Integrate & command

Defence & foreign policy are two sides of the same coin. Just as an IFS officer is a misfit as home secretary, an IAS officer can’t be a defence secretary.

After Independence, joint committees were set up ensuring the supremacy of the civil over the military and quick decision-making with due participation of the military. Over the years all these committees have been wound up and a bureaucratic stranglehold established, marginalising the defence services from decision-making on defence matters. There has been no attempt to rationalise the higher defence organisation, not even after the great debacle of 1962 following which Jawaharlal Nehru died a broken man in 1964. Nehru’s defence minister Krishna Menon, Army Chief Gen.

Thapar and field commander Lt. Gen. Kaul had to resign. Defence secretary Pulla Reddy retired on completing his service on November 18, two days before the Chinese declared a unilateral ceasefire.
After successful wars, defence secretaries have received recognition at par with the Service Chiefs. After 1965, defence secretary P.V.R. Rao, along with Chief of Army Staff Gen. Joyanto Nath Chaudhuri and then Air Chief Marshal Arjan Singh, were awarded the Padma Vibhushan. After 1971, defence secretary K.B. Lal and the three Service Chiefs — Gen. Manekshaw, Admiral Nanda and Air Chief Marshal P.C. Lal — were decorated with the Padma Vibhushan. Gen. Manekshaw was promoted to field marshal and K.B. Lal was promoted to principal secretary, defence. A principal secretary ranks with Cabinet secretary and enjoys higher protocol status than a field marshal.
The Service Chiefs may still enjoy higher protocol status than the defence secretary but over the years their functional subordination to the latter has increased exponentially. Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules, updated in 2010, make the defence secretary responsible for “defence of India and every part thereof, including preparation for defence and all such acts as may be conducive in times of war to its prosecution.” He is also “responsible for the Armed Forces of the Union, namely Army, Navy and Air Force”. There is no mention of the Service Chiefs. It would not be out of place to mention that in the 1965 war Gen. Chaudhuri functioned directly with Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri without the defence secretary being in the loop. This was more so in 1971 when Gen. Manekshaw worked directly with Indira Gandhi.
On March 25, 1955, Nehru announced in Parliament that as in other countries we would have Chiefs of Staff and Defence Councils. A meaningless change in the nomenclature of Service Chiefs to Chiefs of Staff was made. They continue to function as C-in-C of their service, as before. It is a misnomer to call them Chiefs of Staff. In our setup, the defence secretary functions not only as Service Chiefs of Staff but also as Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). As regards Defence Councils, no action was taken. The Public Accounts Committee report of 1958 criticised wasteful expenditure in duplication of work between the ministry and Service headquarters and recommended their integration. The Administrative Reforms Commission of 1967 recommended the appointment of CDS. These were ignored. Spurious arguments were put up against the need for a CDS: our present arrangement was working all right and there was no need for change; only countries with overseas commitments need a CDS. India has no such commitments. It was ignored that the need for a CDS had not arisen on the basis of overseas commitment but due to the nature of modern warfare, requiring integrated functioning of the three Services. Almost all countries have a CDS. It was also argued that unless there was unanimity among the three Service Chiefs, we could not have a CDS.
After the 1971 war, Gen. Manekshaw was to be appointed CDS. Air Chief Marshal P.C. Lal threatened to resign if a CDS was appointed in India. It is good that now the three Service Chiefs have taken a united stand on this issue.
The Kargil Review Committee recommended the appointment of CDS and integration of Services headquarters with the ministry. This was approved by a Group of Ministers in the NDA government but the bureaucracy managed to have its way through a headless integrated defence staff and a sham of an integrated ministry of defence, neither of which has been of much use. The CDS proposal has been derailed by the stipulation that it can be introduced only after consensus among all political parties.
The task force on national security is chaired by Naresh Chandra, an eminent civil servant. Being a former defence secretary, he may have a closed mind on higher defence organisation. A judge or a political leader like Arun Singh would have been a better choice. The Navy and Air Force are represented by former Chiefs, but, for inexplicable reason, no former Army Chief has been included. This does not inspire confidence. However, the presence in the committee of a visionary former Chief, Adm. Arun Prakash, and a visionary former diplomat, G. Parthasarathy, provides a ray of hope.
We certainly need active participation of civil servants in our higher defence organisation. This should be on the same lines as in the UK. In India we have two streams, the generalist from the IAS on a fleeting tenure and the financial advisers. The roles of the two could be combined. If we cannot have a permanent cadre of defence civil servants, as in Britain, we could at least have IFS officers in the ministry who can provide useful inputs. Defence policy and foreign policy are two sides of the same coin. Just as an IFS officer will be a misfit as home secretary, an IAS officer does not fit the bill for defence secretary. The civil servant and the military officer should work together at each rung. The British counterpart of the Indian defence secretary attends Chiefs of Staff Committee meetings but in India he sits in judgment over its recommendations.
Several instances of the civil bureaucracy’s hostile attitude towards the military can be quoted. Gen. Manekshaw was given `2 crores as arrears of pay after 33 years, a few weeks before he died. To this day, a field marshal is denied suitable protocol status and is kept below Cabinet secretary.
Our organisation is too cumbersome for war preparedness. Our programme for acquisition of weapons gets delayed by several years. Indigenous defence production is far from satisfactory. We do not tap private sector talent nor are the Services appropriately associated with the indigenous weapon-development process. We have been surrendering thousands of crores of the defence budget every year even though we face a sensitive security scenario.
A rational higher defence organisation will ensure a unified and economical approach and better defence preparedness. We must not repeat our dismal history of the medieval era when successive invaders found us disunited and unprepared.

This is the second and concluding part of a two-part series on higher defence organisation.

The writer, a retired lieutenant-general, was Vice-Chief of Army Staff and has served as governor of Assam and Jammu and Kashmir

Post new comment

<form action="/comment/reply/113187" accept-charset="UTF-8" method="post" id="comment-form"> <div><div class="form-item" id="edit-name-wrapper"> <label for="edit-name">Your name: <span class="form-required" title="This field is required.">*</span></label> <input type="text" maxlength="60" name="name" id="edit-name" size="30" value="Reader" class="form-text required" /> </div> <div class="form-item" id="edit-mail-wrapper"> <label for="edit-mail">E-Mail Address: <span class="form-required" title="This field is required.">*</span></label> <input type="text" maxlength="64" name="mail" id="edit-mail" size="30" value="" class="form-text required" /> <div class="description">The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.</div> </div> <div class="form-item" id="edit-comment-wrapper"> <label for="edit-comment">Comment: <span class="form-required" title="This field is required.">*</span></label> <textarea cols="60" rows="15" name="comment" id="edit-comment" class="form-textarea resizable required"></textarea> </div> <fieldset class=" collapsible collapsed"><legend>Input format</legend><div class="form-item" id="edit-format-1-wrapper"> <label class="option" for="edit-format-1"><input type="radio" id="edit-format-1" name="format" value="1" class="form-radio" /> Filtered HTML</label> <div class="description"><ul class="tips"><li>Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.</li><li>Allowed HTML tags: &lt;a&gt; &lt;em&gt; &lt;strong&gt; &lt;cite&gt; &lt;code&gt; &lt;ul&gt; &lt;ol&gt; &lt;li&gt; &lt;dl&gt; &lt;dt&gt; &lt;dd&gt;</li><li>Lines and paragraphs break automatically.</li></ul></div> </div> <div class="form-item" id="edit-format-2-wrapper"> <label class="option" for="edit-format-2"><input type="radio" id="edit-format-2" name="format" value="2" checked="checked" class="form-radio" /> Full HTML</label> <div class="description"><ul class="tips"><li>Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.</li><li>Lines and paragraphs break automatically.</li></ul></div> </div> </fieldset> <input type="hidden" name="form_build_id" id="form-9d9f7d14fc1703fef55d25abb10c5557" value="form-9d9f7d14fc1703fef55d25abb10c5557" /> <input type="hidden" name="form_id" id="edit-comment-form" value="comment_form" /> <fieldset class="captcha"><legend>CAPTCHA</legend><div class="description">This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.</div><input type="hidden" name="captcha_sid" id="edit-captcha-sid" value="81162557" /> <input type="hidden" name="captcha_response" id="edit-captcha-response" value="NLPCaptcha" /> <div class="form-item"> <div id="nlpcaptcha_ajax_api_container"><script type="text/javascript"> var NLPOptions = {key:'c4823cf77a2526b0fba265e2af75c1b5'};</script><script type="text/javascript" src="http://call.nlpcaptcha.in/js/captcha.js" ></script></div> </div> </fieldset> <span class="btn-left"><span class="btn-right"><input type="submit" name="op" id="edit-submit" value="Save" class="form-submit" /></span></span> </div></form>

No Articles Found

No Articles Found

No Articles Found

I want to begin with a little story that was told to me by a leading executive at Aptech. He was exercising in a gym with a lot of younger people.

Shekhar Kapur’s Bandit Queen didn’t make the cut. Neither did Shaji Karun’s Piravi, which bagged 31 international awards.