Consequent to the submission of the Kargil Review Committee Report, the Cabinet Committee on Security had appointed a Group of Ministers headed by the Home Minister to study its recommendations and advise the CCS. The GoM, in turn, appointed four task forces to carry out an in-depth analysis of the major lacunae pointed out by the Subrahmanyam Committee in the management of national security. The Central Industrial Security Force, the Special Service Bureau, the constabulary and the provincial armed police of the concerned states and, occasionally, fortes like the National Security Guard are involved in internal security duties at present.
One year after Pakistan military defeat in Kargil, the major lessons of the conflict are being acted upon in a determined manner. Consequent to the submission of the Kargil Review Committee Report, the Cabinet Committee on Security had appointed a Group of Ministers headed by the Home Minister to study its recommendations and advise the CCS. The GoM, in turn, appointed four task forces to carry out an in-depth analysis of the major lacunae pointed out by the Subrahmanyam Committee in the management of national security.
These task forces on higher defence management, internal security, border management and intelligence have since been constituted and are expected to submit their reports within about three months. In keeping with the spirit of the times and increasing transparency in issues related to national security, the task forces have invited comments from interested citizens and have initiated the process of recording the views of experts and defence analysts outside the government. It is imperative that the silent national security issues are clearly identified so that the task forces are sharply focussed in their approach.
The foremost aspect of the nation’s higher defence management system that requires immediate reformation is the organisational structure of the Ministry of Defence. The task force headed by Mr Arun Singh must examine why India continues to be the only major democracy in the world in which the headquarters of the armed forces are not part of an integrated MoD. This anomaly has created numerous bottlenecks and hurdles in the smooth functioning of the Services HQ and their interaction with the MoD.
Proposals that generally have the prior approval of the respective chiefs of staff go through labyrinthine processing within the MoD before they finally reach the Raksha Mantri for approval. The merger ff the Services HQ with the MoD will eliminate the red tape to a large extent if it is also combined with certain other measures like the delegation of authority and financial powers to the Chiefs of Staff to manage their own revenue budgets and the enhanced empowerment of integrated financial advisers with each of the services for fast-track approvals.
Another significant command and control issue on which India continues to lag behind other major democracies is the absence of a Chief of Defence Staff with a Joint Planning Staff HQ. Warfare in the nuclear era makes 1t mandatory that the Cabinet Committee on Security is given ‘single point military advice. As recent wars have so vividly demonstrated, victory on the modern battlefield goes to the side that is capable of conducting closely integrated, synergised operations that optimise the combat potential of all the services. Synergy in operations can come only from a joint military strategy evolved during ‘peace time under the direction of an overall planning supremo who has the authority to iron out inter-service differences. The creation of the post of CDS is an idea whose time has come. Any further delay would seriously jeopardise India’s ability to fight the next war successfully.
The task force on internal security, headed by Mr NN Vohra, perhaps has the most unenviable job of all. The last two decades of the 20th century witnessed a spate of internal security problems, terrorism and insurgencies in Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir and in India’s northeastern states. Though law and order is a state subject, the level and intensity of the “proxy war” sponsored by Pakistan have led to the increasing involvement of the central government’s police and para-military forces and the Indian army in an ad hoc manner. The army, in particular, has been employed for internal security duties and counter-insurgency operations without adequate regard for its primary role. Besides the army, the Rashtriya Rifles and the Territorial Army, the Assam Rifles, the Border Security Force, the Central Reserve Police Force, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police. the Central Industrial Security Force, the Special Service Bureau, the constabulary and the provincial armed police of the concerned states and, occasionally, fortes like the National Security Guard are involved in internal security duties at present.
The employment of a plethora of forces can only lead to the lack of cohesiveness and in the execution of policy. In the long run, it is bound to lead to avoidable turf battles. Essentially, the police and para-military forces at the disposal of the state and central government should be capable of tackling internal security problems. To enable them to do this, they must develop an army-like ethos. The CRPF is the best-suited force to be nominated and reorganised as the primary central government foe for counter-insurgency operations.
The regular army should not be employed for internal security duties unless it becomes absolutely unavoidable due to the presence of well-trained foreign militants with sophisticated weapons. Even then it should be for short-duration surgical operations only under the umbrella of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. It has by now been well established that the prolonged employment of the army tor such duties hampers its operational preparedness and has an adverse impact on its training schedules for its primary role.
It is now well recognised that the army’s continuous employment for internal security ditties and counter-insurgency operations over the entire decade of the 1990s was one of the factors that emboldened ‘Pakistan to launch its Kargil misadventure. The nomination of the CRPF as the primary counter-insurgency strike force will also enable the other CPMFs like BSF and ITBP to return to their primary role and the task force on border management, headed by Mr Madhav Godbole, must take this into account. In fact, perhaps a single task force on internal security and border management would have been more appropriate as the two issues are inter-linked. The infiltration of armed mercenary terrorists from Pakistan, mass migrations from Bangladesh into Lower Assam, the smuggling of consumer goods and fake Indian currency from Nepal, the operations of ULFA militants from safe hideouts in Bhutan and sanctuaries available to insurgency groups of the north-eastern states in Myanmar and Bangladesh, have all added to India’s border security challenges. While the BSF should be responsible for manning all settled borders. The responsibility for unsettled and disputed borders, such as the Line of Control in J&K and the Line of Actual Control on the Indo-Tibetan border, should be that of the army. The principle of “single point control” must be followed if the borders are to be effectively managed. Divided responsibilities never result in effective control.
While full operational control on the LoC is already with the army, it is not the case on the LAC with China. On the LAC the ITBP which is under the | Home Ministry is responsible for the Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh and the Uttar Pradesh segments while the army is deployed in Sikkim and the AR manages the LAC in Arunachal Pradesh, though under the army’s operational control. On the other hand, on the Tibetan side, the entire LAC is managed by Border Guards divisions of the Chinese army under a single commander.
The Subrahmanyam Committee has attributed the Kargil intrusions to a systemic failure of intelligence. The task force on intelligence, headed by Mr GC Saxena, needs to suggest a major overhaul. Since the responsibility for the collection, collation, analysis, synthesis and dissemination of external intelligence is solely that of the Research and Analysis Wing, major users of this intelligence like the political decision-makers and the armed forces are dependent entirely on the inputs provided by RAW. Even intelligence relating to military deployments and movements, the placing of operational and strategic reserves and military plans and intentions of India’s adversaries, is provided by RAW.
Excessive reliance on a single agency without adequate independent verification can result in major failures, as it did in Kargil. Though equipment and budgetary inadequacies cannot be denied, what is really lacking is overall direction of the national effort. A tri-service Defence Intelligence Agency for gathering strategic military intelligence is now absolutely necessary. The possibility of a National Security Agency to coordinate