Book: Even If It Ain’t Broke Yet, Do Fix It — Enhancing Effectiveness Through Military Change; Author: Vivek Chadha; Publisher: Pentagon Press; Pages: 192; Price: Rs 795/$25.95
For all the rhetoric that has flowed for a decade and more on jointness, inter-operability and creating synergy between the three wings of the armed forces, the concepts have remained only on paper as the sole driver of change has largely been the Indian Army, leading to expected resistance from the other two services, says this rather oddly-titled but eye-opening work by a research fellow at the Defence Ministry-funded think-tank, the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA).
The book, written in the manner of a series of case studies, also points to the lack of a clearly enunciated national security strategy, a defence situational review, a defence strategy and a joint strategy for the armed forces — all of this hampering military reforms.
More shockingly, a survey of serving and retired officers within the Indian Army, inter-alia, found that 81 percent felt that its strategy was slow in evolution.
Little wonder then that the Cold Start doctrine, adopted with much fanfare in 2004 that envisaged a quick response by at least one of the army’s three strike corps in case of hostilities with Pakistan, is all but dead as a dodo.
“Change must ideally flow from the national security structure of a country, irrespective of the specific organisations involved… The case studies related to conventional change suggest that military reform was essentially spearheaded by the army, though critically with support from the political establishment. However, irrespective of the resultant impact, the tendency to undertake such major and often transformational shifts without the benefit of a clearly enunciated national security strategy, a defence situational review, a defence strategy and a joint strategy for the armed forces creates conditions that perforce tend to force the armed forces to function with an inadequate understanding of a national perspective on these issues,” writes Vivek Chadha, who retired as a Colonel from the Indian Army after serving for 22 years.
“This often leads to contradictions as a result of single-service doctrines or strategies, which do not necessarily carry the weight of the government behind them. This leads to a Catch-22 situation, wherein not formulating a strategy or doctrine in the absence of a national strategy adversely affects functional efficiency, and introducing one in isolation produces at best a limited view of the subject. The circumstances created by these conditions limit the ability to plan and implement military change. The example of the so-called Cold Start doctrine is a case in point,” Chadha writes.
Noting that India’s status-cum-capability is undergoing a change, the book says that the behaviour of the major powers reveals that if there is one factor which all of them aspire to attain it is the ability to remain proactive in their decision-making process.
“This can only happen when decisions follow a well-orchestrated and planned course of action, which must flow from a clearly enunciated and formulated national assessment of treats, challenges and aims. The absence of this function as an institutional process remains a constraint for both proactive decision-making and deliberate, considered and futuristic military change.”
And what of the Cold Start doctrine? It was doomed from the start, the book says. It quotes Air Vice Marshal Kapil Kak (retd), now with the Centre for Air Power Studies, as saying: “There is no question of the air force fitting itself into a doctrine propounded by the army. This is a concept dead at inception.”
Since the doctrine was released by the army, the level of political support for it remains unclear, especially in the light of General V.K. Singh — Indian Army chief from March 2010 to May 2012 and currently Minister of State for External Affairs — disowning it.
At the bottom line, the book notes, the lack of a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), the creation of which was recommended by a committee that probed the 1999 Kargil war with Pakistan, is a major stumbling block to military reform.
There are, no doubt, tri-service institutions like the Chiefs of Staff Committee, Headquarters Integrated Defence Staff, the Strategic Forces Command and the Andaman and Nicobar Command.
“However, even as these organisations are often analysed for enhancing their effectiveness, the absence of a Chief of Defence Staff and the importance and criticality of an integrated Ministry of Defence (MoD), is often lost sight of. The continuation of service-specific thinking on change management is closely related to limitations within the armed forces, their not being integrated with the MoD and the tri-services institutions not achieving the true potential of these organisational structures.
“The imperfections of these critical nodal structures ensures that future change management in a joint environment will either not fructify or follow parochial paths chaired by individual services, which will require both money and time to undo in the future.
“This is not a luxury the defence of India can afford, especially given the delays in this regard that have already affected military change and the security environment in the region,” Chadha writes.
This book is definitely a must-read for those in uniform, those in the bureaucracy who deal with security matters and those with even a nodding acquaintance of matters military.
(Vishnu Makhijani can be contacted at email@example.com)