Refs :-

Many articles have appeared on the post of the CDS being still vacant. Many articles have appeared on the proposed tour of duty concept of enrolment of soldiers for short tenures of three and five years. The CDS and Tour of Duty have a seminal connect in the defense, security, and well-being of our nation. This is not a fancy statement stemming from fertile imagination. One look at the way the Ukraine war is going for the Russians will give out all answers faster than skeletons tumbling from a cupboard.



If Russia is losing the war slowly and steadily it is because of two simple factors. Firstly, poor politico military connect and secondly, poor quality of soldiers. The Russian plan for the offensive has been faulty from the beginning. The expectation that Ukraine would keel over due to a shock and awe demonstration was grossly misplaced. The ‘Rasputitsa’ season chosen for the offensive ensured that their combat potential could not be even fully deployed. This was proven in Russia’s failed dash to capture Kiev and in the eastern offensive which has got bogged down. Their convoys getting stuck on the roads to be ambushed was sorry news for some who held the Russian Army in awe. Surely the Russians knew that the Ukrainian Army would be given maximum intelligence assistance by NATO. Hence a stiff military welcome was always on the cards. The Russians also should have known that Ukraine would not roll over like it did in 2014 when Crimea was taken without a sweat. In the intervening eight years, the Ukrainian Army had become battle hardened due to the continuous conflict in the Donbas Region. On the other hand, the Russian forces remained relatively raw. The fact that the offensive was undertaken despite all this, points to the fact that a national decision was taken to prosecute war at the worst time possible. The decision could be due to pure political reasons which overruled military inputs, or the military did not have the spine to put the issues across due to the overwhelming personality of Mr Putin or the Russian Generals were simply inept at providing the correct military advise due to faulty intelligence and appreciation. In all cases it is clearly a case of poor politico military synergy which led to this war at the wrong time for Russia. 

Even if the war was undertaken at the wrong time, good quality of well trained or battle hardened soldiers could have executed the plan with some degree of success. That was not the case. The Russian soldiers who were at the cutting edge were ill equipped and unprepared for war. They were largely conscript, very young and poorly trained.  Reports of their low morale, inexperience and cracking under combat conditions overpopulate the media landscape. Overall, the verdict has been that the use of conscripts in the war reflects poorly on the capability and readiness of the Russian military for this conflict. Cases of troops surrendering, sometimes without a fight and  signs of alarming indiscipline from Russian troops have been widely reported. Overall the Russian Forces are akin to a headless body flailing in the winds with amputated legs. The results are there for everyone to see since the past two months. 


It was long known that India’s politico military structure was flawed. All one has to do is read the book ‘Arming Without Aiming’ by Stephen Cohen  to know the disarray of the yore. Leave that as it may be, the territorial integrity of India or for that matter any other country is the responsibility of the politico-military leadership. One is elected to do so and the other is mandated by authority to do so. However in practice,  the Indian bureaucracy, with no mandate, responsibility or  accountability,  is wedged in to form a unique troika in managing politico-military affairs. The middle space is fully grabbed by the bureaucracy which keeps the politicians and military far apart at all costs.  This flawed politico-bureaucratic-military structure has marginalised the military considerably. I have explained it earlier in detail in an article @ If the lack of a balanced politico-military synergy is costing an experienced and  advanced Russia military so dearly now (as highlighted above) and has forced USA to literally flee from Afghanistan, can India avoid such a fate in future? We came very close to it in Eastern Ladakh. When the PM went to Ladakh for his address during that time, late Gen Bipin Rawat was visible at his side. By then, he had established a degree of synergy with the political leadership. When the Finance Minister announced the first set of 101 items banned from import during the pandemic, it was based on the recommendation of the DMA. The appointment of the CDS had given considerable impetus to jointmanship, theatristaion, modernisation, atmanirbharta and was steadily bringing in politico-military synergy. India’s first CDS was slowly building bridges to break the bureaucratic logjam. However after his untimely demise,  despite many rumours and whispers floating on an impending successor and three Chiefs of Service retiring in the interim, the appointment has been kept vacant. Has the bureaucracy logjammed the system again or is it a case of a politically sour experiment or both? The recent news item that the CISC would be the secretary DMA and the CDS would be kept above that is a welcome one in one respect. However it also gives scope to keep the post of the CDS unoccupied with the DMA having a head. It is a subtle way of burying the CDS! In a bygone era we could have got away with all this ambiguity. If India must rise to its potential and be a regional power which aspires for a global role, there must be better politico-military fusion. Simply put there is no other choice but to have a CDS who is the lynchpin of Politico-military synergy in our context. I have highlighted all this in my earlier articles @ and lt.html.  

