De­fence Chal­lenges Fac­ing In­dia

The Ser­vice Head­quar­ters func­tion as at­tached of­fices to the Min­istry of De­fence, work­ing un­der ar­chaic and out­moded rules of busi­ness


The Ser­vice Head­quar­ters func­tion as at­tached of­fices to the Min­istry of De­fence, work­ing un­der ar­chaic and out­moded rules of busi­ness.

Lt Gen­eral (Retd) V.K. Kapoor

IT IS AN AC­CEPTED fact that when a govern­ment faces crises over which there is a pub­lic clam­our or which is caus­ing em­bar­rass­ment, it re­sorts to es­tab­lish­ing a com­mit­tee to ex­am­ine the is­sue which de­lays the de­ci­sion mak­ing and once the ur­gency dies down, pub­lic mem­ory be­ing short, then the is­sue is buried qui­etly. Quite of­ten even the ob­ser­va­tions on com­mit­tee’s rec­om­men­da­tions by var­i­ous agencies are or­ches­trated through me­dia so that the un­com­fort­able re­forms are held in abeyance. This has been ex­pe­ri­enced so of­ten that it is no sur­prise that the key re­forms rec­om­mended by the Kargil Re­view Com­mit­tee on Fe­bru­ary 23, 2000, and sub­se­quently the Group of Min­is­ters (GoM) on Fe­bru­ary 26, 2001, re­mained un­ad­dressed. The two key re­forms not im­ple­mented are, the lack of in­te­gra­tion of the Min­istry of De­fence (MoD) with ser­vice pro­fes­sion­als and the non- es­tab­lish­ment of the post of a Chief of De­fence Staff (CDS). In the mean­while, in the past decade or so, many more prob­lems have cropped up which have ad­versely af­fected the op­er­a­tional readi­ness of the armed forces for fu­ture con­flicts. The sil­ver lin­ing is that a new govern­ment has taken over and the dy­namism of the new Prime Min­is­ter is well known and there­fore even in the de­fence sec­tor we ex­pect some ur­gently needed re­forms to take place if we have to face fu­ture de­fence chal­lenges con­fi­den­tally. We are also for­tu­nate that the De­fence Min­istry has been given to a se­nior and a highly ver­sa­tile Min­is­ter who can bring about the ur­gently needed re­forms.

Naresh Chan­dra Com­mit­tee

By mid-2011, the large num­ber of le­gal com­plaints in the var­i­ous courts against the MoD on pay and al­lowances dis­crep­an­cies, de­fence pro­cure­ment scams, de­te­ri­o­rat­ing civil-mil­i­tary re­la­tions and the in­creas­ing threat per­cep­tion from our ad­ver­saries China and Pak­istan, led the UPA II to es­tab­lish the Naresh Chan­dra Com­mit­tee (NCC), a 14-mem­ber task force on na­tional se­cu­rity on June 21, 2011, to sug­gest ways to re­vamp of de­fence man­age­ment in the coun­try. The main ob­jec­tive be­hind the con­sti­tu­tion of the com­mit­tee was to con­tem­po­rise the Kargil Re­view Com­mit­tee’s Re­port. Be­sides, the task force was also asked to ex­am­ine the state of coun­try’s bor­der man­age­ment.

The Com­mit­tee sub­mit­ted its re­port to the govern­ment on Au­gust 8, 2012. The Prime Min­is­ter Man­mo­han Singh turned it over to the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil (NSC) Sec­re­tariat for pro­cess­ing its rec­om­men­da­tions and pre­sent­ing them to the Cab­i­net Com­mit­tee on Se­cu­rity. Manoj Joshi, a well-known jour­nal­ist who writes on strate­gic and se­cu­rity is­sues and who was mem­ber of the NCC, had this to say in his ar­ti­cle “Shut­ting His Ears to Change” on Novem­ber 22, 2013, in Mail To­day: “This writer was a mem­ber of the task force, but has had lit­tle or no of­fi­cial in­for­ma­tion on its sta­tus since then. But the bu­reau­cratic grapevine sug­gests that the re­port is on its way to meet the fate of other sim­i­lar en­deav­ours: get shelved.”

