Higher defence organisation

Issue No. 11 | June 01-15, 2014By Lt General (Retd) P.C. Katoch

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 reorganising the defenceindustrial base, etc.

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 defenceindustrial base, etc.