India finally appointed a Chief of Defence Staff, almost two decades after it was recommended by the Kargil Committee in 2000 which was constituted following the Kargil conflict in 1999 to recommend the restructuring of the Indian military towards greater ‘jointness’.
This was subsequently endorsed by the Group of Ministers in 2001 but didn’t fructify for a host of reasons, including, reportedly, the resistance from within. General Bipin Rawat, the outgoing Chief of the Army Staff assumed office as Independent India’s first Chief of Defence Staff on 31 December 2019. The Prime Minister, who had announced the Government’s decision to appoint a CDS from the ramparts of the Red Fort in his Independence Day address to the nation on 15 August 2019, called it a transformational event.
The Indian Armed Forces are largely structured in a single service operational and functional format with a few joint services organisations which include two operational commands (the Andaman and Nicobar Command and the Strategic Forces Command), the newly created Cyber, Space and Special Operations organisations and a few training institutions. That there is a need for restructuring has been apparent. The contemporary security scenario and the widening spectrum of security challenges require the Armed Forces to have synergy and optimisation in the utilisation of resources and delivering effect through agile structures and well-coordinated actions.
In a technology-intensive combat scenario, this becomes even more critical. As India progresses its external power projection capability while tackling the more immediate short-term threats, it is an effective military that will make the difference.
This transformational shift in the existing paradigm will depend on two fundamental factors. The first will be the ability of the Armed Forces to transform from within. While there may be a hesitation in some quarters in the beginning as the internal restructuring will disturb the existing status quo, the nature of the military will ensure that this will happen.