The J&K issue cannot be resolved through rhetoric and half-hearted measures
Force Magazine - National Security and Aerospace Newsmagazine
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Force Magazine
Mr Minister, Make a Mark

An open letter to the new defence minister

T.R. Ramaswami T.R. Ramaswami

As the government has yet to name the new defence minister, I am unable to address this letter by name. However, I am sure that it will reach you. I do hope you are familiar with the armed forces. Unfortunately, we have never had a defence minister who was even remotely familiar with his portfolio, with the possible exception of Arun Singh, who was minister of state (MoS) in the Eighties. Even an ex-army man, Jaswant Singh, did nothing significant to be remembered.

The relationship between the ministry of defence (MoD) and armed forces HQs is nothing much to write about. One doesn’t know who the armed forces consider a greater enemy – Pakistan or the MoD. The sooner you rectify this sad state of affairs, the better. A radical change in the way they interact is necessary. I understand that any proposal from the service HQ, after moving up and down the bureaucratic ladder, only the decision is conveyed to the service HQ. They are never aware of the rationale and basis of the decision. I suggest that files must go to the MoD from the PSOs concerned. After the secretary signs off, the file must go to the chief for his final comments before coming to you. A defence secretary who is lower in protocol than the service chiefs cannot sit in judgement on a chief’s views.

Over the years, the armed forces have moved farther and farther away from each other with turf battles being the order of the day. It is time to integrate them in a phased manner. I would request you to read the Goldwater-Nichols Act (1986) of the US. We broadly need to get there with our own refinements and ideas. First, get the AORs of the commands to coincide - the army and air force commands along the border; and navy and air force commands along the coast. From here we can move to joint theatre commands. This will create a synergy and act as a force multiplier. Only then the original philosophy of joint-ness, propounded when the National Defence Academy (NDA) commenced, be realised.

Today, cooperation, if any, ends at the levels of colonels and their equivalent. The moment stars appear, the services are as far apart as constellations. The coinciding of command AORs will enable operational strategy to be effective, which today is non-existent. Operational strategy straddles the strategic thought ladder between tactics and overall strategy. For the armed forces which are on a 365 x 24 state of undeclared war, this is essential.

Make a Mark

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