An IDC Analysis 


New Delhi, 29 July 2003

The recent shoot out at the Tanda EME camp in J & K on 24 Jul where Brig V K Govil and 7 jawans were killed and three Generals including the GOC in- C, Lt Gen Hari Prasad and 7 jawans received grenade shrapnel and other injuries, should make the Government wake up on Command and Control in that area. The Army needs to be assisted with brain power and equipment advice, from the other two Services and lives need to be protected. Today the Army is fighting terrorism and insurgency in the old fashioned way and there is little use of new technology or issue of ID cards, vigilance by technology and such in populated areas.

These the Army helplessly claims are Home Ministry tasks and no one dare cross Dy PM L K Advani, not even George Fernandes. The Para Military forces are a power unto themselves with unlimited funds now like the MOD, except they spend it and do not return it.

In the past we had reported how NRI Americans dealing with US Defence, had displayed robotic systems at the Pravasi Bharati meet at Pragati Maidan, to assist Indian Armed Forces to deal with infiltrators at low costs. Not easy but cheap, and viable.

But technology is not in the blood stream of India's Infantry by training, and we do not blame them. They are fine fighting soldiers and on Kargil Day 29th July we salute the Indian Army for what they achieved on those heights. It was amazing. They fought for the honour of their Regiment and we honestly hope pray that this spirit never dies.

The Indian Army is a huge, fine monolithic professional service of the Second World War vintage, and so the situation in J & K is being tackled in an ancient Army fashion and Lt Gen V R Raghavan in HT on Sunday 27th Jul has explained this.

Recently Gen Sinha, Governor of J & K,  a fine Gurkha officer whose fighting days are past, quoted Gen Gerald Templar who was one of the few to eradicate terrorism from Malaya in the 1950–60 era. The subject is studied in detail in Staff Colleges in UK in connection with terrorism in Ireland. Templar made the Army/Police and Intelligence responsible for every 5000 persons in an area and starved terrorists of food and money.

Today we have some 600,000 security forces in J and K, to do likewise. But for that we need Unified Command in New Delhi, not the CIDS and three separate but equal Chiefs who have to naturally protect their turf. In the Sri Lanka war the Navy Chief had informally called it "Sundar's war" and we presume J and K is "Vij's war". The nation needs a CDS, and HT reports that Lt Gen B S Thakur of 2 Corps is tipped to be the new CIDS when Lt Gen P S Joshi retires on 30th Sept so we presume the appointment of CDS is in cold storage at least till the next elections.

The categorical recommendations of the Kargil Committee and GOM report on management of Defence were both duly approved by the Government over three years ago. However, India’s longest serving Defence Minister George Fernandes has stifled discussion and pussy footed on the appointment of a CDS. The subject has been duly politicised. Prime Minister Vajpayee has left most security issues to be handled by his trusted and very able National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra. who has his plate full with International security concerns including the China border problem which is a full time study in itself.

In a way this has weakened the coordination amongst the Armed Forces and fuelled internecine battles. Few recall that Admiral Sushil Kumar almost became the CDS in 2001 and a residence was readied and Guard and Band rehearsed. To add to national security woes, the extended Tehelka inquiry has taken its own toll on procurement of essentially required items, and only the Army Officers have been taken to task. Even the Parliament is helpless. The MOD has also returned $1.5 billion from its budget to the exchequer, and nobody has been taken to task. The defence budget is the voice of the Armed Forces in a democracy. The reasons for this imbroglio are not far to see.

There is resentment in the bureaucracy to the appointment of a CDS, and as explained in an article in the latest USI journal the Air Force has opposed the appointment. The bureaucrats have reasons plus. They have ruled the roost by making the Service HQs subservient departments of the MOD with separate files and notings. The pen is mightier than the sword, and they fear that the divide and rule tactics they have adopted so far would be questioned by a powerful and capable CDS. The more recent lesson of Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat has not been forgotten. Then there are the internecine turf battles of egos and seniority between the Armed Forces as to who should be made the CDS, and other contentious policy issues.

No body likes to lose turf. The prime among these issues which have been aired in public are who should control the attack helicopters now integral to any Army for offensive and defensive operations? The Indian Air Force flies the MI-25 Army attack helicopters at present, though they are budgeted from the Army and the Army’s need for more such has been stymied. Some years ago a compromise solution was arrived at and it was agreed a junior Army pilot would be accommodated.

Another contentious issue is whether attack and surveillance at seas hould also be the IAF’s charter now that they have the SU 30 MKIs, and will get the air borne early warning Phalcon AWACS on an IL–76 platform. Air Defence is itself a tricky inter-services issue. The IAF have also questioned why the Navy should get the Admiral Gorshkov with Mig 29Ks and hence keep getting a larger chunk of the budget, which is inevitable (See Navy Comes of Age). This year the Navy received a three percent increase its budget at the expense of the IAF and Army. There is heartburn even if it cannot be spent.

Vice Admiral Arun Prakash a Naval pilot who won his Vr C flying IAF Hunters in the 1971 war and is an admired officer for his professionalism, writing in the USI Journal, explained how in the USA and UK, the CDS type of structure was forced upon the services by their political masters for the benefits that have accrued. The Falklands war, the Gulf war and now Op Iraqi Freedom amply prove the concept that tri-service command is inescapable, but India has been bucking the trend.

The Government has been very adept in appeasing the Armed Forces by sanctioning funds and forming an interim CIDS. In the past the Rajiv Gandhi government had done the same, and appeased the services by forming the DG DPS, which became a talking shop, has since been merged in to the CIDS. The present Government has appeased the Armed Forces by providing billets and promotions to over 100 appointments of one star and above level in the interim CIDS. Appointing a Strategic Force Commander to operate from Vayu Bhavan appeased the IAF. A status quo has emerged and there is political lethargy on the appointment of CDS, which is clearly overdue.

The absence of a CDS is a malady India suffered in Op Pawan and more recently in the period of 6 May to 22 May 1999 during the Kargil incursion when single service decisions led to fiascos.

"Jointness" has become a Principle of War and Gen Tommy Franks etched it in modern warfare. Rightly, in the national interest there are rumblings in the Air Force, which looked after India's limited strategic interests thus far, and claims it is well equipped to do so indefinitely.

Field Marshal S F Manekshaw who acted like a defacto CDS in the 1971 war because he had the confidence of PM Indira Gandhi was to be appointed CDS in 1972 and CNS Admiral Nanda supported the move, but late ACM P C Lal bucked the matter on personal grounds. 

Today thirty-two years later a similar situation prevails. It needs remedy, especially as we are a Nuclear Ready Force and Dr Michael Quinlan who built UK's nuclear forces came to India twice and politely explained Command, Control and Costs.

Disclaimer   Copyright