India’s senior-most military commander Admiral Nirmal Verma has advocated accelerating the integration of the three services --- jointness in military parlance --- for better management of the country’s defence assets.
Verma said on Tuesday the existing model of jointness in which the senior-most service chief headed the chiefs of staff committee (COSC) had drawbacks. The post is held on a rotational basis. The navy chief, who retires on August 31, has been the chairman COSC for a year.
He hinted it was difficult for a service chief to double up as chairman COSC. “When you have the dual-hatting of the service chief holding responsibility of chairman COSC, I think it is difficult to devote the time that is required with respect to what is expected of you,” Verma said at his farewell media briefing.
He said short tenures were also a hindrance. “There was a chairman COSC who held the post for only one month before retiring… If that be the case, I don't think you can deliver to the extent you would like,” Verma said.
He was asked to comment on the recommendation of the Naresh Chandra task force on national security that a permanent chairman COSC be appointed from among the three service chiefs, taking the number of four-star officers in India to four.
“A permanent chairman COSC will certainly provide the thrust for moving jointness in the correct direction,” he said.
Chandra’s prescription for jointness is not new. After the 1999 Kargil war, the Group of Ministers set up by the PM had recommended creating a position of chief of defence staff (CDS) --- a proposal that never took off due to lack of political consensus.
The CDS was to be a single-point military adviser to the government, also responsible for efficient integration of tri-services capabilities.
Verma said, “What was envisaged in 2001 has not happened. Perhaps, this is one of the areas which the Naresh Chandra panel has addressed after having taken inputs from all stake-holders.”
He said the proposal to appoint a permanent chairman COSC could be a stepping-stone to the larger concept of CDS.