NEW DELHI: Political apathy, bureaucratic aversion and divisions within the armed forces continue to stymie the desperate need to take half-hearted
reforms in the country's higher defence management to their logical conclusion by creation of a chief of defence staff (CDS) post.
Defence minister A K Antony's responses in Parliament show there is simply no move to create the crucial CDS post to act as "principle military advisor" to the government as well as upgrade the defence secretary's post to ensure he, in turn, can act as the "principal defence advisor".
In effect, meaningful reform in the country's defence architecture, with "true" integration of the Service HQs with the defence ministry, continues to remain in suspended animation despite almost a decade having elapsed since the 1999 Kargil conflict.
It was after that conflict that first the Kargil Review panel headed by K Subrahmanyam and then L K Advani-led Group of Ministers' (GoM) report on "reforming the national security system" had both pressed for systemic changes. But while many of the GoM recommendations — like creation of an integrated defence staff, a defence intelligence agency and a strategic forces command — were implemented, the all-important one of a CDS was left in a limbo by the then NDA government on the pretext of holding "wider political consultations".
The present UPA government merrily continues with this consultation process without even any pretence of urgency. "Four political parties have replied. Parties who have not replied have been reminded to expedite their views," says Antony. The fact, however, remains that the UPA government, much like NDA, has never really been serious about the CDS post.
The General No 1, incidentally, was supposed to act as "a single-point military advisor" to government, administer the strategic (nuclear) forces, resolve inter-Service doctrinal, planning, procurement, policy and operational issues, and facilitate synergy among the Army, Navy and IAF.
As for elevating the defence secretary to the level of cabinet secretary and the three Service chiefs from a rung below at present, as was recommended by the parliamentary standing committee on defence, Antony said the proposal was not being accepted "at present" since it was "premature at this stage".
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