April 22, 2016 12:45:06 pm
On Wednesday, the Chinese news media unveiled a new title for President Xi Jinping: commander-in-chief of the joint battle command centre of the Central Military Commission. This is the first time a Chinese leader has been conferred with this title, and Jinping appeared in a camouflage pattern military uniform for the occasion. This was a departure from his usual practice of appearing in an olive green Mao suit while discharging military duties.
Jinping, the general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, is also the chairman of the Central Military Commission since 2012 which controls and runs the Chinese armed forces. Given his consolidation of power across party and military, the unveiling of the new title can best be seen as a signal that he is now in absolute and total control of the country.
Beyond sending out a signal, this new title indicates the seriousness with which the Chinese leadership is integrating and modernizing the structure of its armed forces. As the head of the joint battle command centre, Jinping will sit at the centre of this plan for a new, leaner, integrated Chinese armed forces. It underlines Jinping’s commitment to that vision and reaffirms his position at the centre of this fundamental change in the
People’s Liberation Army.
This stands out in sharp contrast to India’s long-pending plans to integrate its armed forces. The Group of Ministers formed after the Kargil War recommended the creation of a single point military chief, called the Chief of Defence Staff but that recommendation was not accepted by the Vajpayee government. The UPA government formed the Naresh Chandra Committee which recommended a permanent chairman of the chiefs of the staff committee to coordinate and integrate the three services. Despite many promises by the defence minister, Manohar Parrikar, there has been little progress on the matter.
The new announcement by China ought to spur India towards implementing integration plans and modernizing the armed forces. It could start by laying out a time-based roadmap for creating integrated theatre commands, and a single point military advisor to the government.
With the Chinese enjoying a headstart, a little later may be too late.
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