Theatre Com­mands — Long Over­due

“The func­tion­ing of the Chiefs of Staff Com­mit­tee (COSC) has, to date, re­vealed se­ri­ous weak­nesses in its abil­ity to pro­vide single point mil­i­tary ad­vice to the gov­ern­ment, and re­solve sub­stan­tive in­ter-Ser­vice doc­tri­nal, plan­ning, pol­icy and op­er­a­tional

SP's LandForces - - FRONT PAGE - LT GEN­ERAL P.C. KA­TOCH (RETD) The writer is former Direc­tor Gen­eral of In­for­ma­tion Sys­tems, In­dian Army.

“The func­tion­ing of the Chiefs of Staff Com­mit­tee (COSC) has, to date, re­vealed se­ri­ous weak­nesses in its abil­ity to pro­vide single point mil­i­tary ad­vice to the gov­ern­ment, and re­solve sub­stan­tive in­ter-Ser­vice doc­tri­nal, plan­ning, pol­icy and op­er­a­tional is­sues ad­e­quately. This in­sti­tu­tion needs to be ap­pro­pri­ately re­vamped to dis­charge its re­spon­si­bil­i­ties ef­fi­ciently and ef­fec­tively, in­clud­ing the fa­cil­i­ta­tion of “joint­ness” and syn­ergy among the De­fence Ser­vices.” —GoM Re­port post Kargil Cri­sis of 1999 Lt Gen­eral P.C. Ka­toch (Retd)

IN JAN­UARY 2017, ME­DIA re­ports again emerged of Tri-Ser­vice Com­mands and other mea­sures like ap­point­ing a sin­gle­point mil­i­tary ad­viser, with­out elab­o­rat­ing about the lat­ter whether it will be a Chief of De­fence Staff (CDS) or a Per­ma­nent Chair­man of Chiefs of Staff Com­mit­tee (PP COSC). What pow­ers the CDS/PP COSC is to have also re­mains vague. If the gov­ern­ment was se­ri­ous and recog­nised the ur­gency, some mea­sures at least would have been ini­ti­ated in this re­spect to in­clude this in the list of achieve­ments up to May 26, 2017, – date of com­ple­tion of three years rule of NDA II. Iron­i­cally, other than ‘Make in In­dia’ de­fence con­tin­ues to re­main at low pri­or­ity.

Strate­gic Se­cu­rity For­mu­la­tion

It is com­mon knowl­edge that In­dia does not have a co­he­sive Na­tional Se­cu­rity Strat­egy (NSS). In fact, this was ad­mit­ted in Par­lia­ment in May 10, 1995 by the then Prime Min­is­ter Narasimha Rao when he stated, “We do not have a doc­u­ment called In­dia’s De­fence Pol­icy. But we have sev­eral guide­lines which are fol­lowed, strictly fol­lowed and ob­served… This pol­icy is not merely rigid in the sense that it has been writ­ten down, but these are the guide­lines, these are the ob­jec­tives, these are the mat­ters which are al­ways kept in view while con­duct­ing our de­fence pol­icy”. He did not am­plify what these sev­eral guide­lines were that were strictly be­ing fol­lowed and ob­served, but the fact is that the de­fence of In­dia re­mained in dire ne­glect in­clud­ing pa­thetic equip­ping of the mil­i­tary and its op­er­a­tional com­po­nents cer­tainly proves that these so called guide­lines and their fol­low up was grossly in­ad­e­quate to put it mildly. Yet no gov­ern­ment has ever both­ered to bridge this vi­tal void that ad­versely im­pacts In­dia’s na­tional se­cu­rity at the strate­gic level. The present gov­ern­ment’s ef­fort to­wards equip­ping too is patchy and lim­ited to some bigticket projects only.

Our great­est weak­ness is that the gov­ern­ment has made no ef­fort to re­or­gan­ise the higher de­fence or­gan­i­sa­tions, par­tic­u­larly Min­istry of De­fence (MoD) which has no mil­i­tary pro­fes­sion­als and in­sti­tu­tional set up for strat­egy se­cu­rity for­mu­la­tion, be­sides the mil­i­tary is not part of such strate­gic de­lib­er­a­tions. HQ IDS has emerged as an­other HQ above but akin to Ser­vices HQ with lit­tle author­ity. The GoM had rec­om­mended in­te­gra­tion of Ser­vice HQ into Min­istry of De­fence (MoD) with pro­gres­sive de­cen­tral­i­sa­tion of de­ci­sion mak­ing pow­ers and del­e­ga­tion of fi­nan­cial pow­ers. This too has not been af­fected i- only re­nam­ing the Ser­vices HQ as IHQ of MoD (Army/Navy/Air Force). Ser­vice HQ, though no­tion­ally in­te­grated with the MoD, lack any ex­ec­u­tive author­ity. All op­er­a­tional and ad­min­is­tra­tive author­ity rests with the MoD, which un­nec­es­sar­ily ex­tends the de­ci­sion mak­ing process.

