Re­forms in Man­ag­ing Na­tional Se­cu­rity

In­dia’s na­tional se­cu­rity con­tin­ues to be sub-op­ti­mally man­aged. Strate­gic re­views need to be un­der­taken pe­ri­od­i­cally to evolve a com­pre­hen­sive na­tional se­cu­rity strat­egy.

SP's LandForces - - – VIEWPOINT - BRI­GADIER (RETD) GURMEET KANWAL

IN­DIA AT PRESENT FACES com­plex ex­ter­nal and in­ter­nal se­cu­rity threats while new chal­lenges are emerg­ing on the hori­zon. Un­re­solved ter­ri­to­rial dis­putes with China and Pak­istan, in­sur­gen­cies in Jammu and Kash­mir and the North-east­ern states, the ris­ing tide of left­wing ex­trem­ism (LWE) and the grow­ing spec­tre of ur­ban ter­ror­ism, have vi­ti­ated In­dia’s se­cu­rity en­vi­ron­ment and slowed down so­cio-eco­nomic growth. Yet, as the re­cent se­rial blasts at Mum­bai have once again in­di­cated, In­dia’s na­tional se­cu­rity con­tin­ues to be sub-op­ti­mally man­aged. Strate­gic re­views need to be un­der­taken pe­ri­od­i­cally to evolve a com­pre­hen­sive na­tional se­cu­rity strat­egy.

In 1999, the Kargil Re­view Com­mit­tee, headed by late K. Subrah­manyam had been asked to “re­view the events lead­ing to the Pak­istani ag­gres­sion in the Kargil District of Ladakh in Jammu & Kash­mir; and to rec­om­mend mea­sures as are con­sid­ered nec­es­sary to safe­guard na­tional se­cu­rity against such armed in­tru­sions”. Though it had been given a very nar­row and lim­ited char­ter, the com­mit­tee looked holis­ti­cally at the threats and chal­lenges and ex­am­ined the loop­holes in the man­age­ment of na­tional se­cu­rity. The com­mit­tee was of the view that the “po­lit­i­cal, bu­reau­cratic, mil­i­tary and in­tel­li­gence es­tab­lish­ments ap­pear to have de­vel­oped a vested in­ter­est in the sta­tus quo’’. It made far­reach­ing rec­om­men­da­tions on the de­vel­op­ment of In­dia’s nu­clear de­ter­rence, higher de­fence or­gan­i­sa­tions, in­tel­li­gence re­forms, bor­der man­age­ment, the de­fence bud­get, the use of air power, counter-in­sur­gency oper­a­tions, in­te­grated man­power pol­icy, de­fence re­search and de­vel­op­ment, and me­dia re­la­tions. The com­mit­tee’s re­port was tabled in the Par­lia­ment on Fe­bru­ary 23, 2000.

The Cab­i­net Com­mit­tee on Se­cu­rity (CCS) ap­pointed a Group of Min­is­ters (GoM) to study the Kargil Re­view Com­mit­tee re­port and rec­om­mend mea­sures for im­ple­men­ta­tion. The GoM was headed by Home Min­is­ter L.K. Ad­vani and four task forces were set up on in­tel­li­gence re­forms, in­ter­nal se­cu­rity, bor­der man­age­ment and de­fence man­age­ment to un­der­take in depth anal­y­sis of var­i­ous facets of man­age­ment of na­tional se­cu­rity.

The GoM rec­om­mended sweep­ing re­forms to the ex­ist­ing na­tional se­cu­rity man­age­ment sys­tem. On May 11, 2001, the CCS ac­cepted all its rec­om­men­da­tions, in­clud­ing one for the es­tab­lish­ment of the post of the Chief of De­fence Staff (CDS), which has still not been im­ple­mented. A tri-Ser­vice An­daman and Ni­co­bar Com­mand and a Strate­gic Forces Com­mand were es­tab­lished. Other salient mea­sures in­cluded the es­tab­lish­ment of HQ In­te­grated De­fence Staff (IDS); the De­fence In­tel­li­gence Agency (DIA); the es­tab­lish­ment of a De­fence Ac­qui­si­tion Coun­cil (DAC), headed by the De­fence Min­is­ter with two wings— the De­fence Pro­cure­ment Board and the De­fence Tech­nol­ogy Board—and the set­ting up of the Na­tional Tech­ni­cal Re­search Or­gan­i­sa­tion (NTRO). The CCS also is­sued a di­rec­tive that In­dia’s borders with dif­fer­ent coun­tries be man­aged by a sin­gle agency— “one bor­der, one force”—and nom­i­nated the CRPF as In­dia’s pri­mary force for counter-in­sur­gency oper­a­tions.