In this context, the appointment of the first CDS was stated as a historic reform in Higher Defense Organization reflecting the hope and aspirations of 1.3 billion Indians. The institution was envisaged to carry  tremendous responsibility of modernizing our armed forces. It was an expression of ‘political will’ that such a transformational initiative could be undertaken to enhance the quality of military advice to political leadership through integration of Service inputs. The CDS was to develop and foster expertise in defence matters for better and more informed decision making. He was to be the Principal Military Adviser to Raksha Mantri on all tri-services matters so as to provide impartial advice to the political leadership. What has changed this outlook, that in the past five months we could not appoint the second CDS of India? In this period, the much needed jointness and theatrisation have disappeared from public discourse. Atmanirbharta and modernisation driven by Services in concert is being replaced by the old method of making the each of them fight for the pie and instigating rivalries of the old.  Politico military synergy will be missing till such time we have a CDS on a permanent basis. The Armed Forces will be headless.    

The tour of duty is a lethal proposal. I have done an in-depth analysis of the proposal from a top down and bottom up approach. I have found no merit in the proposal, even remotely,  to make the Armed Forces more lethal or efficient than they already are. Even if a decision to implement is taken, it is unimplementable due to commensurate infrastructure being non-existent. On the other hand the proposal degrades fighting ability at unit level and combat capability from formation to national level if implemented as proposed. Very clearly, poorly trained soldiers with low morale and lack of discipline will lose us wars just as Russian soldiers are doing for their country. The only difference is that the Russians are conscripting their youth and we will enrol them on a volunteer basis ; both for limited periods with disastrous results. It will do us well to remember that Pakistan is a bankrupt nation which cannot afford its military. However it is very clear in Pakistan that their Army cannot be diluted at any cost. Pakistan ‘s survival depends on a professional Army capable of fighting against all odds.  It will do us well to realise that the Pakistan Army will remain a professional force and a potent one at unit level. PLA realises that it is short on experience hence it is going all out with high altitude training and taking all steps to inculcate experience by proxy,  even if it means training with higher levels of risk. The difference between the Indian Army and other Armies is its soldier. That is the winning edge. Why are we blunting it? The general view is that this is a cost cutting exercise made by some fawning bureaucrat and sold to the political hierarchy as if it is the sole mode of inculcating nationalism amongst youth. It will probably do so but, I can assure you all that it will not win us the next war/conflict with Pakistan or China. If there is a better way of risking failure, I have yet to come across it. I do hope that the national and military leaders read this article and even trash it jointly over a cup of tea during a break in one of those lofty conferences which take place in New Delhi. It will represent some synergised decision making instead of not at all talking about it.  


There are no two opinions on cost cutting. However there are far more and better ways to cut costs on military to make it more efficient. Umpteen methods have been suggested by experienced and professional thinkers to reduce manpower costs. Not one has been even considered or followed. However we consider that pulling the rabbit out of the hat approach will solve our problems. That is a three card trick which will not work when the chips are down. While I agree that cost cutting on pensions etc must be done, it cannot be at the cost of the nation! I have spoken about an impoverished Pakistan which refuses to compromise on its Army. The architect of this proposal will say that such things can be done in an Army controlled Pakistan. In democracies like India, it is civilian control which decides the fate of things! Correct. How about looking at democratic figures from the US of A?  USA has an 800 billion USD military budget. Any guesses how much outgo on veteran pensions? In excess of 300 billion USD. Very interestingly, the US military budget has been increasing steadily more due to veteran pensions than any other factor! Nations must pay for their security. I recountwhat two cerebral veterans conveyed to me long before this proposal was on the table. One stated  “National Security doesn’t come cheap not where India is. The Nation must bear this burden. Paucity of funds will remain a constant. While the Services leadership must do better in resource management to ensure the optimum utilization of funds the Government cannot absolve itself of its responsibility to provide adequately for defence, besides finding ways to ensure that the Services are not driven to situations where they feel compelled to raise retirement ages to save on pension”. The other stated ” it’s the Governments call to have an Army, Air Force and Navy. If it wants, it must find the money too.” There is simply no alternative to that. In the security environment in which India exists, the costs will be steep.


