Es­tab­lish­ment of the De­fence Plan­ning Com­mit­tee in In­dia Un­der the NSA

Set­ting up DPC ap­pears to be a hur­ried step per­haps be­cause of the re­cent pre­sen­ta­tion made to the PM by Dr Sub­hash Bhamre, MoS for De­fence that ‘Make in In­dia’ is strug­gling due to lack of ac­count­abil­ity amongst the bu­reau­cracy

SP's LandForces - - FRONT PAGE - Lt Gen­eral P.C. Ka­toch (Retd)

Set­ting up DPC ap­pears to be a hur­ried step per­haps be­cause of the re­cent pre­sen­ta­tion made to the PM by Dr Sub­hash Bhamre, MoS for De­fence that ‘Make in In­dia’ is strug­gling due to lack of ac­count­abil­ity amongst the bu­reau­cracy.

FOUR YEARS AF­TER COM­ING to of­fice, the Modi govern­ment sprung a sur­prise on the na­tion by an­nounc­ing the De­fence Plan­ning Com­mit­tee (DPC), de­scribed as new ‘ Strate­gic Think Tank’, to for­mu­late na­tional mil­i­tary and se­cu­rity strat­egy, and over­see for­eign ac­qui­si­tions and sales. It is well known that UPA had ne­glected the de­fence in their pre­ced­ing decade long rule. Iron­i­cally, the four year rule of NDA II did not see much change other than em­pha­sis on ‘Make in In­dia’.

Set­ting up DPC ap­pears to be a hur­ried step per­haps be­cause of the re­cent pre­sen­ta­tion made to the PM by Dr Sub­hash Bhamre, MoS for De­fence that ‘Make in In­dia’ is strug­gling due to lack of ac­count­abil­ity amongst the bu­reau­cracy. Ap­proach­ing gen­eral elec­tions could also have con­trib­uted in set­ting up DPC, in­di­cat­ing govern­ment in­ter­est in de­fence that hith­erto was lim­ited to ‘Make in In­dia’. How­ever, in the present form, DPC leaves a whole lot of ques­tions unan­swered and may end up as yet another com­mit­tee.


Headed by NSA, the DPC is to be a per­ma­nent body con­sist­ing of three Ser­vice Chiefs (one of whom is ro­tat­ing Chair­man of COSC) Sec­re­taries of De­fence, For­eign Af­fairs and Ex­pen­di­ture. The CISC head­ing HQ IDS is Mem­ber Sec­re­tary who will ser­vice the DPC. HQ IDS has five de­part­ments: Doc­trine, Or­gan­i­sa­tion and Train­ing; Per­spec­tive Plans and Force Struc­tures; In­tel­li­gence; Op­er­a­tions, and; Med­i­cal. One post each for MEA and DRDO is au­tho­rised in HQ IDS but re­main gen­er­ally va­cant. Main task of the DPS are to for­mu­late: one, na­tional mil­i­tary and se­cu­rity strat­egy, and; two, over­see for­eign ac­qui­si­tions and sales. A fur­ther break­down has been enu­mer­ated as: re­fine rec­om­men­da­tions for de­fence pro­cure­ment, tak­ing longer view of ac­qui­si­tions and how they fit into cur­rent and fu­ture sce­nar­ios; smoothen de­fence ac­qui­si­tions by rec­on­cil­ing con­flict­ing claims of de­fence PSU man­u­fac­tur­ers and the three ser­vices who are press­ing for ar­ma­ment up­grades; make de­fence plan­ning and strat­egy a more in­te­grated and for­ward look­ing process, pro­vid­ing key in­puts to de­fine se­cu­rity pri­or­i­ties; ex­am­ine “ways and means” across min­istries to de­velop ca­pa­bil­i­ties and meet na­tional goals; ad­dress per­sis­tent crit­i­cism of In­dia’s de­fence plan­ning that it lacks cen­tralised and or­gan­ised plan­ning in­te­grat­ing civil­ian and de­fence agen­cies and is of­ten con­fined to si­los; align long-term goals with pro­cure­ment and doc­trines through man­date to take up “ca­pa­bil­ity de­vel­op­ment plan­ning” and place it be­fore the Cabi­net Com­mit­tee for Se­cu­rity for ap­proval, and; eval­u­ate for­eign policy im­per­a­tives” and chalk out a strat­egy for in­ter­na­tional en­gage­ment that in­cludes boost­ing ‘Make in In­dia’ ex­ports and for­eign as­sis­tance pro­grams.

