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.


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