After The Untimely Vacuum, Appointing The New CDS
Last time a sudden vacuum was created at the top of the Army hierarchy was when General Bipin Joshi, the COAS had died suddenly due to a cardiac arrest. Now once again the untimely demise of another Bipin, the country’s first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat in the IAF helicopter crash on Wednesday, has created a vacuum at the top most level of the defence services hierarchy.
The newly reorganised Higher Defence Organisation of the nation, underwent a paradigm shift with the creation of the office of the CDS and also a new Department of Military Affairs in the Ministry of Defence headed ex officio by the CDS himself as also a Secretary to Government of India. However now it is the highest defence management body the CABINET COMMITTEE SECURITY which faces a new and unprecedented challenge of appointing a successor mid way to CDS.
As per the current rules, officers who are eligible to become the CDS are the three Services Chiefs, the three Vice Chiefs and all the Commander in Chiefs of the Army, the Air Force and the Navy and the CISC and the Commander in Chiefs of the two tri Service Command ie total of 26 Officers.
The Forces have only recently seen a change of the Chief of Air Staff (CAS) and the Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), which makes the current COAS Gen MM Naravane the senior most serving service chief by a wide margin and a natural frontrunner for the post. In normal course, he should take over as the next Chief of Defence Staff. As he was to retire shortly, a new Chief for the Army was going to come as it is.
As per sources, he would have already taken over responsibility as the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC) — one of the three important billets held by General Rawat.
Further as per established procedure he would have already automatically taken over responsibility as the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC) — one of the three important billets held by General Rawat. Now we have to await for the new CDS.
Till now there is no precedence to appoint a new CDS and as it is, the Modi government has ignored precedence earlier and in fact, Gen Rawat himself b1qqqecame the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) in a break of precedence when he superseded two officers senior to him. Therefore, it is likely that the ability to helm the ground breaking changes initiated by General Rawat will be more important than issues of inter se senioriq11q
A long-standing natural requirement for National Defence and also a recommendation of several Defence Reform Committees, the post of the CDS was realised by the Modi Govt at the beginning of its second term. General Rawat, who was due to retire at the end of the year, was appointed as the first CDS of the country in January 2020.
As expected the appointment was dual-hatted and included the responsibilities of the Permanent Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC)- the highest decision making body of the Armed Forces which comprised of the three Service Chiefs and now, the CDS.
However, the unexpected change was the creation of the Department of Military Affairs (DMA) within the Ministry of Defence (MoD) by bifurcation and placing all purely military subjects under the appointment of the Secretary of the DMA. And then making the Chief of Defence Staff the ex officio Secretary of the DMA.
For the Armed Forces, which were till now an attached office to the MoD, the appointment of uniformed officers at the apex bureaucratic level of the government was an unprecedented revolution in military affairs within the nation.
The CDS, therefore, held three critical posts at the same time. The government also amended its rules and created provisions for extending the CDS upper age limit to 65 years.