In­ad­e­quate Mil­i­tary Syn­ergy

Gen­eral S. Pad­man­ab­han, former Chief of Army Staff had said, “There is no es­cap­ing the mil­i­tary logic of cre­at­ing suit­ably con­sti­tuted In­te­grated Theatre Com­mands and Func­tional Com­mands for the Armed Forces as a whole.”Years later post the Kargil Con­flict, In­dian Army Chief Gen­eral V.P. Ma­lik went on record to say. “It is not my case that the Ser­vice Chiefs do not co­op­er­ate in war. Were they not to do so, it would be churl­ish. But in war, co­op­er­a­tive syn­er­gies are sim­ply not good enough.” The bat­tle­field re­quires Ef­fect Based Op­er­a­tions (EBOs). EBOs can best be pro­gressed through ap­pli­ca­tion of all the in­stru­ments of the na­tion state. What this im­plies is that EBO can only suc­ceed if all com­po­nents of na­tional power are brought to bear, which in turn means that De­fence Forces must have full spec­trum joint op­er­a­tions ca­pa­bil­ity and an in­te­grated ap­proach. It is also im­por­tant to un­der­stand that this syn­er­gis­tic ap­pli­ca­tion of power is to be ap­plied at all lev­els of war­fare, be it tac­ti­cal, op­er­a­tional or strate­gic.

In the over­all joint­man­ship par­a­digm of our de­fence forces to­day, it would not be wrong to say that true joint­man­ship ex­ists mainly within HQ IDS. The bal­ance is at an ex­tremely nascent stage, with com­plete ab­sence at the cut­ting edge/tac­ti­cal lev­els. Lack of joint­ness in the or­gan­i­sa­tional struc­tures leads to lack of joint train­ing, joint ex­er­cises and com­mon pro­ce­dures at the tac­ti­cal and op­er­a­tional lev­els. We have a very long way to go con­sid­er­ing that our so called ex­ist­ing “patchy joint­ness” has to go through the stages of “de-con­flicted op­er­a­tions” to “joint op­er­a­tions” and thereon achieve the de­sired ca­pa­bil­ity of “in­te­grated op­er­a­tions”.

Our great­est weak­ness is that the gov­ern­ment has made no ef­fort to re­or­gan­ise the higher de­fence or­gan­i­sa­tions, par­tic­u­larly Min­istry of De­fence (MoD) which has no mil­i­tary pro­fes­sion­als and in­sti­tu­tional set up for strat­egy se­cu­rity for­mu­la­tion, be­sides the mil­i­tary is not part of such strate­gic de­lib­er­a­tions

The big­gest chal­lenge to joint­ness is to bring about an at­ti­tu­di­nal shift by turn­ing the sense of in­se­cu­rity and mu­tual sus­pi­cion into a sense of be­long­ing­ness amongst the Ser­vices as well as the politico-bu­reau­cratic es­tab­lish­ment.

Chief of De­fence Staff

Ap­point­ment of a CDS is es­sen­tial as cat­a­lyst for joint­ness and in­te­gra­tion of the Ser­vices. Some sec­tions of the polity per­haps fear that a uni­fied mil­i­tary may be­come too strong for the con­sti­tu­tional es­tab­lish­ment and may un­der­mine its sta­tus. This fac­tor per­haps con­trib­utes the most to the fail­ure to ap­point a CDS. Per­haps mil­i­tary rules/at­tempted coups in neigh­bour­ing Pak­istan, Myan­mar and Bangladesh add to such fear. A sec­ond rea­son per­haps is the in­tran­si­gence and ap­a­thy of the bu­reau­crats, some of whom revel over in­ter-Ser­vice ri­valry. The fact is that the COSC is no sub­sti­tute for a CDS, which is very ap­par­ent from the ex­tracts of the GoM Re­port given above. Our po­lit­i­cal class needs to demon­strate strate­gic sense and ap­point a CDS with­out fur­ther de­lay. With­out a CDS, the mil­i­tary’s ca­pac­ity build­ing for net­work cen­tric ca­pa­bil­i­ties will con­tinue to lag, as will the re­quired revo­lu­tion in mil­i­tary af­fairs.

