For National Security’s Sake, Govt Must Push for Military Reforms

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had said in March 2015 that he was giving himself three months to create the post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). He said, “Integration has to be there and Chief of Defence Staff is a must. Give me some time and I will work it out because integration of the three forces does not exist in the present structure.”
One year after Parrikar accepted the need for defence reforms, there has been no forward movement. Meanwhile, Chinese President Xi Jinping has undertaken bold reforms of the PLA’s command structure, including the setting up of five new “battle zones” to undertake integrated joint operations.

Kargil Review Committee Report

After the Kargil conflict, the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) had appointed a Group of Ministers (GoM) to study the Kargil Review Committee report and recommend measures for implementation. The GoM recommended sweeping reforms to the existing national security management system.

The CCS accepted all its recommendations, including establishment of the CDS post. The CCS approved implementation of the following key measures:
Headquarters Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) was established with representation from all the Services.

The Andaman and Nicobar Command and the Strategic Forces Command, both tri-service, were established.

The tri-service Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) was established under the Chiefs of Staff Committee (CoSC) for strategic threat assessments.

Speedy decision making, enhanced transparency and accountability were sought to be brought into defence acquisitions. Approval of the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP 2002) was formally announced.

The National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) was set up for gathering electronic and other technical intelligence.

The CCS also issued a directive that each of India’s land borders with different countries will be managed by a single agency like the Border Security Force. The concept of “one border, one force” was adopted.

The CCS nominated the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) as India’s primary force for counter-insurgency operations. This experiment has not yet fully succeeded as the CRPF is taking inordinately long to settle down in its new role.

The establishment of a National Defence University was approved.

Another Panel on National Security

Despite the new measures approved for implementation by the CCS on 11 May 2001, many lacunae still remain in the management of national security. To review the progress of implementation of the CCS-approved proposals and to take stock of the new developments over the last 10 years – such as the threats emanating from sea (the Mumbai terror strikes) and the rapid deterioration of the regional security environment due to the advent of the Islamic State militia – the growing spread of radical extremism and creeping Talibanisation, the government appointed a new task force on national security, led by former Cabinet Secretary Naresh Chandra, in mid-June 2011.

The Naresh Chandra committee urged the government to ensure adequate military preparedness to deal with growing threats and challenges, including a militarily more assertive China. By far the most salient recommendation of the committee was to appoint a permanent chairman of the present CoSC, that is, another four-star post in addition to the army, navy and air force chiefs of staff.

Concept of ‘Integrated Theatre Commands’

This falls well short of the inescapable operational requirement of appointing a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) and simultaneously creating ‘Integrated Theatre Commands’ for joint warfare in future conflicts. While a permanent CoSC chairman will certainly be able to better coordinate the modernisation plans of the three services and improve the management of tri-service institutions than a rotating head, he will have no role to play in integrating operational plans for joint warfare.

Besides, the committee recommended the creation of three new tri-service commands to better manage future challenges and vulnerabilities. These included a special operations command, an aerospace command and a cyber command. Other recommendations of the committee included the establishment of a Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs to deliberate on security issues having foreign policy implications, the setting up of an advanced projects agency under the defence minister’s scientific advisor to oversee R&D and the posting of additional armed forces officers to the MoD and the MEA and civilian IAS officers to the services HQ for better integration and coordination.

The committee had also recommended an increase in FDI in defence joint ventures from 26 to 49 percent, which has been implemented.
Structural Reforms

The government must immediately appoint a CDS. The logical next step would be to constitute tri-service integrated theatre commands to synergise the capabilities and combat potential of individual services. It is time to set up a tri-service aerospace and cyber command as well as a special forces’ command to meet emerging challenges in these fields and to better manage all available resources. A tri-service logistics and maintenance command has also been long overdue.
International experience shows that structural reform in the defence sector has to be imposed top-down and can never work if the government keeps waiting for it to come about from bottom-up.

(The writer is former Director, Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS), New Delhi.)