Saturday, June 18, 2011

Indian military very fast growing military and indian military must move fast

At a seminar held in New Delhi recently to mark the 10th anniversary of the Arun Singh committee on the management of defence, Chief of Air Staff P V Naik reignited the chief of defence staff (CDS) controversy when he claimed that it was not needed.

His claims notwithstanding, there are significant problems in tactical interoperability , defence planning and overall coordination that suggest otherwise. The defence reforms process, initiated over a decade ago, has largely failed to deliver.

Significantly, however, the Arun Singh committee itself was flawed in its approach. Hence, instead of contradicting the Kargil review committee, Naik would do better to focus on the need for the next generation of defence reforms.

That the services lack the capability to operate seamlessly has been proven time and again in operations. During the deployment of the Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka, the army used to embed its radio detachments with naval ships and air force attack helicopters to enable communication links.

Among the few instances where the army requested naval gunfire support, the navy engaged targets two kilometres away! More recently, during the Kargil war in 1999, air force jets did not have the capability to communicate with troops operating on the front. In fact, the air force did not have secure, encrypted communication capability (and still does not) in some of its planes, forcing them to fly in radio silence - a characteristic of the WW II era.

Similarly, intelligence gathering and analysis has been one of our weakest links. There are reports that in the aftermath of the Mumbai terror attacks, while the air force was prepared to carry out surgical raids, it was hampered by a lack of accurate intelligence on the location of terror facilities in Pakistan.

It was to obviate some of these weaknesses, recognised during the Kargil war, that the Arun Singh committee was formed. It comprised 11 people with varying backgrounds and experience. In carrying out its mandate, the committee deliberated over testimonies from different stakeholders.

However, it did not examine the files that obviously illuminate the functioning of different organisations . Hence, its analysis was more opinion based than data driven. For instance, when it argued that "the COSC [Chiefs of Staff Committee] has not been effective in fulfilling its mandate" , it did not provide any evidence for this claim.

An examination of the files of the COSC would have been more helpful in identifying the structural problem, which probably is the difficulty in making controversial decisions in a consensus-based committee. As a result, the Arun Singh committee's recommendation was simplistic - appointment of a CDS. For historical and bureaucratic reasons, this measure was not approved.

As an illustrative example, the Arun Singh committee can be imagined as a group of car mechanics who attempted to fix the vehicle based on their opinions of what was wrong without once opening the hood. But this in itself should not be surprising, for a similar methodology was adopted by subsequent reform committees like the Kelkar committee, the Defence Expenditure Review committee and so on.


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