It has been more than three months since Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the decision to appoint a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) in his Independence Day address. The delay in appointing the first CDS and assigning its precise role and responsibility is indicative of the complexities involved in implementing what could arguably be the biggest defence reform of the Modi Government.
Coming just after the creation of the National Security Advisor-led Defence Planning Committee (DPC) in April 2018, it heralds a radical departure from the past in so far as India’s higher defence management is conducted.
Since the prime minister’s announcement, numerous recommendations have been made by different quarters, often repeating what the Group of Ministers (GoM) and other expert bodies had suggested in the past. Few have examined other pressing areas pertaining to planning, procurement, joint-service institutions, military diplomacy and quality assurance where an institution like CDS could make a big difference.
India has so far prepared 13 defence five-year plans (FYPs), beginning with the first plan post the war with China in 1962.
These FYPs are in addition to numerous other procurement plans articulated in the aftermath of the Kargil conflict in 1999. These plans and in particular the processes involved in formulating them have, however, hardly been satisfactory.
The major deficiency of the planning process has been the lack of inter- and intra-service prioritisation, leading to duplication of efforts, haphazard capability development and sub-optimal utilisation of resources.
The reason for such a lacklustre planning process has been the glaring absence of an overarching institution with the requisite authority to translate India’s overall defence requirements into a holistic capability development plan while keeping in view the scarcity of resources, technological advancements, self-reliance goals and politico-diplomatic engagements with other countries.
The absence of an overarching agency has led to individual service headquarters (SHQ) to plan and project requirements that are not necessarily in harmony with those of other services. This is not how major countries in the world undertake defence planning.
With the creation of the post of CDS, India has an opportunity to rectify this historical deficiency in its defence planning process.
The CDS could be entrusted with the task of defence planning, subject to overall guidance and directions from the DPC. It could be mandated to prepare and own a holistic 15-year plan from which would follow the five-year capital acquisition plan and the two-year procurement plan.
While preparing the plan documents, the CDS would require to weigh the cost and benefit of different options to achieve the larger security goals, while remaining well within a pre-defined fiscal roadmap and constantly furthering the Make in India initiative in defence production.
In essence, the CDS, through the planning mechanism, would need to determine the most cost-effective and self-reliant force structure and its distribution among the services. It may entail right-sizing manpower to fund capital assets.
Contrary to popular perceptions, the armed forces play a vital role in arms procurement. In fact, two critical stages of procurement – formulation of qualitative requirements (QRs) or technical specifications and conduct of trials – that have the maximum bearing on subsequent decision making and speed of procurement are undertaken at the SHQ level.
These two stages of procurement are, however, most susceptible to delays and controversies because of a variety of reasons, prominent of them being lack of expertise and professionalism.
In the past, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India, government-appointed committees, study groups and think tanks all have voiced their concerns and emphasised on greater professionalism and transparency in these two critical aspects. The CDS could be the overall in-charge of these two aspects. Dedicated and professional teams could be set up under the CDS to undertake these two tasks, which would go a long way in expediting the procurement process.
Along with the tasks of QR formulation and conduct of trials, the government may also like to review the existing powers exercised for the purpose of according Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) and sanctioning of capital acquisition proposals (see table below).
Being the head of the tri-service agency, the CDS would be ideally suited to have larger delegated financial powers, over and above those exercised at the SHQ level, to expedite the procurement process.
Suffice it to say that the existing financial powers which were substantially enhanced in the recent past have led to full utilisation of the procurement budget.
Capital Acquisition: Competent Authority for According AoN and Financial Sanction
|Financial Limit (Rs Crore)||Authority for According AoN||Competent Financial Authority (CFA)|
|≤ 300||Services Capital Acquisition Plan Categorisation Higher Committee (SCAPCHC)||Vice Chiefs of Army and Navy, Deputy Chief of the Air Force, Chief of Integrated Defence Staff to the Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee (CISC) and Director General, Coast Guard|
|>300 – ≤ 500||Defence Procurement Board (DPB)||Defence Secretary|
|>500 – ≤2000||Defence Acquisition Council (DAC)||Defence Minister|
|>2000 – ≤3000||DAC||Finance Minister|
|>3000||DAC||Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS)|
Source: Extrapolated from “Defence Procurement Procedure 2016,” MoD, GoI, March 2016.
