8:28 pm - Friday June 5, 2020

CDS : Using It To Evolve and Improve Defence Rather Than Devaluing The Service Chiefs

CDS : Using It To Evolve and Improve Defence Rather Than Devaluing The Service Chiefs

Rajiv Upadhyay   rp_RKU-263x300.jpg

India has finally implemented a long debated concept of Chief Of Defence Staff, a rather nebulous idea , which has been adopted by USA and many other countries . It is hoped it will give nation the benefit of a unified vision of our defence needs and drawing a suitable strategy . However all service chiefs have been against it as they feared it will be used to whittle them down or lead to hegemony of Army . Articulate amongst them pointed out that Pakistan always had what is called unified theatre command but it served no extra purpose even during war . Airforce for example solved it by posting an air force officer in Army headquarter for better coordination .But politicians were troubled by the  competing demand for scarce resource for allocation between the three services which needed defence minister to arbitrate, without adequate expertise . After all how can defence minister choose between bullet proof jacket and Brahmos – 2 missile battery for fund allocation !

Babus in the defence ministry used these service differences to fish in troubled water to promote their own control over services, often humiliatingly  . At one stage in General  VK Singh saga , Babus of defence ministry reportedly  tried by passing army chief to order DGMO directly, threatening application of mutiny laws if disobeyed ! The treatment given to our great General Manekshaw after retirement , is too well known for repetition .So babus are rightly the least trusted institution in any service headquarter and are least suited for this role .

Also due to changing technology many new disciplines are emerging like Cyber warfare , space , Missiles , nuclear weapons etc which needed allocation to some selected service . Emergence of China as the next super power is a great challenge .Also a growing India is moving from desiring a mere defence of its borders to playing a regional power role in global scenario .It needs a new strategy like expanding the Andaman Command , using naval amphibious and air attack modes , international anti piracy operations, developing overseas bases etc  . These new challenges require new thinking and a new CDS could ideally apply his mind and help in solving these problems by a joint service consultation and command and other institutions. In future selected officers of army , navy and airforce may be prepared for this role by posting them for two years each in other services .

But as with the Indian experiment with democracy in early years  , its success depends on the right choice of the first few  individual as CDS . If we select a universally respected visionary, well educated and articulated armed force officer with field as well as strategic planning experience, it can be a very useful concept . A lot will also depend on how much support he will get from PM , NSA , Foreign , Defence and Finance ministries . Many problems can be solved if Prime Minister supports him by following the Vajpayee’s tradition in having a monthly chat over tea with him often with three service chiefs also . He must not depend on  a second hand view from any bureaucrat about defence matters . Preferably he should have same status as NSA and other advisers to PM ie MOS .  Another useful item will be if the financial powers of at least a day’s war cost , say ten thousand crore rupees are given to him,  the way Nehru empowered Atomic Energy department, when he freed it from pre audit and finance ministry controls in day today working  . He should make the new rules for his service officers rather than bureaucracy. An officer selected with so much care and a proven service record  can be freed from CBI , CVC , ED type intrusions in the name of transparency and parliamentary control as our enemies operate under similar freedoms .Both China and Pakistan have the advantage of quick decision making that our armed forces too must have .

We may have to quickly absorb the experience of USA and other countries but ultimately evolve our own strategies suiting our needs. We may have to run many high level unified war games in CIA / Pentagon fashion . He must avoid inbreeding by using  genuine global and Indian think tanks liberally rather than depending on just a few cadre officers for providing all the inputs .Essentially we do not need a great war tactician who will keep treading on other service chiefs toes but a visionary, for atleast ten years till the new office has laid firm foundation with great traditions. For future, some officers of Army , Navy and Airforce may be posted in different services in field and headquarter for two years each and given training in the best national and international institutions .

Can our staid system select and develop such an individual who  can steer nation to a new dawn in strategic defence thinking and preparing India for a super power role . A lot may depend on wisdom of our NSA ,Defence minister and Prime Minister .

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