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Rising Indiscipline In Armed Forces:URGENT NEED FOR REMEDIAL MEASURES,Col(Retd) PK Vasudeva,3 Dec 07 Print E-mail

Defence Notes

New Delhi, 3 December 2007

Rising Indiscipline In Armed Forces

URGENT NEED FOR REMEDIAL MEASURES

 

By Col. (Retd.) P. K. Vasudeva (Ph.D.)

Prof, ICFAI Business School Chandigarh

Of late it has been observed that indiscipline and discontentment in the Armed Forces due to supersession, cases of moral turpitude, scams and corruption are at its highest ebb. This is a matter of grave concern to all the right thinking people in general and the defence forces in particular.

There have been more than 600 court marshals since 2001 and more than 10,000 complaints against the supersession in various ranks. The decision-making authorities need to undertake a serious rethink and take remedial measures, lest it is too late.

In 2006 alone, there have been more than 105 court marshal cases. Out of these, 11 court marshals have been on account of rapes, 8 for murders, 12 for violation of human rights, 5 for sexual abuse, 35 for indulging in scams and corruption, 7 for firing incidents and 27 due to other civil offences including stealing affections of brother officers’ wives.

Alarmingly, on an average there have been 50 to 60 court marshals every year for the last one decade. Clearly showing that either the intake of officers has been of poor quality or the promotions have been of undeserving officers that needs a serious analysis.

Some of the cases of the important court marshals that have come to light due to various conspicuous reasons are as follows: One, a Major General of the Army Ordnance Corps of the South Western Command in Jaipur was booked by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) last month for having assets worth over Rs 50 crore, disproportionate to his income. The investigative agency during its raids carried out in Delhi, Jaipur, Shimla, Gurgaon and Mumbai unearthed a large number of properties in his and his wife’s name.

Two, a former Director General of Army Service Corps Lieutenant General, indicted on 12 charges, is presently facing disciplinary action in Jalandhar for alleged financial irregularities. One of the charges against the senior officer pertains to the construction and furnishings of a house for his son at a cost of more than Rs one crore.  Other charges include the misuse of funds for his personal use to the tune of crores of rupees.

Three, the on-going General Court Martial (GCM) trial of a Major for allegedly sexually assaulting a woman officer of the same unit at Tibri. The Major is facing charges of improper physical contact with the woman officer, who was posted to the same unit. She had also levelled charges of sexual misconduct against her Commanding Officer also, who was tried by a GCM earlier. The charges against the Colonel could not be proved and the GCM had, in its special findings, reprimanded him for using improper language in the officers’ mess.

Four, according to the Comptroller and Auditor-General, in 2002 huge funds earmarked for combating militancy were found to have been diverted by the Eastern Army Command (EAC) authorities to purchase vehicles, television sets, VCRs, computers and generators. Making a scrutiny of the allocations for the first time, the CAG said the EAC purchased consumer goods worth Rs 6.79 crores over a period of three years from 1998 to 2001 from the Rs.10 crore annual funds given to Army Commanders by way of special financial powers.

"These funds are allocated to meet urgent and immediate requirements of counter-insurgency operations and internal security duties," the CAG observed as it indicted the Army for diverting the funds to purchase consumer goods saying that these should have been purchased under normal overheads.

Five, the infamous Sekhon case, wherein the spate of comments on his “honourable removal” from service for seeking political patronage for career enhancement brought to the fore attempts at the politicisation of the Armed Forces and related issues. It highlighted as never before the question of military ethics vs. politicisation.

A sitting MP from Air Marshal Sekhon’s community, allegedly labelled, the Chief Minister Badal as an inept administrator. Not only that. He alluded to an inspired leak of Sekhon’s letter addressed to Badal, to get Air Marshal Bhatia of the hook (since removed from Western Air Command) for violating Pakistan’s airspace and nearly starting an Indo-Pak war. 

