Modi breaking the deadlock and taking the most landmark and laudable decision which has to be welcomed with both hands as it will certainly strengthen the national security apparatus of our country and ensure better coordination among the three services chiefs with CDS playing the leading role in this regard!
It would be the CDS who would be the key driver for India to have theatre commands which will most commendably place all Army, Navy and IAF assets and manpower under one operational commander in each geographical region to build an integrated land-air-sea war fighting machinery geared for the wars of the future as has been pointed out also rightly by Rajat Pandit in The Times Of India dated December 31, 2019! Rajat further rightly points in this same write up that, “Such commands will also be more cost-effective, given that the 1.5-million armed forces are grappling with inadequate funds for modernization in the face of the ballooning pay and pension bills.”
No doubt, Gen Rawat having experience of more than 40 years in Army now after becoming the CDS and housed within the Defence Ministry will play a leading role in cementing the strained relations between the services and the civilian bureaucracy! The CDS will now ensure that the concerns of the Services Chiefs are taken seriously into consideration and their valuable suggestions implemented properly and punctually to ensure that our defence forces are fully prepared to meet any eventuality in case of any war! It is most pleasing to read that while making the announcement of CDS, Union Minister Prakash Javadekar said confidently that, “CDS will have all powers of a Secretary-level officer. The files need not go through the Defence Secretary and the CDS will be empowered to send to it directly to the Defence Minister.” This is truly commendable and must be implemented strictly!
It is also commendable that the CDS will administer all the tri-services organizations in the Defence Ministry, including those pertaining to cyber and space. His task will be to implement the Five-Year Defence Capital Acquisition Plan (DCAP), and two year roll-on Annual Acquisition Plans (AAP), as a follow-up of Integrated Capability Development Plan (ICDP) apart from assigning inter-services prioritisation to capital acquisition proposal. The CDS would also strive to reduce wasteful expenditure so as to augment combat capabilities of the Armed Forces and also simultaneously to ensure optimal utilization of infrastructure and rationalizing it through jointness among the services. He would also ensure that the use of indigenous equipment by the services is promoted while ensuring simultaneously that quality is not compromised! The challenges are manifold for the top job of CDS who will also serve as the Permanent Chairman of Chiefs of Staff Committee and Gen Bipin Rawat is certainly the right and most deserving person best suited for it! Centre has certainly taken a very courageous, commendable and convincing decision and it best suits our national interests in the longer run!
By Sanjeev Sirohi