As the nation joins hands in commemorating two decades of the Kargil War, in which the heroism of the officers and men of the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force won the day, it is time to ponder on the state of India’s defence preparedness. The Kargil Review Committee Report followed by the Report of the Group of Ministers soon after the Kargil War is well documented, but some of the major recommendations of the report still lie in limbo, though it must be said that much has also been achieved in the last two decades. A major area of concern remains the breach in trust between the military and the political cum bureaucratic establishment, which was in evidence right from the time of India’s Independence and has grown since then with each passing year.
While the reasons for the strained relations are well known, not much has done to ascer- tain why we have not been able to bridge the trust deficit over the last seven decades. Within the Armed Forces, there appears to be no concerted drive to address this issue, with the leadership of the three Services more focussed with their respective job on hand. The IAS babus have established a comfortable niche for themselves in defence affairs and they have no desire to change. On the con- trary, their focus remains on further establish- ing their dominance. The political class remains oblivious to the problem especially when peace prevails, as there are more press- ing issues of domestic concern to which they need to focus their attention.
It is hence imperative that the Armed Forces seek to find a way out of the impasse they find themselves in today. The situation is not likely to improve, unless the Armed Forces themselves take the initiative to improve mat- ters. As a first step, it is imperative that the matter be dealt with in an institutionalised form. Here, ARTRAC could play a major role by creating the necessary infrastructure in terms of office space and research scholars, who could be drawn from the three wings of the Armed Forces. The think tanks of the Services, Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS), Centre for Air Power Studies (CAPS), National Maritime Foundation (NMF) and the Centre for Joint Warfare Studies (CEN- JOWS) all based in Delhi, also need to be coopted in some form in the above.
In a systematic manner, the concerns of the Armed Forces can then be projected to the political leadership as well as to the Members of Parliament in both the Houses. Greater awareness of issues could be made to the Indian public through various media chan- nels, where well documented case studies can highlight how the nation stands to lose if appropriate corrective measures are not undertaken in addressing the breach in civil- military relations. Some of the areas which need attention are as under:
•Integrating the Ministry of Defence, with at least 50 percent military officers being placed there at various levels. Eventually, the Defence Secretary too, must be a serving military officer.
•Role of Financial Advisors.
•Functioning of the Defence Public Sector, which constitutes the largest tail of the Armed Forces.
•Need for an integrated approach with the Armed Forces in the functioning of the DRDO.
•Functioning of institutions like the ECHS, the Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare, Canteen Stores Department, Defence Estates, Cantonment Boards etc.
The above list is not exhaustive but provides a useful start point in projecting the Armed Forces views on matters which impact on national security. An institutionalised structure provides the military with a forum to project its views and bring it to the attention of the people and of the decision makers. It also acts in pre- serving institutional memory, so that the wrongs of earlier years are not repeated.