The lack of coordination between the Indian Navy and the Coast Guard caused the Mumbai terror attacks, a parliamentary panel said on Tuesday, even as it noted that the concept of jointness between the armed forces was still at a "nascent stage" - almost a decade after it was mooted.
"Events in the recent past have highlighted lack of coordination between (the) navy and Coast Guard resulting in national catastrophe," parliament's standing committee on defence said in its 36th report tabled on Tuesday, without specifically referring to the Mumbai carnage.
The committee "strongly believe that it is high time that the government reviewed this issue in its entirety and initiated appropriate steps to put in place an effective mechanism for establishing better coordination and jointness between (the) navy and Coast Guard in the paramount interest of national security", the report said.
The observation is ironic because a large number of Indian Navy officers on deputation man key positions in the Coast Guard. In fact, the present navy chief, Admiral Sureesh Mehta is a former Coast Guard director general.
At the larger level of the armed forces, the committee noted that "while certain steps have been taken to promote the concept of jointness within the services, it is still at a nascent stage in this country".
Equally importantly, it said the armed forces headquarters should be "intrinsically involved in national security management and apex decision making processes".
The committee was of the "considered view" that the creation of the post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) "is essential to ensure optimum level of jointness among the different wings of the armed forces and to provide single-point military advice to the government".
This was because "the key to success in modern day warfare is the ability of the different wings of the armed forces to integrate their efforts under a single command without any loss of time", the committee, headed by Lok Sabha MP Balasaheb Vikhe-Patil, noted.
In this context, the panel noted that the present system of a Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC) headed by the senior-most of the three serving chiefs was not delivering what it was intended to.
As the COSC chairman "has no command and control authority over the services other than his own", the committee said it was "unable to comprehend whether such a system will prove efficacious enough to ensure quick response and coordinated action in (an) emergent situation.
It was this lack of coordination that had led to the delay in the detected and eviction of Pakistani Army troops who had occupied the heights of Kargil in Jammu and Kashmir in 1999, a panel headed by noted security expert K. Subrahmanyam had said in its report on the operations.
The Subrahmanyam panel had also recommended the creation of a CDS to ensure jointness, as also quick and coordinated response in such situations.
The government says it is attempting to build political consensus on the issue and has written to a spectrum of parties on this but many of them have not responded despite repeated reminders.
The parliamentary committee also noted that the post of CDS exists in 67 countries, including the US, Britain, Germany and France and had "proved its efficacy" in those countries.
As a prelude to creating the post of CDS, the government had created the post of Chief of Integrated Defence Staff (CIDS) but the committee found this to be a merely "cosmetic" move.