Six, in a case relating to the supersession of two Air Marshals in December 2004, the Government on behalf of the Indian Air Force approached the Supreme Court against the order of the Delhi High Court that had given the decision of the restoration of promotion to the Air Marshal.

The Apex Court upheld the judgment of the Delhi High Court, passed strictures and also criticised the Air Force. It stated that the promotion policy of the Indian Air Force was biased and arbitrary. Importantly, this caused great embarrassment to the IAF and the Government.

Besides these, there are a large number of cases pending in the civil courts against the Courts Marshal orders and supersession in ranks and other offences. A General Court Martial sentenced a Sepoy to death for killing his officer in October 2006. The verdict, pronounced lately, is at least the fourth case in recent times of a soldier being given capital punishment by a Court Martial.

The judgment is seen as an indication of the fate that awaits some two dozen soldiers currently facing Courts Martial for killing colleagues. More. The Army has handed death sentences to soldiers in 1990, 2000, and 2005. The cause more often than not is killing a colleague.

In 1993, responding to increasing criticism of human rights violations committed by its security forces, the Indian Government established the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) through the Human Rights Protection Act (HRPA). The National Human Rights Commission has repeatedly said that certain provisions of the HRPA need to be re-examined, “as they were, in fact, tending to militate against the purposes of the Act itself.”

Take Section 19 of the HRPA. When the Commission receives a complaint of a human rights violation by the Armed Forces, it cannot independently investigate the case but can only seek a report from the Central Government and make recommendations. 

The Indian law permits members of the Armed Forces, accused of crimes, to be prosecuted by either the military or civilian justice systems.  However, various Statutes make trial by the civilian courts unlikely in practice. 

Moreover, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and other provisions noted above, require prior approval of the Central Government for civilian prosecutions of military personnel. And under the Army Act, the military may transfer a soldier from civilian to military custody for offenses that can be tried by a Court Martial.  

Available information shows scant evidence that the military is fully and effectively prosecuting soldiers and officers for abuses committed in Jammu and Kashmir.  In May 2004, the then Chief of Army Staff, Gen. N.C. Vij, informed the National Human Rights Commission that 131 Army personnel, including officers, had been punished for rights violations in Kashmir since 1990 (fewer than ten per year).  These included sentences of two life imprisonments, 59 “rigorous” imprisonments, and 11 instances of one year’s imprisonment and dismissal.   

Increasing incidents of indiscipline have made it clear that the Indian Army is in need of introspection. It is essential that the Army investigates these incidents and comes out with solutions. An analysis of why things go wrong would be in order, whether it is fake killings, human rights violations or the increasing tendency to go to civil courts to seek redress.

We need to accept that there is a decline in discipline, culture and ethics of the Army. There are two reasons for this.  Firstly, the poor standards of intake of Armed Forces personnel because of the poor pay and allowances commensurate to their hazardous service conditions. Secondly, there is no uniform system of promotions resulting in poor leadership. ----- INFA

(Copyright India News & Feature Alliance)

Rising Indiscipline In Armed Forces:URGENT NEED FOR REMEDIAL MEASURES,Col(Retd) PK Vasudeva,3 Dec 07 Print E-mail

Defence Notes

New Delhi, 3 December 2007

Rising Indiscipline In Armed Forces

URGENT NEED FOR REMEDIAL MEASURES

 

By Col. (Retd.) P. K. Vasudeva (Ph.D.)

Prof, ICFAI Business School Chandigarh

Of late it has been observed that indiscipline and discontentment in the Armed Forces due to supersession, cases of moral turpitude, scams and corruption are at its highest ebb. This is a matter of grave concern to all the right thinking people in general and the defence forces in particular.

There have been more than 600 court marshals since 2001 and more than 10,000 complaints against the supersession in various ranks. The decision-making authorities need to undertake a serious rethink and take remedial measures, lest it is too late.

In 2006 alone, there have been more than 105 court marshal cases. Out of these, 11 court marshals have been on account of rapes, 8 for murders, 12 for violation of human rights, 5 for sexual abuse, 35 for indulging in scams and corruption, 7 for firing incidents and 27 due to other civil offences including stealing affections of brother officers’ wives.

