The Centre has amended rules to allow the chief of defence staff to serve till the age of 65. The changes have been made in the Army Rules, 1954, according to a notification published by the Defence Ministry on Saturday.
According to rules, the service chiefs can serve for a maximum period of three years or till the age of 62, whichever is early. The term of the post has not yet been determined. “Provided that the Central Government may, if considered necessary, in public interest , so to do, give extension of service to the Chief of Defence Staff…for such period or periods as it may deem necessary subject to maximum age of 65 years,” said the notification.
The chief of defence staff will be a four-star general from either the Army, the Air Force or the Navy. He will function as a single point of contact for different branches of the Indian Armed Forces and will be the military advisor to the Indian government. He will also head the Department of Military Affairs and be paid a salary equal to a service chief. The appointee will be higher in rank than the chiefs of the Indian Army, the Navy and the Air Force. However, the chief of defence will not exercise any military command over the three service chiefs. The Cabinet Committee on Security on Tuesday had approved the creation of the post of a chief of defence staff of the Indian Armed Forces.
The name of the first chief of defence staff is likely to be announced soon. Outgoing Army chief General Bipin Rawat, who is one of the frontrunners for the post, is set to retire on December 31. Rawat is 61 years old.
The amended rule puts the chief of defence staff on a par with the comptroller and auditor general, the chief election commissioner and the central vigilance commissioner in terms of retirement age.
“As new structures are coming up with the appointment of the CDS, a longer tenure till the age of 65 will give him stability and continuity to fulfil his mandate,” retired Lieutenant General Satish Dua told the Hindustan Times. Dua was the senior-most military officer handling all tri-service affairs until November 2018.
“The service regulations have been amended and not the Acts and it is the logical step after the Union Cabinet last week approved the creation of the post of CDS,” an unidentified Army officer told The Hindu.
A committee set up following the 1999 Kargil conflict with Pakistan had recommended the creation of the post of a chief of defence staff. The Naresh Chandra Task Force in 2012 had recommended creating the post of a permanent chairperson of the Chiefs of Staff Committee.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had in his Independence Day address this year first announced that such a post would be created. “Our forces are India’s pride,” Modi said. “To further sharpen coordination between the forces, I want to announce a major decision from the Red Fort: India will have a chief of defence staff, CDS. This is going to make the forces even more effective.”