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Admin 2020-01-08

08 Jan 2020 : The Hindu Editorial Analysis

1) On the design flaw with the cds post


  • The scale of the First World War underscored the command and control dilemmas of concurrent conflicts playing out simultaneously in multiple theatres of conflict.
  • War and the West: During the locust years of Great Britain, an issue that received consideration was the British higher command and control structures. With the declaration of the Second World War, the onus for the higher direction of war fell to the remit of the War Cabinet serviced by the Chiefs of Staff Committee. 
  • The British legislative system functioned through the Second World War. Winston Churchill, as Prime Minister, was given supreme powers but stayed accountable to Parliament through the War Cabinet. 
  • He assumed the portfolio of Minister for Defence, with the resultant duty of overseeing the British War effort. This allowed him, as Chairperson of Chiefs of Staff Committee, to exercise both tactical and strategic options.
  • After the United States entered the war, following the Pearl Harbor attack, an integrated command became the norm during the Second World War as diverse allies including the Soviet Union had to work in unison. 
  • A unified command required a single commander liable to the joint chiefs of staff supported by a joint staff and exerting command over all constituents of his allocated force irrespective of their service.
  • After the war ended and the world split into two ideological blocs, General Dwight D. Eisenhower became the First North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) supreme commander while political power was vested in the NATO Council. 
  • The First Supreme Commander of the Warsaw Pact Forces was Marshal Ivan Konev, while de-facto political authority resided with the General Secretary of the Soviet Union in Moscow. 
  • The United States, vide the National Security Act 1947, established the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They were jointly tasked to be Military Advisers to the President and the Secretary of Defence. 
  • Despite the experience of the Second World War, they chose not to appoint a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). The U.S. amended this structure vide the Goldwater–Nichols Act in 1986 by having a chairperson and vice-chairperson of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. 
  • The Joint Chiefs in unison are again the principal military advisers to the government. There is no CDS. The military chain of command runs directly from the theatre commanders through a civilian Defence Secretary to the President. 
  • However, Britain, conversely in 1959, created a Chief of the Defence Staff. Air Chief Marshal Sir William Dickson became the first CDS after serving as the rotational chairperson of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. Was it required or was it the hubris of a declining power - the jury is still out on that.
  • The outline for India: In India, ‘in 1947, Lord Ismay, the Chief of Staff to Lord Mountbatten, Governor General of India, recommended a three-tier higher defence management structure to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. 
  • Three committees were constituted: the defence committee of cabinet presided over by the Prime Minister; the Defence Minister’s Committee chaired by the Defence Minister, and the Chiefs of Staff Committee integrated into the military wing of the Cabinet Secretariat. The chair of the committee was rotational, with the Service Chief longest in the committee becoming the chairperson’.
  • This procedure operated into ‘the middle of the 1950s despite the Commander-in-Chief only being an invitee to the Defence Committee of Cabinet. The designation of the Commander in-Chief of the three services was consciously altered to Chiefs of Staff in 1955. After the 1962 Sino-Indian war, the Defence Committee of the Cabinet first morphed into the Emergency Committee of Cabinet and then later into the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs’. It is now the Cabinet Committee on Security, or CCS. This system has served India well over the years.
  • On December 24, 2019, a Press Information Bureau release on the Cabinet clearing the appointment of a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS)said: “The following areas will be dealt by the Department of Military Affairs headed by CDS: The Armed Forces of the Union, namely, the Army, the Navy and the Air Force. Integrated Headquarters of the Ministry of Defence comprising Army Headquarters, Naval Headquarters, Air Headquarters and Defence Staff Headquarters. The Territorial Army. Works relating to the Army, the Navy and the Air Force. Procurement exclusive to the Services except capital acquisitions, as per prevalent rules and procedures.”
  • It added, “The Chief of Defence Staff, apart from being the head of the Department of Military Affairs, will also be the Permanent Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. He will act as the Principal Military Adviser to the Raksha Mantri [RM] on all tri-Services matters. The three Chiefs will continue to advise RM on matters exclusively concerning their respective Services. CDS will not exercise any military command, including over the three Service Chiefs, so as to be able to provide impartial advice to the political leadership.”

