Event ReportsPublished on Nov 15, 2014
There is a need to restructure the Ministry of Defence in order to ensure better co-operation between the civil servants and the military officers, according to Lt-Gen. V R Raghavan (retd), former Director-General of Military Operations (DGMO).
Need to restructure Defence Ministry: Former DGMO
Noting that civil-military co-operation formed an "essential component" for the nation and its security, Lt-Gen V R Raghavan (retd), former Director-General of Military Operations (DGMO), has said that there is a need to restructure the Ministry of Defence in order to ensure better co-operation between the civil servants and the military officers. Initiating a discussion on "Higher military management and political interface" at the Chennai chapter of Observer Research Foundation on November 15, Gen. Raghavan said that even with a strong government now ruling at the Centre, expectations run low. He said very little change could be expected since the working of the armed forces is now directed through the civil servants and not by the elected executive directly. However, Gen Raghavan said that there is an optimistic climate and expressed relief on the fact that in India only the elected political executive could exercise change or reform to the system. Gen. Raghavan is of the view that there is a need to change the political perspective of the executive. While comparing the previous governments of the BJP-NDA and the Congress-UPA, Gen. Raghavan said both were not much different in their attitude towards the armed forces. The former had constituted the ’Kargil Committee’ while the latter had the ’Naresh Chandra Committee’. Though both committees have submitted their recommendations, they are far from being implemented. Earlier, prior to getting into the crux of the discussion, the speaker made observations on the civil-military relationship since the time when India was a nascent independent nation. Later during the course of the discussion, comparisons were also made between the relationships now and then. While discussing the history of military management, Gen Raghavan traced it back to the 1948 war with Pakistan. Changes were slowly brought into the organisation of the armed forces, after there was lack of co-ordination with the higher defence control during the 1962 war with China. It was only a few years later that brigadiers were appointed and divisions were formed for the first time. This turned out to be much more effective. While points were raised about the military organisation, opinions were also floated questioning whether it would be effective if former military officers entered the civil service. The speaker narrated an example that told a different story - the example of former Defence Minister Yeshwantrao Chavan, a politician who had no experience with the functioning of the armed forces. However, Chavan made defence forces much more efficient, said Gen Raghavan, besides there being a very good ’chemistry’ between all the three Chiefs of staff during his time. Peak of cooperation It was observed during the discussion that the 1971 war was the peak of civil-military co-operation and it had begun to decline in the subsequent decades. There were also discussions on several recommendations made by committees constituted on defence, security and the armed forces. One of them to fix the tenure of the Chairman of Chiefs of Staff, instead of paving way for the senior-most to take that place. The Cabinet must take a call on that, Gen Raghavan said. The speaker also noted that the political leadership is always bent on ’passing the buck’ and not taking responsibility. Civil servants do not take decisions owing to the fear of being accused of something or the other, and this lack of risk-taking has made the reforms dysfunctional. During the discussion, there was a consensus on the matter that most political campaign speeches pertaining to the armed forces end up as ’rhetoric of nationalism’, and are not usually converted into actionable orders. (This report was prepared by Ramalingam Va, Student, Journalism & Mass Communication, S R M University, Chennai)
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