Josy Joseph, TNN | Sep 1, 2011, 02.31AM IST
NEW DELHI: The old debate in the Indian defence establishment, about the lack of integration between the bureaucracy and the military, is back - and as expected the civilian bureaucracy has disagreed with the military leadership.
Authoritative sources said the Chiefs of Staff Committee, comprising the three Service chiefs, has complained to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh about the lack of integration between the ministry of defence and the three Services, saying it was contributing to prolonged delays in procurement and hampering other higher defence management activities.
According to a senior official, Air Chief Marshal PV Naik, who was the chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, in a detailed communication to the PM put forward the military concerns. It was among ACM Naik's last communications to the PM before he retired on July 31.
Sources said ACM Naik pointed out to the PM that the Kargil Review Committee, appointed after the 1999 conflict between India and Pakistan, had recommended integration between the defence ministry and the three Services, and it was duly approved by a Group of Ministers. The Committee had recommended that the "structure and interface between the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the Armed Forces Headquarters be comprehensively studied and reorganized". Many decisions of the GoM were implemented, resulting in the setting up of the Integrated Defence Staff (IDS), Defence Intelligence Agency etc.
Some aspects specifically regarding the integration between the MoD and the Service headquarters were also implemented, among them being the concept of the single file system. Earlier, the MoD and Service headquarters used to maintain separate files on the same subject, but this was given up. The Army and Navy headquarters have been renamed "Integrated Headquarters of MoD".
However, ACM Naik complained to the PM that the level of integration was not enough, with the civilians in the MoD having overriding powers over most crucial activities of the military, especially big ticket purchases. He suggested that it was high time that the government appointed senior military officers in the MoD, at the level of joint secretary etc, sources said.
In response, the MoD in a recent communication told the Chiefs of Staff Committee that the integration was in fact complete and was visible in several aspects. The MoD cited the single file concept and the renaming of the military headquarters to back its claims.
The Kargil Review Committee had pointed out that India perhaps was the only major democracy where the Armed Forces Headquarters were "outside the apex governmental structure". Thus the Service chiefs have "assumed the role of operational commanders of their respective forces rather than that of Chiefs of Staff to the Prime Minister and defence minister". The committee said the "Prime Minister and defence minister do not have the benefit of the views and expertise of the Army commanders and their equivalents in the Navy and Air Force so that higher level defence management decisions are more consensual and broadbased."
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