Event ReportsPublished on Jan 10, 2015
As evolved in the US and the UK, an Integrated Defence Staff, in which 'army controls army', is the need of the hour for better implementation of required reforms. This weakness can be resolved only through a constitutional amendment or to the Rules of Business of the Government, or both, says Lt-Gen. S. Pattabhiraman (Retd).
Statute-change mooted for better civil-military cooperation
Lt-Gen S Pattabhiraman (retd), a former Deputy Chief of Defence Staff, has suggested a constitutional amendment or to the Rules of Business of the Government of India, or both to remove the weakness in the present system.

Initiating a discussion on "Civil-military relations and higher direction of war" at the Chennai Chapter of Observer Research Foundation, Gen. Pattabiraman said lack of clarity leads to failure in the higher direction of war. Communication and directions happens at two levels - between the military and political masters on the one hand, and between the military and the civilian bureaucracy, on the other. In the initial years, the relationship was good, and one-to-one equation at the theatre-level during war periods proved successful. He cited this relationship as a given one. Greater public support for war-efforts was also unique and cannot be seen anywhere else in the world, Gen. Pattabiraman said.

While comparing military administration in India and that in other countries, Gen. Pattabiraman said that civilian control of the Army was the need of the hour in 1960’s. But as with the evolved scheme in the US and the UK, an Integrated Defence Staff (IDS), in which ’army controls army’, is the need of the hour for better implementation of required reforms. This weakness can be resolved only through a constitutional amendment or to the Rules of Business of the Government of India, or both, he said. Gen. Pattabiraman said the earlier set-up of authority, through the Minister of Defence, exercised by the civilian Secretaries, had kept the armed forces out of direct responsibility. The two main components of the Arun Singh Committee report on integration in the Defence Ministry -- ’jointness’ among the tri-Services at theatre-level and decision-making at higher levels -- was implemented at a snail’s pace, he noted.

He said there was little articulation on the post of National Security Advisor (NSA), which post is now being occupied by a civilian officer but should have actually which actually gone to a military person. Also, to ensure better cooperation and coordination, the Monday morning meeting between the Defence Minister and the three Service chiefs, which was in vogue, in the Eighties, should be restored.

Gen Pattabhiraman began his remarks saying as enshrined in the Constitution and under the allocation and transaction of business code, civil-military relations in the early years as a nascent Independent nation kick-started well. Accordingly, the elected representatives have direct control over the Ministry of Defence, the Army has got responsibility but no authority to execute, and the civilian, Secretary of Defence, has got the authority but no responsibility. The Secretaries outrank the chiefs of the three Services, thereby ending up in an authority-responsibility dichotomy. This mismatch has resulted in problems to better co-ordination and co-operation.

Gen Pattabhiraman pointed out how later committees were formed for reforms. The K Subhramanyam Committee recommendations were not implemented and the Naresh Chandra report was not published. The Arun Singh Committee report came up with more practical suggestions, but it has also not been implemented with the required speed.

Citing Mr M R Sivaraman, former Revenue Secretary, Government of India, who chaired the session, Gen Pattabhiraman said that the ’single-file’ system being followed in the Finance Ministry could also be followed in the Defence Ministry. Accordingly, original proposals of the Services could be followed up by the civilian authority, without they generating a separate and at times diluted set of records for processing, thus creating the unwieldy, present-day ’dual file’ system, creating avoidable duplication and consequent delays.


Gen. Pattabhiraman said reforms, to be effective, should be in functional and structural levels. Secretaries in the Defence Ministry should be military men, who had a better understanding of the issues and urgencies involved. At present, the three Service chiefs, ranked alongside the Cabinet Secretary, report to the Defence Secretary, who does not carry an equivalent rank in the civilian bureaucracy. The Secretary of Defence Production in particular should be a senior military officer, maybe in the rank of lieutenant-general, so should be Secretary for Ex-Servicemen Welfare.

Likewise, the DRDO was mandated only to design weapons, but the need for indigenisation lead it to evolving as a producer, too. A board for the DRDO, like for the administration of the Railways, without a departmental Secretary per se, would ensure autonomy and independent functioning. For better co-operation, within the available system, younger civilian officials should work in the defence departments. Thus, a smooth civil- military relation inclusiveness of military personnel right from policy formulation to policy implementation can solve the problems of authority-responsibility dichotomy, Gen Pattabhiraman added.

(This report is prepared by Shree Kavitha)

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