NEW DELHI: At least 130 senior military veterans have written an open letter to Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman pointing to the growing external threats and the possibility of a two front war and expressing deep concern about the country’s higher defence management.

The veterans have urged the Minister to appoint the long pending Chief of Defence Staff as the head of an unified military command proposing that one, the officer so appointed be senior in rank than the three defence chiefs; that he serves as the single point military advisors to the National Security Council; and functions as the National Security Advisor (External Security). The existing NSA, the veterans said, should be NSA (Internal Security).

The text of the letter:

We the undersigned are military Veterans who each have many years of experience in the defence of our nation.

We are bringing a matter of the most serious gravity concerning our nation’s higher defence management for your consideration. This is especially important in view of the emerging military situation around India’s land and ocean borders, which may call for India’s military response at some stage, if economic and diplomatic initiatives and military deterrence do not succeed in maintaining peace, which is necessary for our nation’s development.

Strategic think tanks and experts hold that military operations in coming years would be short and intense, and that the aggressor could gain an initial advantage. There is also the distinct possibility of our having to conduct war on two fronts, due to the nexus between our adversaries. In these circumstances, the speed and strength of our military response in defence or strike would be vital. This would depend upon the appropriate deployment, coordination and proportionate launch of our army, naval, air and cyber forces in the theatres under attack or threat.

India’s military response therefore will have to be as joint military operations of our three Defence Services (army, navy and air force). Further, credible capability of such jointness would serve as a deterrent to neighbours from undertaking any military adventures.

Effective joint operations necessitate unified military command by a military officer superior in rank to the three Service chiefs, designated as, say, Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS). The CDS would also serve to render valid single-point military advice to the National Security Council (NSC) as National Security Advisor (External Security), and the existing NSA would be NSA (Internal Security). At present, there being no CDS, the Chairman and members of NSC cannot receive single-point advice on military and external security matters, which is so necessary for rapid and valid decision-making at the national level, vital especially for short and intense armed conflicts.

We therefore respectfully request your most serious and urgent consideration of the foregoing and earnestly urge you to establish the post of CDS, to be tenured by a military officer who will also serve in the NSC as NSA (External Security).

Yours faithfully,