Ten years later, many la­cu­nae still re­main in the man­age­ment of na­tional se­cu­rity. The lack of in­ter-min­is­te­rial and in­ter-de­part­men­tal co­or­di­na­tion on is­sues like bor­der man­age­ment and Cen­tre-state dis­agree­ments over the han­dling of in­ter­nal se­cu­rity are par­tic­u­larly alarm­ing. In or­der to re­view the progress of im­ple­men­ta­tion of the pro­pos­als ap­proved by the CCS in 2001, the gov­ern­ment ap­pointed a Task Force on Na­tional Se­cu­rity led by former Cab­i­net Sec­re­tary Naresh Chan­dra. The task force has sub­mit­ted its re­port.

The first and fore­most re­quire­ment for im­prov­ing the man­age­ment of na­tional se­cu­rity is for the gov­ern­ment to for­mu­late a com­pre­hen­sive Na­tional Se­cu­rity Strat­egy (NSS), in­clud­ing in­ter­nal se­cu­rity. The NSS should be for­mu­lated af­ter car­ry­ing out an in­ter-de­part­men­tal, in­ter-agency, mul­ti­dis­ci­plinary strate­gic de­fence re­view. Such a re­view must take the pub­lic into con­fi­dence and not be con­ducted be­hind closed doors. Like in most other democ­ra­cies, the NSS should be signed by the Prime Min­is­ter, who is the head of the gov­ern­ment, and must be placed on the ta­ble of Par­lia­ment and re­leased as a pub­lic doc­u­ment. Only then will var­i­ous stake­hold­ers be com­pelled to take own­er­ship of the strat­egy and work unit­edly to achieve its aims and ob­jec­tives.

It has clearly emerged that China poses the most po­tent mil­i­tary threat to In­dia and given the nu­clear, mis­sile and mil­i­tary hard­ware nexus be­tween China and Pak­istan, fu­ture con­ven­tional con­flict in South Asia will be a two-front war. There­fore, In­dia’s mil­i­tary strat­egy of dis­sua­sion against China must be grad­u­ally up­graded to de­ter­rence. Gen­uine de­ter­rence comes only from the ca­pa­bil­ity to launch and sus­tain ma­jor of­fen­sive oper­a­tions into the ad­ver­sary’s ter­ri­tory. In­dia needs to raise new di­vi­sions to carry the next war deep into Ti­bet. Since ma­noeu­vre is not pos­si­ble due to the re­stric­tions im­posed by the dif­fi­cult moun­tain­ous ter­rain, fire­power ca­pa­bil­i­ties need to be en­hanced by an or­der of mag­ni­tude, es­pe­cially in terms of pre­ci­sion-guided mu­ni­tions. This will in­volve sub­stan­tial upgra­da­tion of ground-based (ar­tillery guns, rock­ets and mis­siles) and aeri­ally-de­liv­ered (fighter-bomber air­craft and at­tack he­li­copter) fire­power. Only then will it be pos­si­ble to achieve fu­ture mil­i­tary ob­jec­tives.

Con­se­quent to the leak­age of the Chief ’s let­ter and the ma­jor up­roar in Par­lia­ment that fol­lowed, the De­fence Min­is­ter is re­ported to have ap­proved the Twelfth De­fence Plan 2012-17 and the long-term in­te­grated per­spec­tive plan (LTIPP) 2012-27, in early April 2012. While this is un­doubt­edly com­mend­able, it re­mains to be seen whether the Fi­nance Min­istry and sub­se­quently the CCS, will also show the same alacrity in ac­cord­ing the ap­provals nec­es­sary to give prac­ti­cal ef­fect to these plans. With­out these es­sen­tial ap­provals, de­fence pro­cure­ment is be­ing un­der­taken through ad hoc an­nual pro­cure­ment plans, rather than be­ing based on care­fully pri­ori­tised long-term plans that are de­signed to sys­tem­at­i­cally en­hance In­dia’s com­bat po­ten­tial. These are se­ri­ous la­cu­nae as ef­fec­tive de­fence plan­ning can­not be un­der­taken in a pol­icy void.

The gov­ern­ment must com­mit it­self to sup­port­ing long-term de­fence plans or else de­fence mod­erni­sa­tion will con­tinue to lag and the present quan­ti­ta­tive mil­i­tary gap with China’s Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army (PLA) will be­come a qual­i­ta­tive gap as well in 10 to 15 years. This can be done only by mak­ing the dor­mant Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil a proac­tive pol­icy for­mu­la­tion body for long-term na­tional se­cu­rity plan­ning. It may be noted that CCS deals with cur­rent and near-term threats and chal­lenges and re­acts to emer­gent sit­u­a­tions.