  • A subordination: Herein lies the contradiction and the design flaw. As Secretary in charge of the Department of Military Affairs (DMA) and having superintendence over the Indian Army, Indian Navy and Indian Air Force, there would be an implied subordination of the three service chiefs to the CDS notwithstanding any declaration to the contrary. As Secretary of the DMA, the CDS is tasked with facilitating the restructuring of military commands, bringing about jointness in operations including through the establishment of joint/theatre commands.
  • Creating a Chief of Defence Staff is problematic; it also erodes civilian supremacy over the defence establishment. This will invariably encroach upon the domain of the service chiefs.
  • The CDS, as Permanent Chairperson of Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, would outrank the three service chiefs even though theoretically all are four star. Moreover the advice of the CDS could override the advice of the respective Service Chiefs on critical tactical and perhaps even strategic issues.
  • With the creation of the DMA on most issues, the reporting structure of the three services to the Defence Minister would now be through the CDS; if not immediately it would become the norm over time. 
  • Even today while in theory the service chiefs report directly to the Defence Minister, in practice all files and decisions are routed through the Defence Secretary. However most problematic is the erosion of civilian supremacy over the defence establishment in the Ministry of Defence itself. 
  • This impacts on the first principles of constitutionalism and has implications for our democratic polity also. Sophistry is being employed to suggest that the Secretary DMA would be in charge of military affairs and the Defence Secretary would look after the ‘defence of the realm’. 
  • The fact is that the defence of India is managed by the three services who would now report to the DMA. Creating a Chief of Defence Staff is problematic; it also erodes civilian supremacy over the defence establishment.
  • Since the DMA would exercise control over the three services, it virtually makes the CDS the ‘Supreme Commander of the Indian Armed Forces’. A new czar has risen.

 