With the appointment of a CDS, it is only natural that all existing joint-service organisations such as training establishments, Defence Space Agency, Special Operations Division, Defence Cyber Agency and integrated commands come under its administrative control. While bringing them under the control of the CDS, it is imperative to address some of the critical deficiencies facing the joint agencies.
For instance, though the Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC) is an integrated theatre command, it lacks teeth due to differing perceptions and priorities of the contributing services.
The Commander-in-Chief of the ANC (CINCAN) is constrained in requisitioning critical assets from the services to perform its assigned task. Addressing such deficiencies would be vital in making the CDS effective.
With the rise of India’s economic and military profile, defence diplomacy has assumed a great deal of importance. Presently, this crucial aspect is being conducted in an ad-hoc manner without an overarching policy direction from or the effective control of the Ministry of Defence.
It would be ideal if the CDS is made responsible for all aspects of defence diplomacy, subject to clear policy guidelines from the government.
All initial vetting of bilateral/multilateral exercises and visits of higher military authorities – to name just a few aspects of defence diplomacy – need to be centrally processed at the CDS level before it is finally approved at higher levels.
The Department of Defence Production (DDP) is often accused of conflict of interest because of its dual responsibility of being the administrative department for both production and quality assurance, the latter function being provided largely through the Directorate General Quality Assurance (DGQA).
Though there is no hard evidence to suggest DDP’s interference in QA matters, it would be far more important for the DDP to focus on production, leaving the QA function to be dealt with by a neutral agency. The CDS, given its tri-service nature, would be ideally suited to take up this responsibility.
However, any handover of QA functions to the CDS must not come in the way of reforms of DGQA and other such agencies.
Self-certification, a global best practice, must be encouraged to the extent possible to encourage arms producers to own responsibility for their products and be accountable for quality.
Prime Minister Modi’s August 15 announcement to appoint a CDS is undoubtedly a bold and decisive step in reforming India’s higher defence management.
The next logical step for the government is to quickly define the contours of the CDS’ charter of duties and responsibilities to allow him to function in a well-defined territory.
While articulating the roles and functions, the government needs to examine not just the CDS’ role as a single-point military advisor, but also his role in other matters that are equally important in driving critical reforms.
By assigning the CDS a key role in planning, procurement, tri-service institutions, defence diplomacy and quality assurance, the government would simultaneously unleash a host of critical reforms that have been unheard of until now.
Disclaimer: The facts and opinions expressed in this article are strictly the personal opinions of the author. League of India does not assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in this article.
Indian Air Force Operationalises 2nd Squadron Of Indigenous Combat Aircraft Tejas
The supersonic combat aircraft is considered the lightest and the smallest of its kind.
COIMBATORE (Tamil Nadu): The Indian Air Force has operationalised its new squadron “Number-18 – Flying Bullets” with the Light Combat Aircraft LCA Tejas yesterday. The Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria launched it at the Sulur airbase near Coimbatore.
The CAS Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria flew the #LCA Tejas fighter this morning with 45 Squadron at Air Force Station Sulur. He is on a visit to the Station for operationalisation of 18 Squadron.#LCATejas#IndianAirForce pic.twitter.com/v5Bfv8EJK5
— Indian Air Force (@IAF_MCC) May 27, 2020
A Flypast by MI17 V5, ALH, An-32 and Tejas aircraft was followed by a traditional water cannon salute to the 18 Sqn fighters as they taxied in to their home tarmac for the first time.#LCATejas#IndianAirForce pic.twitter.com/1aGXN7THQl
— Indian Air Force (@IAF_MCC) May 27, 2020
The Tejas Mk-1 inducted into the No.18 Squadron (Flying Bullets) — the only Param Vir Chakra Squadron of the IAF — was manufactured at Hindustan Aeronautics Limited in Bengaluru.
