Creating A Modern Military: Chief of Defence Staff appointment must be made forthwith

Government has cleared Lt-General Manoj Mukund Naravane as the next army chief after General Bipin Rawat finishes his tenure on December 31. Government has gone by seniority in picking Naravane for the top army post as he will be the senior-most officer on the day General Rawat completes his stint. Naravane is currently the army’s vice chief and was heading the Eastern Command before this posting. He has also headed the Army Training Command in Shimla and is known to be a counter-insurgency expert in relation to both Jammu & Kashmir and the north-east. Given the two areas’ security sensitivities in light of the revocation of Article 370 and the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act, Naravane’s appointment may have factored in these exigencies.

That said, there is yet to be a decision on the appointment of the country’s first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). This was expected along with the decision on the new army chief. In fact, Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his Independence Day speech this year had said that the CDS appointment would be made soon. This is important as the CDS will serve as the single-point military adviser to the government, have administrative control over the nuclear arsenal and bring synergy among the three services. He is to be the first among equals among the service chiefs and pave the way for unified theatre commands. The latter are necessary given the evolving nature of security challenges and warfare that demands a great degree of coordination between the forces. The days of working in silos are over. Turf wars among the services can no longer be countenanced.

To illustrate how convergence is the new mantra, consider the situation in East Asia which is set to emerge as the centre of global growth and power. East Asia is a seascape with most of the countries in the region having coastlines. This means that powerplay in this region will be predicated upon naval power. This is already evident in the case of the contested South China Sea. But naval power today works in conjunction with air power, something that is exemplified by aircraft carriers. Add to this navigational support through satellites and we are looking at different elements of the military needing to work together. Therefore, if India – more than 55% of whose trade passes through the South China Sea – wants to be part of the East Asia powerplay, then it must restructure its armed forces to make them more integrated, flexible and quickly deployable. And that can only happen through joint theatre commands with the CDS at the top of the military architecture.

Thus, it is imperative that the CDS is appointed without delay so that the foundation can be laid for a modern fighting force that is technology intensive, integrated and forward leaning.

DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.

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