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CIVIL MILITARY RELATIONS

Discussion in 'Indian Military Doctrine' started by NS52, Oct 25, 2018.

  1. NS52

    NS52 MILITARY STRATEGIST

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    CIVIL MILITARY RELATIONS

    By

    Col Dr Narendar Singh

    Last few months showed civil-military relations had reached its lowest nadir in over last four decades or so. It is a sad commentary that the Service Chiefs must come on air and openly acknowledge the undermining that is being done. No one had ever undermined the forces the way it has been done in last few months, especially at a time when India is being threatened by internal breakdown or we can say poor law and order situation, sabotage of democracy and external pressure from coercive diplomacy.

    About security, theoreticians and scholars have historically paid far more attention to the causes than the conduct of war. Hence, the lessons on organization could not be assimilated. Strategic literature is filled with analysis and debates about the requirements of force.

    In modern world, defence forces have assumed the role to ‘deter’ the adversary and prevent conflict. If, however, the conflict does take place, then the force should be capable of terminating it t the earliest with minimum cost and lives.

    The Civil Military Relations refer broadly to the interactions between the Armed Forces as an institution and the sectors of the society they are embedded in. Most commonly the Civil Military Relations focus on the relative distribution of power between the Government and the Armed Forces of the country. Civil Military Relations is a very diverse expression which links the civil society at large and the military -an organization created for protection of civil society. The matter has been a subject of study and linked controversy since the times of Sun Tzu and Clausewitz, both of whom argued that the military was primarily a servant of the State, basing it on an assumption that civil control of a State is preferable to Military control. Post the end of World War II, the theories on this were propagated by great thinkers Samuel Huntington and Morris Janowitz. Post end of Cold war period, there have been elaborate discussions on Civil Military Relations by the two super powers USA and Russia, taking into considerations various military coups worldwide in 1960 & 1970`s resulting in overthrow of democracy. (Feaver, Peter D (1999) Civil Military Relations, Annual Review of Political Science Vol. 2:211-241, https://www.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev.polisci.2.1.211 )

    The Indian security parabellum today warrants defence forces to function on four configurations; low-intensity conflict (surrogate war being raged by external power); conventional; nuclear and information warfare. More importantly, there is a need to understand the organizational structure and the role each must play in it. Even primitive societies carried out detailed preparations to ensure their security. The preparation falls under two categories viz. external preparations, including making of allies, securing flanks, and resources which are either not available or are scanty in the country and internally which pertains to men and material. The men must be mastered, trained, disciplined, infused with spirit and intellectually prepared for fighting ahead. Similarly, equipment must be produced, stored, distributed, maintained and in general prepared for use. During much of history, either the war making societies were small to require a centralized war-making organization. No more than fraction of resources could be mobilized.

    All this changed first with Industrial revolution and now with Information wave. Today, a nation for its security needs to control communication, means of production and resources not only within the country, or in its immediate vicinity but globally. Hence, to control one’s destiny there is need to restructure our security organization. Napoleon was the first to create an organization which to date is being followed by most of the nations. However, Napoleon was defeated by a Sea Power. England. England was controlling the sea and was thus able to muster resources from around the world and bring to bear upon the Napoleonic Forces. History is witness to the success of Sea Powers for over five centuries. The world has been dominated by the Spanish, Dutch, British and for more than a century and half by Americans. They all have been successful in their quest for supremacy as they controlled the sea lanes. India had its glory when Indian sea power during the rule of the South Indian dynasties like the Cheras, Pandyas and Cholas, Indian sea power extended its way to Malaya, Indonesia and Indo-China. The Shailendra dynasty which wrested power from Srivijaya by transporting a large army across the Bay of Bengal (Bushwar Prasad, The Royal Indian Navy (New Delhi, 1964), p.2) was established in Java in A.D.782. Both these dynasties were hostile to the Chola dynasty in South India and naval confrontation lasted for a century. The fourteenth century saw the Vijayanagar empire claiming supremacy over the seas, the last of the local maritime empires in the Indian Ocean. (Elliot and Dowson, History of India, vol. IV, p. l03.) The Vijayanagar Kings assumed titles as the lords of the eastern, western and Southern Ocean and the empire possessed more than three hundred port. (K.P. Singh, The Politics of Indian Ocean (New Delhi, 1974), p.3). The last to lose the battle of supremacy was Russia. United States was a ‘Sea Power’, while Russia was a ‘Continental Power’. The ‘Whale again defeated the Elephant’ [A whale is predominantly a sea power. Whales encountered during our grand tour of military history include classical Athens, Great Britain in the age of Pax Britannica, and the United States since the naval build-up of the 1880s. An elephant is a continental power. Classical Sparta, Nazi Germany, and the Soviet Union were elephants. To win in such an asymmetric conflagration, one antagonist must get at the other in its element. Whales try to overcome elephants in the terrestrial arena, and vice versa. Sparta borrowed a whale, in the form of the Persian navy. Britain made a habit of renting elephants for land warfare on the European continent in the 18th and 19th centuries. Few powers can straddle the land-sea divide.]