Alarmingly, on an average there have been 50 to 60 court marshals every year for the last one decade. Clearly showing that either the intake of officers has been of poor quality or the promotions have been of undeserving officers that needs a serious analysis.

Some of the cases of the important court marshals that have come to light due to various conspicuous reasons are as follows: One, a Major General of the Army Ordnance Corps of the South Western Command in Jaipur was booked by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) last month for having assets worth over Rs 50 crore, disproportionate to his income. The investigative agency during its raids carried out in Delhi, Jaipur, Shimla, Gurgaon and Mumbai unearthed a large number of properties in his and his wife’s name.

Two, a former Director General of Army Service Corps Lieutenant General, indicted on 12 charges, is presently facing disciplinary action in Jalandhar for alleged financial irregularities. One of the charges against the senior officer pertains to the construction and furnishings of a house for his son at a cost of more than Rs one crore.  Other charges include the misuse of funds for his personal use to the tune of crores of rupees.

Three, the on-going General Court Martial (GCM) trial of a Major for allegedly sexually assaulting a woman officer of the same unit at Tibri. The Major is facing charges of improper physical contact with the woman officer, who was posted to the same unit. She had also levelled charges of sexual misconduct against her Commanding Officer also, who was tried by a GCM earlier. The charges against the Colonel could not be proved and the GCM had, in its special findings, reprimanded him for using improper language in the officers’ mess.

Four, according to the Comptroller and Auditor-General, in 2002 huge funds earmarked for combating militancy were found to have been diverted by the Eastern Army Command (EAC) authorities to purchase vehicles, television sets, VCRs, computers and generators. Making a scrutiny of the allocations for the first time, the CAG said the EAC purchased consumer goods worth Rs 6.79 crores over a period of three years from 1998 to 2001 from the Rs.10 crore annual funds given to Army Commanders by way of special financial powers.

"These funds are allocated to meet urgent and immediate requirements of counter-insurgency operations and internal security duties," the CAG observed as it indicted the Army for diverting the funds to purchase consumer goods saying that these should have been purchased under normal overheads.

Five, the infamous Sekhon case, wherein the spate of comments on his “honourable removal” from service for seeking political patronage for career enhancement brought to the fore attempts at the politicisation of the Armed Forces and related issues. It highlighted as never before the question of military ethics vs. politicisation.

A sitting MP from Air Marshal Sekhon’s community, allegedly labelled, the Chief Minister Badal as an inept administrator. Not only that. He alluded to an inspired leak of Sekhon’s letter addressed to Badal, to get Air Marshal Bhatia of the hook (since removed from Western Air Command) for violating Pakistan’s airspace and nearly starting an Indo-Pak war. 

Six, in a case relating to the supersession of two Air Marshals in December 2004, the Government on behalf of the Indian Air Force approached the Supreme Court against the order of the Delhi High Court that had given the decision of the restoration of promotion to the Air Marshal.

The Apex Court upheld the judgment of the Delhi High Court, passed strictures and also criticised the Air Force. It stated that the promotion policy of the Indian Air Force was biased and arbitrary. Importantly, this caused great embarrassment to the IAF and the Government.

Besides these, there are a large number of cases pending in the civil courts against the Courts Marshal orders and supersession in ranks and other offences. A General Court Martial sentenced a Sepoy to death for killing his officer in October 2006. The verdict, pronounced lately, is at least the fourth case in recent times of a soldier being given capital punishment by a Court Martial.

The judgment is seen as an indication of the fate that awaits some two dozen soldiers currently facing Courts Martial for killing colleagues. More. The Army has handed death sentences to soldiers in 1990, 2000, and 2005. The cause more often than not is killing a colleague.

In 1993, responding to increasing criticism of human rights violations committed by its security forces, the Indian Government established the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) through the Human Rights Protection Act (HRPA). The National Human Rights Commission has repeatedly said that certain provisions of the HRPA need to be re-examined, “as they were, in fact, tending to militate against the purposes of the Act itself.”

