In response to the post on the CDS Debate , Groupie Bhargava has raised some very interesting points in an email titled “The CDS – To Be Or Not To Be”. It raises the very pertinent question of whether we need a CDS in the first place? Groupie has very forthright views on this aspect:
“I distinctly recall the War of 1965. I was on deputation to Egypt as a test pilot but was on leave in India. I managed to offer my services as deemed fit by IAF and was sent to AF Kanpur to flight test stored aircraft. I also delivered some of them to replace our losses. Thus the events of 1965 were not just hearsay for me.
I remember that the Pak army had attacked Chhamb Jaurian sector in strength and we were in serious danger of losing all of J&K. According to the press, General JN Chaudhuri, the CoAS, went straight to PM Pt Lal Bahadur Shastri and explained the dire situation to him. The CoAS offered the only viable solution of opening another front across the international border. It is to the eternal credit of the PM to immediately agree and give him the go ahead. Not only the day was saved but eventually even Lahore was within our reach.
Now my reservation is this: Would a CDS from the Navy or Air Force have had the knowledge, foresight and courage to advise the PM in this manner. Frankly, I have very serious doubts about such a possibility. I believe the CDS from Navy or Air Force would have immediately called the Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC) and posed the problem to it. I wonder how long it would have taken to report an agreed view to the PM. Almost certainly there would have been some dissenting views or considerable hesitation as the Committee pondered the consequences of a blatant attack, no longer limited to so called “disputed territory”. Even the most sensible objections would never reach the political powers if the CDS ignored or suppressed them. With my uneducated but fertile imagination I can assume some scenarios with very dangerous consequences. Meanwhile the Pak forces would have moved fast to cut off J&K and happily declared it as a part of liberated Azad Kashmir.
I would greatly appreciate the views of those with much experience of higher management of our national defence. Their opinions and comments would be a valuable source of education for me, apart from clearing my apprehensions.”
We would all appreciate the views of those who wish to share their experiences and opinions with us. Till then, since basically I really want to clear my own thinking on the subject, would like to offer my last demonitised ‘chavani’ worth.
As I understand it, the CDS would be a single point advisor to the Government on all matters military. He would represent the three Services and it would be his responsibility to aim for a general consensus and if this were not possible, he would put forth his own views to the Government along with those of the services involved. He would also have an Integrated Services HQ, suitably staffed, to liaise with the respective Service HQ as also provide him with professional advice and options. I also presume and feel that the CDS should outrank the Service Chiefs.
In my own mind the jury is still out on ‘Whether a CDS – Y or N?’
Air Chief Mshl AY Tipnis, in his report on Operation Safed Sagar has given a detailed chronological narrative of the time interval between the army requesting for air support, the discussions that took place between the Services and the Ministry and the final go ahead being received from the Government during the Kargil operations. Without going into other aspects of the debate I would just like to point out that the army, through HQ Northern Command, had approached AOC J&K for air support a few days earlier. Army HQ, however, formally approached Air HQ for offensive air support on 14 May and by the time it materialised and received political go ahead it was 25 May! To cut a long story short, this by itself makes out a strong case for change in our system of higher defence management.
It is interesting to also note some other relevant facts which have a bearing on what Groupie Bhargava has mentioned:
Events that caused the long delay between request for air support and its materialising can briefly be described as differences of opinion between the two services and a cumbersome system. The army made a request for “Mi-25/35 helicopter gunships and armed Mi-17 helicopters to evict a few ‘intruders’ who had stepped across the Line of Control in the Kargil sector.” The air force felt that operationally helicopters would not be suitable for the task and that the choice of fire support and delivery should be left to the air force to determine. Besides Air HQ also felt that government approval was essential before committing air support. The army disagreed. Government approval, according to the army, was needed only for deploying fighters and the use of helicopters was a local in-house decision. Unable to reconcile the matter, it then went through a series of meetings and discussions – at the Chiefs of Staff Committee(COSC), then more meetings with the Defence Minister and the Principal Secretary to the PM at the Army Operations Room and finally two meetings of the Cabinet Committee on Security before it was finally cleared. Time elapsed – 15 May to 25 May. In my opinion, it would be difficult to make out a stronger case for changing the system!
There have been suggestions that the present system of the COSC can be fine-tuned to meet our requirements. The Chairman of the COSC is the longest-serving Chief from amongst the three. He is in effect wearing two caps and will almost certainly be swayed by divided loyalties. His primary job will always be that of the Chief and the Chairmanship of the COSC is in effect a part-time job for a very limited period. Since the Chairman is the longest-serving Chief, his turn comes probably towards the end of his tenure with just a few months left – hardly conducive for any meaningful contribution. Moreover, the Chairman is first amongst equals and really has no authority or even the requisite experience to really influence or objectively cast judgment on a dispute between the other two services. He has a small staff, working in isolation, that lacks all relevant information and expertise. It would, therefore, be necessary to have someone other than the Chief with the authority to influence policy matters and planning, and render advice to the government. That being so, there is a need for another officer with adequate responsibility and authority, then why not a CDS?
There would also be a need for adequate infrastructure. One proposal is to integrate all the three HQ and the Ministry into one integrated Hq. This in effect will increase co-ordination between the bureaucrats and the military with the Integrated HQ having representatives from all the branches of the military as also the bureaucracy, all working together in tandem. Seems like a pipe dream? It has been working in the UK and the US for quite sometime. As brought out by Mr VK Srivastava in his paper “Higher Defence Management of India: A case for the CDS”
“The Director of International Organisations, an Army Brigader, reports to a civilian Under Secretary, who in turn reports to a civilian Deputy Secretary, who answers to the 4-star military VCDS”
Thus, as mentioned earlier, though the jury is still out in my mind, there is however a crying need for change. Perhaps the CDS is a viable option. Again I would reiterate my lack of experience and knowledge on the subject but, like Groupie Bhargava, also request inputs from those with far more experience and knowledge on the subject.
Gp Capt Kapil Bhargava has also brought out a few more reservations and set forth his views on aspects such as turf wars and the reservations of bureaucrats and the political class to the issue. These will be discussed subsequently.