Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday said that the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) would be appointed soon, a week after the government amended the eligibility criteria for the post.
"The CDS would be appointed very soon. All things are under process," said Singh in response to a question in the press conference after unveiling the "Agnipath" scheme for the recruitment of soldiers in the armed forces.
The post of the CDS has been vacant since the death of India's first CDS General Bipin Rawat in a helicopter crash on December 8. The CDS is a double-hatted role as the CDS is the permanent Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee and the Secretary of the Department of Military Affairs (DMA) in the Defence Ministry.
While the Chiefs of Staff Committee has reverted to the old format following Gen. Rawat's death and vacancy of the office of the CDS in which the senior-most service chief chairs the committee, the DMA is being looked after by Additional Secretary Lieutenant General Anil Puri.
The appointment of the CDS and the creation of DMA within the Defence Ministry were the biggest military reforms in decades. Besides charing the Chiefs of Staff Committee and heading the DMA, the CDS was also entrusted with inducing jointness in the armed forces and creating theatre commands.
Presently, the Army, the Air Force, and the Navy have their own individual commands with overlapping areas of responsibility and roles. A theatre command would mean that a particular area – a theatre – is under the command of a single officer under whom all the three services in that area would function jointly, bringing synergy and removing redundancy.
This move towards jointness and theatrisation is belived to have taken a hit as the office of CDS remains vacant for over six months.
However, even before Rajnath Singh spoke on the CDS appointment on Tuesday, reports surfaced last week that the government was about to make an appointment.
These reports surfaced after the government amended defence laws, allowing any serving or retired three-star officer under the age of 62 to be eligible for the post of CDS, which means that not just four-star officers — Generals, Air Chief Marshals, Admirals — but also Lieutenant Generals, Air Marshals, and Vice Admirals can be elevated to the post of CDS.
While in theory, retired generals are now eligible, the age limit of 62 means no retired service chief can be appointed as CDS. A report said that while all three-star officers are eligible, only those general-ranking officers would be considered who have served in commander-in-chief roles, which means they have headed one of the operational commands of their service.