Take Section 19 of the HRPA. When the Commission receives a complaint of a human rights violation by the Armed Forces, it cannot independently investigate the case but can only seek a report from the Central Government and make recommendations. 

The Indian law permits members of the Armed Forces, accused of crimes, to be prosecuted by either the military or civilian justice systems.  However, various Statutes make trial by the civilian courts unlikely in practice. 

Moreover, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and other provisions noted above, require prior approval of the Central Government for civilian prosecutions of military personnel. And under the Army Act, the military may transfer a soldier from civilian to military custody for offenses that can be tried by a Court Martial.  

Available information shows scant evidence that the military is fully and effectively prosecuting soldiers and officers for abuses committed in Jammu and Kashmir.  In May 2004, the then Chief of Army Staff, Gen. N.C. Vij, informed the National Human Rights Commission that 131 Army personnel, including officers, had been punished for rights violations in Kashmir since 1990 (fewer than ten per year).  These included sentences of two life imprisonments, 59 “rigorous” imprisonments, and 11 instances of one year’s imprisonment and dismissal.   

Increasing incidents of indiscipline have made it clear that the Indian Army is in need of introspection. It is essential that the Army investigates these incidents and comes out with solutions. An analysis of why things go wrong would be in order, whether it is fake killings, human rights violations or the increasing tendency to go to civil courts to seek redress.

We need to accept that there is a decline in discipline, culture and ethics of the Army. There are two reasons for this.  Firstly, the poor standards of intake of Armed Forces personnel because of the poor pay and allowances commensurate to their hazardous service conditions. Secondly, there is no uniform system of promotions resulting in poor leadership. ----- INFA

(Copyright India News & Feature Alliance)

IAF Breaks New Ground: TOWARDS BECOMING CONTINENTAL FORCE, by Radhakrisha Rao, 12 November 2007 Print E-mail

DEFENCE NOTES

New Delhi, 12 November 2007

 IAF Breaks New Ground

TOWARDS BECOMING CONTINENTAL FORCE

By Radhakrisha Rao

The75-years old Indian Air Force(IAF) as part of its long term plan to emerge as a truly continental force, is now seriously pursuing the creation of a tri-service aerospace command. As envisaged, the Indian Aerospace Command, whose headquarters is planned to be located in Thiruvananthapuram, will help extend its reach and boost its strike capability by a substantial extent.

As pointed out by the IAF Chief, F.H. Major, over the years the responsibilities of the Air Force have not only increased  tremendously but the force’s area of operations might go up to the South China Sea. Suffice to state, that the IAF is preparing the ground for operating beyond the home-base.

On the issue of using outer space to augment the capability of IAF, Major said, “Having sensors in the sky gives us a lot of strength. We have a lot to learn. We are talking to the army and the navy for the joint use of the command. It is going to take time. The scope for putting weapons in space is as wide as space .For the moment we are not thinking on those lines”.

Of course, the significance of the successful anti-satellite test carried out by China in early 2007 as part of its ambitious plan to exploit the outer space to boost its “strategic punch” has not been lost on the IAF. The state owned Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) as well as the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) are expected to make an important contribution to the aerospace command through their know-how, expertise and hardware.

To begin with, the Indian Aerospace Command, considered a force multiplier by the Indian defence establishment, would make use of a string of satellites being operated by ISRO for a variety of end uses including communications, earth observation, weather watch, and navigation. Further into the future, the Indian Aerospace Command is expected to build is own constellation of satellites designed for communications, surveillance, reconnaissance, weather monitoring and navigation.

Moreover, if everything goes as planned, India’s first exclusive defence satellite  Cartosat-2A designed for surveillance would be launched along with an Israel-built military reconnaissance spacecraft by the four-stage Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) before the end of the year.

