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Kargil panel first to raise need for overarching military advice

Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By
Dec 25, 2019 01:12 AM IST

The KRC recommended the creation of a CDS as a means to provide single-point professional military advice to the political leadership and to also achieve synergy in the working of the three forces.

The appointment of a CDS was one of the most significant recommendations made by the K Subrahmanyam-led Kargil Review Committee (KRC) that was constituted in the immediate aftermath of the 1999 Kargil war to examine lapses that allowed Pakistani soldiers to occupy strategic heights, the initial sluggish Indian response, and suggest measures to strengthen national security.

The appointment of a CDS was one of the most significant recommendations made by the K Subrahmanyam-led Kargil Review Committee (KRC)
The appointment of a CDS was one of the most significant recommendations made by the K Subrahmanyam-led Kargil Review Committee (KRC)

The KRC recommended the creation of a CDS as a means to provide single-point professional military advice to the political leadership and to also achieve synergy in the working of the three forces. The KRC was perhaps the most comprehensive look at the systemic failures that allowed the Pakistanis to occupy the strategic heights of Kargil.

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The chiefs of staff simultaneously discharge the roles of operational commanders and national security planners especially in relation to future equipment and force postures, the KRC report said. In recommendations dealing with national security management and apex-decision making, the report said, “Most of the time (of the chiefs) is, however, devoted to operational role, as is bound to happen. This has led to a number of negative results. Future-oriented long term planning suffers,” the report said.

It said structural reforms could bring about a much closer and a more constructive interaction between the government and the three services. Some experts had questioned the degree of coordination between the army and air force during the Kargil war.

The committee looked at the problems dogging the military, its higher defence organisation, the intelligence community and the inadequate management of India’s land and maritime borders.

In a report tabled in Parliament in February 2000, the KRC recommended the appointment of a CDS as it felt that the then existing system of service chiefs giving military advice to the government independent of each other was inadequate.

A Group of Ministers (GoM) was set up in April 2000 to review national security in its entirety, with particular focus on the recommendations of the KRC and submit a report. In its report, submitted in February 2001 to the Prime Minister, the GoM backed the creation of the post of CDS.

Accepting the KRC’s recommendation, the GoM backed the creation of the CDS, who would control and manage strategic forces, ensure prioritisation of defence planning and bring about much-needed jointness amongst the armed forces.

However, the appointment of a CDS was in limbo for almost two decades as successive governments failed to build a political consensus over it. The complete overhaul of India’s intelligence set-up and the creation of a younger and fitter army are among the most significant changes made by the government on the basis of recommendations of the KRC.

Some steps have been taken to improve jointness among the three services during the last two decades such as the creation of the HQ of the Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) and the raising of India’s first tri-service command – the Andaman and Nicobar Command.

Created 18 years ago, the IDS is a single-point organisation for jointmanship that integrates policy, doctrine, war-fighting and military purchases.

However, the creation of the post of CDS was in the freezer till Prime Minister Narendra Modi revived the idea in August 2019.

“It’s better late than never. The world has changed and so have war-fighting scenarios and challenges. The CDS is absolutely required for greater connectivity and synergy among the three services. Had we had a CDS during the Kargil war, we could have utilized our resources, including the air force, much better. And the outcome of the war would have been different. We would have punished Pakistan,” said Lieutenant General DB Shekatkar (retd), who recommended the appointment of a CDS in report submitted to the government in December 2016.

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