IAF against creating CDS ‘in present format’

New Delhi, May 11: The Indian Air Force (IAF) Wednesday opposed creating, ‘in the present format’, the post of a chief of defence staff (CDS) above the armed forces chiefs to serve as a single point of reference for the government on security matters. The idea was mooted by a committee that reviewed the conduct of the 1999 India-Pakistan Kargil war and was approved by a group of ministers.

The IAF chief, Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik, told a seminar on national security reforms that he disfavoured the creation of a CDS ‘in the present format’ as it would create obstructions in the existing security apparatus.

‘I would like to emphasise and reiterate that the IAF is all for the formation of CDS, but we are against appointment of CDS in the present format. The appointment in this format will only create another obstruction to the system,’ Naik said here at the seminar organised by the Centre for Land Warfare and Studies (CLAWS).

The Kargil Review Committee headed by the late security analyst, K. Subramanyam, was set up in the backdrop of the India-Pakistan war in the Kargil sector of Jammu and Kashmir. It had proposed a CDS to enable jointness among the army, navy and air force and to act as a single-point adviser to the government on security, a gap found during the 1999 operations.

Though the proposal is more than a decade old, Defence Minister A.K. Antony has on several occasions told parliament that consensus among political parties on the CDS was lacking.

Political consensus apart, there was no unanimity among the three services on the CDS.

Naik said the IAF was not ready to accept the appointment a four-star or five-star serving officer as the CDS, saying the he would not have the wherewithal to execute his duties.

Favouring the continuance of the existing structure of command with each service individually communicating with the defence ministry, the IAF chief said: ‘Our existing system, without a CDS, has worked well in last 40-50 years. We fought four wars in 1947, 1969, 1971 and Kargil without any major glitches.’

Contesting the suggestion that the CDS could be the most important reform in the defence sphere, Naik said: ‘Lots of people think that by withholding the appointment of CDS, the government has actually weakened the pace and quality of military reforms.’

Referring to the CDS format of other countries, he said the model varies from country to country.

‘In United States, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff controls the operations; in Australia, the CDS and the defence secretary are parallel and report to their equivalent of the defence minister. Which model do we want to adopt,’ he asked.

Naik dubbed the CDS concept a ‘foreign’ idea and called for ‘strengthening the Chiefs of Staff Committee’ as the first step in the security reforms. ‘Setting up new structures will not make the system more efficient or effective,’ he said.

Stressing the need for a national security doctrine and a White Paper on defence, Naik pitched for a regular dialogue between the political and military leadership of the country, saying it was essential for India, which faced a large number of military and non-military threats.

‘At present there is no political interface. One very good step that has been taken is that the three service chiefs have been participating in the meetings of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS). It is a good step in my opinion. A lot of our inputs have been taken and acted upon by the government,’ he added.