The de­fence pro­cure­ment de­ci­sion-mak­ing process must be speeded up. The Army is still not hav­ing towed and self-pro­pelled 155mm how­itzers for the plains and the moun­tains and needs to ac­quire weapons and equip­ment for counter-in­sur­gency and counter-ter­ror­ism oper­a­tions ur­gently. The Navy has been wait­ing for the INS Vikra­ma­ditya (Ad­mi­ral Gor­shkov) air­craft car­rier for long and which is be­ing re­fur­bished in a Rus­sian ship­yard at ex­or­bi­tant cost. Con­struc­tion of the in­dige­nous air de­fence ship is also lag­ging be­hind.

The plans of the Air Force to ac­quire 126 multi-mis­sion, medium-range com­bat air­craft in or­der to main­tain its edge over the re­gional air forces are also stuck in the pro­cure­ment quag­mire. All the three Ser­vices need a large num­ber of light he­li­cop- ters. In­dia’s nu­clear forces re­quire the Ag­niIII mis­sile and nu­clear-pow­ered sub­marines with suit­able bal­lis­tic mis­siles to ac­quire gen­uine de­ter­rent ca­pa­bil­ity. The armed forces do not have a truly in­te­grated com­mand, con­trol, com­mu­ni­ca­tions, com­put­ers, in­tel­li­gence, in­for­ma­tion, sur­veil­lance and re­con­nais­sance (C4I2SR) sys­tem suit­able for mod­ern net­work-cen­tric war­fare, which will al­low them to op­ti­mise their in­di­vid­ual ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

All of these high-pri­or­ity ac­qui­si­tions will re­quire ex­ten­sive bud­getary sup­port. With the de­fence bud­get lan­guish­ing at less than two per cent of In­dia’s GDP—com­pared with China’s 3.5 per cent and Pak­istan’s 4.5 per cent plus US mil­i­tary aid—it will not be pos­si­ble for the armed forces to un­der­take any mean­ing­ful mod­erni­sa­tion in the fore­see­able fu­ture. Leave aside gen­uine mil­i­tary mod­erni­sa­tion that will sub­stan­tially en­hance com­bat ca­pa­bil­i­ties, the funds avail­able on the cap­i­tal ac­count at present are in­ad­e­quate to suf­fice even for the re­place­ment of ob­so­lete weapons sys­tems and equip­ment that are still in ser­vice, well be­yond their use­ful life cy­cles. The Cen­tral Po­lice and Para­mil­i­tary Forces (CPMFs) also need to be mod­ernised as these are fac­ing in­creas­ingly more po­tent threats while still be­ing equipped with ob­so­les­cent weapons.

The gov­ern­ment must also im­me­di­ately ap­point a Chief of De­fence Staff or a per­ma­nent Chair­man of the Chiefs of Staff Com­mit­tee, as rec­om­mended by the Naresh Chan­dra Com­mit­tee on de­fence re­forms, to pro­vide sin­gle-point ad­vice to the CCS on mil­i­tary mat­ters. Any fur­ther de­lay in this key struc­tural re­form in higher de­fence man­age­ment on the grounds of the lack of po­lit­i­cal con­sen­sus and the in­abil­ity of the armed forces to agree on the is­sue, will be ex­tremely detri­men­tal to In­dia’s in­ter­ests in the light of the dan­ger­ous de­vel­op­ments tak­ing place in In­dia’s neigh­bour­hood. The log­i­cal next step would be to con­sti­tute tri-Ser­vice in­te­grated the­atre com­mands to syn­er­gise the ca­pa­bil­i­ties and the com­bat po­ten­tial of in­di­vid­ual ser­vices. It is time to set up a Tri-Ser­vice Aerospace and Cy­ber Com­mand to meet the emerg­ing chal­lenges in these fields. In­ter­na­tional ex­pe­ri­ence shows that such re­form has to be im­posed from the top down and can never work if the gov­ern­ment keeps wait­ing for it to come about from the bot­tom up.

The de­fence bud­get has dipped be­low two per cent of the coun­try’s gross do­mes­tic prod­uct (GDP) de­spite the fact that the ser­vices have re­peat­edly rec­om­mended that it should be raised to at least three per cent of the GDP, if In­dia is to build the de­fence ca­pa­bil­i­ties that it will need to face the emerg­ing threats and chal­lenges and dis­charge its grow­ing re­spon­si­bil­i­ties as a re­gional power in South Asia. The gov­ern­ment will do well to ap­point a Na­tional Se­cu­rity Com­mis­sion to take stock of the lack of pre­pared­ness of the coun­try’s armed forces and to make prag­matic rec­om­men­da­tions to re­dress the vis­i­ble in­ad­e­qua­cies that might lead to yet an­other mil­i­tary de­ba­cle. The writer is a former Di­rec­tor, Cen­tre for Land War­fare Stud­ies (CLAWS), New Delhi. The views ex­pressed by the author are per­sonal.

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