The salient rec­om­men­da­tions of the Naresh Chan­dra Com­mit­tee in­cluded a large num­ber of is­sues and among them were the two is­sues af­fect­ing the ef­fi­cient func­tion­ing of the Ser­vices and the MoD namely, ap­point­ing a per­ma­nent Chair­man of the Chiefs of Staff Com­mit­tee and pro­mo­tion of syn­ergy in civil-mil­i­tary func­tion­ing to en­sure in­te­gra­tion, to be­gin with, the deputation of armed ser­vices of­fi­cers up to di­rec­tor level in the MoD and then pro­gres­sively up to joint sec­re­tary’s level which had been also rec­om­mended by the ear­lier Arun Singh Com­mit­tee on De­fence Ex­pen­di­ture. Even the Stand­ing Com­mit­tee for De­fence of 14th Lok Sabha had ‘strongly’’ rec­om­mended the change in MoD staffing pat­terns to en­sure armed forces were ‘‘in­trin­si­cally in­volved in na­tional se­cu­rity man­age­ment and apex de­ci­sion-mak­ing process’’. The rec­om­men­da­tions were re­jected by the MoD and the Govern­ment.

The In­ef­fi­ciency of the MoD

The in­ef­fi­ciency of the MoD in the past few years can be vi­su­alised from the let­ter writ­ten by Gen­eral (Retd) V.K. Singh, the for­mer Chief of Army Staff (COAS), to the Prime Min­is­ter on March 12, 2012, which was de­lib­er­ately leaked to the me­dia. It high­lighted that the mis­sion re­li­a­bil­ity of mech­a­nised ve­hi­cles was poor, the ar­tillery was ob­so­lete and in­ad­e­quate, air de­fence was an­ti­quated, ar­mour was un­re­li­able due to reg­u­lar bar­rel ac­ci­dents caused by mis­match be­tween indige­nous bar­rels and am­mu­ni­tion, night-fight­ing de­vices were in­suf­fi­cient, avi­a­tion corps he­li­copters needed ur­gent re­place­ments, and hold­ings of all types of mis­siles, anti-tank and spe­cialised am­mu­ni­tion was crit­i­cally low. Thus point­ing out the lack of pre­pared­ness to fight and win wars on the bat­tle­fields of the 21st century. Thanks to an in­dif­fer­ent De­fence Min­is­ter and an un­car­ing bu­reau­cracy the sit­u­a­tion still re­mains more or less the same.

Anit Mukher­jee wrote an in­ter­est­ing piece in The Hindu on July 17, 2012, bring­ing out the ills of the MoD and the Ser­vices. He wrote: “Most in­formed an­a­lysts know about the de­fi­cien­cies stem­ming from higher de­fence mis­man­age­ment, but the leak of Gen­eral V.K. Singh’s let­ter to the Prime Min­is­ter made this pub­lic. The other con­tro­ver­sies around civil-mil­i­tary re­la­tions re­vealed the cri­sis of con­fi­dence and trust deficit be­tween mil­i­tary of­fi­cers and civil­ian bu­reau­crats in the Min­istry of De­fence. Union De­fence Min­is­ter A.K. Anthony ad­mit­ted as such when he re­ferred to the ‘bit­ter­ness’ be­tween them.”

Re­forms Needed

While many rea­sons can be at­trib­uted to above state of af­fairs— in­clud­ing the con­tro­ver­sies over the past Pay Com­mis­sions, struc­tural prob­lems that ex­ist at the na­tional level, in­ef­fi­ciency if De­fence Pub­lic Sec­tor Units (DPSUs), in­abil­ity of our R&D to pro­vide mod­ern weaponry to our armed forces, in­abil­ity to fast track weapon pro­cure­ment aris­ing from quaint and ar­chaic rules and reg­u­la­tions and mind sets in the bu­reau­cracy and the mil­i­tary along with logic de­fy­ing rules of busi­ness.

We feel that the ma­jor re­forms needed are as un­der:

In­te­gra­tion. The in­te­gra­tion of the Min­istry of De­fence with the Ser­vice Head­quar­ters. The lat­ter func­tion as at­tached of­fices, work­ing un­der ar­chaic and log­icde­fy­ing rules of busi­ness. There is no rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the uni­formed com­mu­nity in the Min­istry of De­fence. Thus it lacks pro­fes­sional com­pe­tence in the busi­ness in which they are placed. Cross at­tach­ments are vi­tal for ef­fi­ciency.

Rules of Busi­ness. The cur­rent Rules of Busi­ness names the De­fence Sec­re­tary as the per­son in charge of op­er­a­tional readi­ness of the armed forces. This is an out­landish rule and needs to be amended at the ear­li­est. A col­lec­tive re­spon­si­bil­ity in­volv­ing the De­fence Min­is­ter and Ser­vice Chiefs must be es­tab­lished. This should lead to additional fi­nan­cial pow­ers for the three Chiefs and their ac­count­abil­ity.