2) On Retrieving ideas of democracy and nation


  • Within much of modern Indian thought, the idea of India as a nation implied the assumption that it would invariably be a democracy - i.e., India realising itself or constituting itself as a nation will necessarily do so as a democracy. 
  • The relationship between the two was not problematised. There were some exceptions though: the Gandhians laid stress on Swaraj but this idea, while not being not opposed to democracy, did not directly connote self-rule of the citizen-community. 
  • The socialists and communists who were interested in the idea of democracy, and uncoupling it from the idea of nation, tended to lay stress on the economic prerequisites and redistribution of power to realise the former. 
  • There were some thinkers such as V.D. Savarkar who argued that the idea of nation took shape in India in the epochal past, but they dwelt little on democracy. Some Islamic scholars such as Maulana Maududi introduced concepts such as “theo-democracy”, i.e., the mode of self-rule where believers ordain their common affairs 
  • But apart from the hierarchisation and exclusion such a conception threw up, it was hardly linked to the idea of nation as a bond or fellowship that marks it off from every other kindred entity. 
  • There were those who thought through the lens of caste, examples being E.V. Ramaswami Naicker, K.M. Panikkar and B.R. Ambedkar and also Adivasi leaders such as Jaipal Singh, who argued that the idea of nation has to be profoundly rethought in India and that such rethinking was needed to foreground democracy in an anticipatory mode.
  • While posing the relation between the ideas of the nation and democracy before the emerging public in India in this fashion is a gross simplification, and the arguments that people made and the positions they took were far more complex.
  • This debate came to an abrupt end, or merely became the ideological fixtures of political parties, once India embraced constitutional democracy and held periodic elections under universal adult franchise. 
  • Interestingly, certain measures that the current government has embraced in the name of constitutional rectitude have reopened new fissures within the Indian body polity. 
  • It has made it imperative that we reopen the relation between the nation and democracy in India afresh even to sustain meaningful versions of constitutional democracy and periodic elections.
  • Trajectory of democracy: There were complex questions that had to be explored in the wake of Independence, and particularly following Partition. One was if India is a nation, what kind of a nation is it? 
  • If democracy is the mode of political association of this nation, what kind of democracy is conducive to it? However, giving short shrift to these questions, an amazing constitutional architecture came to be put in place. 
  • Amid a setting of bewildering social diversity and inequalities, India stepped into holding periodic elections on the basis of universal adult franchise.
  • The elite who were at the helm of operationalising constitutional democracy and periodic franchise made some place for diversity and preferential considerations to the disadvantaged in the Indian public. 
  • Some were aware of the course such a complex constitutional and institutional ship was to set sail in and were apprehensive of its future course. Others wished it bon voyage for a variety of reasons including utility calculations. 
  • Whichever way one looked at it through a phalanx of institutions dovetailed to constitutional democracy and periodic elections, the elite thought the future of India lay in operationalising a set course of action rather than rethinking its foundations.
  • The course of action that India took came to be theorised by the likes of the late Rajni Kothari who argued that democracy is alive and kicking by accommodating diversity within the policy-making process through a distinct type of party system, that he termed one-party dominance. 
  • There was much claptrap that came from elsewhere too. Comparativists such as Atul Kohli argued that India demonstrated “a delicate balance” between “forces of centralization and decentralization” and “the interests of the powerful” have been pursued “without fully excluding the weaker groups”. 
  • Consociationalists such as Arend Lijphart thought that the Indian case demonstrated that democracy is viable - in spite of diversity and inequality - if it accommodates them in the governing institutions of a polity. 
  • These arguments came to be profoundly qualified by their proponents later, in the context of the failure or inadequacy of these institutions, and the rise of powerful dissent movements from below. 
  • However, their emphasis remained on rectification of the course and the institutions and policy measures arising therefrom, rather than envisaging the future of India beyond these confines.
  • A notion of the nation: The rise of the ruling party has placed a particular notion of the nation on the political agenda, and it has sought to refract constitutional democracy and elections through it. 
  • It has confined constitutional democracy to the bare letter of the law and periodic elections to merely subserve a majority in the House. In the process it has shorn them off from even residual considerations of democracy as the self-rule of the citizen community and the nation as the outcome of this process.
  • One of the most ominous expressions of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s version of the nation is found in the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, or the CAA, 2019 and the National Register of Citizens, allegedly on the anvil but officially denied in the face of widespread resistance. 
  • Several commentators have already pointed out that the CAA calls into question the foundations of citizenship in India, the role and place of the majority in a political democracy and minority rights and reorders them to suit the notion of the nation the current ruling dispensation cherishes.
  • How do we go about retrieving ideas of democracy and nation authentic to our context? One route leading to the same is subjecting the demands that the popular upsurge has voiced after the dilution of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution 
  • Particularly following the enactment of the CAA, to reflective consideration. There are many angularities to the popular upsurge of the scale that we are witnessing in India today. 
  • But certain issues stand out if we read the kind of slogans that have been voiced, the songs that reverberate, paintings and plays that hold the crowds in rapt attention, and the extent and intensity of participation, and connect them to the popular demands that have been voiced by the very same people overtime.
  • In the Northeast, there is a widespread feeling that the CAA has watered down the autonomy that they sought for their culture, language, and land rights and very forcefully voiced before the Bordoloi Committee of the Constituent Assembly. 
  • The large-scale participation of Muslims in this upsurge demonstrates that they do not want to be kept out but be treated as equal citizens. There is universal outrage about the communication blockade in the Kashmir Valley.
  • But what is more is the participation of the rest, especially students in this movement. They seem to be saying: We do not want you to shove down our throat your pet notions of the nation and rules. 
  • Stop befuddling us with your doubletalk. There are matters of much more profound concern and urgency that we need to put upfront, and since they can be pursued only together, we need to reopen a conversation across our divides. 
  • The nation can only be that big and small that such a conversation affords. While this popular upsurge does not give us a full-blown ideal of democracy that we wish to be and the image of the nation it recasts, the indicators are all there to see.
  • There is a surplus in the ideas of nation and democracy that formal rules of law and modes of representation can never exhaust, and you cannot trump the former by invoking the latter.