CDS choice: Govt might look at field commanders

The Asian Age.  | Pawan Bali

India, All India

Incumbent Army Chief Gen. Bipin Rawat, who retires on December 30, will turn 62 on March 16, 2020.

National Security Adviser Ajit Doval (Photo: PTI/File)

New Delhi: The Centre is looking at the possibility of “deep selection” for the new Chief of Defence Staff post, with even field commanders eligible for the top job, that may not be restricted to just the service chiefs.

With India’s first CDS likely to be appointed by the end of this year, the government is in advance stages of fixing the various rules and regulations, including what should be the age and tenure of the CDS.

“Many service chiefs usually retire at the age of 62. It is now being discussed what the upper age limit for the CDS should be — 63 or 64 years”, sources said.

Incumbent Army Chief Gen. Bipin Rawat, who retires on December 30, will turn 62 on March 16, 2020. By considering even field commanders, the government will have a much larger pool of human resource from which to pick the holder of the country’s top militarily post, the sources said.

A high-powered committee under national security adviser Ajit Doval has been tasked with framing the terms of reference for the CDS post. In the current arrangement, the chairman of the chiefs of staff committee usually has a tenure of five to six months.

“The government is examining whether the CDS should have a fixed tenure of a minimum one or two years,” sources said. The chiefs of staff committee comprises the Army, Navy and Air Force chiefs. It was always seen as a temporary arrangement before India gets a CDS, senior to the three service chiefs.

The Centre is also exploring whether the CDS should be a five-star or four-star general, though it seems he will be a four-star officer. The matter is, however, still being debated in government circles.

The CDS is also unlikely to have control of operations and it will be left to the commanders, the sources said. “The CDS is likely to have a role in procurement, defence doctrine, diplomacy and training,” said the sources.

In his Independence Day address on August 15 this year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the creation of the Chief of Defence Staff post, which is seen as the biggest military reform and comes two decades after it was recommended by the Kargil Review Committee.