The stunning success with which the US-led allied forces made use of a string of satellites to realize their goals during their operations in the Gulf, Afghanistan and Iraq has nudged the IAF to go in for an Aerospace Command for putting in place a net-centric warfare strategy. Clearly, a network-centric warfare capability would not only help expand the strategic reach of IAF but also make for its air dominance in the areas of interest.

The rapidly evolving net-centric warfare concept centres on the coming together of separate communications systems under a single, composite synchronized network. This in sharp contrast to the traditional platform-centric network based on a separate and often non-interoperable network-centric warfare, thus paving the way for a faster and more efficient strike capability.

The Indian Navy too, has rolled out its net-centric warfare plan. In fact, the Navy has been in discussion with the ISRO for a satellite system to support its operations with a particular reference to getting the coverage of the entire Indian Ocean region. In the ultimate analysis, by using both the space-based assets and the ground supporting system, the Indian Navy seeks to interlink armament, intelligence and the communications set-up of the  warships and flotillas, whether in mid-ocean or on shore.

The IAF on its part plans to make use of the UAVs with a laser designator and a combat aircraft with laser-guided bombs as a lethal force multiplier to sustain its air superiority. The Israel-built Searcher and Heron UAVs in service with the IAF can easily cover all types of terrain in the Air Force’s area of interest and provide real time surveillance and targeting. As a logical extension to the use of the UAVs, the IAF plans to build a significant level of capability in the area of UCAVs (Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles).

Importantly, the IAF along with the Indian army and navy plans to work towards the integration of fire power resource to ensure optimum effect on the target. Similarly, efforts are on to exploit the advances in the areas of communications, computers, command and control and information and interoperability (C412) with a view to get a holistic picture of the battle space and hit the targets with a high degree of precision in real time.

On another front, intelligence, surveillance and the reconnaissance (ISR) system that would help monitor the movement of enemy formations would be realized through the extensive use of air and space platforms .Of course, the key to the success of the operations would be held by the GPS System which helps the defence forces to beam their positions into a central system.

Significantly, during the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the entire reconnaissance information including the tactical UAV imageries were analyzed at a central facility and transmitted back to the ground forces with a minimum loss of time.

By all counts the network-centric operations paves the way for information sharing across multiple levels of the traditional echelons of command and control. Significantly, the availability of accurate and detailed information at all levels holds the key to the success of network-centric operations. The IAF is now studying the aerospace commands and network-centric warfare concepts of other countries.

Coming to the brass-tacks, the Air Force which is striving to become a force with more lethal power, plans to retain only three types of combat aircraft in its fleet — the Russian-made Sukhoi, the home-grown fourth generation Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas and the 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA), the process for the acquisition of which has already been initiated. The idea behind this philosophy is to trim down the inventory so that the complexity involved in maintaining various types of fighter aircraft is reduced. Currently, the IAF fleet flies eight types of aircraft.

Added Air Chief Major for good measure, “In the future, we will have a few lethal weapons so that maintaining them will be easier. Typically, we are looking at a fleet comprising the Su-30, LCA and MMRCA.”

However, as a stop-gap arrangement, the IAF has taken up the upgradation to extend the service life of the existing aircraft. “The Jaguars and Mig-27s have been upgraded. We are now negotiating the upgradation for Mig-29 and Mirage-2000,”quipped Major.

The IAF is also expecting the first of the 66 Hawk AJT it has ordered from BAE Systems before the end of this year. The induction of the Hawk AJT would fill a vital gap in the area of training the combat aircraft pilots. In fact, the increased number of mishaps involving the MIG aircrafts has been pinned on the lack of an advanced jet trainer.

According to the contract India has signed with the BAE Systems, 24 of these trainers will be supplied in flyway conditions while the rest will be produced by the Bangalore-based aeronautical major HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd). The IAF is also preparing for the induction of the Phalcon Air Borne Warning and Control System which Israel would deliver next year.

In the meantime, the Government has approved the proposal for the development of a fifth generation fighter aircraft as a joint enterprise between India and Russia. The air launched version of the Indo-Russian supersonic cruise missile Brahmos is now getting ready for trials with SU-30MKI combat aircraft platform.

