The Stresses of Exercises and Cooperation Agreements

An IDC Analysis


New Delhi, 09 April 2006

Vice Admiral A K Singh taking over as Commander-in-Chief,

Andaman and Nicobars (CINCAN), (India's only tri-service command)

at Port Blair on 01 Mar 06 vice Lt Gen Aditya Singh.

(Pic. courtesy DPR MOD)

The armed forces, especially the Navy and Air Force, are not yet in the big league but appear to want to boast of it. Though we are proud of our personnel, the question which begs an answer is whether they are being over-stretched with exercises internationally and internally and unnecessary show of their spit and polish and fire power to VIPs? Are they engaging in a competition between themselves just to please or become more operational? This question was somewhat answered by the Asst. Chief of IAF AVM S Mukherji (after two air accidents in four days in March, with the loss of four experienced pilots), when he stated that henceforth the IAF would only have two international exercises, one in India and one abroad. This year one exercise will be with the RAF in India in October and one with Singapore near home. He said it was due to budgetary constraints. Luckily for India the external threat has reduced but the idiom ‘the more you sweat in peace the less you bleed in war’ should never be forgotten.

Sayyid Badr Bin Hareb Al Busaidi, Omanese Minister of Defence

with Shri Pranab Mukherjee, India's Defence Minister exchanging

MOU on Defence Cooperation.

(Pic. courtesy DPR MOD)

The Army and IAF are also heavily committed to UN Operations –– India is the largest provider of troops to UN peace keeping operations. Every person who completes a tenure is well provided for and so the attraction to keep providing more is tempting. Yet the Army has large commitments at home in Kashmir and North East and a recent LICO –– Light Intensity Combat Operations seminar highlighted that no one was really streamlining the coordination of cooperation with the Home Ministry for Homeland Defence, which is one way of sorting out duties. RR Battalions and Assam rifles organization came in for discussions and it seems we have not changed since the British left. Over commitment to manpower intensive activities like looking after senior officers, clubs, canteens, VIP rooms including large ceremonial duties may be on the rise.

All this contributes to stress, accidents, air crashes and pressure on manpower and competition among the top brass jockeying for the limelight. The Indian defence establishment commitments have increased. This is now out in the open.

To add to that, India has signed defence MOUs and Agreements with a host of countries ranging from Russia, with whom we enjoy close understandings and some secret agreements, to USA –– which is now India's Strategic partner and almost every country head or Defence Minsiter who has visited India in the recent past. The list is long. The Navy has taken up the gauntlet and promoted the Intelligence function to Rear Admiral level named Asst Chief of Naval Staff (Intelligence and Foreign Cooperation).

Gen Papa Khalilou Fall, Chief of Army Staff, Senegal

calling on Army Chief Gen JJ Singh in New Delhi.

(Pic. courtesy DPR MOD)

The object of this analysis is to depict the volume of work in all these spheres, as India tries to become a global power sans electricity or water. There is need for cooperation between Home, Defence and External Affairs ministries to share and cut chores. This exercise on a strategic level appears to have begun and silently the NSC secretariat under the NSA in the PMO, appears to have become the national coordinator and two senior Admirals including one with nuclear expertise, have joined the set up. All this augurs well but the system can only function if it is properly codified –– otherwise it becomes personality oriented, which is probably India’s fate and good luck.

These issues need thought and a CDS could have helped the armed forces but that is now far away –– so as Jug Surya says, ‘we are like that only’. The surprise to the world is we cope and India’s economy is on a roll.

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