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This article was first published 2 years ago  » News » Will A Retired General Become CDS?

Will A Retired General Become CDS?

Last updated on: June 09, 2022 14:12 IST
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'Being a serving officer or wearing a uniform does not make an officer more competent than one who has retired.'

IMAGE: Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Vivek Ram Chaudhari, Chief of the Army Staff General Manoj Chandrashekhar Pande and Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Radhakrishnan Hari Kumar.
All three chiefs of staff are alumni of the 61st batch of the National Defence Academy. Photograph: PTI Photo

The Union government amended the rules for the selection of the Chief of Defence Staff on Monday, June 6, 2022, to include serving and retired lieutenant generals/air marshals/vice admirals under the age of 62.

"The government has been talking about deep selection and widening the pool for a long time. It wants to make sure that competence is respected more rather than date of birth," Lieutenant General P J S Pannu (retd) , former commander XIV Corps, tells's Archana Masih.


Why has the government amended the rules for the appointment of the Chief of Defence Staff?

It is very clear that the government is looking for the right person and wants to select the CDS from a wider pool of officers.

In the current system in the armed forces, officers get their ranks up to lieutenant generals based on their competence. Beyond that the selection for army commanders or service chief is based on date of birth/seniority in age and the IC number [Indian Commission].

The IC number is given to an officer when he passes out of the academy when he is around 19-20 years old and is based on his competence during training.

The government seems to have understood that the three chiefs are not the only ones who are most competent, and that there could be competent retired lieutenant generals or lieutenant generals who have been left out because of date of birth or IC number.

This decision makes the choice wider. Therefore, these retired three-star generals now have the chance to be picked up.

Secondly, it is quite clear that the government wants a minimum three-year tenure for the CDS to give stability to the appointment. The CDS deals with all three-services -- army, navy, air force.

If an officer has not served in a tri services organisation such as the Integrated Defence Staff or if he has not been Chief and chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, then he may not have a very clear understanding of the other two services.

Therefore, this also gives opportunity to retired lieutenant generals with experience in the Integrated Defence Staff or tri-services organisations who also fit into the age criteria required to serve as CDS.

Thirdly, it has to be seen as to how the hierarchy will fit in -- whether the CDS will head only the Department of Military Affairs, or whether the DMA is divorced from the chairman chiefs of staff committee. There is no clarity about this from the information available in the public domain.

There has also been a talk about bifurcating the role of the chairman, CoSC and the Department of Military Affairs.

While the new ruling does not state anything about these bifurcations, but if a retired lieutenant general presides over the three chiefs as permanent chairman, CoSC, it could upset the equation.

The chiefs might feel that an officer who is junior in rank has been made the boss.

Hence, it may automatically translate into the CDS only becoming the secretary of the DMA.

Why should a retired three-star general be selected as CDS instead of a serving lieutenant general?

There is nothing that you lose after retirement. You might only gain because you've had freewheeling interactions with people outside and imbibe the environment better.

Secondly, it is not about being retired or not, but about being in the right age group and being in sound health.

Just being a serving officer or wearing a uniform does not make an officer more competent than one who has retired.

IMAGE: Second from right, Lieutenant General P J S Pannu (retd). Photograph: Kind courtesy Lieutenant General P J S Pannu (retd)

The chiefs who are the senior most serving officers will have to report to a junior officer. What problems will this have in a hierarchical organisation like the Indian armed forces?

There is a possibility that the government will be able to find a candidate who is senior to the chiefs and is a retired lieutenant general.

The three chiefs are young, they are not yet 62. I am sure they will give due respect to a competent lieutenant general who earlier served with them, but had to retire because of lack of vacancy or IC number. They will respect his age and experience.

If they are able to find such a candidate, then there would be no need for a bifurcation.

Will it cause dissatisfaction among serving officers?

I think I don't think this should matter much for the simple reason that you're not taking away anything from serving officers.

Competence should always be respected more than the IC number and date of birth. Earlier, the moment a person became a lieutenant general, the date of birth and IC number was like a lucky charm. The younger people got luckier.

Hence, the government has been talking about deep selection for very long. The government wants to make sure that competence is respected more rather than entitlement of date of birth and age.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/

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