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For India’s Top Military Post, Government’s Big Change

General Bipin Rawat, India’s first Chief of Defence Staff, died in December last year.

New Delhi:

The Defence Ministry today issued new guidelines broadening the scope of eligible officers for the post of the Chief Of Defence Staff (CDS) of the Indian armed forces. 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.

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.

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.

The government has issued separate notifications on Monday 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.

General Bipin Rawat had retired as Army Chief and was then elevated to the post of India’s first CDS. He was, therefore, older than the service Chiefs and outranked them when he was appointed CDS.

The Chief of Defence Staff runs the Department of Military Affairs in the Ministry of Defence and is principally responsible for getting the armed forces better integrated rather than operating in silos as has been the case for decades. This includes the creation of new military commands which integrate the Army, Air Force, and Navy to fight together.

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. 

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