Addressing the gathering, Bhadauria said the IAF will now on rely on indigenous products rather than foreign ones.
“We must synergise private sector firms and MSMEs to grab the opportunity of indigenous production for the IAF,” he said.
The Flying Bullets serves as the second Indian Air Force squadron to operate with the modern multi-role fighter aircraft LCA Tejas. The first squadron to operate with the aircraft known as the Number-45 Flying Daggers is also headquartered at the same base.
The indigenously developed light fighter aircraft LCA Tejas is certified with the “Full Operational Clearance” standard. It is a tailless, fourth generation, compound delta-wing aircraft developed by the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited.
It is equipped with a fly-by-wire flight control system, integrated digital avionics and multimode radar. Its structure is made of composite material.
The supersonic combat aircraft is considered the lightest and the smallest of its kind. Their new home, the Flying Bullets squadron, was initially formed in 1965 and has the distinction of being the first to land in and operate from Srinagar.
It was decorated with the highest gallantry medal Param Veer Chakra which was awarded posthumously to its Flying Officer Nirmaljit Singh Sekhon for his valiant action during the 1971 war with Pakistan.
The squadron has been revived on the 1st April this year at the Sulur base. It is set to further augment India’s defence of her air frontiers.
The No 18 Squadron, formed in 1965 with the motto “Teevra aur Nirbhaya” meaning “Swift and Fearless,” was earlier flying MiG 27 aircraft.
The Squadron “actively participated” in the 1971 war with Pakistan and was decorated with the highest gallantry award Param Vir Chakra awarded to Flying Officer Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon posthumously.
It earned the sobriquet of ‘Defenders of Kashmir Valley’ by being the first to land and operate from Srinagar. The squadron was presented with the President’s Standard in November 2015.
The Squadron was resurrected on April 1 this year at Sulur.
Raksha Mantri Commissions Indian Coast Guard Ship ‘Sachet’, Two Interceptor Boats
It is for the first time in Indian maritime history that a ship was commissioned through the digital medium.
NEW DELHI: Raksha Mantri Shri Rajnath Singh commissioned Indian Coast Guard Ship (ICGS) Sachet and two interceptor boats (IBs) C-450 and C-451 in Goa via video conference from here today. The ICGS Sachet, the first in the series of five offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) has been designed & built indigenously by Goa Shipyard Limited (GSL) and is fitted with state-of-the-art navigation and communication equipment.
‘Sachet’, meaning alert, is a projection of will and commitment of ICG ‘to be ever vigilant for serving and protecting’ the maritime interest of the Nation. The ICGS Sachet is being commanded by Deputy Inspector General Rajesh Mittal and manned by 11 Officers and 110 men.
Raksha Rajya Mantri Shri @shripadynaik taking part in commissioning of Indian Coast Guard Ship ICGS Sachet and two other interceptor boats C-450 and C-451 in Goa. Also seen is Chairman & Managing Director of Goa Shipyard Limited Cmde Bharat Bhushan Nagpal (Retd). pic.twitter.com/0XjUbVbxHy
— ADG (M&C) DPR (@SpokespersonMoD) May 15, 2020
It is for the first time in Indian maritime history that a ship was commissioned through the digital medium, maintaining strict protocol of social distancing in the backdrop of COVID-19 pandemic.
The 105-metre-long ship ‘Sachet’ displaces approximately 2,350 tons and is propelled by two 9,100 KW diesel engines designed to attain a maximum speed of 26 knots, with an endurance of 6,000 nautical miles.
The sustenance and reach, coupled with the latest equipment and systems, provides her with the capability to perform the role of a command platform and undertake tasks to fulfil the ICG charter.
The ship is designed to carry a twin-engine helicopter and four high-speed boats and one inflatable boat for swift boarding and search & rescue operations.
The ship is also capable of carrying limited pollution response equipment to undertake oil spill pollution response at sea.
