Date: 27 Dec 2008



By Brig PT Gangadharan, Veteran

1. India is perhaps the only country in the comity of democratic nations, where defence forces are kept out of purview of higher defence management. Even in Communist nations like Russia and China, the defence personnel are part   of the higher defence management. The defence forces have a direct role in providing external security. In our  country with insurgency problems   since independence, naxalism in most states, wide spread terrorism in all its manifestations ,regionalism, sons of soil movement, casteism ,politics of religion and many such internal turmoil  affecting the integrity of the nation, even internal security to a large extend has  come within the ambit of the responsibilities of Armed Forces. With the failure and loss of the credibility of internal security forces in discharging their duties impartially and unbiased, the administration and citizens look up towards the Armed Forces, as a savior for restoration of normality. From the day to day events of the country, it is evident that the Armed Forces are the last bastion in all eventualities, with credibility. If that be so, why are the Armed Forces kept way from higher defence management which affects them directly?

2.  From the days of Independence, the country adopted an adhoc system of defence management, as a vestige of the British rule, which is still continuing .The father of the Nation, preached and practiced non violence   and the leaders who followed him also adopted the same philosophy to a large extent. Perhaps that may be one of the possible reasons, that both our first PM and   President, even expressed their desire of down   sizing our armed forces after independence. It appears that in their perception, the Armed Forces remained a national waste and a drain on the exchequer. If at all they were of any use, it was limited to short duration and there was never a requirement of large standing armed forces for our country, with non violence and non alignment as the National ethos. This view may have got cemented further by witnessing the large scale army raised during   World War II, in a short span of time and disbanding them after the war. The psyche of our National leaders and the ICS turned IAS appears to have largely been influenced by these historical events.

3. Another important event which may have influenced the psyche of our National leaders was the military coup in Pakistan, overthrowing the civilian Govt soon after independence. Our IAS administrators took advantage of this fear psychosis of our political leaders   at this juncture and continued   a misinformation campaign. In their perception the military officers have been unduly placed in a higher order in the hierarchy, as compared to them. During independence the Commander-in-Chief of India was number two in the hierarchy. Neither the politicians nor the administrators could   digest this, especially so when they had no military experience to empathize with the armed forces. The manipulative and self serving bureaucracy took advantage of the vacuum existed in administrative machinery along with the political leaders, both of whom have developed apathy towards the armed forces. They orchestrated the edging away of the Armed Forces from decision making. When various ministries were formed, the IAS again took advantage of the prevailing situation in the administrative machinery in a newly formed Govt, and kept the Armed Forces away from the Ministry of Defence, treating them like an unwanted commodity. Thus the bureaucrats replaced the political leaders, in exercising powers on the defence forces.   This deft move during the transition period went unchallenged as we had very few senior and experienced military officers on Independence. Most of the military officers   even with six years of service were Battalion commanders then. Thus the service Headquarters became the attached Headquarters of the MoD.All decisions were taken by the beaucrats, with virtually no inputs from the services, and thus by practice, established precedence.

4. The bogey of a military coup and the discomfort of our political masters to deal directly with the military leadership were adroitly manipulated by the bureaucracy to replace the politicians in the handling of military, thus ensuring civil control. This arrangement is continuing for the last 60 years, and by practice and precedence, it has become acceptable to the Political leaders, who lack vision, experience and ability to empathize. All efforts to convince the political masters get negated by the perceived threat of a military coup, reflected in the annual reports of the MoD, repeatedly even now. The wars the Indian Army fought in 47-48, 62, 65, 71 & 99 have not made any difference to their perception. Some cosmetic changes in the MoD structure were affected as a sequel to the Subramanian Committee report, submitted in the aftermath of the Kargil skirmish in 1999.

5. The concept of the Integrated Ministry of Defence as recommended by the Subramanian Committee report was not accepted by the MoD staff in entirety and on the contrary, the bureaucrats   evolved their own structure, in a modified form. The new concocted evolution did not effect the existing structure of MoD ,but resulted in additions like        the  Headquarters Integrated Defence Staff, the Andaman & Nicobar Command(A & C),the Strategic Force Command(SFC) and re-designation of the Services Headquarters as the Integrated Headquarters.(E.g.:- Integrated Ministry of Defence (Army).)The issue of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), to provide a single point of advice to the RM/PM was vaguely left out in the pretext of obtaining political consensus. The integration of armed forces officers in the existing MoD staff was also totally ruled out by the bureaucrats   apparently with the tacit approval of the RM.

6.In effect,  a fourth component in the form of HQ IDS and its affiliates has now been created in addition to the three services headqurters.The devolution of powers to the HQ IDS is only peripheral in nature and on the contrary the bureaucrats in the MoD , enjoy more authority than hithertofore,because of this  addendum. With hardly any authority vested with HQ IDS, it is only a white elephant and an additional link to delay in the chain of decision making, on matters which suit the bureaucrats in MoD.Very cleverly, the recommendations of Subramanian Committee report have been circumvented and it helped in further consolidation of the authority of MoD civil staff on the defence services. These adroit interpretations of the Subramanian committee report seem to have satisfied the political leaders as well and they have kept the services busy, in evolving procedures to streamline the functioning of HQ IDS.  The additional expenditure of staffing and manning of the HQ IDS and other connected structures are of no consequence to the self serving bureaucrats. The most vital issue of a single point professional advice to the RM by the CDS on matters defence is still not addressed, even after seven years of the formation of the Integrated Ministry of Defence.

