When Defence Minister George Fernades wanted to merge HQ Integrated Defence Staff with the Ministry of Defence (MoD), the bureaucracy viewed it a danger to its supremacy. Hence, the allegation of Coffingate was leveled; knowing that Fernades would step down on moral grounds till the inquiry was completed. But the inquiry carried on for years and he was eventually absolved of all blame when he had passed away.

The Pakistani intrusions in Kargil during 1999 were massive. The area occupied by the infiltrators was somewhere between 130 sq km to 200 sq km. The Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) was asleep.

The Para (Special Forces) could have wreaked havoc in enemy depth areas but the political direction was not to cross the Line of Control (LoC). So, they were used for frontal attacks on enemy positions, which is the task of Infantry. We did retrieve all our territory intruded into by Pakistani forces but the then defence secretary was moved out.

In 2020 - the Chinese surprised us in Ladakh. The R&AW was again napping despite the People's Liberation Army (PLA) divisions exercising in Aksai Chin and having built a new road five km short of Galwan. We have lost control over 1,000 sq km of our territory but the Defence Secretary, who is tasked with the defence of India and the defence policy in peace and war, has been given extension of tenure by one year.

An insertion in the media later read "we knew they (PLA) could occupy the new locations in 24-36 hours, but never thought they would do so". What an excuse!

The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) and the Directorate of Military Affairs (DMA) were created in a manner that the defence secretary continues to lord over the. The CDS and the DMA became the shoulder from which the bureaucracy keeps firing at the military.

General Bipin Rawat was promoted army chief over two seniors because as an army commander, he had offered defence land to then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar visiting Pune. Naturally, Rawat was later promoted to CDS and became the blue-eyed boy of Nirmala Sitharaman. The deep state used Rawat optimally to take down the military.

Rawat was still Army Chief when in December 2019, Army HQ worked out the draft proposal for 100 officers and 1000 soldiers to undergo a four-year army tenure on an "experimental" basis – the basis of the Agnipath system. But Rawat converted it from an experimental project to the only avenue of army recruitment; one of the many acts for self promotion.

The list is endless and in public domain how the deep state has bashed on since then. No effort has been spared to elevate police forces above the military, latest being the plan to put the ITBP in the first tier all along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China.

It is no secret that given their capabilities, Chinese intelligence and Pakistan's ISI would have infiltrated into our system, MoD included. This perhaps is the basis that the man behind the machine continues to be degraded amid the big noise about new weapons, systems and equipment being inducted.

The Centre's efforts to place police forces above the military encouraged the Nagaland Police (with links to the insurgents and involvement in narcotics smuggling and illegal tax collection) to charge personnel of 21 Para (SF) with culpable homicide not amounting to murder on cooked-up grounds.

The SF was on bonafide duty deployed for counter-insurgency operations in areas under AFSPA. Families of the affected 21 Para (SF) had to file a plea with the Supreme Court to secure an interim stay against prosecution by the Nagaland Police.

Recently, the DMA (read MoD) has issued a Government Sanction Letter (GSL) renaming all Parachute Battalions as Para (SF) on Modification Airborne, bringing them at par with Para (SF) battalions. This has happened because of the overall Restructuring of Armed Forces worked out in 2019 and approved by Rawat in 2020.

Both Airborne Forces and Special Forces have their distinct exclusive roles. The GSL will dilute the Special Forces capability. The present GOC of the Armed Forces Special Operations Division (AFSOD) appointed in Rawat's time has never served in Special Forces. The Military Secretary's Branch will now begin posting officers from Parachute Battalions to Special Forces Battalions, even to command them. The equipping and training of Special Forces will also suffer, with shortages aggravating because of more users.

The primary weapon of Army's Special Forces is the Tavor Assault Rifle. But there is a 95% restriction on training ammunition of Tavor and 100% restriction on training ammunition for pistol - secondary weapon. How are they supposed to train? Quantity 10,000,000 rounds of indigenously produced Tavor ammunition were all found faulty. But who will question the babu-defence industry nexus?

Tavor ammunition apart, a year plus back the Army had sent an internal report to MoD saying pointing out that with the quantity of faulty ammunition of all sorts lying around, 100 medium guns could have been procured with the same money. Voids in special equipment like combat freefall parachutes continue because of import bans and lack of 'requisite' indigenous production capability.

Successive Army Chiefs have rightly maintained that we need to retain the airborne capability. This needs no elaboration. Aside from other operational tasks, it is also vital for Out of Area Contingencies (OOAC). For the same reason, other nations have airborne forces, examples being 82 and 101 Airborne Divisions of the US and China's 15th Airborne Corps.

The above GSL is being counted as the gospel truth. But there is precedent of GSLs having been revoked in the past. For example, the Army's Special Forces Regiment was raised in the past, as well as a HQ Special Forces.

This was when General BC Joshi was the Army Chief, who understood the Special Forces fully and the need for true Special Forces capability. Unfortunately, General Joshi passed away in harness and his successor allowed himself to be pressured and took up demobilization of the Special Forces Regiment – revoking the GSL under which it was established.

Today, we have 10 Special Forces Battalion and 5 Parachute Battalions. Where is the need to bring them at par. However, it is up to the DGMO and the Army Chief to choose between taking up the issue or prefer to 'not male any waves' by lying low. The deep state would be delighted if we are diluting our Special Forces capability, as would be their mentors in Islamabad and Beijing.

Lt Gen PRAKASH KATOCH is an Indian Army veteran. Views expressed are personal.