The IBs C-450 and C-451 are indigenously designed & built by Larsen & Toubro Shipyard Hazira, and fitted with latest navigation and communication equipment.
The two 30-metre-long boats are capable of achieving speeds in excess of 45 knots and designed for a high-speed interception, close coast patrol and low-intensity maritime operations.
The quick response capability of the IBs makes it an ideal platform to respond and thwart any emerging maritime situation.
The ships are commanded by Assistant Commandant Gaurav Kumar Gola and Assistant Commandant Akin Zutshi.
The Coast Guard has been a pioneer in inducting indigenous assets which have enabled it to remain operationally available throughout the year.
In continuation of maximising the indigenous content in the IBs has about 70 per cent of indigenous contents, thus providing the necessary fillip to the Indian shipbuilding industry.
The ships, on joining the Coast Guard fleet, will be deployed extensively for Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) surveillance, coastal security and other duties as enshrined in the Coast Guard charter of duties, to safeguard the maritime interests of the Nation.
With the commissioning of these ships, the ICG has reached a landmark 150 ships & Boats and 62 aircraft.
Further, 40 ships are in various stages of construction at different Indian Shipyards and 16 advanced light helicopters are under production at Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, Bengaluru, which will provide the added strength to the surveillance capabilities of ICG to deal with the ever-dynamic maritime challenges.
The ICG has to its credit of saving about 400 lives at sea, 4,500 lives as part of assistance rendered to civil authorities and undertook 32 medical evacuations in the year 2019 alone.
The deterrence created by the ICG is not limited to the Indian waters, but collaboration with friendly littoral states as per provisions of bilateral cooperation agreements resulted in successful apprehension and seizure of drugs in Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
The real-time information sharing, close coordination and understanding between ICG and other international agencies have been the key success of these operations.
Hawk-eye vigil of the Indian EEZ has ensured seizure of Rs 2,000 crore contraband, detainment of 30 foreign fishing vessels with 119 miscreants for fishing illegally in Indian waters during the same period.
In A First, Myanmar Hands Over 22 Terrorists To India After Ajit Doval Maneuvers
The deportation is being seen as a huge success for India’s back-door diplomacy.
NEW DELHI: IN A MAJOR SUCCESS for India, Myanmar army today handed over 22 militants from North East India, including top UNLF and NDFB commanders to India. These militants hail mostly from Assam and Manipur.
The militants were brought by a special flight, and the entire operation was led by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval.
The deportation is being seen as a huge success for back-door diplomacy as it clearly indicates that Naypyidaw is in sync with New Delhi on dealing with insurgents.
The handing over of the insurgents by Myanmar Army is part of the united operations carried out by India and Myanmar against the separatist outfits in Myanmar.
This is in a first when the Myanmar government has acted on India’s request to hand over the leaders of the northeast insurgents groups.
The insurgents who have been brought back include NDFB (S) “home secretary” Rajen Daimary, Sanatomba Ningthoujam of UNLF, and Pashuram Laishram of PREPAK.
“The handing of the insurgents over to India by Myanmar is possibly the result of backdoor diplomacy,” a senior functionary in government states.
According to him, in January last year, the military of Myanmar had carried out a series of operations against insurgents from India’s northeast. A number of them were apprehended and some were also jailed. “Myanmar security forces were given precise and accurate location on insurgents by Indian security agencies,” he adds.
NSA Doval has been working with Myanmar military commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing to get the insurgents deported for the last one year.
According to Indian security agencies, most insurgent groups in the northeast operate from Myanmar soil as it is considered as a safe haven. They have their camps there where they train newly-recruited members.
“These 22 insurgents who have been handed back were nabbed in an operation by Myanmar army in Sagaing Region last year in February/March,” explains an officer on the northeast desk.
Twelve of the insurgents who have been brought back are from Manipur. They belong to groups such as United National Liberation Front (UNLF), People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK), People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup (KYKL).
Of the remaining 10, five are from the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB-S) and the others from Kamatapur Liberation Organisation (KLO).
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