Tuesday 14 July 2020, 07:03 AM
CDS is the only military adviser to nuclear command authority
By Sushil Sharma | Bharat Defence Kavach | Publish Date: 3/2/2020 3:12:38 PM
CDS is the only military adviser to nuclear command authority

India has appointed its first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) and the government has appointed General Bipin Rawat as the first CDS of the country. General Bipin Rawat, by virtue of being the first CDS, will be the most powerful military officer of the country.Under the CDS comes key tri-services military formations of India, most of which were formed after the 1999 Kargil battle with Pakistan. First and foremost is the Headquarters Integrated Defence Staff (IDS), based in New Delhi. This organisation is in charge of procurement and jointness among the army, navy, air force and coast guard, which are the four armed forces of the nation.

The idea for the Headquarters IDS was suggested following a review of the Kargil war by the Arun Singh Committee, following which the Group of Ministers approved the proposal. Hence came into being the Headquarters IDS.Along with the IDS, the government had in 2002-03 also formed tri-services military formations in the Strategic Forces Command at New Delhi handles the nuclear weapons delivery role and the Andaman and Nicobar Command at Port Blair to mainly defend India's interests in the Andaman Sea and the Malacca Straits.

While the idea was to have a three-star officer from the army, navy and the air force to alternately hold command of the tri-services command formations, of late the command for the Strategic Forces Command mostly goes to an air force officer, while the Andaman and Nicobar Command goes to a navy officer.

Along with these two tri-services command, the CDS will also take charge of the under-formation Cyber, Space and Special Operations Command, precursors to which have been formed as agencies. While Defence Cyber Agency will be commanded by the navy, the Defence Space Agency will be headed by the air force and the Armed Forces Special Operations Division by the army. Currently, the three agencies are in the formative stage, having Regiment-sized personnel number 1,000 each.

From here on, let us focus on the role, functions and the command structure of the Strategic Forces Command.India had created the Strategic Force Command to be tasked with delivery of nuclear weapons to the enemy's territory in 2002, however, the command and control is still in the civilian government hands. At present, India boasts of the nuclear triad -- the capability to delivery nukes at the enemy from the land, air and the under-water platforms.

The Strategic Forces Command holds under its responsibility all the nuclear-weapon delivery platforms, be it the strategic missiles of the Agni series, the nuclear weapon carrying submarines that can delivery the DRDO-built 750-km K-5 and the 150-km K-15 nuke-tipped missiles or the Mirage-2000 combat jets that can delivery nuke-armed bombs.

Currently, India holds a nuclear stockpile of around 140 warheads, according to a June 2019 report of SIPRI. However, India has put in place a huge security mechanism, even segregating the parts of the warheads at different locations so that they could be brought together and put together as and when the requirement arises, all to prevent the strategic weapon from falling into the hands of non-state actors, such as terrorists.

Following the formation of the Strategic Forces Command in 2002, India also created the command and control structure, by putting in place a Nuclear Command Authority (NCA) headed by the Prime Minister. According to the contours of the CDS appointment, the officer will function as the Military Adviser to the NCA.

The Strategic Forces Command's role comes in only on the orders of the NCA. The Strategic Forces Command, headed by an Air Marshal or an equivalent rank officer as the Commander-in-Chief, has the sole responsibility of initiating the process of delivering nuclear weapons and warheads, after acquiring clear approval from the NCA.

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