You are here

Integration/Jointness in the Indian Military: The Role of Civil-Military Relations

  • Share
  • Tweet
  • Email
  • Whatsapp
  • Linkedin
  • Print
  • December 09, 2011
    Fellows' Seminar

    Chairperson: Dr Manoj Joshi
    Discussants: Air Marshal (Retd) S G Inamdar, Lt Gen (Retd) Satish Nambiar and Vice Admiral (retd) PS Das

    The event began with the welcome address of Dr. Arvind Gupta, Acting Director general, IDSA. He welcomed the former home secretary GK Pillai, who recently superannuated from his post and joined IDSA as a Distinguished Scholar and other distinguished guests.

    Anit Mukherjee’s Presentation

    Anit Mukherjee presented his paper on the topic “Integration/Jointness in the Indian Military: The Coordination Model and the Role of Civil-Military Relations.” This paper was third in the series of seminars examining civil-military relations and military effectiveness in India. As such this event report should be read in conjunction with the following:

    1. The Absent Dialogue: Civil-Military Relations and Military Effectiveness in India
    2. Failing to Deliver: Post Crises Defence Reforms in India, 1998-2010

    In this paper Anit Mukherjee examines jointness or integration between the three services and the role of civil-military relations. Like his previous presentations he began by arguing that all too often studies of jointness have turned into a “blame game” and as a departure from that norm this paper argues that the structure of the system is at fault.

    Anit divided his presentation in four sections. In the first section he made a descriptive analysis of jointness in India’s post-independence wars. While doing so he concentrated on inter-services operations, higher command of war and the role of the civilian policy-makers. He argued that the 1965 India-Pakistan war was our first real experience with joint operations and in this we were found wanting. Inadequate sharing of information led to an absence of joint planning which was compounded by inter-services rivalry. However after this operation considerable efforts were made by the Indian Air Force, Army and civilian bureaucrats in emphasizing joint operations, the results of which was evident in the 1971 Bangladesh war. At the same time victory was an awful teacher as problems in jointness were glossed over. The period after that witnessed considerable inter-services tension usually over turf, like maritime reconnaissance and ownership of helicopters. In the Indian Peacekeeping Keeping Force operations in the late 1980s, jointness was notable by its absence. Due to the absence of a joint command the services operated in their own silos. Lack of interoperability also proved to be a handicap during these operations. The Kargil war of 1999 saw considerable army-air force tension and the lack of interoperability was again glaring. The lack of joint planning and training was also self-evident. Unfortunately in all these episodes the role of the Ministry of Defence has been minimal.

    In the next section he described four main problems with jointness: the single-service approach, turf wars, lack of interoperability and poor training for conduct of joint operations. In the third section, he explained how each of these problems can be attributed in part to the unique characteristics of civil-military relations. In the final section he discussed some recent developments like the creation of integrated defence staff (IDS), Joint commands and so on but also argued that these will not suffice until there are structural changes both in the Service Headquarters and in the MoD. While conceding that there is no perfect model of jointness, Anit also argued that “perfect should not be the enemy of good.” He concluded by advocating for the “integrated model” instead of the existing “coordination model of jointness.”

    Discussion Points

    • There is an urgent need to create awareness about national security and generate a healthy and informed discussion on various dimensions of it. For this to happen however declassification of files is of paramount importance. Service Headquarters must take the lead in this process as it has fallen through the cracks between Service Headquarters and the Ministry of Defence.
    • It was observed by many participants that change off mindset is most essential in order to make any headway in the direction of jointness as equipment, resource issues, etc. come only next. Jointness can be managed by adjusting attitudes. Personality-cult has been the bane of India in all walks of life and military is no exception.
    • The problems in civil-military relations are more cultural than bureaucratic, a point strongly brought out by many participants. Thus, the human side of the problem came out prominently during the discussion.
    • The importance of communication devices for interoperability - an important aspect of jointness was emphasized, since the devices used by the three services are not at par or matching each other. It was pointed out by some of the participants that integration should start at the functional level instead of just focusing at the Service Headquarter level. Hence, for instance, theater commands should be established with joint staff. However it was also appreciated that this idea will face considerable opposition especially from the respective Service Headquarters.
    • The need for promoting domain expertise in the MoD was strongly advocated by many participants. It was pointed out by one of the participants that CDS could have come up in 2003-2004, but for a latent fear among the political class of an empowered military.

    Report prepared by Amit Kumar, Research Assistant, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi