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National Security Environment:CRITICAL TO CONTROL BABUS, By Col (Dr) PK Vasudeva (Retd), 16 Oct, 13 Print E-mail

Defence Notes

New Delhi, 16 October 2013

National Security Environment


By Col (Dr) PK Vasudeva (Retd)


At a recent Chief of the Staff Committee (CoSC) its Chairman Air Chief Marshal Browne pitched for a common pay commission for the armed forces and wanted representation from their side. Moreover, in a letter to Union Defence Minister Antony he demanded that the terms of the newly announced Seventh Pay Commission must include anomalies which have crept in the emoluments of armed forces over the decades and demanded “full representation”.


Towards that end he underscored, “the Forces must have representatives in the Commission to explain their case, peculiar condition of service and the equivalence of parity, status and so forth. Especially against the backdrop, that “from the Third Pay Commission onward, lot of anomalies had crept into the system which have still not been resolved till date.”  


But the underlying message was crystal clear: “Forces do not have faith in the civilian dispensation,” read bureaucracy to “fully grasp the unique challenges” of military service. Resulting in their eroding “status, parity and equivalence” compared to their civilian counterparts.


Undeniably, there seems to be huge politico-bureaucratic resistance to critical reforms in higher defence management as suggested by late K Subramanyam Kargil Review Committee, the 2001 Group of Ministers’ Reforming the National Security System Report and last year’s Naresh Chandra Taskforce Committee Report. Indeed, one of the main reasons for the failure to bridge the divide.


Pertinently, the Government set-up a Task Force under former Rajya Raksha Mantri Arun Singh to give its recommendations on a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) appointment alongside defence and security matters as recommended by the Subrahmanyam’s Kargil Report. Singh too endorsed the CDS formation on the lines of other world democracies. Dittoed by another GoM under Dy Prime Minister L K Advani in 2000.


Notably, the Government also finalised the basic structure of the CDS to revamp the top defence management. The setting up of a Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) and a tri-service Andaman and Nicobar Command under an Indian Naval Vice Admiral was also approved. With the conceptual framework complete, it was felt the new apex set up would promote joint planning and execution of military affairs.


But, for reasons best known to it, even as the Government accepted all the GoM’s recommendations on instituting a CDS it decided to consult Parties before taking action on it. The consultation process with national and regional parties was initiated in March 2006, a reminded sent in June 2006 and again in January 2007. Alas, only four parties replied the rest were silent. 


Add to this, perhaps the worst kept secret during former Army Chief General V.K. Singh’s controversies-ridden tenure was the lack of “defence preparedness.” According to informed security experts the deficiencies stemming from higher defence mismanagement were known but unfortunately Gen Singh’s confidential letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was leaked.  


Significantly, other controversies centering on civil-military relations revealed the crisis of confidence and trust deficit between military officers and bureaucrats in the Defence Ministry whereby Anthony admitted to “bitterness” between them.


There is no gainsaying the reasons for this are many, including the legacy of the controversies over the Sixth Pay Commission. But more important, it is a structural problem arising from three peculiarities in our institutional structures.

Besides, with many complaints pending in various courts against the Defence Ministry vis-à-vis pay and allowances discrepancies, defence procurement scams and lurking threat perception from China and Pakistan, the Government constituted the 14-member Naresh Chandra Committee in 2012 to suggest ways to revamp defence management.

The Committee’s main objective was to contemporarise the 2000 Kargil Review Committee’s recommendations and examine the state of border management and restructuring system. The Committee submitted its report on 8 August 2012 recommending a permanent CoSC Chairman to exercise “administrative control” over nuclear arsenal, separate joint Special Forces command head, prioritizing the Forces modernisation and prepare an annual defence operational status report.

Sadly, akin to the politico-bureaucratic combine scuttling the recommendation for a CDS post the 1999 Kargil conflict, the Defence Ministry expressed major reservations against the Committee’s fresh proposal for a permanent CoSC Chairman.

Worse, a few months back, the Ministry quietly rejected most of the key recommendations by the Naresh Chandra Taskforce. Pointing to lack of consensus in the Armed Forces and the need to consult parties, it shot down the proposal to create a permanent Chairman of Chiefs of Staff Committee.


Indeed, the CoSC, a four-star General like the three Service Chiefs with a fixed two-year tenure, would have been the Government’s Principal Military Advisor and an “invitee” to the Cabinet Committee on Security. He would have also helped usher some desperately needed synergy among the Army, Navy and IAF in planning, procurement, operational and doctrinal issues.


Similarly, another key recommendation junked was “cross-staffing”, posting of military officers to the Defence Ministry. Thereby, ignoring Subramanyam’s suggestion that “India is perhaps the only major democracy where the Armed Forces HQs are outside the apex Governmental structure.”


The situation remains somewhat similar till this day. The three Service HQs, once merely "attached offices", have been rechristened "integrated HQs of ministry of defence" with some delegation of financial powers. But the nomenclature change is perceived to be "largely cosmetic". Till the armed forces get some concrete institutional role in policy-making, along with effective cross staffing, the divide and the drift will probably continue.


Undoubtedly, it is not only surprising but also shocking as to why the Government should appoint high-powered committees when it is not going to implement its recommendations? Why should the taxpayers’ money be wasted over such an expensive exercise? Clearly, the bureaucracy needs to be tamed and controlled so that the political leadership overrules its objections in national security interest. ----- INFA


(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)




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