    The second, major fact that tilted the balance against Russia was availability of information. The United States could confront Russia with evidence.

    In early 1946, politically-conscious sailors of the Royal Indian Navy mutinied, and the insurrection spread right across the country, with units of the RIAF, Army Signal Corps and Electrical and Mechanical Engineers joining their naval comrades in revolt. These events not only inspired and galvanised the freedom movement in India, but also struck fear into British hearts. General Wavell, the Commander-in-Chief admitted in a secret report:

    ‘It is no use shutting one’s eye to the fact that any Indian soldier worth his salt is a Nationalist…’ Disciplined Services never dwell on mutinies, regardless of the cause, and that is why these events rarely find mention in our armed forces, but the powerful impact on the British sarkar of these acts of great moral courage, must not be disparaged, belittled or forgotten. The phase immediately post-independence too, was extremely difficult for our fledgling republic. To forget the sterling role played by the armed forces during the violence and turbulence of partition, and in integrating the recalcitrant Princely States would be an act of rank ingratitude [ Gen S Padmanabhan, A General Speaks (New Delhi: Manas Publications, 2005), p. 109].

    In his two-part treatise entitled The Soldier and the State and India’s Civilizational Flaw: Isolation of the Military, then Chief of the Naval Staff, Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat had tried to trace the origins of the working of the Ministry of Defence in independent India and the evolution of Civil -Military relations since 1947. Nearly a decade and a half later, India was rocked by another faceoff between a military Chief and the politico-bureaucratic combine. The mishandling of Gen VK Singh’s ‘birth date’ issue again starkly brought forth the fissures within the top hierarchy of the Indian Army as well between the Services Headquarters and the civil bureaucracy in the Ministry of Defence. The controversy over the Gen VK Singh issue in early 2012 degenerated into a very public spat between the Ministry of Defence and the then Army Chief, once again forcing analysts to ask the question: has civilian control of the military in India become synonymous with bureaucratic control? The answer from military leaders is an unequivocal. ‘Yes.’

    Although majority in the nation especially the politicians, bureaucracy and in public sector units involved in defence production may feel the present organization may appear to be good as it has withstood the stead of the time over four major conventional wars since 1947, however, low intensity conflict, information and nuclear conflict need a review of the structure/ organization.

    The Civil -Military relations in India developed over two centuries of British Colonialism and, in course of time, tuned into tradition of Parliamentary and Civil control over the Military apparatus, so important for the India`s democratic dispensation. Our first Prime Minister, Pandit Nehru, was deeply animated by British Civil-Military legacy. However, due to Pandit Nehru’s suspicion, the defence structure was broken. The Ministry of Defence assumed the full responsibility for the enunciation of the defence policy and the administration of her armed forces. So great was the suspicion that one of the most cumbersome, costly and friction borne system was established. In the new Ministry of Defence there was no place for service personnel. Only civil-bureaucracy ruled the roost. The hurdles that such an organization has created is regularly in the media.

    It is not the aim to create or recollect all the incidents, but, political decisions affecting national security were taken in isolation. The forces responsible for security of the nation and accomplishment of National Security objectives was not involved in the decision-making process. This however, is contrary to the science of organization, which stipulates that to be effective, the supreme controlling authority and the operating units should have minimum or at maximum one intermediary.

    Seventy years after independence, it is no secret that the political-military interface is all but absent in India’s institutional set-up. The armed forces are completely under the day-to-day as well as policy control of the Ministry of Defence. The desirable politico-military interface is now reduced to weekly, sometimes fortnightly, meetings chaired by the Defence Minister. These meetings are informal, without any agendas or note taking and have no official status although in theory, the Defence Minister is deemed to have given policy directions in these meetings!

