It’s been eight weeks since General Bipin Rawat was appointed as the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). I must compliment the CDS for his zeal and commitment for reforms for the integration of the three services. However, the manner in which he is going about it raises disturbing questions about the process he is following.
The starting point for such far-reaching reforms involves a strategic review and evolving or reviewing the national security strategy. There is no point in imposing visionary reforms on armed forces that are structured and organised for the wars of a bygone era.
On this fundamental question, Gen Rawat has been conspicuously silent. It is his responsibility to get the strategic review and the national security strategy approved by the Defence Planning Committee, which is chaired by the National Security Advisor.
Gen Rawat, as the permanent chairperson of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, is a member of the Defence Planning Committee and the Chief of Integrated Defence Staff operating under him, is the member secretary and provides the secretariat.
General Rawat has specifically aired his views on creation of tri-service theatre commands and other joint commands; management of defence budget by prioritisation and staggering of procurement; reduction of the pension bill by increasing retirement age of soldiers and monetisation of defence land; putting on hold the planning for Vishal — Indian Navy’s proposed third aircraft career; and the manner in which new aircraft be inducted in the Indian Air Force (IAF).
How can you decide the priorities for major defence procurement if you are not clear about the basis of prioritisation?