Stop playing musical chairs!

Following the Naresh Chandra Committee Report that suggested among many other measures, the creation of a permanent chairman chiefs of staff to revamp India’s national security, there are a lot of discussions and debates around the suggestion.

I myself wrote about this a couple of months ago:(

The recommendation that a four-star officer be given a fixed two-year tenure as Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee to bring stability and continuity in coordinating tri-service matters makes eminent sense. 

 The sooner it is implemented, the better it is since the current post of CISC (Chief of Integrated Defence Staff to CoSC) is nothing but a waiting room for officers biding their time to take over as C-in-Cs or Army Commanders. A cursory glance at the past three incumbents as CISC will give an idea how this post is treated.

In January 2011, then Vice Admiral DK Joshi, (the current Navy Chief) joined as CISC. In exactly six months, he left for Mumbai to take over as C-in-C, Western Naval Command. Vice Admiral Shekhar Sinha took over from him only to shift to Mumbai as successor to Adm DK Joshi who was elevated to Chief of Naval Staff on 1st September  this year. Vice Admiral SPS Cheema succeeded Vice Adm. Shekhar Sinha as CISC from 31st August.

So far so good.
Now, I am told, VAdm SPS Cheema will shift as C-in-C, Strategic Forces Command from 1st November since it is the Navy’s turn to head this tri-services institution. Lt. Gen Naresh Chandra Marwah, currently C-in-C, Andaman Nicobar Command, is likely to take over as CISC and will remain there till his retirement in June 2013. Which means between January 2011 and June 2013, the Integrated Defence Staff would have seen four different incumbents as the head of the organisation.
If this is the way, an important tri-service organisation is treated by the Defence Ministry and the three armed forces, can one really expect substantial contribution from the organisation created to rustle up tri-services synergy? 
There is more. Air Marshal AK Roy, current Commandant of the National Defence College (NDC) is slated to replace Lt. Gen Marwah as head of the ANC Command from 1st November. Vice Adm Sunil Lamba, currently Chief of Staff, Eastern Naval Command will most likely replace Air Marshal Roy as the Commandant of the NDC. VAdm Lamba has thankfully spent more than a year in his current post at Vishakapatnam!
In the Army, Divisional Commanders and Corps Commanders for the past several years have had, on an average, tenures that range from 364 days to 13 months!
Recently, talking to a senior Air Force Officer I brought up the topic mainly because the Air Chief is also now Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee. We discussed the issue at length. 
This is what he had to say: “The Air Force has concurred with that proposal because we require somebody to spend some time for stability, you know and to carry programmes through, and of course, they have proposed that he will also be looking after the tri-service commands. Right now, we have two, we don’t know in future we may have five or six or so.  But when you look at the challenges that are facing the country today, the areas that we need to focus on is Cyber, its extremely important, we need to look at the Aerospace domain as well and we need to look at the Special Operations, as you just mentioned. And I think it is the time now that we really take a hard look at creating focussed energy in these three areas. Because these are the challenges that India is facing and is going to face in the next couple of years. And the services themselves have a fair amount of capability and competence you know. Instead of staying in a diffused stand alone mode, we need to combine all our energies together and including some of the civil agencies. So everyone gets plugged into this then we will have a very unified approach to these issues.”
When I pointed out that the Air Force is known to have opposed the creation of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) in the past, he had this to say: “No, its not that the Air Force had reservations on CDS, its not correct at all. What we always said was that yes, you must have, whether you call him CDS or Chairman Chiefs of Staff you know what is more important or alongside this process, is the need to integrate service people in the Ministry of Defence. This mis-communications and other things and the time factor that we take to respond to issues and the cases going back and forth, that actually will stop. Or there will be a greater understanding let me put it this way between Ministry of Defence and the Services. I am a strong advocate of having integration of service officers in the Ministry and vice-versa. So when you have that process happening you will actually strengthen the hands of either the Chairman, which they have proposed now, or for that matter even at a later stage, even the CDS. And I am of the view that Service Chiefs should continue, must continue, to retain the operational role and the role of the service which they head and they can continue to give their advice to the govt, as the head of their organisation, whereas the CDS or the Chairman Chiefs of Staff, should advise the govt on joint issues, which affect all the three services together. So there is no such thing as a single point of contact, you know. We don’t want one Godfather sitting there giving just one view, to the govt, he will give a view and there will also be views from the Chiefs and all this needs to be put together and I am quite sure at the highest level, they need to look at more and more options, and this is the one, this is the process that will give these options.”
Makes sense, this explanation.


Given the game of musical chairs that gets played at the very top of the services, its time all the three service headquarters took a re-look at their promotion and personnel policies.
Surely the top brass wants to create leaders not time servers at the apex of their organisations.
Some thing to ponder!