By Brig Arun Bajpai
Defence minister Manohar Parrikar deserves kudos for making a public statement within months of taking over charge that Chief of Defence Staff system is a must for India. He is already working on the concept and will soon forward his recommendations to the Prime Minister for approval.
This must be music to the armed forces, but the Babus lording over the Ministry of Defence, playing
General Sir Nicholas Houghton GCB, CBE, ADC, Chief of the Defence Staff, United Kingdom
General-General for last 68 years since Indian independence, are definitely not going to be happy.
The moot question is —will the bureaucrats habitually usurping the powers in the strategic & military affairs without any responsibility allow the remote control to be snatched from their hand.
They have been used to playing one service against other and fueling fear in the minds of Indian politicians that if armed forces of India are not kept under tight leash there might be a coup. Inspite of all the good intentions of Parrikar the mischief making capability of Indian bureaucracy cannot be underestimated.
After the Kargil war the NDA Government had established a high powered committee under defence and strategic analyst K Subramaniam, the father of the current foreign secretary Jayshankar. Subramanian took a holistic approach submitted a detailed report to the government on the ills affecting higher defence management in India. The NDA Government then set up a Group of Ministers under then home minister LK Advani to study these recommendations and implement them. This GOM accepted most of the recommendations of the Subramanium Committee. Thereafter the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) of the Vajpayee Government also approved 23 recommendations for implementation.
These included development of Indian nuclear deterrence, higher defence management including CDS, Intelligence sector reforms, border management, defence budget, use of air power, integrated manpower policy and defence procurement.
Though work started on some of the other issues, the actual implementation of CDS was kept pending for want of political consensus. In 2004 the NDA Government gave way to the Congress led UPA Government and as usual the Babudom straddling the MOD used this as an opportunity to create mischief. As a result even 19 years later the work is still in progress.
India needs the CDS- General Number 1 to provide single-point military advice to the government; better manage country’s strategic resources and nuclear arsenal; three, bring synergy among Army, Navy and Air Force by resolving inter-service doctrinal, planning, procurement and operational issues, and; four, integrate the Services Headquarters with MoD.
Adm. Mike Mullen, left, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, (USA) and Gen. Jean-Louis Georgelin, Chief of Defence Staff (France)
At Least 70 countries including US, UK, France, Germany and Australia have CDS like post for integration of military operations and planning. Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) in US and CDS in France are highest ranking military officer and principal military adviser to the President of their country. In US, the Theatre Commanders report directly to the political leadership.
In India if you ask the politicians and bureaucrats why India has not been able to implement the CDS system, the answer always is that the Services don’t agree and more forcefully that “we need political consensus”. The truth is that in 2005 when Pranab Mukherjee was the Defence Minister, all the Service Chiefs has unanimously raised the demand for a CDS but also endorsed the need for CDS to have full operational powers over all the Armed forces.
The fact remains that the Babus did not want this to happen and advised their political masters accordingly lest they lose all the powers.
Ironically even after 68 years of independence the person responsible for defence of India is not the Defense Minister, the three army chiefs but the defence secretary of India – a bureaucrat. The three Services Chiefs are “Attached Offices “of the MOD.
This gives the handle to the bureaucrats in the MOD to not only meddle in military affairs and still if anything goes wrong the Services get the flak.
The Defence Secretary (not Defence Minister) is in-charge for the defence of India as per the ‘Rules of Business’. Even the other IAS officers in the MoD follow the divide the military and rule policy.
It all started when India’s third defence minister VK Krishna Menon’s name figured in the infamous Jeep Scandal. It brought shame to the county in 1962 Indo-China war. Since then the party funds of the ruling party always kept bloating with the 10 percent commission on arms purchased abroad as good will money.
The legacy of authority without responsibility is the greatest bane of the defence of India and the reason why the bureaucracy manages to hide behind excuses. Little wonder why India’s defence indigenisation is so pathetic and even after 68 years India is importing 70 percent of its defence requirements at a cost of 70000 Crore per year. No inquiry for lapses and delays in defence production takes place, no blame apportioned and no heads ever tolls.
A worrying factor is that the Modi Government is planning to implement the Naresh Chandra committee report watered down the five star post of CDS (and his secretariat holding total sway over the three services) recommended by Subramanian Committee to a four star general at par with the three service chiefs.
In other words it might be a staff officer with no field responsibility.
This might turn out to be a half hearted solution in the rank conscious armed forces as the bureaucrats in the MoD will still be the final arbiters.
This must be avoided at all costs. World history tells us that in all such implementations in matters military only the top down approach works.