High-level task force to review defence preparedness

Army officers display arms during a wreath-laying ceremony at a war memorial during 'Vijay Diwas' celebrations in Drass, 160 km east of Srinagar. A high-level task force headed by Naresh Chandra will review the country's defence preparedness. File photo: Nissar Ahmad   | Photo Credit: NISSAR AHMAD

Ten years after the Kargil Review Committee and a Group of Ministers attempted the first major revamp of defence management in the country, the government is setting up a high-powered task force to review the unfinished tasks and make further suggestions for implementation.

The 14-member task force will be headed by Naresh Chandra, a former bureaucrat who has held top administrative jobs in the Ministry of Defence and Prime Minister's Office, and will have as its members former military commanders, intelligence chiefs, diplomats and strategic analysts.

The panel is expected to start its work on July 14 and has been given six months to complete its report.

Although there have been sectional review attempts such as on procurement or defence research, this will be the first comprehensive attempt at reviewing the entire gamut of defence preparedness and management in a decade.

Task force members will include Air Chief Marshal (retd.) S. Krishnaswamy, Gen. (retd.) V.R. Raghavan, the former Department of Atomic Energy chief Anil Kakodkar, Admiral (retd.) Arun Prakash, the former R&AW head K.C. Verma, the former Union Home Secretary V.K. Duggal, G. Parthasarathy, former diplomat, and senior journalist Manoj Joshi.

The Kargil Review Committee (KRC) report a decade back had led to the setting up of a Group of Ministers which had suggested sweeping reforms in the country's security management system to ensure that any intrusion such as the one by the Pakistan Army in 1999 should not come as a complete and total surprise to the Government, the armed forces and the intelligence agencies.

The KRC, headed by the late K. Subrahmanyam, was said to be the first major attempt at overhauling the country's security after Independence.

The Naresh Chandra committee will try to contemporarise the KRC's recommendations in view of the fact that 10 years have passed since the report was submitted. It is also expected to examine why some of the crucial recommendations relating to border management and restructuring the apex command structure in the armed forces have not been implemented, especially in view of the fact that the KRC had stated: “The political, bureaucratic, military and intelligence establishments appear to have developed a vested interest in the status quo.''

The intense soul searching after the shock of Kargil had led to major improvements in some areas, especially relating to procurement with the setting up of the Defence Procurement Board and the Defence Acquisition Council. This led to better preparedness as far as systems and technologies were concerned in areas such as armoured, Special Forces, strategic lift and assault, military aviation, intelligence and navy.

Despite its exhortations, however, only cosmetic changes were made at the apex level in the Defence Ministry, although officers and junior commissioned officers received better promotional avenues aimed at having a young fighting force.

It would be looking at the reasons why the post of “first among equals'' among the three service chiefs in the form of a Chief of Defence Staff was never created.

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Printable version | Jan 16, 2021 3:16:19 AM |

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