7. The Cabinet Committee on security (CCS) is the apex body in this country to take decisions on security matters, affecting the nation. They are assisted by the National Security advisory Board (NSAB), functioning under the National Security advisor (NSA). The NSAB consists of eminent persons from different walks of life, including one or two former defence service officers. The Chiefs of Staff Committee is not a part of NSAB, but may be called when necessary. Since there is no CDS, the omnipotent Defence Secretary represents the defence services as an advisor. In the absence of a Nuclear Command Authority (NCA) with designated advisors, the NSAB   is expected to fill this gap too. Is this arrangement suitable in the context of a nuclear war with our potential adversaries, especially so when we have exercised the retaliatory option, as against the first strike option of our adversary? It is an irony that the defence services which is the executive organ in all security matters is not represented in the apex bodies, taking decisions on the security of the nation. Even the Chiefs of Staff Committee (CoSC) was kept way from the decision of our nuclear text conducted in 1998.It is apparent that in our country, the generalists  replace the professionals, in all matters including defence and security of the nation.

8.The assembly, training, equipping and launching of the armed forces are the responsibilities of the Chiefs of Staff .They have to be  part of the decision making process, to ensure that we succeed in our war effort. We cannot depend on some divine power to intercede for us to ensure victory! With political heads    virtually with no experience and vision, with equally ignorant civil servants advising them on matters defence, our security is at peril. We can only get our troops killed in battle with such a defence management. If our armed forces have saved the country despite all confusion in the command and control structure in 1948, 1965, 1971 and 1999, the credit only goes to the armed forces resilience and no such assurances can be assumed for future. The ignominious defeat of the armed forces in the hands of Chinese in 1962, and their continued claim of large chunk of Indian Territory till today are the direct result of the failure of political leaders under the advice of our omnipotent and omniscient bureaucracy. The VI Central Pay Commission   under the direct manipulation   of the bureaucracy has added insult to injury by further tinkering with the status of defence personnel to their disadvantage. Will a demoralized force as existing now, be able to ensure security of the nation as in the past?          
9. The security situation of the country is going through a paradigm shift. Both our major adversaries are nuclear weapon states, with one state with a declared state policy of first strike. Our diplomacy with our neighbors has been wanting in many respects and hence our relations with all our neighbors are at its nadir. As in the case of defence and security, here too the decisions are apparently taken by career diplomats without inputs from all other concerned departments, on all our foreign policy matters. The internal security situation is worsening day by day. There is technological advancement in weapons and equipment with paradigm shift in the technique of warfare. Under such conditions we need to revolutionize the defence management by restructuring the higher defence management organizations in our country. The politicians and bureaucrats must not play politics at the peril of national security.

10. The CCS must have   the NSA and CDS as its advisors, in all security matters. The NSAB must also include the CoSC, and CDS as its permanent members. There must be a single point advice to the RM/PM by the CDS on defence matters. The MoD must be restructured with professionals replacing the civil servants on matters purely military, akin to the Railway and Science & Technology ministries. If the issues of Railways and Science and Technology cannot be handled by the civil servants, then how can they handle the much more complicated and specialized issues of the Armed Forces? The defence ministry must be headed by the CDS   with the Defence Secretary managing the affairs of the defence production, DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organization) and Defence Accounts. On the services side, the VCDS should exercise control over the ANC, SFC and National Space Command (when created).The HQ   IDS should replace the present MoD, with professional service officers occupying all posts dealing exclusively with service issues. This will ensure accountability, synergy and professionalism. It will also result in harmonizing the balance between the civil bureaucracy and military and at the same time ensuring cost effectiveness.  

11. There is a need to have a revolutionary change in the management of higher defence structure in the country, in keeping with the strategic and operational requirements. The aim is not to edge out the civil servants but to harmonize the functional balance between the Armed Forces and the civil servants, by tapping the strong areas of both entities. This will ensure that the guarantors of the security are equally involved in all aspects of the security in harmony with the national policy from its very inception. The organization will become cost effective and the satisfaction level of the Armed Forces will increase in intensity .At the same time this will also ensure accountability which is lacking at the moment. 

12. The country has been running on the adhoc system of defence management for the last sixty years. This system is plagued with pitfalls and in a modern war with nuclear weapons the Armed Forces may not be able to provide the necessary security to the nation. The Defence Forces are a specialized entity and their handling by administrators with no knowledge and inability to empathise can only be at the peril of the national security and interest of the forces. While the administrators are certainly a necessary link between various agencies they are not trained to replace professionals. In keeping with our security requirements, the country needs a single point advice from a professional who will remain accountable for his actions. It is time that we seriously consider the reorganization of the MoD.