In 1962, India felt it did not need a military. It could be guarded by the Police. Its external affairs and territorial integrity could be managed by diplomacy. Well. Comrades Mao Tse Tung and Chou En Lai felt that power flowed from the barrel of the gun and they wielded it ruthlessly to demolish our lofty ideas. From then to now, the scars of that defeat are etched in our national psyche. History has vilified that era of politicians and military men for being totally disconnected and  for making so many of our ill equipped soldiers die for no fault of theirs. If one takes a walk along Nam Ka Chu, and looks closely, one might see the odd mess tin, a rusted water bottle or odd disintegrated skeleton to remind us of that headless Army with amputated legs which flailed in vain against the Chinese. I hope future generations are spared of this ordeal.  


In 2022, India aspires to be a regional power with a global footprint. Its powerful politicians are driving a massive change. Its diplomacy is scripting new successes.  Its bureaucracy is driving the charge to a strong economy. Its trusted police is taking care of internal security. However if its military remains without a head and the amputation of its legs is mindlessly put through, then history is repeating itself after 60 years. I hope I do not live to see the day when the Indian Army I have served with pride resembles the current Russian Army – a flailing body without a head and amputated legs unable to defend the nation. What I would like to see is my last bastion with a balanced head and strong legs defending Indian interests  far wider than it has always done, with pride and valour.     



  1. Excellent analysis. If Indian Army has to remain Professional and Battle Hardy, then there is no place for Conscription in its Rank and File. There are other ways to Kindle Nationalism in our Youth, like making NCC compulsory for them both at School and College level.

  2. Let us not make our battle hardy army a guineapig and carry out experiments in the prevailing situation where we are surrounded by formidable enemies on all sides. An army s efficiency is not just measured on numbers but its cohesive trg and morale. Conscription will break this ethos as with ayaram/gayaram soldiers there will not be any continuity in the trg and units can not fight as a homogeneous team.

  3. Sir, excellent case for not rushing headlong into a western style tour-of-duty structuring of the military. The country would perhaps be better served by having a 10 year cut-off point for a percentage of the personnel as the first choice for a lateral movement with appropriate into the various CAPF. This would move the financial cost of their continued service to the internal security budget and provide a much needed quality and capacity boost for that purpose.Btw, declaring supposed RU “failure” is premature. We should stop applying external standards of “success” to the RU objectives. With their civilizational ethos and societal structure, they have far better ability to withstand what softer societies would consider to be pain, and seem well on the way to winning their basic strategic objectives. If there's anything for us to learn from this, other than tactics and weaponry for the 21st century conflicts, it's to understand the amount of hatred that can exist between even seemingly similar people and not to ever be taken in by “friendly & democratic” external powers to lower our guard.

  4. Quite a comprehensive article, especially on the Tour of Duty concept, from the Armed Forces point of view. What I found lacking in it, or covered rather perfunctorily is the rationale for the politicos and the bureaucracy's push for the Tour of Duty in the Armed Forces. Why only in the Armed Forces, why not in the CAPFs, why not in the Police Forces, why not in the Intelligence organisations? Is there something more than saving a few measly rupees from the Armed Forces Pension outgo ? For that just reducing the civilian component paid pensions through the Defence budget is enough.What will be the impact on society and the Nation when lakhs of trained unemployed and unemployable men are let loose five years down the line? Men who have been trained to shoot to kill, men who are experts in handling explosives, making and handling Improvised Explosive Devices, men who may be willing to give up their lives for a cause if properly motivated or brain washed ? Throw them in this cauldron which is today's divided society, five years down the line and you have a sure shot recipe for disaster and chaos.Looking at the Tour of Duty from another angle, what if those recruited for the Tour of Duty are pre-brainwashed recruits subscribing to a particular idealogy, periodically being fed a dose of propaganda and idealogical material through social media and other channels ?What will happen to the apolitical structure of the Armed Forces, when such politically inclined soldiers swamp it ? Is that the unstated aim of this Tour of Duty being thrust down the throat of the Armed Forces ?Would love it if the author shines the bright torch of his analytical mind on it.Thanks

  5. If Russia in Ukraine is an exmple, we shouldn't be looking at part time soldiers. If Jointmanship is the AIM, you can't go around shooting off your mouth about the IAF being a supporting arm. Just expoaes the fact that your thought process is pickled in Infantry Supremacy – whereas, that's what needs to be removed in senior ranks of the Indian Army. And I have huge issues about Battle Groups and Theatres in the terrestrial Indian Context. We just have to look at a globe and see our size. I think CDSs need analytical think tanks, not secretariats full of YES MEN !

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: