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George rakes up defence chief post

New Delhi, Nov. 7: Defence minister George Fernandes has revived the suggestion for the creation of a Chief of Defence Staff, about two years after it was proposed by a group of ministers formed in the wake of the 1999 Kargil war.

But creation of the post — supposed to be the senior-most military officer in the country and a single-point military adviser to the government — involves restructuring of the higher echelons of the defence establishment and also a suitable rank and decorations.

Sources in the defence ministry say appointment of the army chief, General .C. Vij, as the first CDS is far from being cleared. “The decision has to be taken to create the post first,” the sources said. Vij, however, enjoys the confidence of the defence minister and the cabinet.

“Yes, I am in favour of CDS. I intend moving a paper on this,” Fernandes said in an interview to a defence magazine. He said there were two points yet to be resolved.

First, the services have to agree to the proposal. Currently, the senior-most military officer is the chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee (at present held by Admiral Madhvendhra Singh because the navy chief is the senior-most service chief). But, defence ministry officials say, the chairman, COSC, is a “first-among-equals” position. In the military, it would make better sense to have a single officer in charge.

“It is the prerogative of the government and we will abide by any announcement made,” he said. The second problem, Fernandes said in the interview, is a controversy “at the political level which is totally uncalled for”. The political controversy was not in the cabinet but had been stoked by Opposition parties, the defence minister said .

The rank and decorations of the CDS is another matter over which the defence establishment is working on before briefing the cabinet.

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