Centralisation of power in any domain is counter productive because it suffers from the 'Predictability' factor. Predictability of action in military operations is a sure recipe to disaster because the adversary knows in advance the likely course of actionhence ready to neutralise.
Decentralisation of power, therefore, not only involves more than one brain but also acts as an antidote to conformal thinking. It is in this context that our military structure evolved over decades has stood the test of its relevance, therefore needs no tampering.
Subrahmanyam Committee report was not constituted in a professional manner. Leaving out Air Force and Naval member from the team amounts to lack of professional wisdom. Hence the recommendations of the report cannot be considered to have been arrived at with holistic approach encompassing all aspects of military operations and structure. Inadequacy of the report is proven by the fact that the government which ordered it did not implement its recommendations.
Needs of galloping 21st century and rapidly changing strategic equations across the globe require a fresh look at the future, 2050 and beyond. We cannot, should not and must not alter the military structure on a report with previous century recommendations.
In the vaults of Indian Government offices dozens, maybe more, of reports on various issues gather dust. The most (in) famous among dust gathering reports is the Henderson-Bhagat report on the 1962 debacle. Every government keeps pulling out a few of these reports that suit their (mostly) political agenda. In recent times one such report that was fished out entirely for political gain was the Mandal Commission report.
Our former PM, Late VP Singh pulled out the Mandal Commission Report from the waste paper basket, where it was lying for nearly 13 years unactioned. His predecessors rightly decided against implementing the recommendations of the Mandal Commission to keep the ‘curse’ of reservation within limits. His action was aimed at garnering votes of Other Backward Caste members. Rest is history. Reservation proportion in government jobs rose to 49%. ‘Gunny Sack’ politics had yet again undermined national interests.
Reservation is the single biggest curse and impediment in growth of the nation and it impinges and will continue to impinge directly on national security. Not one intellectual organisation or an intellectual raised voice of sanity against such indiscriminate decision. Personally I remember VP Singh for a different reason. He fought the Lok Sabha election from my hometown, Fatehpur (UP).
I had the privilege of a personal meeting with him during the election campaign at Fatehpur. I requested him that to improve the status of Fatehpur, “would he consider opening institutions of higher learning at Fatehpur?” His reply was startling; “I have to look at national interest, not local requirements”. Fatehpur in 2022, constituency of a former PM, is among 69 most backward districts of the nation. That has been VP Singh’s gift to Fatehpur. However, courtesy current BJP MP, medical college has been opened recently.
History repeated itself and the Subrahmanyam Committee report on military reforms languishing for 18 years under lock and key was pulled out for no apparent reason or need, although few cosmetic recommendations have been implemented. A word about the report; Notwithstanding the contents of the Subrahmanyam committee report, it suffers from a fundamental drawback. Composition of the committee was flawed.
Committee looking into military reforms, security issues did not have any Air Force and Naval members. Atal Ji’s government must have evaluated the contents and ‘rightfully’ concluded that there was no need to alter the existing military structure, both among civilian and uniformed establishment. Successive governments, too, did not consider it fit to implement the recommendations.
Non resolution of OROP issue as per Koshiyari Committee report duly approved by Parliament was tampered with causing absolutely unwanted, undesirable and unwarranted controversy leading to erstwhile men in uniform resorting to agitation. Before going any further let me reiterate my personal stand on the issue. Legally speaking the government had no business to tamper with/review the Koshiyari committee recommendations on OROP. However notwithstanding indiscreet action by the government, ‘men in uniform’ had/have no business to agitate like trade unionists.
Keeping in view the timing of announcement of creation of post of CDS, it is probable/possible that military advisors to PM might have thought that frayed nerves of erstwhile military personnel due to OROP issue will be smoothened if a high ranking military appointment viz CDS was created. Lo and Behold; creation of the post of Chief of Defence Staff was announced by our PM from the ramparts of Red Fort during his Independence Day speech.
The Subrahmanyam Committee report, which in itself is an incomplete report due to absence of Air Force and Naval members, has been quoted as the basis of such a decision. Government agencies, pseudo-intellectuals, both military and civil parroted just one unsubstantiated phrase “to bring jointmanship among three Services CDS appointments was being created”.
Few questions need to be answered;
Firstly, for 18 years after submission of the report the need/lack of jointmanship among three Services was not felt by successive governments/military establishment. This is in spite of the glorious 1971 campaign.
Secondly, how did the wisdom suddenly dawn that the military required a ‘diluted’ appointment of Chief of Defence Staff, who will neither be a member of Cabinet Committee on Security nor be a Five Star Officer. In fact CDS was placed and functioned under NSA (for all practical purposes), thus indirectly bringing Military under NSA.
