In the debate on reform in the Indian military, there is a need for clear policy-driven directives that meet India’s national security needs and challenges. A recent historical overview would indicate just how confused things are, which doesn’t augur well for a ‘leading power’. The initial flavour of the debate in the decades following the Group of Ministers’ report, the Kargil Review Committee report, and the Naresh Chandra Committee report focussed on a restructuring of higher defence organisation as the first step. This was intended to improve synergy among different tools of statecraft (bureaucracy, military, research and development, intelligence, internal security mechanisms, and more). When very little traction was seen in converting this into structural changes within the Ministry of Defence, and sharing of expertise, the debate shifted to the second tier of reform in the operational realm. This has unfortunately pitted the three services against one another in a series of turf wars that have ranged from control over space to control over cyber and special forces.
The solution for reform
Along with these turf wars has been an out-of-the-box proposition that a bottom-up approach may be the answer to India’s quest for integration. Historical evidence of military reform (in Prussia, the U.S., the U.K., France and now China) shows that successful reform has always been driven by either a multipronged and simultaneous approach at all levels, or a sequential one beginning at the top. Any other approach that leaves the bottom and the top unattended is fraught with risk. National security reforms and restructuring are bound to have far-reaching consequences and call for political sagacity, wisdom and vision. Ideally speaking, a concurrent three-pronged approach to military reform would be ideal. Such an approach should respect the collective wisdom of past reports and take into account contemporary political and security considerations.