Incursions happened in the Kargil sector – the irony was that the Nation knew about it, and it still didn’t know about it – this came as a shock to the national leadership and highlighted the significant deficiencies in the Security mechanism of our country. The military quickly threw the intruders out of our soil – thus the ‘Vijay Diwas’ on 26th July 1999.
Immediately, for the first time ever elected government, instituted reviews, committees and task forces to identify deficiencies in our security mechanism. The Kargil Review Committee (KRC) said, “Politicians enjoy power without responsibility, bureaucrats wield power without accountability, and the military assumes responsibility without direction”. The government was quick in changing this, instituted the recommendations made by the KRC and changed the status quo. Thus, we see a resurgent and more secure India today.
The Constitution of India mandates that the President is the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, and the Parliament of India is mandated to deal with all aspects of the armed forces and India’s defence.
In 1947, a committee of three senior Indian Civil Service (ICS) officers suggested structuring the Ministry of Defence (MoD). Lord Mountbatten ensured that the Service Chiefs retained their status higher than that of the Defence Secretary. He also asked his Chief of Staff, Lord Ismay, to draw up a “Higher Defence Organisation” for India.
Lord Ismay did not tamper with the structure recommended by the ICS committee. Still, he constituted a number of committees to ensure a well-coordinated effort for the management of National Defence, and they were:
- Defence Committee of the Cabinet (DCC)
The highest security-related committee constituted was the ‘DCC’, today known as the ‘Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS)’.
- Defence Minister’s Committee
Chaired by the Defence Minister, with the Service Chiefs, Defence Secretary and FA (DS) as members, it served as the top policy formulation organ in the MoD.
- Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC)
The COSC was the top inter-service policy-making committee of the Armed Forces. All three chiefs were given equal status, and the Chairmanship of COSC was made rotational and was mandated to render collective professional advice on operational strategy to the Defence Minister.
Gradual Removal of the Military from Security Decision Making
Independent India systematically removed the military from the decision-making seat of the Security apparatus and reduced it to just a tool to achieve the National Security Aim. Various decisions to eliminate the military from the decision-making seat from 1947 till Kargil in 1999 were:
- In 1947, immediately after Independence, the post of Commander-in-Chief of the Armed forces of India was abolished.
- In 1952, the service headquarters were designated as ‘attached offices’ of MoD and thus removed their advisory and representative functions at the highest level of policymaking in the government.
- In 1955, the designation of the Service Chiefs was changed from Commander-in-Chief of their respective services to Chief of Staff.
- In 1961, the Allocation of Business and Transaction of Business Rules were promulgated, and the Department of Defence under the Defence Secretary was made responsible for the Defence of India.
- In 1962, the Cabinet Secretary was appointed with a status higher than the Service Chiefs.
- In 1970, the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs (CCPA) was given an agenda beyond security issues; hence, the Chiefs were only invited as and when required.
- From 1976 till 1991, the military wing of the Cabinet Secretariat was transferred to MoD, thus breaking the link of the Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC) with the defence decision-making at the highest level.
- The Department of Defence, headed by the Defence Secretary, started considering all COSC matters under its purview. In effect, Defence Secretary was raised to the level of a de-facto CDS, even though he was junior in protocol to the three Service Chiefs.
- In the late sixties, two committees on Defence observed, “The subordination of the military to the civil power should be interpreted in the political and not in the bureaucratic sense. A factor to consider seriously is duplication of the work, which constitutes a waste, both financial and in terms of talent and time. Such duplication occurs mostly in the name of coordination and supervision; it contributes little except delay”.
- The Committee also supported the concept of a CDS. It opined that “the principle of civilian control over the defence machinery should be interpreted to mean no bureaucratic or civil service control but ultimate political control by the Parliament and the Cabinet”.
- Till the implementation of the KRC report, “the SHQ, in keeping with their status of attached offices, found that they were reduced to adjuncts of MoD, and also placed completely outside the Ministry, which they could approach only through the medium of files. The administrative effectiveness of the Service Chiefs steadily eroded to the point where their recommendations to the RM (Defence Minister) began to be routinely sent for scrutiny and comment to the Director level. For 50 years, the armed forces lived with this iniquitous and dysfunctional system, and it took the near disaster of Kargil to trigger some change”, said one of the Service Chiefs.
