Tri-Service Commands - must get them right

February 20, 2017 Photo(s): By PIB
By Lt. General P.C. Katoch (Retd)
Former Director General of Information Systems, Indian Army

 

Prime Minister and the Tri-Service Chiefs at the Amar Jawan Jyoti, India Gate

After a lapse of over a year, news is media is again talking of Tri-Service Commands and other measures like appointing a single-point military adviser, without elaborating about the latter whether it will be a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) or a Permanent Chairman of Chiefs of Staff Committee (PP COSC). What powers the CDS / PP COSC is to have also remains vague. These types of rumours, which are actually games being played with India's national security. It is common knowledge that India does not have a cohesive National Security Strategy (NSS). In fact, this was admitted in Parliament in May 10, 1995 by the then Prime Minister Narasimha Rao when he stated, "We do not have a document called India's Defence Policy. But we have several guidelines which are followed, strictly followed and observed...This policy is not merely rigid in the sense that it has been written down, but these are the guidelines, these are the objectives, these are the matters which are always kept in view while conducting our defence policy.".

He did not amplify what these several guidelines were that were strictly being followed and observed, but the fact is that the defence of India remained in such dire neglect including pathetic equipping of the military and its operational components certainly proves that these so called guidelines and their follow up was grossly inadequate to put it mildly. Yet no government has ever bothered to bridge this vital void that adversely impacts India's national security at the strategic level. This talk of creating Tri-Service Commands and a single-point military adviser too indicates random measures that may be by design or lack of understanding. Few years back, at the behest of MoD, HQ Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) came up with a Tri-Service Doctrine. As usual, the media lapped it up. However, no one queried as to who will implement this doctrine, in the absence if headquarters that are 'truly' integrated and have the operational powers to implement it. That certainly was not the case then and the present state remains unchanged.

So, while talking of Tri-Service Commands are we developing a cart without a horse? Going by the media, a single-point military adviser may get established by the end of the year — which year not having been specified. If the so-called single-point military advisor is not a CDS with full operational powers, the whole exercise will be a waste. The CDS must actually be a "single-point military adviser" overruling what the bureaucracy craftily scripted in the CCS note under which HQ IDS was raised, wherein it reads "As and when a CDS is established, he will have equal voting rights as the Service Chiefs and if two Service Chiefs disagree, MoD (read babus) will arbitrate". This line must be deleted because the CDS can hardly be single-point adviser with such slanderous provisions.

Next comes the issue of Tri-Service Commands — who in MoD understands the requirement of having Integrated Theatre Commands (ITCs) and Integrated Functional Commands (IFCs) and that some of the latter would necessarily be Bi-Service, not Tri-Service because of their geographical location. How many bureaucrats of MoD understand the difference between ITCs and IFCs is anyone's guess. Additionally, policy maker would be quite unaware that General S Padmanabhan, former Chief of Army Staff had said, ""There is no escaping the military logic of creating suitably constituted Integrated Theatre Commands and Functional Commands for the Armed Forces as a whole.". Years later post the Kargil Conflict, then Army Chief General VP Malik went on record to say. "It is not my case that the Service Chiefs do not cooperate in war. Were they not to do so, it would be churlish. But in war, cooperative synergies are simply not good enough." The bottom-line is that if we are not going in for establishing a CDS with full operational powers and then establish ITCs and IFCs in cohesive manner, it would be fruitless exercise. But that is not all, concurrent to appointing a CDS, HQ IDS must be fully merged with the MoD. But then this last essential requires a rare quality of political leadership, no?