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Thursday, Sep 19, 2019

Weak cross-service cooperation in military hits decisions, says Lt Gen Dua

The existing structure for cross-service cooperation is weak and efforts for jointmanship in the military are proceeding slowly, resulting in duplication of efforts, wastage of resources and delay in decision making, said Lieutenant General Satish Dua.

india Updated: Dec 02, 2018 12:02 IST
Rahul Singh
Rahul Singh
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Lieutenant General Satish Dua.
Lieutenant General Satish Dua.(Pratham Gokhale/HT Photo)
         

The existing structure for cross-service cooperation is weak and efforts for jointmanship in the military are proceeding slowly, resulting in duplication of efforts, wastage of resources and delay in decision making, said Lieutenant General Satish Dua, who was the senior-most military officer handling all tri-service affairs until a month ago.

“Since the chairmanship of the Chiefs of Staff Committee keeps rotating, it is weak. Sometimes the three chiefs cannot take a decision as they disagree over issues,” said Dua, who retired as Chief of Integrated Defence Staff to the Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee on October 31 after holding the top post for two years.

Created 17 years ago, the Integrated Defence Staff is a single-point organisation for jointmanship that integrates policy, doctrine, war-fighting and military purchases. Jointmanship refers to a degree of co-ordination and integration in terms of strategy, capabilities and execution across the three services.

“The weak structure doesn’t lead to effective decision making. Differences are bound to be there as the chiefs tend to keep their service interests first,” Dua said in an interview to Hindustan Times.

Inter-service issues, lack of tri-service structures and the reluctance of the three services to let go of their turfs are some of the biggest hurdles to achieving greater jointmanship, Dua said.

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“We have made some progress in the recent years. Cyber, space and special operations divisions are to be set up. The commander-in-chief of the Andaman and Nicobar Command (a tri-service command) has been given more powers. But a lot more needs to be done. On a scale of 10, I would give jointmanship, as it exists today, a 4,” he said.

He said officers being groomed to occupy higher positions should be given incentives to serve in tri-service organisations, a proposal that is being examined by the defence ministry.

“Today, people do not want to serve as instructors at the Defence Services Staff College (a tri-service institution). Nobody wants to go to Andamans (the first and only tri-services or theatre command in the country). They would prefer manning a post in the military operations directorate, a more glamourous job. But if career-advancing incentives are given, things will change,” he said.

Lack of jointmanship is leading to duplication and even triplication of efforts and resources. This is only natural, given that the easiest way to cut costs is standardization and scale.

“We are a developing country. It’s criminal to waste money like that. Every service has its own air force. They have different workshops to repair the same cars in same cities. The army and the IAF (Indian Air Force) fly helicopters of different sizes to serve the same troops in Siachen. We need to create new structures. There’s a pressing need to synergise and optimise,” Dua said.

A defence ministry spokesperson said integration among the armed forces has been a priority for the government. “Landmark steps taken towards this (jointmanship), include enhancing authority vested in the CINCAN (Commander-in-Chief of Andaman and Nicobar Command), increased fund allotment, infrastructure development coordinated at HQ Andaman and Nicobar Command and the recent decision to include the CISC in all Army/Navy/IAF Commanders’ Conferences,” spokesperson colonel Aman Anand said.

Military affairs expert Air Vice Marshal Kapil Kak (retd) said the true test of the jointmanship mantra is joint planning, which is “our weakness.” “The planning aspect needs to be synergised for maximisation of joint power application,” he said.

Dua said the Indian military’s structure did not offer many opportunities to officers and men to serve in a tri-service environment, resulting in a limited understanding of jointmanship. He said creating joint structures was critical at a time when the Indian military was slowly moving towards theaterisation.

“Over a period of time, the three services have started growing in their silos. This has resulted in expensive overlaps. Take the case of air defence. It’s primarily the air force’s job. But the army has been buying all types of missiles, even the long-range ones. That is not needed,” he said.

Dua underlined the need to appoint a four-star officer as the permanent chairman, COSC, to further build and strengthen cross-service synergy in joint operations. He said the three chiefs had last year made a recommendation to the government to appoint a permanent chairman. “This COSC has been very bold. Earlier ones did not agree,” he said.

He said the permanent chairman could don the hat of the chief of defence staff (CDS) after theater commands are operationalised in the years ahead.

Dua said the military should ideally have three theatre commands: one each for the west, north and peninsular India. “The army could be given west, the IAF north and the navy peninsular India. The CDS would be the operational head of the theaters. There will a strategic support theater too for logistics. So there will be a total of eight four-star generals, including the three service chiefs,” he said.

Dua gave the example of the 2016 terror attack on the Pathankot air force base to explain how such commands could be effective.

“The terrorists stormed into the base. There was an army division and a brigade beyond the boundary wall of the airbase, with fully battle-ready troops who had returned from Jammu and Kashmir and the Northeast. Yet, people were moved from Delhi to sort out the mess. If there were a theatre commander, he wouldn’t have had to ask Delhi and would have ordered his squads to jump across into the base,” he added.

The IAF, however, does not support theaterisation.

Kak said, “It would be totally unwise for a mature military power like India to put all forces under the concept of theater commands. The critical point is that air power permeates all geographies by virtue of its of reach and has politically accepted strategic effect.”

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First Published: Dec 01, 2018 23:34 IST