    Before independence, the status of the Commander-in-Chief in India was second only to that of the Viceroy. As a member of the Viceroy’s Executive Council, he was also the de facto Defence Minister. He was served by his uniformed Principal Staff Officers (PSOs) and the Defence Secretary who, incidentally, was below the PSOs in the order of precedence. The role of the Defence Department was not to examine proposals, or to sit in judgement over the Army Headquarters, but was restricted to issuing orders in the name of the Government of India.

    In the interim government of the transitional period, a Defence Member was included in the Viceroy’s Executive Council. Soon after independence, the War Department and the Department of Defence were merged to form the Ministry of Defence. It was then enlarged suitably to take on such other higher functions of defence management—threat assessment, force levels, budgeting, defence production, and so on—which till then were attended to by the Services Headquarters in the United Kingdom.

    Independence necessitated creation of structures to establish parliamentary control over the military. In 1947, a committee of three senior Indian Civil Service (ICS) officers had suggested structuring of the Ministry of Defence on the lines of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and, in the process, aimed at lowering the standing of the military officers like that of the police officers in relation to the Indian Civil Service. It was Lord Mountbatten who ensured that the Services Chiefs retained a status higher than that of the Defence Secretary. Mountbatten’s Chief of Staff Lord Ismay, not wanting to rock the boat in those turbulent times, suggested the formation of a high-level committee to look after Services matters instead of ordering a radical restructuring.

    To be sure, Civil -Military relations in India constitute ``a multi factor model``: one, the armed forces, their size, sociology, level of professionalism and cohesion; two, socio-political and economic environment in which the forces function; and, most of all a political culture to shape and facilitate the process of democratization taking strong roots.

    The decision-making process was to have the benefit of independent inputs from the Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC), the Defence Minister’s Committee (the Services Chiefs were members of this committee) and the Defence Committee of the Cabinet. These, in turn, signified representation of the Services, mechanism for the bureaucratic processing, and, of course, political control. The Services Chiefs interacted directly with the Cabinet through the Cabinet Committee on Defence.

    The Civil -Military relations are not merely defined by the war. Both these institutions are strong pillars of democracy. Both must work together both in War and Peace to achieve the national objectives and goals. However, it is well documented that these two pillars have not worked efficiently together since independence in our context due to multiple reasons. Post-independence, Military under Political masters guided by Civil servants had to undergo two important organizational changes, firstly, the abolition of the post of Commander -in-Chief and secondly, the division of Army in four commands creating phenomenal work for the forces, so that the Political -Civil masters could further grip holds on the Armed Forces and reduce the role of military in decision making process in matters concerning national security. The Apex Defence Committee of Cabinet which worked during the 1947-48 conflict, decided to draw the ceasefire line with Pakistan purely on the national Political imperatives and the emerging demographical political leadership in J &K. The recommendations of Armed Forces were unheard and rejected by the political class based on recommendations of civil servants who had no knowledge of military affairs. The professional advice of military given by Chiefs of Staff Committee in 1961 comprising of both Political and Civil actors regarding the impending Chinese threat and against the India`s `forward policy` deployment, was disregarded totally thereby leading to a humiliating defeat of India in 1962. During the 1999 Kargil War, the Civil -Military relations stayed on even keel. Even after six decades of independence, there is no established mechanism by which military can render professional advice directly to Defence Minister. Invariably, it must follow the bureaucratic route, who with their limited knowledge on the subject may present the case in an altogether different way to their political masters. The `Generalist ` Bureaucracy clashing with `Specialist` Armed Forces on multiple affairs is well known. These differences further widen the Civil -Military relations and bring in element of frustration and demotivation among senior military officers on many occasions.

    Through the Seventies, Eighties and Nineties, the bureaucracy continued to acquire disproportionate powers vis-à-vis the Services Chiefs and now it’s a given that the Defence Secretary and NOT the Services Chiefs, comprises the single-point adviser to the Cabinet on matters military. For he and the Cabinet Secretary have a consistent interface with the political leadership, with the Services Chiefs attending the meetings of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) only if invited. The bureaucracy conveniently points to the “Government of India Transaction of Business Rules”. Framed in 1961, under the constitutional powers of the President of India, these documents continue to guide the conduct of business by the Government of India:

    1. Defence of India and every part thereof, including preparation for defence and all such acts as may be conducive in times of war, to its prosecution, and after its termination, to effective demobilisation.

