Defence Reforms: Managing National Security
The first and foremost requirement for improving the management of national security is for the government to formulate a comprehensive National Security Strategy (NSS), including internal security. The NSS should be formulated after carrying out an inter
INDIA FACES COMPLEX EXTERNAL and internal security threats and new challenges are emerging on the horizon. Unresolved territorial disputes with China and Pakistan, insurgencies in Jammu and Kashmir and the North-eastern states, the rising tide of left-wing extremism (LWE) and the growing spectre of urban terrorism have vitiated India’s security environment and slowed down socio-economic growth. Yet, as the recent serial blasts at Mumbai have once again indicated, India’s national security continues to be sub-optimally managed. Strategic reviews need to be undertaken periodically to evolve a comprehensive national security strategy.
In 1999, the Kargil Review Committee headed by international strategic affairs analysts late K. Subrahmanyam had been asked to “review the events leading up to the Pakistani aggression in the Kargil District of Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir; and to recommend such measures as are considered necessary to safeguard national security against such armed intrusions.” Though it had been given a very narrow and limited charter, the committee looked holistically at the threats and challenges and examined the loopholes in the management of national security. The committee was of the view that the “political, bureaucratic, military and intelligence establishments appear to have developed a vested interest in the status quo.’’ It made farreaching recommendations on the development of India’s nuclear deterrence, higher defence organisations, intelligence reforms, border management, the defence budget, the use of air power, counterinsurgency operations, integrated manpower policy, defence research and development, and media relations. The committee’s report was tabled in Parliament on February 23, 2000.
The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) appointed a Group of Ministers (GoM) to study the Kargil Review Committee report and recommend measures for implementation. The GoM was headed by Home Minister L.K. Advani, and in turn, set up four task forces on intelligence reforms, internal security, border management and defence management to undertake in depth analysis of various facets of the management of national security.
The GoM recommended sweeping reforms to the existing national security management system. On May 11, 2001, the CCS accepted all its recommendations, including one for the establishment of the post of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), which has still not been implemented. A Tri-Service Andaman and Nicobar Command and a Strategic Forces Command were established. Other salient measures included the establishment of HQ Integrated Defence Staff (IDS); the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA); the establishment of a Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) headed by the Defence Minister with two wings: the Defence Procurement Board and the Defence Technology Board; and the setting up of the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO). The CCS also issued a directive that India’s borders with different countries be managed by a single agency—“one border, one force”—and nominated the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) as India’s primary force for counterinsurgency operations.
National Security Strategy
Ten years later, many lacunae still remain in the management of national security. The lack of inter-ministerial and inter-departmental coordination on issues like border management and centre-state disagreements over the handling of internal security are particularly alarming. In order to review the progress of implementation of the proposals approved by the CCS in 2001, the government appointed a Task Force on National Security led by former Cabinet Secretary Naresh Chandra. The Task Force has submitted its report.
The first and foremost requirement for improving the management of national security is for the government to formulate a comprehensive National Security Strategy (NSS), including internal security. The NSS should be formulated after carrying out an inter-departmental, inter-agency, multidisciplinary strategic defence review. Such a review must take the public into confidence and not be conducted behind closed doors. Like in most other democracies, the NSS should be signed by the Prime Minister, who is the head of government, and must be placed on the table of Parliament and released as a public document. Only then will various stakeholders be compelled to take ownership of the strategy and work unitedly to achieve its aims and objectives.
It has clearly emerged that China poses the most potent military threat to India and given the nuclear, missile and military hardware nexus between China and Pakistan, future conventional conflict in Southern Asia will be a two-front war. Therefore, India’s military strategy of dissuasion against China must be gradually upgraded to deterrence. Genuine deterrence comes only from the capability to launch and sustain major offensive operations into the adversary’s territory. India needs to raise new divisions to carry the next war deep into Tibet. Since manoeuvre is not possible due to the restrictions imposed because of the difficult mountainous terrain, firepower capa- bilities need to be enhanced by an order of magnitude, especially in terms of precisionguided munitions. This will involve substantial upgradation of ground-based (artillery guns, rockets and missiles) and aerially-delivered (fighter-bomber aircraft and attack helicopter) firepower. Only then will it be possible to achieve future military objectives.
Consequent to the leakage of the Army Chief ’s letter and the major uproar in Parliament that followed, the Defence Minister is reported to have approved the Twelfth Defence Plan 2012-17 and the LTIPP 2012-27, in early April 2012. While this is undoubtedly commendable, it remains to be seen whether the Finance Ministry and subsequently the CCS will also show the same alacrity in according the approvals necessary to give practical effect to these plans. Without these essential approvals, defence procurement is being undertaken through ad hoc annual procurement plans, rather than being based on carefully prioritised long-term plans that are designed to systematically enhance India’s combat potential. These are serious lacunae as effective defence planning cannot be undertaken in a policy void.
The government must commit itself to supporting long-term defence plans or else defence modernisation will continue to lag and the present quantitative military gap with China’s People’s Liberation Army will become a qualitative gap as well in 10-15 years. This can be done only by making the dormant National Security Council a proactive policy formulation body for long-term national security planning (CCS deals with current and near term threats and challenges and reacts to emergent situations).