Kargil Review Committee (KRC)
The Kargil Review Committee was set up to recommend measures necessary to safeguard national security. It submitted its report on 15 December 1999 and tabled in the Parliament on 28 February 2000, bearing a complete and detailed study on the function of management of defence.
The KRC Report highlighted several grave deficiencies in India’s Security Management System, particularly in Intelligence, Border Management and Defence Management. It urged for a thorough and expeditious review of the National Security System in its entirety.
Group of Ministers Report
The government immediately set up a Group of Ministers (GoM) on 17 April 2000 to review the National Security System in its entirety and, in particular, to consider the recommendations of the KRC and formulate specific proposals for implementation.
The Task Force on Management of Defence submitted its report on 30 September 2000 with 75 recommendations, most of which were implemented, barring the creation of the CDS.
Naresh Chandra Committee
Again, in June 2011, the Government of India announced setting up a high-powered task force to review the existing processes, procedures and practices in the national security system and to suggest measures to strengthen the national security apparatus. The Task Force submitted a classified report in May 2012 with over 400 recommendations.
PM’s Speech from Red Fort on 15th August 2019
These days the buzz is ‘Think out of the Box’ – but our national leadership today goes beyond this, and they think from ‘ANOTHER PLANET’ because their decisions shock the humans of this Planet and thus, India is shining.
On National security, the PM said:
- “…. important that we take timely steps towards reforms…”
- “Deliberations are on for a long time to bring reforms in military structures, military power and military resources. Several commissions have been formed, and all reports have brought to light the same issues with minor variance….”
- “There is indeed coordination between three Services…. They also strive for modernity in their own way…”
- “World is changing today, as also the scope and nature of war. It is becoming technology driven…India, too, should not have a fragmented approach. Our entire military power will have to work in unison and move forward.
- Things cannot move smoothly if any of the Services is ahead of the balance of two Services. All should move simultaneously at the same pace. There should be good coordination, and it should be relevant to the hope and aspirations of our people. It should be in line with the changing security environment in the World today.”
- “Today, we have decided that we will now have a Chief of Defence Staff – CDS, and after the formation of this post, all the three forces will get effective leadership at the top level.
- The CDS is an essential and compelling task in our dream to reform the strategic pace of Hindustan in the World”.
The announcement of the creation of the post of the Chief of Defence Staff and the Department of Military Affairs was a historical moment for the Armed Forces and brought to closure one of the longest-standing demands of the Armed Forces for decades.
No democratic government in the world has been able to infuse the Military into National Security Mechanism the way this Government has done – giving the dual role to serving military officers that of Military and Bureaucracy, both together.
The CDS wears a triple hat:
- Firstly, that of the Chief of the Defence Staff.
- Secondly, permanent Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee.
- Thirdly, Secretary of an independent Department of the Ministry of Defence.
Allocation of Business (AOB) Rules for the Secretary, DMA, which have been carved out of the AOB for the Secretary DoD, are:
- The Armed Forces of the Union, namely, the Army, Navy and Air Force.
- The Integrated Headquarters of the Ministry of Defence comprises Army, Naval, Air and Defence Staff Headquarters.
- The Territorial Army.
- Works relating to Army, Navy and Air Force.
- Procurement excluding the Services except for capital acquisition.
- Promoting jointness in procurement, training and staffing for the Services through joint planning and integration of their requirements.
- Facilitation of restructuring of Military Commands for optimal utilisation of resources by bringing about jointness in operations, including establishing Joint/Theatre Commands.
- Promoting the use of indigenous equipment by the Services.
For the last two years and nine months, the soldier in uniform has dealt with Military Affairs directly through the Department of Military Affairs and gives the most pragmatic assistance to the national leadership for the decisions on national security involving military action. This has given the momentum, and the speed of reforms, which were the concerns of the honourable PM expressed from the portals of the Red Fort on 15th August 2019.
Air Marshal (Dr) Rajeev Sachdeva (Retd)