    2. The armed forces of the Union, namely, the Army, Navy and Air Force.

    3. Integrated Headquarters of the Ministry of Defence comprising the Army Headquarters, Naval Headquarters, Air Headquarters and Defence Staff Headquarters

    So, the Defence Secretary, a Indian Administrative Service officer, and not the military brass, is responsible for national defence as well as the conduct of war! Under the current rules, the Services Chiefs have neither been accorded a status nor granted any powers in the government edifice. In the process, it is the Services Chiefs who have been marginalised from the decision-making bodies

    India is perhaps the only major democracy where the Armed Forces Headquarters are outside the apex governmental structure. Bureaucracies, instead, have assumed the role the only via-media between the military and the government. In fact, the military is not directly involved with Ministry of Defence. The Integrated Headquarters of Defence Forces are only attached offices rather than integral component of the Ministry of Defence. This has relegated the military to a secondary position in governance leading to ineffective management of military issues. Many thinkers have termed it as a system of `Civilian/Bureaucratic control` rather than a `Political Control`. The Chiefs of Staff have assumed the role of operational commanders of their respective forces rather than that of Chiefs of Staff to the Prime Minister and Defence Minister. Civil -Military relations have been influenced by a large extent the considerable differences in Pay, Perks, Privileges, Promotional aspects apart from other things between Civil & Military parleys. The IAS, IPS and majority of the Organized Group ‘A` services have a flat rank structure up to, at least, Joint Secretary level and enjoy drastic edge over the Armed Forces for promotion to higher ranks. The promotion thresholds of IAS and IPS are almost identical and have a huge advantage in terms of length of service on which the officers are promoted to various ranks, this is not the case of Armed Forces. The adverse pyramid rank structure and promotional thresholds of the Armed Forces officers entail lesser grade pay / pay scale at same length of service as compared to the IAS, IPS and Organized Group ‘A` services, thus, drawing lesser overall pay over large years of service till superannuation. This results in huge dual disadvantage, in terms of status and financial parity for the Armed Forces, as compared to the IAS/ IPS/ Group ‘A` services. The new Warrant of Precedence of 1979, disregards executive responsibility and length of service. The number of articles has also been reduced to 26, when the size and complexity of the system has vastly increased. The decline in rank and order of precedence of the Armed Forces since Independence is another indicator of growing gap in Civil -Military relations. The morale of the Armed Forces has taken a new low with the recent injustice been done by the Seventh Pay Commission without even addressing the anomalies of Fifth and Sixth Pay Commission reports.

    Admiral Arun Prakash, former Chief of the Naval Staff and a prolific commentator on national security affairs, has this to say about the equation between the Ministry of Defence and Services Headquarters:

    Two major factors have contributed to the systemic dysfunctionality that we see in the management of national security affairs. First is the politician’s detachment and indifference towards matters relating to national security, because this is not an issue that can win or lose votes. Since politicians have not considered it worthwhile establishing close and cordial relations with the leadership of the armed forces, it is not surprising that when faced with a crisis or problem, politicians find themselves at a complete loss. A related factor is the total reliance that the politician places for advice, decision-making and problem resolution, on transient, generalist Ministry of Defence civil servants, drawn from diverse backgrounds. This, despite the Chiefs and the highly specialised Service Headquarters staffs being at his disposal for tendering advice in the management of national security.

    The military leadership has always railed at this ‘imbalance’ in the decision-making structure at the highest levels but has been unable to change the system so far. The civil-military relationship in the country post-1947 is replete with episodes that suggest a constant state of tension between the ‘generalist’ bureaucracy and the ‘specialist’ military leaders, with the political executive watching and sometimes encouraging the bureaucracy to keep the military under control.

    The direct control has assumed an even greater relevance due to the availability and deployment of nuclear weapons. The extreme consequences of use of weapons of mass destruction would make decision process slow as the Cabinet collectively seeks to retain tight control over the conflict. Besides the release process or procedures aside, certain decisions that would have been made by military commanders would now be reserved for political authority, transition to successive phases will be delayed until approval is granted.

    Engaging or striking of certain targets may not be permitted until political approval is granted, and many other aspects may have to be scrutinised by the Cabinet due to international abhorrence on the use of such weapons.

