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October 26, 2016
  • Jun 25 2012 2:14AM
  • by Vice Admiral Suresh Bangara (Retd)
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  • Vice Admiral Suresh Bangara (Retd)

    Pune: Mitt Romney recently accused Barak Obama of politicisation of capturing and eliminating Osama. Such operations in the United States are executed by a small team of multi-disciplinary agencies under the direct Command of the Supreme Commander, the President. Also while all the facts of the operation are placed before the President, the final decision to execute the operation is that of the President alone.

    Those of us, who are familiar with the White House-Pentagon-CIA network which compiles the action plan, are quite aware of the briefing that precedes such operations and at times the gaming and modelling of real time environment.
    Contradictions have to be resolved by the President before he enunciates his decision in unambiguous terms, both for purposes of record, as also to facilitate clear directives to the executing agency.

    Given that operations concerning US national interests are frequent, owing to their global perspectives, the team that operates with the President would have sufficient time and experience to provide all the necessary inputs and clarification.

    Their deductions are generally supported by highly sophisticated technology based decision support systems. Mock drills and simulations of possible scenarios are an integral part of preparing the President and his team of experts, especially in the nuclear Command and Control structure. If the President thereafter chooses to exploit the success of such operations during his political campaign, it would perhaps be considered appropriate.

    In direct comparison, the Indian scene is radically different. The Prime Minister who heads the Cabinet Committee on security has to function as a part of the committee. Depending on the style of leadership of the individual he may or may not assume the role of Primus interpares.

    The Indian Military is not to date structured to provide a single point advisory role to the CCS, on operational matters, as each service head is expected to control his force and deploy them as required by the directive of the Govt. There are no integrated theatre commands(save the Andaman and Nicobar tri service command and the Strategic Forces Command) and  hence tri service operations are often led by the service which has a greater role in the execution and in some cases may even necessitate different Operational commanders for different phases of operation. That we have managed to deliver satisfactory results is not because the institutional mechanism was in place but because we have so far not been tested by a relatively strong enemy.

    Quite naturally, many political leaders who constitute the highest decision making body on national security, may retire without being exposed to an operational scenario. This is compounded by the fact that lessons learnt during such operations are classified- never to be released for the benefit of the next generation.

    The Ministry of defence during war, plays a supporting role, for, they are neither equipped nor trained to understand operations...Their role in war is a constructive one. They are required to execute clear cut procedures contained in the War book in support of logistics and inter Ministerial coordination

    The Military Commanders are allowed to control the flow of operations without any interference so long as the Political objectives of the operations are met.

    Thus despite the lack of constant interaction between the senior Military officers and the Political leadership, the operations are conducted as professionally as possible, by competent military commanders who spend all their life in preparing for operational contingencies.

    What then are the apprehensions of Politicisation of the Military in our context? Long periods of relative peace on our borders but unusually long deployment in less than war situations, primarily to fight insurgency, has resulted in an undesirable environment for any Military: in particular a Military which operates in a democratic polity.

    The primary role of preparing for full scale war has had to be tweaked to cater for a never ending deployment for less than war situations. Much has been said and written about the ill effects of using a large force to police our own territory while issues of adequate governance and socio-economic development in the neglected areas have been ignored due to the temporary confidence created by the Military “successes”. There have been constant debates within the Military to contain the damage caused to the psyche of a warrior who is exposed to aggressive containment of internal strife.

    What is not discussed publicly is lost opportunity to groom young officers in simple officership, their role in a democracy, the responsibilities of the state, the expectations of the people of India, the need to remain secular in increasingly polarised religious, ethnic, linguistic bodies. Above all on how to remain apolitical.  This is the grooming process not through courses but by word of mouth of Commanding officers and Commanders in the field.

    The time allotted to grooming has been completely diverted to operations, almost from the day one begins his journey.  Is it a surprise that relatively senior officers have begun to question the fundamentals on which the Military edifice is built? Have we not unwittingly exposed men in Military uniform to corrupt practises and deep rooted political intricacies that promote extra constitutional processes?

    We need to go back to the drawing board to restructure our training to cater to the needs of a   young democracy with neither an informed political leadership nor a bureaucracy which is capable of enabling the interaction between the two major players.

    While the imperatives to restructure training should evolve from within the Military, the institutional weaknesses caused by lack of integration within the Armed Forces and between the military and the MoD can be easily addressed by merely implementing the recommendations of many eminent committees. These reports have so far been selectively implemented or consumed to dust.

    Professionalising the decision making process in matters security, is the most vital task confronting the Government of India.

  • Nixon F | Jun 25, 2012
  • well articulated. but with no leader in real command in India, the situation continues to look bleak... one hopes that there is leadership potential in the higher military echelons... but if the damage is already done one wonders what one can expect. i guess being sensitized is the first step... and this is a good effort in that direction...
  • Air Mshl Satish G Inamdar | Jun 25, 2012
  • I don't know why but I get a feeling that the Armed Forces continue to be the favourite dart boards of all intended/ suggested reforms concerning national security! How about some restructuring ('introduction' may be a better word!) of the education & grooming of our political bosses & the bureaucrats in matters military? At most national security, military or strategy related conclaves in the Capital, the bureaucrats conspicuous by their presence in fair numbers are the retired lot of Indian Foreign Service officers. They also contribute substantively. Bureaucrats consistently conspicuous by their absence at these events are the IAS lot from the MoD-serving or retired- (except when they are special invitees!)! This is amazing as one would think these subjects under discussion/ debate/ elucidation would interest and should concern those who serve or have served in the MoD most vitally & intimately, as a natural corollary! The level & depth of knowledge & interest in military subjects of our politicians who sit on various Defence related bodies, varies between inadequate to pathetic, barring a few exceptions, which either happen to have had some military service or have taken pains to read up or be educated in this area! Selection of a Service Chief: whether it should be merit based instead of the present system of Service seniority, deserves careful & deep PRACTICAL thought. This is so, because 'merit based' selection, in the INDIAN CONTEXT, could run a serious risk of 'politicization' of senior military echelons, if it is left entirely to the politicians & bureaucrats to decide who among the contending Lt Gens/ Vice Adms/ Air Mshls is the most meritorious man to adorn the high office of the Chief!! Formal instruction within the Armed Forces on the exact meaning, content and importance of 'a-politicalness', however, may be highly called for and would be a good idea!
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