DPC is to func­tion through four sub­com­mit­tees that pro­vide in­puts for se­nior func­tionar­ies and as­sess un­con­ven­tional and emerg­ing threats apart from de­vel­op­ing more reg­u­lar de­fence con­cepts. Spe­cific in­puts pro­vided by the DPC are to be put up to the De­fence Min­is­ter. The Com­mit­tee’s charge will also in­clude in­ter-con­nected sub­jects like: de­fence diplo­macy; man­u­fac­tur­ing and policy and strat­egy that can bring to­gether ex­per­tise in the govern­ment to one ta­ble, and; to some ex­tent, fill void of Na­tional Counter Ter­ror­ism Cen­tre (NCTC). In ef­fect, the four sub-com­mit­tees of DPC are sim­i­lar to that of IDS. DPC has four sub-com­mit­tees: Policy and Strat­egy; Plan­ning and Ca­pa­bil­ity De­vel­op­ment; De­fence Diplo­macy and De­fence Man­u­fac­tur­ing. The last two would have been in IDS had the MEA and DRDO posted of­fi­cers to HQ IDS in­stead of de­lib­er­ately keep­ing th­ese slots va­cant. The DPC will pro­duce po­si­tion pa­pers (which MoD and IDS are al­ready do­ing) and for­ward th­ese to the De­fence Min­is­ter. How all this will sharpen de­fence plan­ning and ca­pa­bil­ity build­ing is hard to vi­su­al­ize. Even the Op­er­a­tional Di­rec­tive of De­fence Min­is­ter is writ­ten by the IDS, not by CCS or NSC. DPC also ap­pears heav­ily bi­ased to­wards ‘Make in In­dia’, ac­qui­si­tions, man­u­fac­tur­ing and ex­ports; which is the very job of MoD with the Depart­ment of De­fence Pro­duc­tion (DoDP) in­te­gral to it. How cre­at­ing another layer of DPC above the De­fence Ac­qui­si­tion Coun­cil (DAC) will im­prove the sys­tem is mat­ter of con­jec­ture. Sig­nif­i­cantly, DPC doesn’t in­clude Home Sec­re­tary, in­di­cat­ing lit­tle un­der­stand­ing of hy­brid war­fare. Be­sides, DPC fill­ing void of NCTC can only be con­sid­ered a joke.

Cart be­fore the Horse

In­stead of first estab­lish­ing In­te­grated The­atre Com­mands (ITCs), ap­point­ing a Chief of De­fence Staff (CDS) and merg­ing MoD with HQ IDS, the DPC is akin to putting the cart be­fore the horse, by­pass­ing the horse, bury­ing the is­sue of ap­point­ing CDS, with am­bi­gu­ity in de­fence plan­ning and higher po­lit­i­cal man­age­ment. With the DPC in­sti­tuted, what will be the role now of the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil (NSC) and its Sec­re­tariat (NSCS), the Strate­gic Policy Group (SPG) and the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­vi­sory Board (NSAB)? The Kargil Re­view Com­mit­tee (KRC) rec­om­men­da­tions for re­struc­tur­ing de­fence,, en­dorsed by Group of Min­is­ters (GoM) headed by Deputy Prime Min­is­ter, in­cluded es­tab­lish­ment of CDS and HQ IDS that was to be part of MoD to pro­vide req­ui­site mil­i­tary ex­per­tise. CAPF de­ploy­ment on borders was rec­om­mended to aug­ment army, and placed un­der com­mand the lat­ter.

But the deep state didn’t per­mit HQ IDS-MoD merger and es­tab­lish­ment of CDS de­spite De­fence Min­is­ter Pranab Mukher­jee say­ing in 2005 govern­ment had de­cided who the CDS will be, and De­fense Min­is­ter Manohar Par­rikar stat­ing in 2015 that CDS is “com­ing soon”. CAPF de­ploy­ment even in ‘sen­si­tive’ bor­der ar­eas wasn’t placed un­der army. HQ IDS es­tab­lished for be­ing part of MoD, was kept sep­a­rate. DPC fol­lows same track by mak­ing HQ IDS as the Sec­re­tariat (why not the NSC?). The GoM recommendation for early es­tab­lish­ment of CDS was di­luted by UPA II by bring­ing up the is­sue of Per­ma­nent Chair­man COSC. Now Modi govern­ment has ap­par­ently buried the is­sue of CDS through DPC, with NSA al­ready be­ing re­ferred to as de-facto CDS, ultimate aim be­ing as and when The­atre Com­mands come up, The­atre Com­man­ders re­port di­rectly to NSA in ab­sence of CDS, which will be most ridicu­lous.

In­dia’s de­fence set up has suf­fered pe­cu­liar­i­ties like: no Na­tional Se­cu­rity Strat­egy (NSS) and Strate­gic De­fence Re­view (SDR); de­fense pro­cure­ment plan­ning with­out NSS-SDR; mil­i­tary rep­re­sen­ta­tion lack­ing in higher de­fense struc­tures; MoD ‘with­out’ mil­i­tary pro­fes­sion­als; Ser­vices HQ termed “at­tached of­fices” like in Bri­tish times; De­fence Sec­re­tary (not De­fence Min­is­ter) charged with coun­try’s de­fence; 70 per cent de­fence equip­ment im­ported in past decades de­spite 50+ DRDO labs, 9 DPSUs, 42 Ord­nance Fac-

tories (OF) - over­all man­power I,80,044; lit­tle mil­i­tary rep­re­sen­ta­tion in DRDO-DPSUs-OFB de­spite be­ing users; mul­ti­ple forces along in­ter­na­tional borders with dif­fer­ent chains of com­mand; po­lice and cen­tral armed po­lice forces (CAPF) placed above mil­i­tary.

