News report published in News Experts related to CPPR 16th Quarterly Lecture delivered by Admiral Arun Prakash

“In the first few months of a new government which has ridden, back into power with an overwhelming majority and resolute leadership, can we expect a military transformation, starting with national security reforms? “Admiral Arun Prakash, PVSM, AVSM, VrC, VSM (Retd) (India’s 20th Naval Chief ) spoke at the CPPR 16th Quarterly Lecture on ‘India’s Security Challenges with a focus on the Indian Ocean Region’ at Kochi. Centre for Public Policy Research, a think tank based in Kochi organised the talk.

Admiral Arun Prakash retired as India’s 20th Naval Chief and Chairman Chiefs of Staff in end-2006. An aviator by specialisation, during his 40 year career, he commanded a carrier-borne fighter-squadron, a naval air station and four warships; including the aircraft-carrier INS Viraat. Post-retirement, he served two terms as a member of the National Security Advisory Board and was Chairman of the National Maritime Foundation. Currently, he holds a Distinguished Chair in India’s Naval War College in Goa. He writes and speaks on strategic and security related topics.

After giving an overview about the daunting external environment India faces, he added that 2019 saw a dawn of change as national security seemed to figure heavily in national elections probably for the first time. Now the politics are down to normal tempo, we need to re examine whether this was merely a populist and transient tactical measure. To create a lasting strategic vision for the country he highlighted few key issues.

One of the key issue highlighted was domestic harmony. In the background of Article 370 and change in the status of J and K, he put forward a few pertaining questions relating to domestic harmony. Is the pursuit of majoritarianism, of any kind, a good idea for a multi-religious, multi-ethnic and multi-lingual country like India? Should maintenance of domestic harmony and preservation of the nation’s internal cohesion, not be made key national objectives?

With reference to India’s higher defence organisation he remarked that uncertainty continues. The Chiefs of Staff Committee, concieved as a key organ in our higher defence organization, is presided over by a Chairman whose post is not only part-time, but also rotational. Considering the critical nature of the Chairman’s role in the nuclear command chain, the part-time and rotational nature of the Chairman’s post and lack of clarity in his roles erodes the credibility of our nuclear command and control. PM Modi’s announcement about creation of a Chief of Defence Staff post received widespread welcome. However, a declaration of such significance needs to be underpinned by a policy, as well as directives and doctrine.

He point to another critical reform. With 60% of defence budget spent on pay and pensions of, there is hardly anything left for modernization or re-equipment We keep adding more men and less technology quite the opposite of the model followed in China.

Speaking about the Civil military relations, Control of the military lies with political leadership but it demands knowledge of strategic and military affairs, & places heavy demands on the time of the Minister. Successive Defence Ministers have found it convenient to delegate this responsibility to the civilian bureaucracy who are generalists. By refusing collegiate consultation with the armed forces, the bureaucracy has denied itself the benefits of professional expertise. This is one of the reason for the large delays in defence procurement.

He also warned of the half empty arsenal that India has to live with today. Despite military achievement we still remain the second largest importer of arms and we remain dependent on unreliable foreign sources . Inattentive defence ministers have failed to infuse innovation, dynamism and efficiency in defence PSUs and neglected to plan their future growth. India’s claims to ‘rising power’ status will remain hollow, unless it acquires the capability to design and undertake serial production of major weapon systems. At the root lies the problem of the autonomy of our Public Sector Enterprises which has failed to actually cater to the demands of the defence.

He was speaking at 16th CPPR Quarterly Lecture Series which aims to conscientise the public on social and political themes. CPPR Quarterly Lecture Series has hosted eminent speakers like Nirupama Rao, Dr Shashi Tharoor, Dr Alexander T J Lennon, Dr Madhav Gadgil, J M Lyngdoh, Dr Ila Patnaik, Happymon Jacob, Dr Sandeep Shastri, Professor T V Paul, Dr Ramesh Chand, Dr Dileep Padgaonkar, Dr Sanjaya Baru, Dr Jacob Thomas IPS and Dr Subbarao and Dr Jayaprakash Narayan in its previous editions.

This News report was published in the News Experts on October 18, 2019 Click here to read

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