Military & Aerospace

Restructuring the Indian Military in the 21st century
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 09 Aug , 2022

Defence modernisation has a major chunk of share in the rhetoric “Atmanirbharta”. With offence becoming the best form of defence and traditional soft power diplomacy giving way to the hard power capabilities, India is pushing forward its hard power by modernising its state-craft, inking defence deals and discussing the need for National defence policies.

Recently, civil-military relations have caught some attention with a focus on the suggestions by the Kargil Review Committee and the Naresh Chandra committee on strategic restructuring. The CDS issues have come up and been sidelined repeatedly, Military budget-related issues and policies such as Agneepath have drawn large-scale backlash and public outbreaks.

NSS (National Security Strategy)

Paramilitary Forces and Armed Forces need to be treated separately as they are governed by different service regulations, rules and conducts. Also, the working of armed forces and internal security recurrence in recent times is a cause of concern. Here, lies the importance of formulating a National Security Strategy (NSS)

NSS is not the sole responsibility of defence but should be from all departments from the Ministry of Statistics, Department of Atomic Energy, shipping to many more, in their own way but a unified one is much required. Most of these departments and ministries work in silos and sharing of information between them is non-existent.

Now, National security requires a pyramidal structure headed by the National Security Advisor and not the Defence Minister to take informed decisions. Maroof Raza supported this viewpoint while moderating the session on Defence modernisation being implemented by CUTS International, global public policy research and action tank.

Speaking at the workshop Commodore Anil Jai Singh mentioned that the NSS is imperative for warfare in the 21st century. In the absence of such strategic guidance, there was no real basis on which India was undertaking structural reforms in the military. He also cautioned India against aping other countries’ security strategies and emphasised the need to craft our own model, taking into account the multi-dimensional kinetic and non-kinetic challenges.

Most countries like the US, Russia and China, who have adapted to theatre commands have aimed for future expeditions or in other words the ability to deploy considerable military power beyond their borders. Hence, formulating a Theater Command has to be in sync with a NSS.

The MoD operates in a watertight compartment

There is a severe lack of mutual exchanges between departments. The core of the service should be a combined doctrine and not guarding turfs by each service. India’s bureaucracy has long maintained ambiguity but won’t be to our advantage in the long run. A combined doctrine will facilitate the correct precedence for reform and restructuring.

In the matters of purchases and acquisitions, in the final stages, after short listing by the services and given to the Defence Secretary’s office and MoD, the services are kept out of the financial matters. Similarly, in negotiations with foreign vendors and the OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturer), decisions are political, and the services are out of the loop. Going forward, separating service headquarters from the MoD seems necessary.

Military commanders being outside the loop of decision making etc., began with the precedence of Krishna Menon’s craft post, the Thimaya- Nehru standoff. For instance, the civilian bureaucracy and the ministry are responsible for the defence of India, not the service chiefs’.

National security requires a pyramidical structure headed by the National Security Advisor (NSA) and not the Defence Minister to take informed decisions and for better coordination.

Indian Ocean Naval-Plomacy

The security of the Indian Ocean is the primary concern of India. As China is advancing, Maritime Theater Command is crucial for India. Geographically, China has a disadvantaged maritime location and she is aware of the fact that establishing dominance over a sea space is necessary to reassert its dominance to be a superpower. The Indian Ocean is the gateway to it, as articulated in the Atlantic Strategy. Therefore, the PLA Navy (PLAN) is expanding at a rapid speed with almost 20 to 25 Blue Order Platforms being commissioned every year and aircraft carriers commissioned and launched in three years.

Currently, China can’t completely contest the Indian Navy but within ten years the picture might entirely change. China is replicating the US model of theatre command and it’s a matter of time for the Chinese military to go expeditionary. India analysing the pace of its neighbour should lay the importance of taking early decisions on its collaborations for nuclear-powered attack submarines, in order to meet its goal of being a pre-eminent blue water power in the Indian Ocean. This would align with India being recognised as a preferred security partner in the Indo-Pacific region by major powers like the U.S.

Defence Acquistion University (DAU)

India currently has 4 million armed forces including the paramilitary forces. These paramilitary Forces, due to a lack of pyramidal structure and coordination are headed by officers who have never served in these Forces.

The fear of making financially incorrect decisions leading to controversies is causing endless delays. The question here is to streamline the system and structure. To go one step further there is a need to create a special group specialising solely in acquisition. For instance, in the US there is a Defence Acquisition University (DAU), which offers courses on defence acquisition. India had made similar efforts in 2018 to develop customized courses and run them at the IDSA (Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis) and run them at the IDSA with DAU’s help. If these courses are run successfully then this would lead to reducing the manpower and capital expenditure of the entire armed forces mentions Amit Cowshish. 

Joint Logistics Command

Manvendra Singh Jasol suggested having a joint logistics command streamlining command and logistics at a preliminary step rather than aiming for fancy command models! He further went on to say that it is true that armed forces lack knowledge of the functioning of the civilian sector and bureaucracy and vice versa.

The core of the service should be a combined doctrine and not guarding turfs by each service. This combined doctrine will facilitate the correct precedence for reform and restructuring.  Restructuring is necessary both for the Ministry of Defence and the Military.

Non-consultative political decisions can also be seen in the case of policies like Agneepath. The focus here should be to streamline the system and structure.

In addition, the panel discussed reforming defence budgeting, procurement, manufacturing and R&D-related policies for increased defence preparedness and modernising the Indian military for 21st-century warfare.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Purushendra Singh

Purushendra Singh is a Research Associate at CUTS International Washington DC, Center. He writes about affairs concerning geo-political security and diplomatic affairs.

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