Change of De­fence Min­is­ter

SP's MAI - - MILITARY VIEWPOINT - The views ex­pressed herein are the per­sonal views of the author.

With De­fence Min­is­ter Manohar Par­rikar hav­ing moved to Panaji due to po­lit­i­cal ex­pe­di­ency of the state of Goa, Arun Jait­ley has been given ad­di­tional charge of the Min­istry of De­fence (MoD). How long this tem­po­rary ar­range­ment will con­tinue is any­body’s guess though the so­cial me­dia is ripe with new ru­mours ev­ery day with new names ev­ery time, be­sides the joke cir­cu­lat­ing that “Even De­fence Min­is­ter has put up his pa­pers due to low ca­reer prospects in de­fence”.

But then Arun Jait­ley is not new to MoD, hav­ing han­dled de­fence for most part of 2014 af­ter the present govern­ment came to power. Since he is the Fi­nance Min­is­ter, it would prob­a­bly fa­cil­i­tate con­clud­ing the con­tracts of the cap­i­tal ex­pen­di­ture in the ` 86,488 crore de­fence out­lay of the cur­rent fi­nan­cial year — same as he did in 2014. But what could be a very more sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion by him is if he would make avail­able the ad­di­tional ` 13,000 crore de­manded by the Par­lia­men­tary Stand­ing Com­mit­tee on De­fence while draw­ing the at­ten­tion of Par­lia­ment to the cry­ing need for mod­ernising the armed forces, to which the cur­rent al­lot­ment of ` 2,74,000 crore in de­fence bud­get 201718 does lit­tle to con­trib­ute. Since Par­rikar had al­ready writ­ten to him, as re­ported by the me­dia, and he now wears the twin hats of Fi­nance Min­is­ter and De­fence Min­is­ter, he should se­ri­ously con­sider this.

Iron­i­cally, the change of De­fence Min­is­ter has come at a time when there were some in­di­ca­tions of the govern­ment mak­ing moves to ap­point a Chief of De­fence Staff (CDS), re­or­gan­is­ing the MoD and some re­or­gan­i­sa­tion of the mil­i­tary as well. The CDS was ac­tu­ally re­quired a decade back and needs to be ap­pointed with­out fur­ther de­lay. How­ever, if his op­er­a­tional pow­ers are lim­ited to Out of Area Con­tin­gen­cies (OOAC) then he will hardly be able to usher true joint­ness in the three Ser­vices and can hardly be a sin­gle-point ad­vi­sor to the govern­ment on mat­ters mil­i­tary. There are also news re­ports that govern­ment is look­ing at iden­ti­fy­ing some mid­dle-level ap­point­ments in the MoD that could be manned by mil­i­tary of­fi­cers. This would hardly be of much ad­van­tage, amount­ing to the in­ad­e­quate sta­tus quo since in­de­pen­dence.

A ma­jor flaw in the MoD be­sides not hav­ing mil­i­tary pro­fes­sional at all lev­els is that MoD has no in­sti­tu­tion­alised set up for strat­egy for­mu­la­tion. HQ In­te­grated De­fence Staff (IDS) can fill this gap very eas­ily and the very ba­sis of rais­ing the HQ IDS; it was to be part and par­cel of the MoD. Hence, com­plete merger of HQ IDS with the MoD could be a sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion by Jait­ley to­wards the de­fence of In­dia. There is also news about the The­atre Com­mand where the pri­or­ity must go to estab­lish­ing In­te­grated Func­tional Com­mands first, pre­ceded by ap­point­ing a CDS. The In­dian Coast Guard is re­spon­si­ble for the en­tire 7,517 km of In­dia’s coast­line which is di­rectly un­der the MoD right from its es­tab­lish­ment in Au­gust 1978. Bring­ing all forces de­ployed on In­dia’s 15,107 km land bor­ders sim­i­larly un­der MoD can be an­other sin­gu­lar achieve­ment of De­fence Min­is­ter Jait­ley. This would be the cor­rect in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the ‘One Bor­der, One Force’ con­cept and true ap­pli­ca­tion of the Kargil Re­view Com­mit­tee rec­om­men­da­tions that while the Cen­tral Armed Po­lice Forces (CAPF) could be tasked to aug­ment the Army man­ning the bor­ders, they should be placed un­der the Army. So let them be un­der the MoD at least.

Sig­nif­i­cantly, all Bor­der Guard Di­vi­sions of China are di­rectly un­der the com­mand of the PLA. Then there is also the poor state of bor­der in­fra­struc­ture. Army Chief Gen­eral Bipin Rawat stated on Army Day this year (Jan­uary 15) that of the 72 strate­gic roads only 22 have been com­pleted af­ter so many years, and all of the 14 strate­gic rail-lines ap­proved re­main on pa­per only. This is­sue needs im­me­di­ate at­ten­tion and the crux must be pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ship rather than con­tin­u­ing to de­pend on lim­ited ca­pac­ity of the Bor­der Roads Or­gan­i­sa­tion (BRO).

The progress in de­fence pro­cure­ments in­clud­ing through ‘Make in In­dia’ in the de­fence sec­tor needs to fo­cus on elim­i­na­tion of red tape, which doesn’t ap­pear hap­pen­ing; defin­ing strate­gic part­ner­ship; avail­abil­ity of skilled labour; as­sur­ances to investors of as­sured purchases by way of num­bers and agree­ments for ex­ports of prod­ucts, and the like.

Fi­nally are the is­sues like anom­alies in the Sev­enth Cen­tral Pay Com­mis­sion (CPC) par­tic­u­larly al­lowances, dis­burse­ment of, One Rank, One Pen­sion (OROP) and dis­abil­ity pen­sions, non-func­tional upgra­da­tion (NFU) al­lowance granted to all govern­ment ser­vices less armed forces, and down­grad­ing sta­tus of the mil­i­tary through MoD’s let­ter of Oc­to­ber 18, 2016, on as­sign­ing du­ties and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties — all of which have been dealt in a lack­adaisi­cal man­ner.

Won­der if De­fence Min­is­ter Jait­ley also no­ticed that Union Home Min­is­ter Ra­j­nath Singh and Chief Min­is­ter of Ch­hat­tis­garh were per­son­ally present to lay wreaths for the 12 mar­tyrs of CRPF who laid down their lives at Sukma this month. How many times has such re­spect given to se­cu­rity forces mar­tyred in Jammu and Kash­mir? Post the wreath lay­ing, Ra­j­nath Singh an­nounced the govern­ment will en­sure that the fam­i­lies are given min­i­mum ` 1 crore. In case of po­lice forces, one fam­ily mem­ber of the mar­tyr also gets an as­sured job. So, why do De­fence Min­is­ters of In­dia ac­cept armed forces be­ing dis­crim­i­nated against?

A ma­jor flaw in the MoD be­sides not hav­ing mil­i­tary pro­fes­sional at all lev­els is that MoD has no in­sti­tu­tion­alised set up for strat­egy for­mu­la­tion

LT GEN­ERAL

P.C. KA­TOCH (RETD)

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