New Delhi: On Tuesday, The Ministry of Defence has issued a notification amending the rules of defence forces for the appointment of next Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). Any serving or retired Lieutenant General, Air Marshal and Vice Admiral under the age of 62 years will be eligible for the post of Chief of Defence Staff. This essentially opens the doors for the second-highest active rank officers of the tri-services to possibly supersede their seniors — the chief of the army, air force, or navy — to take on the role and widens the pool from which a CDS can be appointed.
The move paves the way for India to have a new CDS after General Bipin Rawat, India’s first Chief of Defence Staff, and his wife died on December 8 last year after a military chopper crashed in Tamil Nadu, killing over a dozen on board. India has been without a CDS since then.
Another change in eligibility criteria is that recently retired service chiefs and vice chiefs will also be eligible for the post, though there’s an age ceiling of 62 years.
Earlier Monday, The government has issued separate notifications as part of the Air Force Act, the Army Act and the Navy Act to make the provisions to make any serving or retired Lt General, Air Marshal or Vice Admiral eligible to be appointed as the CDS.
“The Central Government may, if considered necessary, in the public interest, so to do, appoint as Chief of Defence Staff, an officer who is serving as Air Marshal or Air Chief Marshal or an officer who has retired in the rank of Air Marshal or Air Chief Marshal but has not attained the age of 62 years on the date of his appointment,” the notification issued under the Air Force Act 1950 said. It further said that the government may extend the service of the Chief of Defence Staff for such a period as it may deem necessary subject to a maximum age of 65 years.
Identical notifications were issued under the Army Act 1950 and the Navy Act 1957.
The tenure of three service chiefs is three years of service or when they turn 62, whichever is earlier.
In effect, the retired Chiefs of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force are unlikely to be considered for the post of the CDS as the age to become eligible for the post has been put at 62 years.
On January 1 2020, Gen Rawat took charge as India’s first CDS with a mandate to bring convergence in the functioning of the Army, the Navy and the Indian Air Force and bolster the country’s overall military prowess.
Another key mandate of the CDS was to facilitate the restructuring of military commands for optimal utilisation of resources by bringing about jointness in operations, including through the establishment of theatre commands.
A high-level committee set up to examine the gaps in India’s security system in the wake of the Kargil war in 1999 had recommended the appointment of the CDS as a single-point military adviser to the defence minister.