On its part, the DRDO has decided to initiate work on the development of the Medium Combat Aircraft (MCA) with stealth features. The MCA would make use of the technologies developed for the LCA. Similarly, the development of a Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) by HAL would add to the fighting punch of IAF.

There is no gainsaying that opportunities and challengers of the future drives the IAF to look beyond the Indian skies with advanced technological systems and innovative warfare strategies. ---- INFA

(Copyright India News & Feature Alliance)

For Better Command & Control: CHIEF OF DEFENCE STAFF A MUST,by COL (Retd) PK Vasudeva, 5 Nov, 07 Print E-mail

Defence Notes

New Delhi, 5 November 2007

 For Better Command & Control

 CHIEF OF DEFENCE STAFF A MUST

 By COL. (Retd.) P. K. Vasudeva, Ph.D.

Prof ICFAI International Relations, Business School Chandigarh

Laying bare the claims on the efficacy of joint military commands of the army, navy and air force, the Parliamentary Committee on Defence in its last meeting commented that there is “no jointness” in these commands. In its report tabled in the monsoon session of  Parliament, the committee found that that there still exists a serious lack of synergy between the three services, as was evident during the Kargil conflict.

The Committee visited the Andaman and Nicobar Command and found that the required synergy between the three services was missing. “The Committee understands that the senior officers of the command can issue orders to personnel belonging to their respective forces only. There is no jointness of command and control. The Committee feels that there is a serious lacuna and earnest efforts should be taken to correct it immediately”, the report states.

Stating that the Chiefs of Staff assumed the role of operational commanders to the respective forces, rather than Chief of the Staff to the Prime Minister and Defence Minister, it added: “This led to a number of negative results and protocol problems.” Further, it reiterated the need for creating the post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) in order to boost synergy among the three services and provide a single point military advice to the Prime Minister and the Defence Minister. The advance democracies - USA, UK, and EU - have Joint Chief of the Staff looking after the operations and peace time requirements of all the three services.

Importantly, it reiterated that its recommendations be taken seriously by the Government and a CDS appointed at the earliest and, till that was done, the functioning of the Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC) should be seriously streamlined and positively made effective.

As it stands, the COSC is meant to support the Chairman, bring together and coordinate several functions common to the three Services. However, it has been proved beyond doubt even during the Kargil war that the Chairman of the COSC is a defunct body having no clear cut roles assigned officially.  Presently, the Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Suresh Mehta is the Chairman of the COSC, being the senior most of the three services chiefs.

Recall, post Independence, all the three services chiefs were given independent command of their respective services under the Defence Minister. They were given the status equivalent to the Cabinet Secretary, a position resented by the Defence Secretary who is junior in the warrant of precedence.

On the recommendations of the Subramanium Committee Report on Kargil for a CDS, the Government appointed a Task Force headed by the former Minister of State for Defence Arun Singh to give its recommendations on defence and security matters. Singh too endorsed the formation of CDS on the lines of other world democracies. Finally, a Group of Ministers under the then Home Minister Advani also recommended the appointment of a CDS in rotation. With the rider that the Defence Secretary would be the Principle Secretary. 

The Government finalised the basic structure of the CDS to revamp the top defence management. The GoM also approved the setting up of a Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the tri-service Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC) under the Indian Naval Vice Admiral to promote joint planning and execution of military affairs.

The CDS was to be a four-star officer assisted by a Vice Chief of Defence Staff (VCDS) and four Deputy Chiefs of Defence Staff (DCDS), from the three services, who would look after the functional areas of Operations, Intelligence (DIA), Medical and Planning respectively. And the ANC would report to the CDS. 

Details of the tri-service Strategic Force Command (SFC) comprising the country’s nuclear forces were also finalised. The C-in-C of the strategic forces would report to the CDS, who would be the principal military adviser to the Government. Further, the National Defence Academy (NDA) and the National Defence College (NDC) would also function under the supervision of CDS.

