Military & Aerospace

India’s Higher Defence Management and War Direction Needs Reforms
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 02 Aug , 2017

Military History is replete with examples where good defence management and Higher Direction of war have made smaller but well knit armies win major battles against superior forces. Blitzkrieg, meaning synergy between Air Force and Army, as displayed by Germans in the beginning of Second World War, made allied forces fall against it like ten pins. Modern day warfare with latest technology advancement is a war of synergy between Army and Air force and where possible with Navy. The big question is that the archaic system of Higher Defence Management that we got from British 70 years back, did we bring about major changes in it, in keeping with time? Do we have synergy between the three services? Do we have good and mutually reciprocating civil military relations, being a democracy?

The leaked report of Gen Henderson Brooks on our shameful loss to China in 1962 Indo-China war, brings about the facts that had there been synergy between Army and Air force, had there been good civil- military relations, had we been better prepared, had there been no political interference in higher direction of war, China would have suffered a major defeat. In this war China took a big gamble and attacked us with no air cover because the sole airfield in Tibet that time was not capable of taking on a fighter aircraft, due to its high altitude and short runway. India at this time had in its Air force new Vampire and Toofani fighters. Had they been used China would had major defeat in its hand. They were not used due to political interference because head honcho of our Intelligence had convinced then Nehru Government that its use will escalate the war. How this war would have escalated only this Intelligence chief can explain?

It is true that while no two battles are the same however in all countries including India, military history is read to draw lessons and to ensure that same mistakes are not repeated again. So have we learnt any lessons in the five wars that we have fought till date? Answer is at military level yes but same cannot be said of the higher defence management in India, the synergy between the three services and the civil military relations. As late as Kargil War of 1999, during initial stages of operations, when Army realised that Pakistanis sitting on top of Kargil Hills are much more in numbers then initially anticipated, they asked Air Force to help them out by providing helicopter gun ship support. Air Force told Army to get Government sanction. This sanction came full 15 days later resulting in that many more deaths for Army. Surely this is not synergy. Besides why did sanction take 15 days to come from Ministry of Defence? Is this the way we are going to fight a war of future? God help us if a nuclear threat develops.

Problem with us is that we are still geared to fight yesterday’s battle today. Being a democracy it is ok to have civilian control over military but in India with our political masters even after 70 years of independence, still not clued up with strategical thought and matters military, unlike western democracies, have delegated this task to the status quo seeking bureaucracy. So in India it is not civilian control but bureaucratic control over military. It is difficult to believe but true that thanks to India’s Colonial day rules, responsibility of security of the country is not bestowed with the three services chiefs or the elected defence minister but with the Defence Secretary a bureaucrat. So what surprise when Pakistan brow beats us and China dares us in Doklam? They all know that our process of decision making is tardy and muddled.

Despite Navy crying hoarse to augment its submarine fleet against developing China-Pakistan nexus, conditions today are so pathetic that While China has 65 submarines and Pakistan eight; we have from holding of 19 reduced to just 13 old rickety submarines out of which only 5-6 at any time are operational. The Six scorpene submarines which France is building for us in India, the project is running three years late. With 7000 km long coastline to defend and whole of Indian Ocean to dominate, India had planned for three aircraft career task forces, one each for Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal and one is reserve. At one time we had two aircraft careers; however after retirement of one aircraft career we are left with just one. Surely MOD should have thought of this well in advance? Who should be made accountable for these sad state of affairs? It needs to be understood that unlike other services Navy takes long time to build.

Indian air force story is no better. We have 42 fighter squadron authorised air force. Today due to retirement of old vintage aircrafts we are left with just 30 squadrons two less than even Pakistan ,while China and Pakistan have joined hands. For last decade air force has been requesting MOD to get new aircrafts before it is too late but their requests fell on deaf years. Now in panic we are beating around the bush to do some emergency purchases. Question is why?  Who is accountable for this sad show?

Bofors a very good medium gun for Army was purchased from Sweden with agreement for transfer of technology, 31 years back. Actually it was this gun which won the war for us in Kargil. Unfortunately our politicians of those days got involved in corruption concerning this gun. So MOD after purchasing 400 guns buried the whole deal. Today Indian Army lacks firepower in medium guns which is a big lacuna. In last 31 years no new Medium Gun has been purchased for the Army. This is a big draw back in war but who is bothered? Once again who is accountable?

Let there be no doubt that after departure of Rajiv Gandhi as Prime Minster the Indian Armed Forces have been neglected by the various governments who came to power till date. What is really baffling that India which has made a world record by launching 100 satellites in one go, which is an IT Super Power, which is building own atomic reactors; cannot produce even a sturdy modern rifle for its solders. We are the world’s largest arms purchaser from abroad, purchasing almost 70% of our needs even after 70 years of independence? Shame on us. This is happening when we have a 25000 corer DRDO organisation to develop weapons for us, 42 state of art laboratories, 41 ordinance factories and eight huge PSUs.

Our political masters must understand that in international arena if they want India to be counted then just Diplomacy and soft power is not enough. Without hard power to boot soft power has no meaning.US and China are no fools to spend so much on their military. North Korea a small and impoverished country is threatening US today and America does not know what to do, just because North Korea is claiming military capability to even nuke America.

In 2003 after Kargil War, Group of Minsters then under Home Minster Advani had sanctioned 23 reforms in the functioning of Services Headquarters and MOD. Unfortunately none of these reforms have been implemented in full thanks to the bureaucracy straddling the MOD. It is time that they are implemented in full. The post of Chief of Defence Staff to control and coordinate the three services, as already sanctioned in 2003, must be created. All these 23 reforms must be implemented. To deal with the threat evolving from South China Sea & shenanigans of China, India must make Andaman & Nicobar a Theatre Command. Make in India in Defence must be propelled with full throttle. DRDO, Defence PSUs and our ordinance factories must be made to produce quality goods. No More Sab Chalta Hai please.

It is very unfortunate that at a time when China and Pakistan have openly joined hands against, China is threatening war on Doklam issue and Pakistan has enhanced cross border terror attacks, we are still having a part time Defence Minster in Mr Arun Jaitley. A full time defence minster is the need of the hour. Another factor is the defence budget. Agreed that we do not have to compete with China who has three times bigger defence budget then us but we will have to have a defence budget which provides us full security and deters china of any adventurism. Currently China is spending 7% of its GDP on Defence, Pakistan is spending 10% while our Defence Budget is hovering around 1.5%. This is too less and will lead us to serious problems. We must have 3% of our GDP as our defence budget.

However in this bleak picture one thing real good has happened is that the Modi Government has authorised and given them financial powers to the vice chiefs of the three services to carry out emergency purchases of all war like goods. This will go a long way in solving the needs of ammunition and spares required for three services.

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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

Brig Arun Bajpai

Defence and Strategic Analyst

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