Na­tional Agenda: Higher de­fence or­gan­i­sa­tion

Changes would pro­vide a boost to de­fence pre­pared­ness, usher in a Revo­lu­tion in Mil­i­tary Af­fairs, evolve req­ui­site strate­gies and poli­cies in­clud­ing for na­tional se­cu­rity, re­sponse to asym­met­ric war, de­fence pro­cure­ments, R&D, tech­nol­ogy ac­qui­si­tion and r


The In­dian mil­i­tary per­haps reached its nadir in the past decade. Many schol­ars de­scribed the sit­u­a­tion as pre­car­i­ous as in 1962 while A.K. Antony as De­fence Min­is­ter kept up the fa­cade of ‘all is well’ and the uni­formed fra­ter­nity bound by reg­u­la­tions would not speak.

Yet, the state could hardly be hid­den with in­ci­dents like the leaked se­cret let­ter from a Ser­vice Chief to the Prime Min­is­ter and rev­e­la­tions of crit­i­cal de­fi­cien­cies in the In­dian Navy cour­tesy Min­istry of De­fence (MoD) in­tran­si­gence re­sult­ing in se­ri­ous dam­age to the naval fleet and avoid­able loss of lives and equip­ment. The drama of the im­me­di­ate ac­cep­tance of the res­ig­na­tion of the Naval Chief while MoD failed to take any re­spon­si­bil­ity what­so­ever too was wit­nessed by the na­tion. The fact that the civil-mil­i­tary re­la­tions hit ab­so­lute rock bot­tom was ap­par­ent, with de­lib­er­ate acts of low­er­ing the mil­i­tary in the War­rant of Prece­dence, deny­ing au­tho­rised pay and al­lowances to soldiers even sanc­tioned by the Supreme Court, forc­ing dis­abled soldiers and war wid­ows fight long le­gal bat­tles for disability ben­e­fits and pen­sions – to the ex­tent that the pre­vi­ous govern­ment ap­pealed against its own soldiers in Court no less than five times, some of the cases still on­go­ing in Supreme Court.

Then is the de­fence-in­dus­trial com­plex lorded over by the DRDO, OFB (Ord­nance Fac­to­ries Board) and the DPSUs that af­ter 67 years of In­de­pen­dence can boast only of ‘pock­ets of ex­cel­lence’ be­cause of dis­jointed plan­ning and func­tion­ing, cor­rup­tion and in­ef­fi­ciency, to the ex­tent that In­dia has to still im­port over 80 per cent of its de­fence needs.

Many are un­aware of our lopsided sys­tem where the De­fence Sec­re­tary is re­spon­si­ble for the de­fence of In­dia in­stead of the De­fence Min­is­ter. This is be­cause the Bri­tish Colo­nial ‘Rules of Busi­ness’ were blindly fol­lowed wherein the Bri­tish De­fence Sec­re­tary was also the De­fence Min­is­ter. Since the Ser­vices HQs of Bri­tish In­dia were not fully trusted, they were made “At­tached Of­fices”. First step, there­fore should be to make the De­fence Min­is­ter fully re­spon­si­ble for De­fence of the coun­try. Sec­ond, to bridge the vi­tal void of in­te­gra­tion, HQ IDS should be merged with the MoD, as rec­om­mended in many re­ports. Third, we can­not con­tinue with ‘gen­er­al­ist bu­reau­crats’ in MoD with lit­tle knowl­edge of mil­i­tary mat­ters. The Rail­ways is man­aged by the Rail­way Board ex­clu­sively manned by Rail­way of­fi­cials. The For­eign Sec­re­tary is an IFS Of­fi­cer and not a gen­er­al­ist bu­reau­crat. So, log­i­cally, the MoD should be manned by the mil­i­tary of­fi­cers with ap­pro­pri­ate civil­ian cells in De­part­ments of De­fence Pro­duc­tion and De­fence Fi­nance.

How­ever, as a first step it is im­per­a­tive to have serv­ing mil­i­tary of­fi­cers ap­pointed as De­fence Sec­re­tary, Sec­re­tary De­fence Pro­duc­tion, Sec­re­tary De­fence Pro­cure­ment and Sec­re­tary Fi­nance (De­fence). Fourth, ap­point­ing a Chief of De­fence Staff (CDS) should be done on pri­or­ity as rec­om­mended by the Kargil Re­view Com­mit­tee, Group of Min­is­ters Re­ports and Arun Singh Com­mit­tee Re­ports. This is vi­tal not only for pro­vid­ing sin­gle point mil­i­tary ad­vi­sory to the Cab­i­net Com­mit­tee on Se­cu­rity and the De­fence Min­is­ter but also to bring syn­ergy be­tween the three Ser­vices that is com­pletely lack­ing at the mo­ment and to trans­form the three Ser­vices into net­work-cen­tric war­fare (NCW) ca­pa­ble forces. In ap­point­ing the CDS, it should also be made clear that there should be no ques­tion of MoD gen­er­al­ist bu­reau­crats do­ing ar­bi­tra­tion over dis­agree­ment be­tween Ser­vices, as was cun­ningly in­serted in the doc­u­ment au­tho­ris­ing es­tab­lish­ment of HQ In­te­grated De­fence Staff (IDS) and the CDS. Fifth, It would be ap­pro­pri­ate to ap­point a bold and in­tel­lec­tual Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­vi­sor (NSA) with mil­i­tary back­ground. This is war­ranted be­cause con­flict sit­u­a­tions over the years have tran­scended more to­wards the sub-con­ven­tional seg­ment, use of ir­reg­u­lar forces and asym­met­ric war, all of which re­quires ba­sic mil­i­tary knowl­edge. In­dia has lost out com­pletely in terms of mil­i­tary diplo­macy, which needs to be worked upon by the NSA in con­junc­tion the MoD and the Min­istry of Ex­ter­nal Af­fairs. Sixth, na­tional syn­ergy is es­sen­tial with asym­met­ric threats that over­lap all type of con­flict sit­u­a­tions through­out the spec­trum of con­flict. There­fore it would be ad­vis­able to have ap­pro­pri­ate mil­i­tary ad­vi­sory cells with the Prime Min­is­ters, Ex­ter­nal Af­fairs Min­is­ter and Home Min­is­ter.

Changes as above would pro­vide a boost to de­fence pre­pared­ness, usher in a Revo­lu­tion in Mil­i­tary Af­fairs (RMA), evolve req­ui­site strate­gies and poli­cies in­clud­ing for na­tional se­cu­rity, re­sponse to asym­met­ric war, de­fence pro­cure­ments, R&D, tech­nol­ogy ac­qui­si­tion and re­or­gan­is­ing the de­fence-in­dus­trial base, etc.

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