The tri-service Defence Intelligence Agency would be headed by a DCDS who would pool together the intelligence resources of the three services through coordination and sharing of information. The DCDS (Intelligence) would also double up as an adviser to the Defence Secretary, Defence Minister, and Union Cabinet, to ensure that the Defence Intelligence inputs reach the decision-makers weel on time. 

However, while the decision of the CDS was awaiting clearance from the Finance Ministry, the then Air Chief Marshal Tipnis played a spoilsport. Unhappy with the CDS structure, he reportedly wrote to the then Defence Minister Jaswant Singh to put the proposal on hold as the IAF view had not been taken into account. 

The IAF opposition to the revamp of the country’s defence management, it now unravels, was because of the proxy war for the control of the 2,500 km nuclear warhead delivery vehicle. Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM) Agni II. Thanks to the squabbles, the Government has decided to hand over the Agni-II IRBM to the Army, which has been told to raise a Strategic Rocket Command to operationally handle surface-based nuclear weapons.

Significantly, all the recommendations by the GoM were accepted by the Government with a rider that various political parties be consulted before taking a final view on the recommendation relating to the institution of CDS. So far only four political parties have responded on the Ministry’s queries and the Government has still to reach a consensus among all the political parties.

India is perhaps the only major democracy where the Armed Forces Headquarters are outside the apex Governmental structure. The Chiefs of Staff have assumed the role of operational commanders of their respective forces rather than that of Chiefs of Staffs to the Cabinet. They simultaneously discharge the roles of operational commanders and national security planners/managers, especially in relation to buying equipment and force postures with most of their time devoted to operations. Thus, future long term planning suffers even though all the three services headquarters have been integrated with the MoD.

At a theoretical level, the civilian-military interaction constitutes a critical and controversial relationship in any country, be it a democracy or a dictatorship. Ideally, the civilian and the military form two distinct domains, each with a specific set of functions. According to Clausewitz, while the decision to go to war is made by the political establishment, the military is responsible for the actual conduct of war on the battlefield. Yet this relationship is not as simple as it appears at first glance.

Tragically, the crying need for a General No 1 will not be met anytime soon. Apart from political apathy and bureaucratic opposition, even the Armed Forces are reluctant to move forward on the crucial CDS issue. Experts, aver that in the absence of a CDS, the Army, Navy and IAF may well continue to behave as "headless chickens", squabbling with each other, as was seen during the 1999 Kargil conflict. ---- INFA

(Copyright India News & Feature Alliance)

 

Henderson-Brookes Report: PUBLISH IN NATIONAL INTEREST, by Lt Gen Pran Pahwa, 29 October 2007 Print E-mail

Defence Notes

New Delhi, 29 October 2007

Henderson-Brookes Report

 PUBLISH IN NATIONAL INTEREST

 By Lt Gen Pran Pahwa

The months of October and November 1962 represent perhaps the darkest period of India’s post-Independence history. By the end of November, the country stood humiliated and friendless with its army comprehensively defeated by the Chinese, its foreign policy in tatters and not a single of its non-aligned friends coming out in its favour.

The unhappy experience of 1962 brought home to the Government the importance of having the country’s military capability match its foreign policy. With a view to making the Indian army a more efficient fighting machine, Lieutenant General Henderson-Brookes was directed to inquire into the causes of the army’s defeat and suggest remedial measures.

Lt General Henderson-Brookes submitted his report within a short period thereafter but it has never been made public. It is in the interest of the country that the report be published and not kept under wraps any longer.

It could be argued that unlike Pakistan, which even now masochistically continues to brood on its 1971 defeat, India has put the memory of 1962 behind it and moved on. Nothing would therefore be achieved by publishing the report now. Such a step would only reopen old wounds and lead to needless mud slinging at people who are long dead and gone.

These are valid arguments but there are equally strong other reasons why the report should be published. The Government and the army took some patently unsound decisions like the ‘forward policy’ both before and during the operations. It is important to know if the Government consulted the army before ordering such militarily untenable moves.

