Let this be the beginning - Taj M Khattak - Monday, October 11, 2010

Source : www.thenews.com.pk

After some media speculations, General Khalid Shamim Wyne was appointed as the 14th Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC). During peacetime, the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee deals with military related matters of state security as enunciated in its charter. It is tasked to chalk out a strategy to integrate the three services and coordinate their joint operational planning, training and logistics.

During war, its chairman is the principal staff officer to supreme commander of Pakistan Armed Forces in supervision and conduct of military operations. In the recent past, the JSHQ has been assigned responsibility for strategic assets of the country. War-fighting is fast expanding into electromagnetic and informational domains with consequential effects, and therefore merit due attention.

In theory, the Joint Staff Headquarters’ charter is well-articulated for inter-services integration and joint operational planning. It is, however, widely accepted that in practice, it has fallen short of these stated aims and objectives.

There are many reasons for this under-achievement but a light familial example might encapsulate the fundamental cause. It is like three sisters (army, navy and air force) born to mother Pakistan at partition. In time, one sister gains in size over others, and is then not too amused with notions of the word triplet; nuanced heavily as it is towards equality and, not least of all, because younger siblings remain fixated on expensive toys rather stubbornly. This in essence has been the dilemma of the JSHQ.

But on a serious note, the predominant importance of land forces in any country cannot be over-emphasized. It is a hard reality that on the post-war negotiating table, it is not how well the sea borne trade flowed into country during war or how safe skies above the battlefield were, but who controlled how much of the adversaries land which mattered. It is land which has historically been casus belli between states and shall remain a determining constant for outcome of any conflict in foreseeable future in our geostrategic context also.

But the other harsh reality is that without open sea-lines of communication and friendly skies above, military commanders are more likely to end up at a surrender ceremony than a negotiating table just as it happened to us not too long ago. That is why it is so crucial to carry the other two services along every inch of the way.

In our higher defence organisation, office of CJCSC was originally conceptualised on rotational basis amongst three services but, barring a few exceptions, it has mostly been held by a senior general officer from the Pakistan Army since 1976. If there are compelling reasons for senior service to do so on a permanent basis, then it might be appropriate to incorporate a formal amendment in the original organisational document as non-adherence to the written word on an open ended basis is not an healthy reflection on our defence establishment.

There is a general view that office of the CJCSC is weak as he does not ‘command any troops’. This perception is fallacious, but perhaps entrenched rather firmly in the misuse of operational command authority over troops in the dislodging of elected governments by past army chiefs. We need a course correction here.

These days, in the structures of higher defence organisations around the world, the authority of the office of CJCSC or its equivalent flows from the power of its ideas and not so much from the strength of any troops under its command. A case in point is Admiral Mullen, who too lacks operational command authority over troops but that does not impair his strategic direction of unified military operations and integration of the US armed forces in pursuit of national policy objectives.

The internal and external threat dimensions in and around Pakistan have undergone a sea change in recent times. ISAF’s aims in war on terror in neighbouring Afghanistan are no longer the same as in 2001 which would spin out its own regional dynamics. There is ambiguity between the US military and political leadership about when the exit ramps in Afghanistan would show up.

Our neighbour to the east has an aggressive Pakistan specific doctrine and updates its land, maritime and air strategies every 10-15 years. Its acquisition force goals are aimed to disadvantage genuine economic aspirations of the regional countries. Its defence establishment is maximising dividend from the country’s helpful economic growth and stable political system.

Military expenditures are always unpopular but then a country’s foreign policy is as effective as its military’s reach and potential. We need to make hard choices for the next two decades as to what our foreign policy objectives are and how we intend to achieve them. We should seriously examine the efficacy of regional partnerships and alliances as opposed to distant friends and allies.

These changing security environments may warrant an in-depth rethink and extensive review. The emergent national security model should be founded on predominant public aspirations and support and balanced against a sustainable military growth with deterrence postures across the entire spectrum of conflict; less than war, limited conflict, hostilities below nuclear threshold and nuclear conflict. There should be clear-cut guidance for land, maritime and air strategies under the over-hang of such an intrinsic national security doctrine.

To be able to tackle these urgent and serious security challenges, Pakistan direly needs political stability and economic discipline to move out of quicksand, before this rapidly widening gap irreversibly transforms into a serious existential threat. Already, our hearts and minds should have been with the Kashmiris at this crucial juncture if we had a more stable domestic environment.

Now that the media and civil society have come hard on government to reduce the size of its cabinet, it would only be fair if the military establishment also reviewed the size of its higher hierarchy. What is sauce for goose should be sauce for the gander, so goes the saying. Hopefully, this occasion would be more than just another appointment to the higher echelon of defence. Let it be the beginning of a new journey and a serious effort towards genuine inter-services integration. General Wyne shoulders a heavy responsibility to fully discharge the written word in the charter of his new organisation. We wish him luck.

The writer is a retired Vice Admiral of the Pakistan Navy. Email:tajkhattak@ymail.com

No comments:

Post a Comment