New Delhi, Oct. 19: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today asked the armed forces to jointly prepare for military reforms at a time the army, the navy and the air force have been quarrelling over acquisition and sharing of weapons.
“We should aim to abandon single service or segmented approaches and develop synergies across services. Compartmentalised views will only delay our response and dilute its impact,” Singh told a conference of commanders.
The annual combined commanders’ conference — attended by members of the cabinet committee on security, the chiefs of the armed forces and security agencies, the national security adviser and senior officials — is a forum where the Prime Minister outlines the country’s immediate strategic vision. The conference is a closed-door meeting. Excerpts of Singh’s speech were released in the evening.
Though Singh did not dwell at length on the dangers of “segmented approaches”, his remarks today have a direct bearing on the turf war between the services.
The most recent was a tussle between the army and the air force over the custody of attack helicopters. The defence ministry last week decided the army will get the helicopters, overriding the objections of the air force.
Singh said new threat perceptions on attacks from the cyberworld and space demanded joint capabilities by the military. He said the armed forces and the agencies in the security establishment should reach a consensus on the recommendations of two task forces.
The reports of the task forces led by former ambassador Naresh Chandra and former defence ministry secretary Ravindra Gupta have been submitted but are not de-classified.
The Chandra committee has recommended the creation of structures and commands that will be tri-service in composition. The Gupta committee has suggested enlarging the scope of the private sector in defence technology purchases and smoother acquisitions.
Singh stressed the approach today. “We must therefore reorient our mindsets and define a long-term integrated perspective that aligns these capabilities with envisaged outcomes. It is my hope that the commanders will discuss these issues and not limit themselves to only material capabilities.”
The Prime Minister said that a number of suggestions made by the task forces are “very valid and relevant”. He said the agencies involved should reach an early consensus on the recommendations in “our national interest”.
Along with the reforms, the Prime Minister emphasised the role of the military in foreign policy. He told the commanders that New Delhi would focus on establishing greater connectivity in South Asia so that India can act “as a motor of growth” in the region.
The services, he said, “are an inalienable arm of our diplomatic outreach and I expect them to play a full and effective role in this national endeavour”.Such a policy would continue despite complex elements of instability in the neighbourhood.
Singh said India’s “strategic calculus” would cover the Indian Ocean Region from the Gulf of Aden in the west to the Straits of Malacca in the east. Wherever feasible, India will want all disputes to be resolved through international organisations like the United Nations.