Head-banging on CDS

Image result for pics Lt Gen Naravane with naval chief karambir

[Lt Gen Naravane, Admiral Karambir and VCAS Air Marshal Arora on Navy Day]]

There’s a lot of head-banging going on in PMO over the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) issue. With the economy plummeting and bad news marching in in battalions with another self-inflicted wound — the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), which the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duo decided is worth the short term costs — escalating turmoil, including unrest in Delhi, because it would beget perennial political payoffs in terms of polarizing the electorate along religious lines every time general elections and major state level polls come into view. There’s, however, a felt need to take the people’s eye off the extant troubles and on to some “achievements” the BJP government can showcase.

One such issue on the platter is CDS, a decision that’s acquired a certain urgency if the first person to hold this post, the current army chief General Bipin Rawat, who retires end of December, is to be the man. So there’s not much time. Rawat’s “elevation” has been rumoured for a while now. This appointment would be least disruptive because he is the senior most among the current serving chiefs anyway, even though a four star CDS isn’t much of an elevation and will not prevent the coming functional friction with the three services chiefs, including the successor army chief.

There are other options the PMO may be considering that military circles are agog about. Among these is appointing the Vice Chief of the Army Staff Lieutenant General Manoj Mukund Naravane, who is the presumptive COAS, as the first CDS. It will bring the next senior army man, Lt. Gen. Ranbir Singh, Northern Army Commander, into the succession picture. Except the navy head Admiral Karambir Singh and Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria may baulk at serving under a junior — Naravane, as the “first among equals”. So, this too is problematic.

If the Modi regime shies away from making Rawat the first CDS, it may be politic, say many senior military officers, to appoint Admiral Karambir to the position as single source military adviser to the government. The present Chief of Naval Staff is a thorough professional, and a straight arrow. Especially helpful is the fact that Karambir is a naval aviator (helicopter pilot) and an air force brat to boot, his father being a retired Wing Commander. And so he’s a person who absolutely appreciates air power and will not shortchange the Indian Air Force, the fear of which motivated its 40-year rear-guard action against the establishment of the CDS system.

In fact, the IAF’s opposition to CDS is the cover behind which the government has advanced the idea of a 4-star CDS, and not a genuinely senior person as a (5-star) Field Marshal, something the civil bureaucracy has violently opposed and which development the political class too has felt queasy about (owing to the old fear about an all-powerful military officer staging a coup).

It will be interesting to see if Modi prefers a non-Rawat choice for CDS and who it will be.

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
This entry was posted in Asian geopolitics, civil-military relations, Culture, Decision-making, Indian Army, Military/military advice, society, South Asia. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Head-banging on CDS

  1. PRATIK KUMAR says:

    Hi Bharat sir, do you think that citizenship amendment bill will affect India Bangladesh ties, given the latter’s apprehensions about CAB and also NRC???

  2. Rahul says:

    Not a biggie though, we can handle Bangaladesh relations.

  3. Rahul says:

    Mr. Karnad, have you heard of Christopher Clary? I sense his integrity is suspect,one Narang guy too, the duo who have been pushing the counterforce narrative.Rather than a work of scholarship it gives the impression of breaking a page 3 story.It seems more like an attempt to project India’s nuclear doctrine,make it look questionable and susceptible to molding as per external wishes . Christine Fair too, I sense, based on some statements she made earlier on that she played her part in a very small way for India to buy F16s.

    Is it possible that powers that be in the US pays/makes the security or so-called security experts to peddle their agenda or mold situations. It looks so plausible. I mean, though am just an enthusiast ,the duo just don’t seem like experts to me, Clary looks like captive of some ideology and Narang seems like hes overeager to seek recognition.

    • Clary and Narang are in the American academic mainstream of keeping alive the notion of N-“flashpoint” in service of the US South Asia policy of keeping the situation asimmer and to exercise leverage with both India and Pakistan. Christine Fair is a more substantive expert, studying the Pak army’s war fighting pattern. I too was an invitee to the Chandigarh military literature festival and Fair voiced doubts about the shooting down of F-16. There was some condescending response from a retired officer in the audience to which she replied robustly.

  4. Rahul says:

    Yes, the retired officer was out of line and got some.Btw, Ms. Fair is best buds with Clary.

    Wrong approach. Just make a 5 star post, the top man for Army,Navy and Air Force, of the rank of a Cabinet Minister and directly reporting to the PM. All the 3 service chiefs should report to him. How else would our armed forces work as one cohesive unit? Just excise the defense ministry .Throw out the concept of first among equals,it will ruin the forces. We haven’t learned anything. E. Sridharan made metros possible not some civil servant, the model has been replicated so wonderfully well.

    Modi would be stupid not to see this. Haven’t the babus tried everything to stall these 5 years? DRDO ,ordnance factories, et al have been ruined by babus. So much money and a good deal of time spent and yet what we managed to make is a faulty INSAS rifle?

  5. V.Ganesh says:

    Sir, if Gen. Rawat becomes CDS, what will his powers be because Lt. Gen. Naravane has been appointed as the next COAS. Will Gen. Rawat then be a toothless tiger?

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