The Comp­trol­ler and Au­di­tor Gen­eral (CAG) has re­peat­edly pointed to cor­rup­tion and nepo­tism in DRDO, which is di­rectly un­der MoD, and a govern­ment-ap­pointed ex­perts com­mit­tee rec­om­mended shut­ting down DRDO lab­o­ra­to­ries and ma­jor DRDO over­haul, and pri­vati­sa­tion. But DRDO is the golden goose for MoD, there­fore, 15 years to pro­duce a ri­fle, 30 years to pro­duce ‘Nag’ mis­sile, and forc­ing mil­i­tary to buy com­bat uni­form at three times the price com­pared to civil sources hardly mat­ter. A for­mer am­bas­sador, who first joined IAS and got posted to MoD says his first brief was to for­get all else, just con­cen­trate on what equip­ment is in pipe­line and how much money can be made. Ar­guably, no de­fence deal is with­out kick­backs al­beit in coun­try like China, money goes to the party, not in­di­vid­ual. But this is one rea­son mil­i­tary is kept away from MoD and DRDO in In­dia. The sec­ond rea­son is politi­cians bank on bu­reau­crats, with lat­ter lack­ing pro­fes­sional knowl­edge of mat­ters mil­i­tary. Be­sides, there has been pe­ri­odic change of De­fence Min­is­ters since 2014.

While the DPC has be­come fait ac­com­pli, In­dia needs fol­low­ing ur­gently: de­fine NSS and or­der SDR; re­vise Al­lo­ca­tion of Busi­ness & Trans­ac­tion of Busi­ness Rules Act 1961, mak­ing De­fence Min­is­ter re­spon­si­ble for De­fence and Ser­vices HQ in­te­gral to MoD; merge MoD and HQ IDS com­pletely; ap­point CDS to syn­er­gize mil­i­tary and usher true Rev­o­lu­tion in Mil­i­tary Af­fairs (RMA) un­der di­rec­tions po­lit­i­cal au­thor­ity; Ser­vice Chiefs as mem­bers of Cabi­net Com­mit­tee on Se­cu­rity (CCS); Deputy NSA (s) from mil­i­tary if NSA with mil­i­tary back­ground is too scary; mil­i­tary rep­re­sen­ta­tion in Strate­gic Policy Group, NSCS, NSAB and mil­i­tary ad­vi­sors in MEA and MHA; mil­i­tary rep­re­sen­ta­tion at policy, de­sign and de­ci­sion­mak­ing lev­els in gov­ern­men­tal de­fen­sein­dus­trial com­plex; coun­try’s land borders placed un­der mil­i­tary or at least MoD, as the en­tire sea­coast is.

The bo­gey of no ‘mil­i­tary con­sen­sus’ on CDS was negated in the above men­tioned con­fer­ence chaired by then De­fence Min­is­ter Pranab Mukher­jee in 2005. The spu­ri­ous scare of mil­i­tary coup is raised some­time know­ing full well mil­i­tary is too dis­ci­plined. But sto­ries are cooked by the deep state of troop move­ment from AgraHisar, al­beit enough troops are sta­tioned in Delhi. Another ex­cuse for not ap­point­ing CDS is that there is no po­lit­i­cal con­sen­sus. But the Modi Govern­ment shut down the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion with­out dis­cus­sion, re­plac­ing it with Niti Aayog. So why can’t MoD be re­placed by a Depart­ment of De­fence, manned in ma­jor­ity by mil­i­tary pro­fes­sion­als? Th­ese are the bare min­i­mum essentials - im­per­a­tive to meet threat sce­nar­ios. Aside from defin­ing the NSS, the NSA needs to fo­cus on op­ti­miz­ing our con­sid­er­able Spe­cial Forces po­ten­tial in all our ar­eas of strate­gic in­ter­ests, rather than only di­rect type of ac­tion like ‘sur­gi­cal strikes’.

Com­mand and Con­trol of DPC

It is also un­clear who the DPC will be ac­count­able to. The in­di­ca­tions are that at best it is planned to be ac­count­able to the Cabi­net Com­mit­tee on Se­cu­rity (CCS), which boils down to the po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship of the time. This would be in­cor­rect and amount to ‘not’ be­ing ac­count­able— dic­tated by whims and fan­cies of a po­lit­i­cal party. The DPC must be of­fi­cially made ac­count­able to the Par­lia­ment. Be­sides, what will be the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the DPC and Par­lia­ment’s Stand­ing Com­mit­tee for De­fence – both op­er­at­ing in iso­la­tion?


The DPC is hardly the panacea to ad­dress the woes of In­dia’s de­fence. The DPC may also be­come a recipe for clash be­tween the NSA and the De­fence Min­is­ter at a fu­ture date—per­haps some years from now. Un­less the miss­ing de­fence re­forms, as men­tioned above, are un­der­taken in con­junc­tion DPC and lat­ter made ac­count­able to Par­lia­ment, it will not achieve its true po­ten­tial.

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