Thirdly, did the decision makers/advisors to PM on military matters attempt to identify even a single event during ‘Hot War Situation’ (1947, 1965, 1971, 1999) when lack of integration/jointmanship among three Services resulted in adverse situations for the nation?
And lastly, how would creation of yet another Four Star post called Chief of Defence Staff suddenly improve the ‘supposedly’ lacking inter service cooperation/jointmanship?
Militaries of the world operate on an unstated precept of ‘Mutual Interdependence’ among all arms of the military. No single Service can ever win a war on its own. PM’s myopic advisors on military matters obviously thought that appointing CDS would reduce the frayed tempers of erstwhile military personnel due to OROP fiasco.
They even failed to consider a fundamental fact being practised from ancient times. While every king/queen had a Vazir, yet they had a team to advise the king on national issues. Elementary rationale for such governing structure was limitation of Single Brain as against thoughts/analysis of Many Brains. One of the most often quoted terms by pseudo intellectuals supporting CDS appointment is ‘Single Point Contact’.
Till date not a single military officer, irrespective of his rank, and dozens of self proclaimed military strategists have been able to clearly identify and put it in words, the limitations in existing structure except for parroting ‘lack of jointmanship’ as the reason for such ill conceived changes, consequences of which are not even known to themselves. Disagreements during peacetime is not sufficient reason to seek change.
Complexity of modern military operations, almost entirely due to highly specialised and complex nature of weapon platforms demands that all specialists opinion/views be considered before taking any decision. Hence the ‘Single Advisor Precept’ by virtue of ‘Single Point Contact’ is flawed to the core. Because ultimately it is the PM, who will have to decide and approve (a nuclear weapon use as an example). One of the finest examples of multiple advisors and head of state interaction is JFK’s decision to not listen to advice of his numerous advisors for the nuclear option during the Cuban Missile crisis.
Ill informed and inadequately experienced/educated military advisors to the PM are not aware of the functioning of militaries of nations, which have CDS appointments. Close examination would reveal one startlingly yet simple fact. All nations having a CDS are invariably involved in one or more military alliance/s and have trans-national interests. India does not fall in either category.
Late General Bipin Rawat as CoAS never uttered a word about creation of Theatre Commands, a concept he must have been taught while undergoing Command and General Staff Course in the USA. But within days of assuming the appointment of CDS, he propagated an ill conceived and unwanted idea, tearing the fabric of existing regional command structure and replacing it with Theatre Commands. Even the Subrahmanyam Committee report did not make any such explicit recommendation.
Theatre Command structure requires considerable thought about Administrative, Functional, Logistical and Organisational issues. Is there a white paper ever authored by a serving/retired military officer or self proclaimed military strategists on the issue of change of organisational structure from regional commands to theatre commands? Our extremely limited resources of all three Services would not meet Theatre Command requirements. World is moving towards decentralisation.
Military advisors to the PM considered appointment of CDS and theatre commands as mere paper action. No wonder then that the CDS status is that of Secretary, Department of Military Affairs. Every Secretary to the Govt of India is subordinate to the Cabinet Secretary. Any one any doubts? Hence not only was the status of CDS compromised but also relegated the Service Chiefs to below Secretary level, notwithstanding equality in Basic Pay with Cabinet Secretary.
There is yet another issue. CDS, where they exist, do not (r) not control operations. It is left to respective Service Chiefs. In fact in the USA, the AOC-in-C equivalent (e.g C-in-C, PAC) directly speaks to the Secretary of Defence on all matters including operations. In our case even CDS might have to go through the NSA to speak to RM, because CDS is not a member of CCS.
If we want a CDS, then the CDS must have the same status as NSA. If the government does not want to create a Five Star appointment, surely even a Four Star CDS can be granted the Status Of Cabinet Minister, same status as NSA. Creation of cosmetic appointments such as CDS in the present shape in the military does not improve anything in the military. It only results in downgradation of status of Service Chiefs. Downgradation of status of Service Chiefs is detrimental to national interests and security in the long run further accentuated by repeated supersession in appointment of Service Chiefs.
My advice to PM, based on facts stated above, remains;
- Three ‘Independent’ Service Chiefs will offer the best advice for a coordinated action as and when required. It is the Service Chiefs, who are responsible for prosecuting the war.
- Unless absolutely essential, let the time tested concept of seniority remain the governing and single factor while deciding the next Service Chief. Let the fake concept of ‘Meritocracy’ not impinge on the morale of soldiers.
- A report, which was lying dormant for 18 years merits no consideration.
- If required, please appoint a fresh committee with proper representation to examine the structural changes, if any, required in the military. Till then keep the appointment of CDS pending.
- Please do not approve Theatre Command structure to replace proven and time tested Regional Command structure unless someone/anyone can put forward genuine reasons. I am ready for nationally televised debate on the subject with your military advisors.