Theatre Com­mands. Within the ser­vices the ab­sence of theatre com­mands with joint staff in which the ser­vices them­selves are in­te­grated for plan­ning and con­duct of op­er­a­tions along with an in­ef­fec­tive Chiefs of Staff Com­mit­tee have led to a sys­tem of plan­ning for op­er­a­tions, ser­vice wise. The so-called op­er­a­tional “joint­ness” prac­tised by the Ser­vices, is op­er­a­tionally in­ef­fi­cient and en­cour­ages sin­gle ser­vice plan­ning, a cul­ture which pre­vails till to­day.

Higher De­fence Struc­tures. Suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments have ne­glected to re­form the higher de­fence struc­tures and their link­age to the Na­tional Se­cu­rity set up of the coun­try. The Chiefs of Staff of the three ser­vices func­tion out­side the na­tional se­cu­rity plan­ning struc­ture.

Na­tional Se­cu­rity Strat­egy. The lack of a well ar­tic­u­lated Na­tional Se­cu­rity Strat­egy is an­other area of con­cern. This com­pels the ser­vices to es­tab­lish their own con­cepts and doc­trines in this re­gard which may at times con­tra­dict the na­tional se­cu­rity poli­cies.

Re­vamp DRDO and its 50 labs, five de­fence PSUs, four ship­yards and 39 ord­nance fac­to­ries. En­cour­age the pri­vate sec­tor to en­ter arms man­u­fac­tur­ing in a ma­jor way. In­dia, em­bar­rass­ingly, still im­ports 65 per cent of its mil­i­tary hard­ware and soft­ware.

Pro­cure­ment Pro­ce­dures. Re­fine the cum­ber­some arms pro­cure­ment pro­ce­dures to fast-track ac­qui­si­tions and re­duce cor­rup­tion. Projects for new sub­marines, how­itzers, fighters, he­li­copters, night-fight­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties, air de­fence weapons and small arms ac­qui­si­tions have been stuck for years due to politico-bu­reau­cratic ap­a­thy. In­fra­struc­ture in the East and Moun­tain Strike Corps. En­sure faster rais­ing of the new Moun­tain Strike Corps as well as has­ten­ing of mil­i­tary in­fra­struc­ture like the long-iden­ti­fied 73 strate­gic roads and 14 rail­way lines, heli­pads and ad­vance land­ing grounds, along the Line of Ac­tual Con­trol to counter China. Cre­ate New Com­mands and Boost An­daman and Ni­co­bar Com­mand. Boost force-lev­els and in­fra­struc­ture at An­daman and Ni­co­bar Com­mand, apart from cre­at­ing three new tri-Ser­vice com­mands for space, cy­ber and spe­cial op­er­a­tions.

Nu­clear Triad. Com­plete In­dia’s nu­clear weapons triad by faster in­duc­tion of nu­clear sub­ma­rine INS Arihant and its fol­low-on sis­ter ships with long-range mis­siles. Land and air legs are al­ready in place with Agni bal­lis­tic mis­siles and fighter-bombers.

De­fence Budget. Hike bud­geted de­fence ex­pen­di­ture to at least 2.5 per cent of GDP, in­stead of let­ting it wal­low around just 1.7 to 1.9 per cent, for ad­e­quate mil­i­tary mod­erni­sa­tion and req­ui­site de­ter­rence against both China and Pak­istan. Cut the flab in the armed forces, im­prove the teeth-to-tail ra­tio.


It seems that our MoD is not will­ing to ac­cept any change. They wish to re­tain their pow­ers, perks and priv­i­leges. They seem quite happy with the in­ef­fi­cient, in­com­pe­tent, and waste­ful sys­tem that has de­vel­oped since in­de­pen­dence and is still pre­vail­ing. Re­forms sug­gested by the Kargil Re­view Com­mit­tee or later the Naresh Chan­dra Com­mit­tee have been sim­i­larly re­jected on friv­o­lous grounds and it is un­for­tu­nate that the po­lit­i­cal hi­er­ar­chy has been ac­cept­ing this neg­a­tive ap­proach of MoD to­wards Na­tional De­fence. We hope that Modi govern­ment shows firm­ness of re­solve to in­sti­tute the long pend­ing re­forms in the MoD.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.