Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Navy chief provides glimpse into new tri-service headquarters

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 4th Dec 13

Two days after this newspaper reported that the UPA government was poised to appoint a four-star general as India’s first tri-service military chief (“Government poised to appoint tri-service chief”, Dec 2), the navy chief has confirmed that the army, navy and air force have submitted a united recommendation on the need for a permanent Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee (Chairman COSC).

“The three services have concurred that we are okay with having a permanent Chairman COSC,” said Admiral DK Joshi, addressing the press in Delhi on the eve of Navy Day. The navy chief said a political decision was awaited on the military’s recommendations.

Business Standard has reported that the government plans to appoint army chief, General Bikram Singh, as the first permanent Chairman COSC. Lt Gen Anil Chait would succeed him as army chief, on promotion to a four-star general.

Gen Bikram Singh would take to the job the experience of commanding the army. But Admiral Joshi stated that this would not be a necessary qualification for the post of Chairman COSC. “It is not relevant whether a three-star general is promoted to the four-star position of chairman COSC, or whether one of the three serving chiefs sidesteps into that position,” said the navy chief.

Admiral Joshi said a new Chairman COSC would adopt the Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) as his headquarters, since this already handles the tri-service issues that would fall to the new appointment. According to its official website, “IDS functions as the principle arm and Secretariat to the Chiefs of Staff Committee.”

The IDS was established on Nov 23, 2001 as a nod to tri-service integration, six months after a Group of Ministers (GoM) recommended the creation of a five-star Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), who would oversee all three services and be a single point of contact for politicians and bureaucrats on military matters. But with the air force opposing the creation of a CDS, and political support uncertain, the BJP-led government elected to set up the IDS as an interim solution.

Admiral Joshi said the creation of a permanent Chairman COSC was only a “stopgap arrangement” on the path to the eventual appointment of a CDS. Confirming that the three services had overcome their earlier disagreements, the navy chief said, “In the long term we certainly want a CDS.”

The deputy of the permanent Chairman COSC would be the three-star IDS chief, whose wordy designation --- Chief of Integrated Defence Staff to the Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee --- indicates that he was conceived as an eventual chief of staff.

The COSC has so far been a consultative body that votes on substantive issues; not an executive headquarters. The COSC currently includes the army, navy and air force chiefs and the CISC, who is a “non-voting member”. In addition, the Scientific Advisor to the Defence Minister (who is, ex-officio, the Defence R&D Organisation chief) is invited for discussions on technical or scientific matters.

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