by Col N Bhatnagar

Since the time PM announced from the rampart of Red Fort that we will have a Chief of Defence Staff, the media and social media is gaga over it and it is being heralded as a much-needed higher defence organisation reform.

Notwithstanding that it’s a positive step, It is also important that we understand why is it a landmark military reform.

Let me try and explain in simple language from a layman’s point of view.

One. Procuring military equipment costs the nation thousands of crores. We need tanks, Fighter aircraft, submarines, frigates, long-range guns, rifles, anti-tank missiles, vehicles for mechanised infantry and as the technology is changing at a fast pace, the requirements also keep changing to keep military fighting fit. Each arm i.e the army, IAF and Navy, therefore, keep pushing in their demands for more modern tanks, long-range more sophisticated guns, fighter aircraft, submarines/frigates and will justify their needs projecting the future war scenario, need to keep pace with Pakistan’s and China’s army, threat on borders, need to guard the huge coastline, how China is becoming stronger in Indian ocean and so on.

Now, The poor Def Secretary, an IAS Officer and the Defence Minister, a politician who have never dealt with security-related issues, having no idea about the weapon systems, futuristic trends in warfare, India’s strategic needs and security compulsions, it is extremely difficult for them to make a decision. And as Sam Manekshaw often in his lectures while explaining this difficulty mocked at them; they cannot distinguish between a mortar and a motor, a medium gun and a field gun, a frigate and a submarine. Thus to hide their lack of knowledge they often resort to raising silly queries and explanations, thereby delaying the whole process. Instead of taking a holistic view they resort to some juggling like the middle-class family buys grocery; give Ninety tanks to the army, Thirty-six aircraft to IAF and Two submarines to Navy and make each service happy.

Brig (Dr) Rajeev Bhutani in his Book & ‘Reforming and Restructuring: Higher Defence Organisation of India while expressing the same feelings said; Probably, India is the only country in the world, where the Secretary Department of Defence — a generalist civil servant drawn from diverse background, has been made responsible for the Defence of India and every part thereof including preparation for defence’.”

Even Gen Sundarji in his book; THE BLIND MEN OF HINDOOSTAN had expressed his frustration about the lack of knowledge these Beauraucrats, who have been entrusted with the security of the Nation have about nuclear doctrines and strategy.

Stephen Cohen in his book; Indian an emerging power had also talked about this problem and had suggested that instead of an IAS Secretary who has no idea of the security environment and country’s strategic needs, India must think of having INDIAN FOREIGN SERVICE Officers as the Def Secretary.

This kind of arrangement never allowed India to synergise its military options and as a result, it’s every component operated in isolation. This, not only allowed Pakistan to resort to nuclear blackmailing but also helped Pakistan to pursue Proxy war with impunity for more than three decades. The Govt of India, however, preferred to stick to this arrangement; an IAS Officer; THE DEFENCE SECRETARY, who had little idea of the subject.

Stephen Cohen once again while emphasising the same drawback in our security setup wrote in the above-mentioned Book that; “No other country has ever engaged in as lengthy wide-ranging and intensive discussions as India did before it crossed various nuclear thresholds. This was when its neighbour with whom it had fought a war had become nuclear in 1967. Probably, the Indian establishment does not possess the expertise to deal with such concepts as limited nuclear war or deterrence.

There cannot be any other Nation in recent history which has been taken by surprise by its adversaries so often & with such remarkable regularity. We were taken by surprise in 1947 by the tribals from Pakistan & lost half of Kashmir, thereafter the Chinese surprised us in 1962 & took away Aksai Chin. In 1965, the Pakis once again surprised us, In 1989-90 we were surprised by the uprising in Kashmir and then started the long saga of surprises; the Kargil intrusion, hijack, bomb explosions and Fidayeen. But it made no difference to those responsible for our security.

This indifference continued till a high-level committee that was set up by Mr Vajpayee after having been taken by surprise by the Pakis in Kargil to look into the reason for such grave lapse recommended the creation of a post of CDS.

This was to enable the Govt to have a single point adviser on all issues related to the military. In short, The CDS has been built around the argument that it is necessary to have a professional body of the highest standing to render single-point military advice to the government on matters of national security and also to facilitate & jointmanship.

Although, this is not something new as all the developed nations have such an institution. However, as we have always been status quoits and prefer to bring reforms when driven to a crisis, one can in that sense, state that the current PM has taken a positive step.

The Post of CDS, thence, will remove all the anomalies mentioned above thereby making procurement easy, timely and hassle less for the consumer(military) and It will also enable the Govt to take a holistic view of security of nation instead of viewing it in isolation and politically. Thus it will synergise the efforts of all the military resources at its disposal.

Gen Vij, the erstwhile Chief in his article once wrote; The institution of a CDS would facilitate in fostering inter-services jointness in terms of budgeting, equipment purchases, training, joint doctrines and planning of military operations-an imperative of modern warfare”.

Last but not least, those who caused the delay in implementation of this, may continue to work to try and undermine this office and make this institution ineffective if not redundant. However, Gen Rawat during his tenure as the Chief of Indian army has already faced many challenges and as he enjoys the Govt’s support, he would be able to overcome these challenges and lay down systems and procedures and provide direction that would make India’s armed forces better organised, better trained and better equipped to deal in a more synergised manner against the inimical powers.