Higher Defence Organisation – Responsibility for Defence of India
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. More importantly, since the Services HQs of British India were not fully trusted, they were made “Attached Offices”. It is absolutely essential to make the Defence Minister fully responsible for Defence of the country and amend the Rules of Business of GoI to ensure that Services HQ are no more ‘attached offices’ but wholly, a part and parcel of the MoD.
We have a National Security Council that barely met under the previous government…
Reorganisation of the MoD
We cannot afford to continue with ‘generalist bureaucrats’ in the MoD with little or no knowledge of military matters. The Railways (almost as large as the Army) 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 (serving, on deputation or on permanent absorption) 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). In addition, to bridge the vital void of integration, HQ Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) should be completely merged with the MoD, as recommended by several Committees.
Chief of Defence Staff (CDS)
Appointing a CDS should be done on priority as recommended by the Kargil Review Committee, the Group of Ministers Report and the Arun Singh Committee Report. This is vital not only for providing single point military advice to the political authority but also to bring synergy between the three Services that is completely lacking at the moment, transforming 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 carrying out arbitration over disagreement between the Services, as was cunningly inserted in the document authorising the establishment of HQ-IDS and the CDS.
National Security Commission/ Council
There has been debate in the media about the need for a National Security Commission. We have a National Security Council that barely met under the previous government while the NSAB was also working part time until recently. Whether a new National Security Commission is appointed or the existing National Security Council is reorganised (acronym for both being NSC), it has to be a dynamic organisation working on 24×7 basis. It should be headed by the Prime Minister himself as the ex officio Chairman, a Deputy Chairman on a permanent basis, the CCS and NSA as members, with full time members and staff from all the concerned fields.
India has Special Forces quantitatively on par with the USA but not one-tenth their capability…
The Prime Minister needs a Strategic Core Group (SCG) because defence and security issues have been neglected too long and the level of our defence preparedness has gone down. A Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) is vital with a Prime Minister at its helm. Threats that India faces require a synergised response at the national level, requiring continuous monitoring and dynamic simultaneous actions to prevent being a reactive nation. Aims of the SCG would be: one, to keep the PM briefed and updated on all matters pertaining to national defence and security; two, to assess short, medium and long-term threats and suggest courses of action; three, to recommend a roadmap for RMA and monitor its execution once approved by the PM; four, to make recommendations related to defence procurements, R&D, technology acquisition and reorganising the defence-industrial base; five, to recommend a policy response against asymmetric war and employment of Special Forces for politico-military missions at strategic level; and six, to recommend a roadmap for perception management including optimising Think Tanks in India and abroad. In addition, it would be advisable to have appropriate military advisory cells with the External Affairs Minister and Home Minister as well.
Response to Proxy Wars
Despite having been subjected to cross-border terrorism for over two decades, we have not been able to establish a credible deterrence against irregular warfare. India has Special Forces quantitatively on par with the USA but not one-tenth their capability. We have total voids in terms of strategic intelligence despite this being the main task of Special Forces of modern armies today. While Special Forces are required to be central to asymmetric response, their employment would be totally covert, giving nil or deniable signatures. Optimising the Special Forces effort and their employment at strategic level on politico-military missions can best be worked out by the SCG of the PM, assisted by the CCS and NSA as required. In addition, countering state-sponsored terror requires inter-ministerial and multi-agency response coordinated by an apex body.
Revolution in Military Affairs
India desperately needs an Act of Parliament like the Goldwater-Nichols Act of the US or the Berlin Decree of Germany plus political direction at the highest level as done by Deng Xiaoping and Ziang Zemin in China, to transform the Indian Military into a fourth generation network-centric warfare capable force by inducting platforms, integrating reconnaissance, surveillance, information and command and control assets and through doctrinal and functional jointness. Apex level direction and monitoring is all the more vital because of limited fiscal resources.
Indigenisation must be given a boost with a dynamic roadmap for Research & Development…
Military diplomacy implies using resources of armed forces to promote national security interests, peaceful application of resources from across the spectrum of defence to achieve positive outcomes in developing the country’s bilateral and multi-lateral relationships. It is distinct from coercive diplomacy and is being used extensively by foreign countries including the US, China and Pakistan. While application of national power should be through the domains of diplomacy, information operations, military and economic, military diplomacy can contribute in all the four. India must make military diplomacy part of its foreign policy and create capacities, structures and processes necessary to put it into action.
Defence Industrial Complex
A complete review of DRDO, OFB and DPSUs including their achievements and failures in different technical fields must be carried out to ascertain the strengths and weaknesses, where the flab is and how to integrate the private industry. This is to have a realistic idea of those sectors where indigenous technology can be exploited in the short term and where to resort to joint ventures and import. Manning of command and control appointments in Defence PSUs, OFB and Ordnance Factories by military veterans should be considered.
Indigenisation must be given a boost with a dynamic roadmap for R&D, producing state-of-the-art arms, equipment and technologies to be developed according to laid-down timelines. The news about FDI in defence being raised from the current lowly 26 per cent to 100 per cent is heartening. This will encourage genuine Public-Private Partnership in India. The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) should be energised and a time-bound review of the Defence Procurement Manual should be affected to identify redundant procedures, reduce duplication and limit the number of agencies involved.
A realistic assessment of the state of readiness of our border infrastructure must be made…
A realistic assessment of the state of readiness of our border infrastructure must be made and timelines drawn to fast track development incorporating private players for road infrastructure, boosting capabilities of the Border Roads Organisation. Sensitive areas along the LAC should not be manned by Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) like the ITBP under MHA. The task of defending the LAC must be under the MoD. It should be left to the Army to decide what troops to deploy and they should be given additional CAPF, as demanded by them and as found feasible. Considering the illegal immigration, smuggling of arms, narcotics, placing the CAPF deployed along the Bangladesh and Myanmar borders under the command of the nearest Area or Sub Area HQ could be examined.
Changes as above would provide a boost to defence preparedness, usher in an RMA, evolve requisite strategies and policies including for national security, response to asymmetric war, defence procurements, R&D, technology acquisition and reorganising the defence-industrial base. Development and economic progress are undoubtedly priority tasks for the new government but national defence and security issues must be given equal importance if India is to gain its rightful place in the comity of nations.