Panel report sparks Babu-Forces tussle
By Ritu Sharma - NEW DELHI
Published: 29th Jul 2012 08:56:18 AM
The report of Naresh Chandra Task Force on Security has sparked a tussle between the South Block babus and the armed forces. The report has recommended to appoint more uniformed officers in the Ministry of Defence to increase their say in national security decision-making and to replace civilian Defence Secretary by Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) as ‘a single source of advice’ for the Defence Minister and the Prime Minister.
The task force led by former cabinet secretary Naresh Chandra lamented that despite the service chiefs and the highly specialised Service Head Quarters’ staff being at their disposal for advice in the management of national security, the political establishment is totally relying on the feedback of defence ministry civil servants, drawn from diverse backgrounds.
“According to the report, the service headquarters are excluded from the apex structure. The services have limited access to the political establishment, and can make little or no contribution to national security decision-making,” sources said. To cure the problem, the report suggests posting of more armed forces officers in the ministry, a fact that has not found much acceptance amongst the bureaucracy.
Informed sources told The Sunday Standard, to enhance the status of Service Chiefs in decision-making processes, the task force has also recommended the amendments in Business Rules - the “Government of India Allocation of Business Rules” (AoB Rules), and the “Government of India Transaction of Business Rules” (ToB Rules), framed in 1961 under the constitutional powers of the President of India. As per the present arrangement, the three Service Chiefs find no mention in the Business Rules, what is their status and standing vis-à-vis the Defence Secretary, who under the rules is responsible for the “Defence of India and every part thereof?”
“Over the past 64 years, it has become quite clear that the three Service Chiefs are to be accorded the courtesies due to their rank and position, and allowed to administer and operationally deploy their respective Services. However, since they have no locus standi as per Business Rules, their input to the decision-making of the four MoD Departments remain marginal.
“So much so, that the Secretary Department of Defence is deemed to represent the three Services in most forums, and the Departments of DRDO as well as Defence Production need not seek or abide by their advice,” sources added.
With India inching towards completing its nuclear triad and acquiring strategic weapons like Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) Agni-V, the criticality of the post of CDS—the Chief of the three Service Chiefs—has increased. As per the report, the CDS will have direct access to the Defence Minister rather than channelling his advice through the Defence Secretary.
“The present system of Chairman CoSC (Chiefs of Staff Committee) is not working well. As the senior-most among the three Chiefs take over as CoSC Chairman, he is at the helm of affairs from one to 20 months depending on his residual service.
“In the coming times, CoSC will become important in the chain of command for nuclear weapons; and hence the urgency for CDS,” sources added. In order to iron out the objections raised by the Indian Air Force (IAF) opposing the move, the report suggests appointing the senior-most Chief among the three services to be appointed as CDS and his immediate junior be handed over the rein of that service.
The Government had in June 2011 appointed the Naresh Chandra Committee, comprising former defence officers like Admiral Arun Prakash, Air Chief Marshal S Krishnaswamy and former Director General of Military Operations Lt Gen VR Raghavan and bureaucrats like Brajeshwar and Vinod K Duggal, to revisit the defence reforms process. The report of the committee was recently submitted to the Prime Minister. The report has been circulated to the various ministries concerned and finally it would be considered by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS). A public version of the report is likely to be made available soon for an open discourse, sources indicated.