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Monday September 16, 2019

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DSA is as much yours, as it is ours!

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Indian politics has seen a paradigm shift. The momentous verdict of 2014 is deeply connected to its recent past and also has a long-term impact on its political and social development. The mandate is significant for many things, foremost of which is the fact that India voted for change like it hasn’t in decades. The upheaval of 2014 is certain to have long-term implications for Indian politics, governance, decision-making and most of all in the realms of policy formulation. The change that India has voted for must also be reflected in changes in policy. People have voted for a change in how India is governed. They have voted out the old order, the established way of governing India and how policies are made in the country.

 

 

This desire for change must be respected while formulating policies. And amongst the most important is defence. The manner in which the electorate has remade the political map of India must now be reflected in how defence policies are made in the country. The starting block of which is the functioning of the Ministry of Defence. Amongst the most sensitive of ministries and departments in India, the Ministry of Defence runs in an antiquated framework that goes totally against the times and requirements. Despite progress in every field the MoD continues to function with the fear that a military coup can happen unless the armed forces are kept firmly in check. Enough water has flown down the Ganga since 1947 to suggest that perpetuating this fiction has only harmed Indian national interests even as it has infected the decision-making process.

 

The bureaucrat heavy approach of running the MoD must be jettisoned in order to make it an efficient ministry that functions according to the times. This is not to say that there should be no bureaucracy in the MoD. The civilian presence in the ministry is a must, but what is not is the dependence on them in decision-making.

 

Greater coordination with the three Service headquarters is vital, so that the specialists in war fighting are part of the loop when it comes to deciding policies, programmes, priorities and principles of defence. Foremost is the need to expedite decision-making, not like the way the MoD was run by the former Defence Minister. Armed with an impeccably honest image, but the MoD was harmed by his lack of decision-making. Along with decision-making there is an important need to maintain probity and transparency while taking decision. In essence the MoD is only being secretive from Indians when it comes to decision-making, because the evaluation and execution of orders is freely known to foreign nationals who manufacture the weapon systems; or their representatives. This is a myopic policy, retards national interests and promotes corruption. Greater transparency can only encourage clean and good governance. Which is the mood of the 2014 vote.

 

To ensure good governance and able decision-making there is a need to restructure the MoD. It cannot be run efficiently in the manner it is currently made. This also means that the three services have to be part of the restructuring. Antiquated structures abound in the services too. In the age of digitisation there is a need to smarten up the financing of the services. There is, for example, no need for the three services to duplicate or triplicate institutions and schools of instruction. Or for that matter repair workshops, bases and headquarters. For starters joint command headquarters must be established across the country. War fighting is best done jointly. By which it means it should be planned jointly, armed jointly and executed jointly. A joint special operations command is a prime example of tri-service cooperation. Living in silos and then hoping to score victories only adds to unnecessary costs and causes delays. This requires modernisation, as much in thought, manpower, as in equipment too.

 

The ultimate weapon in war has always been the mind. And in the new era of technologies the human mind has created weapon systems that were unimaginable barely a generation ago. Even as unmanned aerial vehicles have taken the world by storm, there has been an exponential growth in robotics and artificial intelligence. These are all essential parts of modern war preparations and war fighting. The future, therefore, is known. The challenge is to reach it with efficiency. Crux of the 2014 mandate.

 


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