Similarly, we must know what was the army’s reaction when it was given the task of throwing out the Chinese, something it knew it did not have the capability to do? Was it given an opportunity to present its side of the case to the Government, and if so, at what level? Who finally over-ruled the army’s objection and for what reasons?

The report can throw light on this and other inter-actions between the Government and the army. It may also highlight the drawbacks in the system of higher defence management and communication or lack of it between the heads of the Armed Forces and the decision-makers at that time. This which will enable us to see whether there has been any meaningful improvement since then.

The report could also clarify how it was that the army meekly accepted a task that it fully well knew it could not carry out. Voices within the army must have been raised against it. How and why were they suppressed? This information is necessary to guard against the country being once again pushed into a situation that is not militarily viable.

One would also like to know what directions were given by the Army Headquarters to the subordinate formations for such tasks and how it dealt with any objections raised by them.

The reasons for the Government deciding not to use the air force against the Chinese have never been convincingly explained. Was it a purely political decision or did the army also oppose its use, fearing that it might adversely affect the maintenance of its forward troops by air?

The air force has often claimed that it had a clear edge over the Chinese air force at that time and that had it been used it could have altered the final outcome of the war. Did it convey this to the Government and the army, and if so, what was their reaction? If the non-use of air was on account of poor inter-service coordination and understanding then it needs to be seen whether any steps have been taken to improve it.

Soldiering is not a profession which gives one the opportunity to learn on the job. The lessons thrown up by earlier conflicts play an important role in a soldier’s training for war. That is another reason why the Henderson-Brookes report must be published. The army must learn from the lessons of the operations against the Chinese.

It may be argued that the 1962 war was fought a long time ago and that what happened then will not be relevant now, but that is not true. The lessons of war are immutable and those from the 1962 operations are as relevant today as they were then.

It is difficult to understand why all the Governments since 1962 have refused to release the Henderson-Brookes report. There does not appear to be any logic to it. The report could affect only three classes of people --- the political, the army and the bureaucracy.

It could be that the report is too critical of the politicians and the Government of that time (which it probably is not, as this aspect would normally be outside the charter of a military professional), but that could hardly be a reason for its non-publication because all the key political figures of that time are already dead.

Moreover, there have been several non-Congress Governments at the Centre since then which would have been only too happy to release a report that damages the image of their rival.

The army could have objected on the grounds of security when the report was first submitted but that can not be a reason today. The military situation now is totally different from that of 1962 as the construction of a large number of roads in the forward areas has totally changed the topography of those regions.

The defensive positions, weapon systems, communications and logistics of today have no relationship with those of the earlier days. Nothing that is written in the report can therefore affect future operations. It is understood that the army has already conveyed to the Government that it has no objection to the report being declassified.

That brings us to the third set of people affected --- the bureaucracy. The report in all probability holds, among other factors, the procedures and systems followed in the Ministry of Defence (MoD) at that time as being to quite a degree responsible for the lack of operational readiness and ineffectiveness of the army.

Not only were these procedures tedious and time consuming, they also interposed civilian bureaucrats between the service headquarters and the Government at every stage, thereby obstructing direct communication between the military and the political decision-makers.

Much has changed in the Forces and the MoD since 1962 but these procedures, which gave over-riding powers to the bureaucrats, have remained largely unchanged. It is possible that the bureaucrats fear that there may be a public outcry for reviewing these procedures and the civil-military relationship in the MoD if the report is published and this may in turn result in diluting their powers.

There have been earlier cases where they have succeeded in shelving reports whose recommendations if implemented would have impinged on their authority. In the case of the Henderson-Brookes report too, the bureaucrats may have somehow managed to prevail upon successive Governments to withhold the publication of the report. It is difficult to think of any other reason.

However, notwithstanding the objections from any quarter, the Government must now release the report, as it would be in the national interest to do so. ---- INFA

(Copyright India News & Feature Alliance)

 

 

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