Revisiting Higher Defence Management in India
ISSSP Working Paper #2, August 2014
Author: Sadhavi Chauhan, Senior Research Fellow, ISSSP, NIAS
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India’s regional security environment necessitates the country’s armed forces to remain at a heightened state of defence preparedness. While in the short run, increasing the defence budget and importing weapons are necessary and unavoidable; a holistic solution lies in strengthening India’s higher defence management.
Need for Greater Political Involvement in Military Issues
Active and regular interactions between the Prime Minister and the Service Chiefs is important. Such interactions will keep the political leadership abreast of military matters and will provide the Services with an ear for their demands and opinions regarding the country’s security.
Creation of a Specialised Bureaucracy
Given the absence of a hands-on approach by the political leaders in defence issues, decisions are largely left in the hands of the bureaucrats in the Ministry of Defence. Creation of a specialised bureaucratic cadre is crucial to link military imperatives with policy decisions. Furthermore, closer integration of the three Services with the Ministry of Defence will facilitate greater jointness and cooperation, thereby boosting overall synergy.
Indigenisation and Services-DPSU Collaboration
Higher investment in military research and development (R&D) is needed to boost defence indigenisation. The effectiveness of India’s Defence Public Sector Units (DPSUs) will be enhanced if the DPSUs and the Services work in collaboration to draw up standardised quality requirements for their defence weapons and systems. Regular interactions between the Services and the DPSUs, especially during the planning and implementation phases of projects are imperative. The Services need to give sufficient lead-time to the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and DPSUs for their development-related efforts. Concurrently, the DPSUs need to offer realistic timelines for the planning and completion of projects, thereby enabling the military to plan their force structures and future acquisitions.
Emphasis on Capacity building
Complete indigenisation is neither possible nor desirable. The existence of defence lobby groups who continue to push for the ‘buy’ option is a reality, which cannot be brushed aside. Unfortunately, it has been observed that even in cases where the defence R&D establishment has delivered, there is opposition to induction of a quality indigenous product like the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) into the Services. New Delhi needs to manoeuvre around such opposition to reduce its dependence on imports. The offset policy can play a crucial role in this respect, provided India manages to develop the wherewithal to absorb these technologies. Additionally, there is a need for India’s defence sector to ramp up the scale of its production facilities to meet domestic defence requirements in a short time and also cater to the international market by way of defence exports.
Boost Inter-Service Jointness
Inter-Service rivalries hamper the planning of a joint force structure, better inter-service coordination, drawing up of long term national procurement priorities, which in turn, impedes overall defence preparedness. The creation of the position of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) will not only act as a crucial link between the three Services but also provide them with a ‘joint voice’.
The Way Forward
In order to strengthen India’s security apparatus, an emphasis needs to be laid on structural reorganisation and defence indegenisation rather than resorting to expanding military budgets and arms imports. Enhanced coordination between the three fulcrums of the higher defence structure, namely the politicians and the Services, the three Services, and the Services and the DPSUs/DRDO remains central to the strengthening of India’s defence preparedness.