On hearing the news on April 18, 2018, that the government had announced the establishment of a Defence Planning Committee (DPC) under the chairmanship of the National Security Adviser (NSA), as a permanent body, which was intended to “facilitate a comprehensive and integrated planning for defence matters”— the old English proverb came to my mind “The triumph of hope over experience”. At long last our political leadership was waking up to the complexities and realities of defence planning. Was it recognition of reality or an election expedient?
The committee’s members are drawn from the highest echelons of military and civil bureaucracies including the three service chiefs (one of whom is the Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee) the Defence Secretary, Foreign Secretary, and Secretary (Expenditure) from the Ministry of Finance, with the Chief of Headquarters Integrated Defence Staff (HQ IDS) performing the task of member secretary.
Integrated and comprehensive planning are vital aspects that have eluded the Indian defence planning system which is used to planning even for - talised manner with little or no inputs from the government or any of its agencies. Within the three Services also, despite claims to the contrary, this vital aspect is absent even in strategic planning otherwise how can you explain the non use of the Indian Air Force (IAF) in 1962 War which could have turned the tide, and hesitancy on part of the IAF in using air power in support of the ground troops in the initial stages of the Kargil War in 1999, wherein the matter had to be resolved by the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
The chiefs of the armed forces are responsible for preparedness of their respective Services for war in all respects but lack the equip themselves for the minimum period of time laid down for future - ister’s Operational Directive to the Service Chiefs. This mismatch between what we should have and what we actually have along with the general neglect of matters military by the political leadership especially over the past two decades or so along with an uncaring bureaucracy who bear no accountability has created such a situation today that the terms of munitions and equipment runs in thousands and thousands of crores which is not possible to make up in a short period of time even if the resources were to be provided today.
The existing gaps in the defence planning mechanism, which, for long had been argued that these would be overcome by creation of a Chief of the Defence of all requirements of the armed - cessive political dispensations. Moreover the existing system of HQ IDS-led planning has not helped in preventing the parochial interests of various stakeholders has had an adverse impact of not only on how security threats were viewed but also on how scarce resources are distributed among the Services. Simultaneously, the ‘Make in India’ programme has also not progressed satisfactorily. In light of the above the establishment of a Defence Planning Committee is a positive step in integration of defence planning and associated matters at the national level. However, there are various short comings in its composition and the wide charter given to it which will emerge with the passage of time as the DPC seems to have been pushed through in a hurry without adequate thought and deliberation.
Main criticism of the DPC has been that it is yet another layer of bureaucracy, which will do very little except produce written papers and briefs. The composition is such that the members who are very busy personalities in their own departments, will have very little time for meaningful contribution and thus it will be left to the sub committees to examine and put up proposals/ briefs. Moreover, the DPC will put up their recommendations/ proposals to the Defence Minister, thus proving the view that it is another layer of bureaucracy in the MoD.
This issue carries articles on Defence Planning Committee, US Pulls out of the Nuclear Deal, An analysis of Lowy Institute’s inaugural ‘Asia Power Index’; among other.