MODI’S SECURITY STRATEGY
In the last lap of the Narendra Modi sarkar before the 2019 general elections, the government is effecting a major revamp of the national security architecture. Over the past few months, the government has constituted the Defence Planning Committee (DPC), increased the budget for the National Security Council secretariat, and reconstituted the Strategic Policy Group (SPG) to assist the National Security Council. With three deputy national security advisers, a military adviser and a dedicated think tank to study China, these measures aim to lay down India’s defence strategy to meet current and future challenges.
According to sources, these changes are the outcome of a comprehensive review of the national security structure ordered by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) last year. The reaction to these measures has been decidedly mixed.
Much of this tends to look at the rise of NSA Ajit Doval, who has emerged even more powerful after the government decided to bring back the SPG. Earlier the group was chaired by the Cabinet secretary, but now Mr Doval has replaced P.K. Sinha who will now report to him on this issue!
It is perhaps the first time in the country and since the creation of the post of NSA in 1998 that senior most bureaucrats, the three chiefs of the armed forces are reporting to an ex-IPS officer (Mr Doval). The appointment of two more deputy NSAs instead of just one in the previous arrangement too, make Mr Doval’s role even more powerful than before, say most insiders.
Though some would argue that since the NSA holds the rank of minister of state and is therefore above the Cabinet secretary in the pecking order, it certainly is still a bit strange to have the head of the national civil service “report” to the NSA. If the NSA is so indispensable to the Modi sarkar, wouldn’t it be better to simply include him as a member of the Union Cabinet? Some even fear that the sudden revival of the SPG may invest too much power in the NSA, creating an eventual imbalance at the top.
All these are of course matters of debate. But is there enough time for the DPC to show what it can achieve before we are overtaken by next year’s election fever? Seems unlikely, but there is no doubt that Mr Doval is now at the heart of the Modi sarkar’s bid to firm up India’s security framework for the long haul.