PERMANENT CHAIRMAN OF COSC NEEDED : A VIEWPOINT
The permanent Chairman of COSC can certainly not provide the required synergy in the Services, which in turn adversely affects national synergy without which we cannot adequately cope with threats to our security in any segment of the conflict spectrum
Amid statements by our hierarchy that we are as vulnerable to terrorist strikes as during the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist strikes, Nawaz Sharif proclaiming he has a dream of seeing Indian Kashmir free and hopes to see it happen during his lifetime, Raheel Sharif (another Musharraf protégé) as Pakistani army chief and amidst Chinese muscle flexing, comes the news that our government is poised to appoint a permanent Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC) at the turn of the new year.
This is ostensibly in line with the task force appointed under former Ambassador Naresh Chandra, with former R&AW Chief K.C. Verma, Admiral (Retd) Arun Prakash, ACM (Retd) S. Krishnaswamy and Lt General (Retd) V.R. Raghavan as members to undertake a review of national security. Ironically, every time India woke up to order a security review was after a crisis; Sino-Indian War of 1962, lndo-Pak War of 1965, Mizo uprising of 1966, Kargil conflict of 1999 and the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attack. If we had a strategic culture, a comprehensive defence and security review should have been institutionalised every five years.
The impression created in respect of the Kargil review committee recommendations is that less than appointing a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) everything has been implemented. Nothing could be further from the truth. The major implementation failings, mostly advertent, are: one, no CDS has been appointed; two, HQ Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) created as a separate HQ instead of merging it with the Ministry of Defence (MoD); three, Chairman COSC gradually eased out from the loop of control of Strategic Forces Command (SFC); four, Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) stopped from its authorised mandate of operating transborder intelligence sources; five, Andaman & Nicobar Command remains toothless without requisite forces under its command; and six Directorate General of Armed Forces Medical Services and Directorate General of Quality Assurance not brought under HQ IDS.
The fact remains that no matter what façade of Services jointness and integration, it is simply not going to come through without appointing a CDS. Former Army Chief General (Retd) V.P. Malik had gone 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.” Connected with this is the crying need to go in for integrated theatre commands and integrated functional commands, which cannot come through without a CDS. Former General S. Padmanabhan 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.”
In UK, the debate over the CDS raged for l8 years, till the government forced a CDS on the military.
At a time when we are faced with heightening threats, jointly by China and Pakistan, the need for appointing a CDS was never more. The system of committees is at best ad hoc and anyone who has served in HQ IDS knows full well, the HQ has little power. There have been suggestions that only an act of Parliament like the Goldwater Nichols Act, Berlin Decree, or political leadership can break the logjam but in our case, it is difficult to identify a political leader or a bureaucrat who could push for such an Act of Parliament. Paradoxically, the governmentappointed task force had no active services representation. Interacting with services is not the same as having full-time members on a task force.
A permanent Chairman of COSC is no substitute for a CDS. The former will make little difference to existing arrangement. It is surprising that the Naresh Chandra Committee did not recommend full integration of HQ IDS with the MoD, in addition to appointing a permanent Chairman of COSC even if constraints had been put on them. Such an arrangement could indeed have considered a step forward. Without integrating HQ IDS with MoD, appointment of a permanent CDS is just another embellishment. The task force recommendations give the impression of a ‘fixed match’.
Are we not playing into the hands of our enemies? Addressing the combined Commander’s conference in 2004, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had stated, “Reforms within the armed forces also involve recognition of the fact that our Navy, Air Force and Army can no longer function in compartments with exclusive chains of command and single service operational plans”. The permanent Chairman of COSC can certainly not provide the required synergy in the services, which in turn adversely affects national synergy without which we cannot adequately cope with threats to our security in any segment of the conflict spectrum including the asymmetric and proxy wars that we are already engaged in. The views expressed herein are the personal views of the author.
LT GENERAL (RETD) P.C. KATOCH