Monday, October 11, 2004

India: Military Machine Needs Major Reorganisation

[As regards the defence budget, India has no option but to incur high spending on defence to maintain a superior force against Pakistan and a holding force against China, Myanmar and Bangladesh. Besides, there is need for cordial and even quasi-alliance type relations with the US and Russia for facilitating technical, military, economic and diplomatic support during the transitional period till India is self-reliant primarily through indigenisation.]

DEFENCE POLICY
By VK MADHOK

Military Machine Needs Major Reorganisation

Who is responsible for drafting and issuing India’s defence policy? What should be its aims and objectives? What should be India’s strategic doctrine? These are issues which have been avoided in the last half century. But the nation can ill-afford to sideline these issues any longer considering that the nation does not have a defence policy.

Any nation’s defence policy would be designed to use the instruments of force to enforce national policy objectives which cannot be achieved by diplomacy or economic coercion. Accordingly, the defence policy outlines the aims and objectives which the armed forces would be required to achieve. It gives them direction and time to prepare. Without this directive, ad hoc employment of armed forces can end up in disaster.

Strategic objectives

India has to cope with threats both from Pakistan and China. Its armed forces have to be ready to blunt hostile designs in Kashmir and the northeast, so that Kashmir does not end up as another Vietnam and the northeast does not turn into another Bosnia. The sea lanes in the Arabian Sea have to be kept open and safe for transportation of oil and other trade. The country is heavily dependent on import of oil from the Gulf region and nearly 98 per cent of its trade is by sea. Besides, the country has to have a second strike nuclear capability to withstand the nuclear threat and to ensure that its citizens do not live under constant fear of missile threats. Further, in pursuance of its past resolutions, besides developing a capability to take back its territories from Pakistan and China, there has to be a capability to assist members of SAARC and also to prevent any hostile moves and actions by neighbours which pose threats to India. Finally, to ensure maintenance of law and order and continual governance of the

Union when all other forces — civil and police — have failed. Such then are most of the objectives which the defence policy will have to spell out. Only then can the service chiefs be in a position to structure their forces and to train them.

India’s defence philosophy needs to be debated in Parliament so that the entire nation is aware of it. As regards taking back territories from China, this can only be attempted after PoK is taken back unless of course, the country has compromised and does not wish to pursue this objective.

To achieve all this, a major change in attitude from a compromising and a reactive one to a pro-active one is a pre-requisite. Besides restructuring of higher defence organisation as well as the Ministry of Defence, the military machine itself would need a major reorganisation. There is much greater need for integration in the services. Logistics, communications and intelligence branches are areas to focus upon.

Communication gap

Besides, why shouldn’t the IAF have a space command, integrated with space scientists and the ISRO, to provide support from space to all three services from indigenous satellites in orbit while denying similar access to hostile ones? An integrated missile command would need to be created to destroy incoming hostile missiles as well as to launch those which are necessary to hit targets deep inside Pakistan and China with conventional and nuclear warheads. This would require an overall air defence system, initially under the IAF to ensure anti-missile defence, use of long range anti-aircraft artillery and combat aircraft. And as a long-term measure, India would need a separate Air Defence command for the future.

What about a surprise nuclear attack? No thought has been given to this. It requires construction of an underground operation and communication networks, coordination with the civil defence organisation and education of citizens. The Army needs to move from a conventional to a hi-tech warfare capability. Much greater attention needs to be paid to India’s military leadership right from selection and training to promotion. India’s Territorial Army needs to be revived and the NCC made compulsory for students.

Further, India’s defence apparatus has some major cracks. There is a big communication gap between the politician and the soldier. It must be bridged. The defence minister does not get direct advice of the Chiefs of Staff. What he gets is a watered down version through the MoD. There is no formal forum where the CoS can directly interact with the minister as they have been relegated to the position of the many who give such advice. The MoD’s primary role which should have been coordination with other ministries has changed.

The defence secretary has become the chief coordinator of three services — in fact, the chief adviser to the defence minister while the MoD has taken on the mantle of a superior headquarters. The service headquarters accordingly acts as subordinate offices whereas they should be equal partners. As such, there is duplication of work and delay, mostly in the name of coordination. The MoD has become a vetting organisation without making any serious contribution.

In the present set-up, service headquarters functions outside the government while the ministry is staffed with generalists who may be from postal, telephone and other departments without any defence background. Accordingly, there is a need for politicians and the services to interact, the absence of which is a serious lacuna. The question to be considered is whether the service headquarters should be merged with the MoD and a National Defence Council formed with the defence minister as its chairman.

As regards the defence budget, India has no option but to incur high spending on defence to maintain a superior force against Pakistan and a holding force against China, Myanmar and Bangladesh. Besides, there is need for cordial and even quasi-alliance type relations with the US and Russia for facilitating technical, military, economic and diplomatic support during the transitional period till India is self-reliant primarily through indigenisation.

Indian dependence

India’s security remains, to a large degree, dependent on a successful diplomatic posture towards the Russians and the US and a reasonable “cold war” with China. Pakistan remains a problem in all cases not because of its intrinsic strength but because of foreign powers acting through Pakistan which can have a telling effect on India’s vulnerability. In addition, the military establishment must think of new concepts of threats like narcotics, international terrorism, collapse of governments and societies around us as well as within India.

An objective study of India’s assets and liabilities vis-a-vis its adversaries will show that, in defence, India has the capacity to ensure the security of its territory. But this potential has not been fully developed. Indigenisation is the key requirement, considering that arms and equipment are the Indian armed force’s Achilles’ heel. India depends on Russia, Iran and the Middle East for oil. The sea lanes can be interfered with by Pakistan as it has a large number of military personnel serving in Saudi Arabia, Oman and other Arab states who can influence these countries to impede the oil flow. India has not explored the possibility of getting oil from Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Myanmar. India’s major foreign exchange expenditure is on oil, purchase of sophisticated foreign weapons and military hardware.

The author is a retired officer of the Indian Army

Statesman, Kolkata 11/10/2004