Chief Of Defence Staff

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On the 24th of December, 2019, the Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi,  gave approval for the creation of a new post, the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) in the rank of a four-star General equal to a Service Chief and charter of their duties. The main purpose for creating this post is to set up better coordination between the three services.

The Chief of Defence Staff will be acting as the Principal Military advisor to the Ministry of Defence on all the tri-service (Indian army, Indian Navy and Indian Air force) matters. Initially, this post was proposed by the Kargil Review Committee in 1999 and after that on multiple instances, the demand for this post had been raised by several veterans and experts. The CDS will offer impartial advice to the political leadership and will not exercise any other military command.

Role of this post

The Chief of Defence Staff will be first amongst all the service chiefs. Nevertheless, the CDS will be in a higher position in the list of protocol than other service chiefs.

The CDS will play the following roles:

  1. Advisory role: The Chief of Defence Staff will act as a primary advisor of Military to the Raksha Mantris. He will play a vital role in advising the tri-services.
  2. Administrative role: The tri-services organizations and those related to Cyber and Space will be administered by the Chief of Defence Staff and they will be under his command, but he cannot administer the effective functioning of the military activities.
  3. Military role: The Chief of Defence Staff may not exercise any military command, he cannot exercise his command over the tri-service chiefs. The tri-service chiefs exercise their military command over their respective duly notified services. They have the predominant role in the functioning of their specific tri-service organization.
  4. Other roles:

The CDS will:-

  • be a member of Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) and Defence Planning Committee (DPC);
  • intensify the share of indigenous machinery;
  • assess plans for out of area contingencies and other contingencies;
  • provide consolidated inputs to the relevant authorities and will warrant optimum utilization of the available infrastructure;
  • accomplish cooperation amongst the three services regarding their operations, repairs, maintenance, support services, logistics, training, communications, transport, etc.;
  • amalgamate and justify International cooperation plans,
  • strategize the military papers to consider the competent authority.

Why is it being created?

The new post, Chief of Defence staff is mainly created to bring about a better coordination among the tri-service organizations. This post is created to assure ‘jointmanship’ amongst the Indian Army, Indian Navy and Indian Air force. The primary aim is to institute unity among the Armed forces of Indian in training, staffing, procurement and operations.

The CDS will also be acting as a single point adviser of military to the Ministry. The CDS is appointed to augment the quality the military advice that is given through consolidation of service inputs to the political leadership and to ensure development in defence matters and military affairs.

The CDS will thus act as a defender of the modernization of Indian Armed force.

Ranks in the army

The Chief of Defence Staff has the rank of the principal military advisor to the Ministry of Defence, the CDS is the four star general. The CDS will be the secretary of the Implementing committee and will be the primary advisor to the newly created Department of the Military Affairs (DMA).

The CDS will acquire the same rank as the three service chiefs acquire, they are also four-star officers. The Chief of Defence Staff will be first amongst the equals and be ahead in protocol as a four star officer.

The Chief Defence will exercise military command over the newly formed agencies for Cyber and Space warfare. The tri-service organizations will be commanded over by their respective chiefs in service. 

How will the CDS be appointed?

The appointment of the Chief of Defence Staff has not yet been notified. However, the first Chief of Defence Staff has been appointed on the 30th of December, 2019, by the President of India on the recommendation of the Cabinet of India. The Cabinet of India will nominate a person for the post of Chief of Defence Staff on the basis of his service to the country and such person shall be then appointed with the consent of the President of India.

First Chief of Defence Staff

The first appointee of the post of Chief of Defence Staff is Army Chief General Bipin Rawat. He was appointed as the first Indian CDS on the 30th of December, 2019. He was retiring on the 31st of December, 2019, but now he will serve for 3 years as the Chief of Defence Staff.

The tenure has been extended for 3 years as Rawat turns 62 years old in March, 2020, through amended rules of armed force which state that the tenure of the CDS is 3 years from the date of appointment or 62 years, whichever is earlier.

His position with respect to three other generals

The Chief of Defence Staff is not only the head of the Department of Military Affairs but also is the Permanent Chairman of the Staff Committee Chiefs. He acts as the principal military adviser to the Ministry of Defence on all the matters about tri-services. The three chiefs of the tri-services recommend the Ministry on their specific services. The CDS may not exercise any military command over the three services.


This post was created by the Union Cabinet to make the military power of the nation to work in unison and make developments to the existing military operations. It was brought in to promote more efficiency and effectiveness in the operation of the military powers.

The Prime Minister during his Independence day’s speech while introducing this post addressed the nation saying that our nation should not have a fragmented military approach, there must be unity and coordination among the three services and that they must work with the same pace simultaneously which must be pertinent to the hope of people.

This system was created to bring an effective leadership to the armed force who can make decisions that are in line with the changing environment of security and war with the world.

Author: Dhanya G from SASTRA Deemed University, Thanjavur.

Editor: Farsana Sadiq from Faculty of Law, Jamia Millia Islamia.

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