Additional Measures Necessary
The defence procurement decision-making process must be speeded up. The Army is still without towed and self-propelled 155mm howitzers for the plains and the mountains and urgently needs to acquire weapons and equipment for counterinsurgency and counter-terrorism operations. The Navy has been waiting for long for the INS Vikramaditya (Admiral Gorshkov) aircraft carrier, which is being refurbished in a Russian Shipyard at exorbitant cost. Con- struction of the indigenous air defence ship is lagging behind schedule.
The plans of the Air Force to acquire 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft in order to maintain its edge over the regional air forces are also stuck in the procurement quagmire. All three services need a large number of light helicopters. India’s nuclear forces require the Agni-III missile and nuclear-powered submarines with suitable ballistic missiles to acquire genuine deterrent capability. The armed forces do not have a truly integrated command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, information, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4I2SR) system suitable for modern network-centric warfare, which will allow them to optimise their individual capabilities.
All of these high-priority acquisitions will require extensive budgetary support. With the defence budget languishing at less than two per cent of India’s GDP—compared with China’s 3.5 per cent and Pakistan’s 4.5 per cent plus the US military aid— it will not be possible for the armed forces to undertake any meaningful modernisation in the foreseeable future. Leave aside genuine military modernisation that will substantially enhance combat capabilities, the funds available on the capital account at present are inadequate to suffice even for the replacement of obsolete weapons systems and equipment that are still in service well beyond their useful life cycles. The Central Paramilitary Forces (CPMFs) also need to be modernised as they are facing increasingly more potent threats while being equipped with obsolescent weapons.
The government must also immediately appoint a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) or a permanent Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, as recommended by the Naresh Chandra Committee on defence reforms, to provide single-point advice to the CCS on military matters. Any further delay in this key structural reform in higher defence management on the grounds of the lack of political consensus and the inability of the armed forces to agree on the issue will be extremely detrimental to India’s interests in the light of the dangerous developments taking place in India’s neighbourhood. The logical next step would be to constitute tri-service integrated theatre commands to synergise the capabilities and the combat potential of individual services. It is time to set up a Tri-Service Aerospace and Cyber Command to meet emerging challenges in these fields. International experience shows that such reform has to be imposed from the top down and can never work if the government keeps waiting for it to come about from the bottom up.
The defence budget has dipped below two per cent of the country’s GDP despite the fact that the services have repeatedly recommended that it should be raised to at least three per cent of the GDP if India is to build the defence capabilities that it will need to face the emerging threats and challenges and discharge its growing responsibilities as a regional power in Southern Asia. The government will do well to appoint a National Security Commission to take stock of the
lack of preparedness of the country’s armed forces and to make pragmatic recommendations to redress the visible inadequacies that might lead to yet another military debacle.
Improving Civil-Military Relations
Civil-military relations in India have been strained at the best of times. The primary cause for this hiatus is the degeneration of civilian control over the military from political control—as it should be—to bureaucratic control in practice. This has happened as the political leaders have neither the time nor the inclination to go into the finer nuances of matters military. Consequently, the bureaucracy makes all the important decisions and controls the purse strings and the senior leadership of the armed forces plays little role in higher level national security decision-making. For example, during Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s time, the three Service Chiefs were always in attendance at the meetings of the Defence Committee of the Cabinet (DCC), but when Prime Minister Inder Gujral constituted the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) in 1997, the Chiefs of Staff were left out.
The present situation is not only harmful for decision-making, but has also led to deep resentment on the part of the armed forces leadership for being so completely sidelined. This lacuna needs to be immediately corrected. A positive approach will go a long way in improving civil-military relations, which have deteriorated markedly in recent years. As a first step, the Services HQ must be genuinely integrated with the Ministry of Defence (MoD) by delegating financial powers to them, cross postings for better coordination and maintaining a ‘single file’ system rather than the MoD maintaining its own internal file on each issue and not disclosing its internal notings to the Services HQ. The services must be allowed to manage their own revenue budgets, while expenditure on the capital account can continue to be controlled by the Ministry of Defence.
To a person in uniform, izzat (self-respect) is more important than anything else. He is brought up to believe that he must live up to “naam, namak and nishan” no matter how difficult the circumstances. As such, his izzat matters more to a soldier than almost anything else and the government must ensure that he gets the respect due to him. The softer issues that do not impinge immediately on planning and preparation for meeting national security challenges must never be ignored as these can have adverse repercussions on the morale of the officers and men in uniform in the long-term. The numerous anomalies created by the implementation of the Sixth Pay Commission report must be speedily resolved. In fact, the ham-handed handling of this issue has led to a dangerous “them versus us” civil-military divide and the government must make it a priority to bridge this gap quickly.
The exservicemen too have had a raw deal and have been surrendering their medals and holding fasts to get justice for their legitimate demand of “one rank-one pension”. The time has come to implement the one rank-one pension scheme without further delay and without setting up more com- mittees of bureaucrats to look into the issue. While a Department of Ex-servicemen’s Welfare has been created in the Ministry of Defence in keeping with the UPA’s Common Minimum Programme, till recently there wasn’t a single ex-Serviceman in it. Such measures do not generate confidence among serving soldiers and retired veterans in the civilian leadership.
Finally, rather unbelievably, despite the supreme sacrifice made by thousands of gallant soldiers, sailors and airmen, India is still without a National War Memorial. Though the establishment of a war memorial at India Gate in New Delhi has been approved in principle by the government, once again it is being suggested by political leaders and some sections of the media that it should be located elsewhere. It is heartening to note that the Defence Minister is standing firm on locating the war memorial at India Gate.
T-90 battle tank