Theatre Com­mands

Cre­ation of the An­daman & Ni­co­bar Com­mand (ANC) and the Strate­gic Forces Com­mand (SFC) un­doubt­edly are sig­nif­i­cant milestones al­beit the former has to look over its shoul­der to the main­land for re­sources. Hope­fully, Fu­ture of the Aerospace Com­mand, Cy­ber Com­mand and Spe­cial Op­er­a­tions Com­mand rec­om­mended by the Naresh Chan­dra Com­mit­tee re­mains am­bigu­ous with in­di­ca­tions the only MoD ‘di­rec­tive’ re­port­edly to work on smaller or­ga­ni­za­tions headed by two-star level of­fi­cers - typ­i­cal bu­reau­cratic id­iocy of de­lay tac­tics. Both ANC and SFC have proved ca­pa­ble of in­te­grated op­er­a­tional plan­ning. HQ ANC per­formed com­mend­ably dur­ing the Tsunami relief op­er­a­tions.

The vast ex­panse of In­dia re­quires iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of geo­graph­i­cal the­atres that are of mil­i­tary se­cu­rity con­cern. Con­cep­tu­ally, a theatre should in­clude within its geo­graph­i­cal bound­ary the en­tire ge­o­graph­i­cally con­tigu­ous ter­ri­tory of a com­pet­ing en­tity or an ad­ver­sary in­clud­ing ge­o­graph­i­cally con­tigu­ous ter­ri­to­ries of those en­ti­ties or states which, in the event of hos­til­i­ties, may col- lab­o­rate ei­ther with the ad­ver­sary or with own coun­try. It must also in­clude ad­join­ing seas and space above that may be es­sen­tial for ma­noeu­vre of own forces to ad­dress the threat­en­ing en­tity/ad­ver­sary and its ge­o­graph­i­cally con­tigu­ous col­lab­o­ra­tor(s). For­tu­nately, this has al­ready been thor­oughly ad­dressed by HQ IDS through five com­pre­hen­sive stud­ies dur­ing year 2005.

In­te­grated Theatre Com­mands (ITCs) need to be es­tab­lished en­com­pass­ing the en­tire op­er­a­tional spec­trum with two to three In­te­grated Func­tional Com­mands (IFCs) that maybe Bi-Ser­vice or Tri-Ser­vice un­der each ITC; ex­ist­ing 17 single Ser­vice Com­mands need to be re­or­gan­ised ac­cord­ingly. Stud­ies prove all three Ser­vices will ac­tu­ally ben­e­fit from such re­or­ga­ni­za­tion, also en­hanc­ing pro­mo­tional av­enues. Re-align­ment of op­er­a­tional geo­graph­i­cal bound­aries will ob­vi­ously need to be un­der­taken. Need of the hour is that all single Ser­vice Com­mands grad­u­ally evolve into ei­ther ITCs (akin to ANC) or IFCs (akin to SFC). Com­mand and staffing of all ITCs and IFCs should be tri or bi-Ser­vice.

Hack­neyed Bu­reau­cracy

Un­der the Al­lo­ca­tion of Busi­ness & Trans­ac­tion of Busi­ness Rules Act 1961 that fol­low the Bri­tish legacy of De­fence Sec­re­tary (not De­fence Min­is­ter) charged with de­fence of In­dia and the Ser­vices Head­quar­ters con­tinue to of­fi­cially re­main “at­tached of­fices”, the MoD bu­reau­crats con­tinue to en­joy power with­out re­spon­si­bil­ity and ac­count­abil­ity. In or­der to main­tain this sta­tus quo, hack­neyed sug­ges­tions are pro­jected through me­dia, like: in­stead of re­haul­ing MoD com­pletely, some “mid­dle-level” posts be­ing looked at in MoD to be manned by mil­i­tary of­fi­cers; and, per­ma­nent chair­man of COSC with­out op­er­a­tional pow­ers. The bot­tom-line is that if we are not go­ing in for estab­lish­ing a CDS with full op­er­a­tional pow­ers and then es­tab­lish ITCs and IFCs in co­he­sive man­ner, it would be fruit­less ex­er­cise. But that is not all, concurrent to ap­point­ing a CDS, HQ IDS must be fully merged with the MoD. But then this last es­sen­tial re­quires a rare qual­ity of po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship.

Con­clu­sion

Joint­ness and in­te­gra­tion of the mil­i­tary is an in­evitable re­quire­ment for the mod­ern day bat­tle field. The big­gest chal­lenge to joint­ness is to bring about an at­ti­tu­di­nal shift by turn­ing the sense of in­se­cu­rity and mu­tual sus­pi­cion into a sense of be­long­ing­ness amongst the Ser­vices as well as the politico-bu­reau­cratic es­tab­lish­ment. The change will need to be im­ple­mented top down for it to take root and be ef­fec­tive. While there is ur­gent need to ap­point a CDS, we should get on with ini­ti­at­ing the process of estab­lish­ing ITCs and IFCs in the larger in­ter­est of achiev­ing joint­ness and in­te­gra­tion.

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