    Low intensity conflicts/ terrorism does not have exclusive military solution. Military can contain or limit the impact of conflict, but it is the political masters who must finally settle the dispute. This calls for close coordination between political leaders and military leadership.

    The modern management of conflict calls for aggressive diplomacy. The leadership of the nation should clearly appreciate the impact of political and strategic linkages. In the present set up the government just ignores the defence forces while dealing with other countries during the strategic dialogue.

    Lastly, the Civil-Military divide, affects public opinion. The failure of executing the decision of which the services were never party are at the door step of the defence forces. The intense public debate aroused by divided political leadership and political parties or the divided support affects the morale of the forces. This in turn would affect the performance of the defence forces. [The Rafale deal, some 300 army officers moving the Supreme Court against what they believe is their persecution by the court itself and agencies like CBI. They have issues with the Supreme Court directed CBI investigations of extra-judicial killings by police, army and Assam Rifles in Manipur.]

    Hence there is a need to organise the four structures on the top of the echelons viz. CCPA, Ministry of Defence, Service Headquarters, and executing commands. Low Intensity Conflicts, nuclear or information warfare or to say any conflict including combating sanctions today is matter of jointmanship. The first requirement is intelligence in the chair of jointmanship. Despite plethora of intelligence agencies, India is one of the poorest as far as intelligence is concerned. All intelligence agencies should be answerable to one person and he be answerable to CCPA.

    There is a dire need for coordination of diplomacy with defence (security) needs. The coordination in the past has been abysmal. The lack of proper coordination led Mr Nehru to go to UN on Kashmir, dictated by idealism India became a cosponsor with United States for CTBT in the General Assembly of the UN. This total lack of coordination between diplomacy and security and absence of institutions to analyse various options and their benefits has left India high and dry.

    The third is that service Chiefs should be present during CCPA meetings on all security matters. Pandit Nehru ignored the then Chief of Army Staff’s advice on Chinese Forces. The then Chief of Army Staff advised the desirability of Army taking positions along MacMohan Line. Mr Nehru is reported to have said that it is not the business of the Army Chief to advise the Prime Minister. Only Mr Shastri showed pragmatism and acceded to professional military advise during Indo-Pak War 1965. However, Mr Shastri did not take military advice while signing the Tashkent Agreement.

    Fourth is the procurement for defence forces the mammoth Department of Defence production be trimmed. This elephant of an organization has outlived and has not been able to match up with requirements of the defence forces. The state of ammunition has reached a critical stage and in some fields the forces just have 3 days WWR. The department also charges exorbitant rates and quality of product is in question.

    Lastly, the service headquarters need to be merged with official from all fields working and advising the Defence Minister. The Defence Minister should be answerable for all answerable for all decisions. The Defence Minister should have secretariat to advise him.

    Large scale employment of the Armed Forces in Counter Insurgency ops, Aid to Civil authorities, proxy wars, declining Political support system, alienation of Forces from main stream, systematic degradation of Forces by Bureaucratic chain of command, compounded by down fall in status, financial benefits, privileges to Armed Forces Vis-à-vis Central Services by various Pay Commissions, non-representation of services in CPC have affected the functioning of Indian Armed Forces. We have seen many challenges emerging in retention of the trained manpower in the Forces in the past which has an indirect bearing on national defence. The fabric of Civil-Military relations in India is showing signs of wear. These trends if not arrested and corrective timely actions by political masters may lead to a point of no return.

    The Civil servant and Military Officer must work together at each level of the organization, from the lowest to the highest -avoiding the `us and them` attitude. The political leadership has to dispense with its reluctance to direct interaction with the military leadership; why is it that a layer of ``bureaucratic experts’ ‘have to be included in affairs concerning matters of national security when you have experts from military available in Tri-Services headquarters at New Delhi.

    Finally, in background of Nuclear threat and everchanging balance of powers in our region, appointment of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) should be done on priority as already recommended by Kargil Review Committee, Group of Ministers Reports and Arun Singh Committee Reports. This is vital not only for providing single point military advisory to the CCPA but also bring synergy between the three services and bureaucracy, to achieve the nations goals.


    (The article ‘Civil-Military relations’ from the author first appeared in ‘The Garha Chronicle’ Indore, Vol V, No 263, October 19, 1998. The present version is an extension of the same with some modifications)
     

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