Synergising the defence forces | The Financial Express

Synergising the defence forces

The article is looking at individualistic approaches of the services and also the arms / services within the Army to celebrate important days in their calendar.

Synergising the defence forces
It is widely believed that the second CDS of India has many tasks but among them, the most challenging is creating a consensus for Theatre Commands. (Source: PIB)

Maj Gen Ashok Kumar, VSM (Retd) 

The appointment of first CDS General Bipin Rawat had the primary mandate of Theaterisation besides other major transformations for optimisation of capabilities of the defence forces. Besides the fact that his tenure ended prematurely due to his sad demise  in the helicopter crash, the progress of Theaterisation was not progressing in the desired manner. It could be evident from the fact that his successor, General M M Naravane was probably not fully convinced with the concept of Theaterisation prior to finalisation of National Security Strategy as he himself articulated recently post his retirement that National security strategy is a prerequisite before the Theaterisation  is attempted. There are counter views as well which are being articulated on various platforms. The vocal opposition by the Air Chief on some of the facets is also known.

It is hoped that these issues will reach some interim resolution/finality in due course. This article is not intending to debate this issue but looking at how synergistic thoughts could be developed.

The article is looking at individualistic approaches of the services and also the arms / services within the Army to celebrate important days in their calendar.

India became independent on August 15 1947 however, reigns of various services were transferred to Indian hands much later thereafter.  Indian Army got its first Indian chief Field Marshal KM Cariappa who assumed charge on 15 Jan 1949. This historical event of independent India has been chosen to be celebrated as Army Day and this Army Day on 15 Jan 23, Indian Army is celebrating 75th anniversary of Army Day in the home state of our first chief post independence.

As against this the Air force was able to get its first Air Chief when Air Marshal Subroto Mukherjee took over the reins from the British Air chief, Air Marshal Gerald Gibbs on April 1, 1954. The command of the Indian Air Force transited through three British officers post Indian independence before an Indian became chief. If the Air force follows the analogy of the Indian Army, 01 April should be the Air Force Day. Instead, the Air force celebrates Air Force Day on 08 October every year as it was first established on 08 oct 1932, a date that predates Indian independence. There  is nothing wrong in selecting  08 Oct  as AF Day based on this consideration but then should the Indian Army also base its Army Day on similar considerations?

Now look at the Navy. Indian Navy got its first Indian Chief, Vice Admiral RD Katari on April 22 1958, close to 11 years after the country got independence. If the logic of the Army is followed, April 22 should be celebrated as Navy Day. An Indian reached at the helm of affairs after seven Britishers post independence. As opposed to looking at this date on the lines of the Indian Army or on the lines of Air force, Indian Navy has chosen December 4 as Navy day due to the launch of a major operation, Operation Trident against Pakistan’s Karachi Port on December 4 1971 during the 1971 war. While again,  there is no objection to selecting December 4 as Navy Day, should the Army and Air force also select any such date based on the operations conducted by them? Should such dates be changed if a particular service undertakes any operation of higher order?

While the argument of each service, Army, Navy and Air Force has its own merit and none is superior to the other, what emerges is that there is gross disparity in our approach to select these dates. We have just celebrated the 75th anniversary of our independence; couldn’t we look at even these smaller issues for coherence? Adopting excessiveaffinity towards individual service that creates mental blocks in synergizing major decisions like Theaterisation should be preferably avoided. It is therefore very important that we develop a universal approach towards this date and many more such things prevalent amongst the services. Once we shift to these and other events post the Independence era, it may be that good. It will change the way we think towards our national resurgence. The differing approach is not only restricted to Individual services but also to individual arms /services/ establishments in the form of differing logic of deciding on Corps day/Raising day  and other such days of importance. Two such examples from Indian Army being that of Infantry celebrating Infantry day on October 27 as it was this date in 1947 when Indian troops landed in Kashmir to save J&K while Artillery celebrates Gunners Day on September 28 as on this date in 1827, first artillery unit was raised for India albeit prior to  Independence. Number of other arms /services also have such dates on differing logic.

Without alluding  any negative observation to the basis of these restrictions, it becomes very clear that we have the option to modify these dates based  on uniform argument and accept the date thrown up based on this uniform argument. These dates have been changed over a period of time as per due process and it will be a good start to accept a common logic to decide on all such dates. Once we develop synergies in our mindset, we shall be able to think coherently for national good whether it be Theaterisation or any other futuristic approach to war fighting. The current year could be a good year for such beginnings.

Author is a Kargil war veteran and defence analyst. He is a visiting fellow of CLAWS and specialises in neighbouring countries with special focus on China.

Disclaimer: Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online. Reproducing this content without permission is prohibited.

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First published on: 24-01-2023 at 16:24 IST