TRI- SER­VICE COM­MANDS — MUST GET THEM RIGHT

SP's MAI - - FRONT PAGE - The views ex­pressed herein are the per­sonal views of the author.

Af­ter a lapse of over a year, news is me­dia is again talk­ing of Tri-Ser­vice Com­mands and other mea­sures like ap­point­ing a sin­gle-point mil­i­tary ad­vi­sor, with­out elab­o­rat­ing about the lat­ter whether it will be a Chief of De­fence Staff (CDS) or a per­ma­nent chair­man of the Chiefs of Staff Com­mit­tee (COSC). What pow­ers the CDS/COSC is to have also re­mains vague. These types of ru­mours, which are ac­tu­ally games be­ing played with In­dia’s na­tional se­cu­rity.

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 P.V. 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 such 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. This talk of cre­at­ing Tri-Ser­vice Com­mands and a sin­gle-point mil­i­tary ad­vi­sor too in­di­cates ran­dom mea­sures that may be by de­sign or lack of un­der­stand­ing. Few years back, at the be­hest of the Min­istry of De­fence (MoD), HQ In­te­grated De­fence Staff (IDS) came up with a Tri-Ser­vice Doc­trine. As usual, the me­dia lapped it up. How­ever, no one queried as to who will im­ple­ment this doc­trine, in the ab­sence of head­quar­ters that are ‘truly’ in­te­grated and have the op­er­a­tional pow­ers to im­ple­ment it. That cer­tainly was not the case then and the present state re­mains un­changed.

So, while talk­ing of Tri-Ser­vice Com­mands are we de­vel­op­ing a cart with­out a horse? Go­ing by the me­dia, a sin­gle-point mil­i­tary ad­vi­sor may get es­tab­lished by the end of the year — which year not hav­ing been spec­i­fied. If the so-called sin­gle-point mil­i­tary ad­vi­sor is not a CDS with full op­er­a­tional pow­ers, the whole ex­er­cise will be a waste. The CDS must ac­tu­ally be a ‘sin­gle-point mil­i­tary ad­vi­sor’ over­rul­ing what the bu­reau­cracy craftily scripted in the Cab­i­net Com­mit­tee on Se­cu­rity (CCS) note un­der which HQ IDS was raised, wherein it reads “As and when a CDS is es­tab­lished, he will have equal vot­ing rights as the Ser­vice Chiefs and if two Ser­vice Chiefs dis­agree, the Min­istry of De­fence (read babus) will ar­bi­trate”. This line must be deleted be­cause the CDS can hardly be sin­gle-point ad­vi­sor with such slan­der­ous pro­vi­sions. Next comes the is­sue of Tri-Ser­vice Com­mands — who in MoD un­der­stands the re­quire­ment of hav­ing In­te­grated Theatre Com­mands (ITCs) and In­te­grated Func­tional Com­mands (IFCs) and that some of the lat­ter would nec­es­sar­ily be Bi-Ser­vice, not Tri-Ser­vice be­cause of their ge­o­graph­i­cal lo­ca­tion. How many bu­reau­crats of MoD un­der­stand the dif­fer­ence be­tween ITCs and IFCs is any­one’s guess.

Ad­di­tion­ally, pol­icy mak­ers would be quite un­aware that 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, then 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 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 a 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, no?

This talk of cre­at­ing Tri-Ser­vice Com­mands and a sin­gle-point mil­i­tary ad­vi­sor too in­di­cates ran­dom mea­sures that may be by de­sign or lack of un­der­stand­ing

LT GEN­ERAL

P.C. KA­TOCH (RETD)

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