There is growing disconnect between Government and the military. Issues now come to the fore all too frequently”¦
Consequent to the Kargil War, in 1999, the Group of Ministers recommended reforms in the national security management system. In May 2001, the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) accepted all its recommendations, including the establishment of the post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) – which has still not been implemented. It is a pressing concern for having a focused, single-point agency for not only advice but also accountability. For too long have there been committees created which tend to obfuscate rather than clarify issues of concern. The CCS also issued a directive that India’s borders with different countries be managed by a single agency – “one border, one force” and nominated the CRPF as India’s primary force for counter-insurgency operations. Ten years later, many lacunae remain in the management of national security. The lack of inter-ministerial and inter-departmental coordination on issues like border management and Centre-State disagreements over the handling of internal security are particularly alarming. The integration of the armed forces headquarters with the Ministry of Defence continues to remain cosmetic.
You cannot navigate dangerous shoals in unknown seas with a flawed compass. The military must be used as a tool of political advice. It is not a mindless tool because professional military officers possess expertise in judging the capabilities of the military instrument of power. India was faced with a situation of a lack of strategy, even after deciding on a punitive approach following the terrorist attack on Parliament attack in 2001. The instructions given to the military were vague at best. According to informed Army sources, the Prime Minister called the three service chiefs and told them to prepare for a war with Pakistan. On being asked by General Padmanabhan, the COAS, as to what the government expected from the war, Prime Minister Vajpayee is understood to have said: woh baad mein bataayenge (that will be told later).20 If military strategy is the ‘art of distributing and applying military means to fulfill the ends of policy’,21 and grand strategy is the art of using all of a state’s means – military, diplomatic, overt, economic etc., there needs to be coherence and convergence between the two. While it is the state which decides how best it can cause security for itself, it needs to reconcile its capabilities with its policies.
The military top brass does not really speak out in public, but even then there is a friction with the civilian leadership now that is hard to ignore.
General JJ Singh was accused of ‘sabotaging’ Indo-Pak talks on the Siachen imbroglio, by insisting on ‘no go’ unless Pakistan recognized and confirmed the Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL)? He would have been guilty of betrayal of the Army and the men he commanded, if he did any less – a strategically advantageous terrain, won by sacrifice of many lives, expenditure of national exchequer, much human toil and misery for decades, would be occupied in a jiffy by the Pakistanis, if it was left unverified and unguarded.22
There is growing disconnect between Government and the military. Issues now come to the fore all too frequently e.g. in May, after army chief General V.K. Singh said – in reply to a question – that his force had the capabilities to conduct the kind of operation that the US did to track and kill Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, the defence minister told the service chiefs to reduce interacting with the media. In July, the defence minister told the IAF chief that he was displeased with remarks on Indian nuclear strike capabilities during the Pakistan foreign minister’s visit.23 The air chief’s statement was also frowned upon by the foreign office. The military top brass does not really speak out in public, but even then there is a friction with the civilian leadership now that is hard to ignore.