A news brief by India TV on 17th October reported that Lt Gen Taranjit Singh has been appointed the new Deputy Chief of Integrated Defence Staff (Operations) i.e. “DCIDS (Ops)” at Integrated Defence Staff Headquarters (HQ IDS).
Short History of HQ IDS
HQ IDS, established in November 2001, is equivalent to its Pakistani counterpart, the Joint Staff Headquarters (JSHQ). The head of HQ IDS is Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee (CCoSC); in the present arrangements, any of the tri-services chiefs assumes this additional role on rotational appointments. IAF chief Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa was the CCoSC before his retirement, after which the charge was shifted to Army Chief General Bipin Rawat.
Day-to-day operations at HQ IDS are overseen by Chairman of the Integrated Staff Committee (CISC) who reports directly to the CCoSC and has a status equivalent to the Vice Chief of tri-services. He supervises 5 branches, as follows:
- Policy Planning & Force Development Branch [DCIDS (PP&FD)]
- Doctrine, Organisation and Training Branch [DCIDS (DO&T)]
- Operations Branch [DCIDS (Ops)]
- Intelligence Branch [DCIDS (Int)] (concurrently Director General of Defence Intelligence Agency)
- Medical Branch [DCIDS (Med)]
Lt Gen Taranjit Singh belongs to the Armoured Corps and has served twice in different Strike Corps, his second stint being the General Officer Commanding in Chief (GOC-in-C) of the renowned 1 (Strike) Corps based in Mathura. He specialises in Mechanised Warfare and Operational Art.
However, he is not unfamiliar with the utility of unconventional warfare.
His most recent appointment was Director General of Perspective Planning Directorate which functions as the Indian Army’s think tank focused on threat assessments, evaluation of long-term/strategic options and supervising research work executed by Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS). An impressive body of literature has been published under his watch including seminars.
He has great confidence on the power of advanced space applications. Speaking at the Observer Research Foundation’s Kalpana Chawla Annual Space Policy Dialogue in May, Lt Gen Singh urged India to revise its national space policy in view of Pak-China threats. He also labelled Pakistan as a “proxy space power of China“.
Evidently, the General intends to provide a hybrid combat package for the coming CDS through a mix of Mechanised Warfare and Unconventional Warfare.
The Significance of Lt Gen Singh’s Appointment
The timing of Lt Gen Taranjit Singh’s confirmation as DCIDS (Ops) coincides with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s approval for a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) to function as a single-point military adviser to the Government. Consequently, the CDS would replace CCoSC and assume charge of HQ IDS, independent of service chiefs.
Speculation is rife that the incumbent Army Chief and CCoSC General Bipin Rawat might once again be blessed by the BJP leadership and elevated to the coveted slot. So far, nothing on this has been finalised.
Also, in early May, Indian Ministry of Defence cleared the establishment of tri-service Defence Cyber Agency, Defence Space Agency and Special Operations Division to be led by officers of 2-star rank from the Navy, Air Force and Army, respectively. This development in itself took almost 7 years to achieve. The basic rationale behind this evolution is the consolidation of assets from the three services to ensure inter-operability in a network-centric environment.
Never before has the DCIDS (Ops) been empowered beyond conventional force employment options. Through this seat, Lt Gen Singh will have complete visibility plus the authority to complement conventional operations with new-age support capabilities such joint cyberspace operations with NTRO (viz Defence Cyber Agency), geospatial applications with ISRO (viz Defence Space Agency) and irregular warfare capabilities (viz Special Operations Division).
In short, he will prioritise the validation of integrated hybrid warfighting capabilities as a “test pilot”.
The extent of operational synergy and support which Lt Gen Taranjit Singh can garner from services chiefs will form the crux of his findings and, consequently, determine the course of action regarding formation of integrated theatre commands.
It is worth remembering that PM Modi had approved the concept during his previous tenure.