Agenda for De­fence Min­is­ter

Re­lax­ation of FDI in de­fence beyond 49 per cent for sta­teof-the-art tech­nol­ogy is a wel­come step but con­cur­rently the De­fence Pro­cure­ment Pro­ce­dure too needs to be sim­pli­fied to make it un­am­bigu­ously at­trac­tive to in­vestors, both in­dige­nous and for­eign.


After a long break, In­dia fi­nally has a full-time De­fence Min­is­ter in Manohar Par­rikar. The break has ac­tu­ally been ex­traor­di­nar­ily long con­sid­er­ing that A.K. An­thony as De­fence Min­is­ter from Oc­to­ber 2006 to May 2014 was ac­tu­ally a non­per­former, or more aptly a neg­a­tive per­former, who brought both the mil­i­tary and the mil­i­tary-in­dus­trial com­plex to such a sorry state that even for­mer diplo­mats de­scribed the sit­u­a­tion akin to 1962. From May 2014 on­wards we had only a part-time De­fence Min­is­ter in Arun Jait­ley and though many cap­i­tal ex­pen­di­ture projects have been cleared and in­di­geni­sa­tion of de­fence equip­ment is be­ing em­barked upon, it will take fo­cused ef­fort to ad­dress and clean the sys­tem that has be­come hol­low from within over past decades. For­tu­nately, the new De­fence Min­is­ter has the rep­u­ta­tion of a dy­namo work­ing 16 hours a day and his IIT back­ground is ideal to ac­cel­er­ate the In­dian mil­i­tary’s ca­pac­ity build­ing for net­work-cen­tric war­fare – in line with the Prime Min­is­ter’s wishes to see a digi­tised mil­i­tary. For too long our Min­istry of De­fence (MoD) has been func­tion­ing with gen­er­al­ist bu­reau­crats. The De­fence Sec­re­tary, not the De­fence Min­is­ter, is charged with the coun­try’s de­fence and the Ser­vices HQ are la­beled “At­tached Of­fices” since the Bri­tish Raj. This needs a dras­tic over­haul. The De­fence Min­is­ter needs to se­ri­ously con­sider re­plac­ing the MoD (like shut­ting the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion) with a Depart­ment of De­fence (DoD) manned by mil­i­tary pro­fes­sion­als (serv­ing, on dep­u­ta­tion or on per­ma­nent ab­sorp­tion) with ap­pro­pri­ate civil­ian

cells un­der the De­fence Min­is­ter in­stead of an MoD – akin to the Rail­way Board manned by rail­way pro­fes­sion­als. To bridge the vi­tal void of in­te­gra­tion, HQ In­te­grated De­fence Staff (IDS) should be com­pletely merged with the MoD as rec­om­mended by many study re­ports, or more ap­pro­pri­ately form part of the pro­posed DoD. This will also fill the ab­sence of an in­sti­tu­tion­alised strat­egy for­mu­la­tion set up in the ex­ist­ing MoD and kill the civil-mil­i­tary di­vide that is of­fi­cially not ac­knowl­edged but ac­tu­ally has been grow­ing dras­ti­cally. A Chief of De­fence Staff (CDS) needed on pri­or­ity more to syn­er­gise the mil­i­tary rather than the sin­gle-point ad­vi­sor to the po­lit­i­cal au­thor­ity. The need for a CDS is dis­tinct from the Prime Min­is­ter meet­ing ser­vice cheifs ev­ery month. All this would need the ‘Rules of Business’ to be amended, in ad­di­tion to let the CDS speak a sin­gle voice for the mil­i­tary rather than gen­er­al­ist bu­reau­crats ar­bi­trate on mat­ters mil­i­tary.

De­fence Min­is­ters in the past have de­fined In­dia’s strate­gic in­ter­ests ex­tend­ing from the Per­sian Gulf in the west to the Straits of Malacca in the east and from the Cen­tral Asian Republics in the North to the Equa­tor in the south. Where we have failed is in terms of strate­gic trans­for­ma­tion. A pri­or­ity task should be to de­fine a Na­tional Se­cu­rity Strat­egy (NSS) fol­lowed by a Strate­gic De­fence Re­view (SDR). The fore­most need is to enun­ci­ate the NSS to shape the en­vi­ron­ment in In­dia’s favour. In do­ing so, or­gan­i­sa­tions and en­ti­ties like the MoD, Min­istry of Home Af­fairs, Mil­i­tary, Eco­nomic Min­istries, Depart­ment of Sci­ence & Tech­nol­ogy, Depart­ment of Atomic En­ergy, the In­dian Space Re­search Or­gan­i­sa­tion, etc need to be closely in­te­grated. Threats and vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties need to be taken into ac­count. While threats are mostly iden­ti­fi­able, vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties may not be clearly iden­ti­fi­able as lat­ter are only in­di­ca­tors. Chal­lenge of im­ple­ment­ing NSS lies in pre­vent­ing vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties trans­form­ing into threats us­ing non-mil­i­tary el­e­ments of na­tional power. The NSS should in­clude: one, In­dia’s po­lit­i­cal goals in terms of power pro­jec­tion, pro­mot­ing se­cu­rity, eco­nomic, tech­nol­ogy, en­vi­ron­men­tal and bio-di­ver­sity in­ter­ests; two, In­dia’s in­ter­ests in other coun­tries and re­gions ex­tend­ing out­wards from South Asia; three, in­ter­ests and re­la­tion­ship ma­trix with ma­jor pow­ers and the UN; and four, threats, chal­lenges and com­peti­tors to In­dia’s in­ter­ests in re­spect of above paradigms.

Like NSS of any coun­try, there would also be a need to in­clude fol­low­ing clas­si­fied parts: first, strat­egy to deal with com­pe­ti­tion and chal­lenges by set­ting time-bound ob­jec­tives in diplo­matic, eco­nomic, tech­nol­ogy, and de­fence and se­cu­rity fields vis-à-vis the com­peti­tors; sec­ond, iden­tify eco­nomic, strate­gic, mil­i­tary and tech­nol­ogy lever­ages—in­ter-se pri­or­i­ties of coun­tries; third, lay down strate­gic choices for en­ter­ing strate­gic part­ner­ship in the short-, mid- and long-term con­text; fourth, re­view of in­ter­nal dy­nam­ics of In­dia, its link­ages with trans bor­der threats and chal­lenges posed for the se­cu­rity forces in­clud­ing as­sess­ing de­gree of ex­pected in­volve­ment of armed forces in the in­ter­nal dy­nam­ics. SDR must im­me­di­ately follow up from the NSS though work on both can progress simultaneously. The SDR should state present mil­i­tary strat­egy as de­rived from NSS and project into the fu­ture. The NSS could be broadly rel­e­vant up to next 15 years and the think­ing into pe­riod beyond that may be termed as vi­sion.

The SDR should com­prise: anal­y­sis of present mil­i­tary strat­egy and re­vised goals; re­lated emerg­ing tech­nolo­gies and con­se­quent revo­lu­tion in mil­i­tary af­fairs (RMA); mesh fu­ture con­flict spec­trum and the bat­tle space mi­lieu; com­pare above with roles and in­di­vid­ual re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of the Army, Navy and Air Force, lead­ing to de­vel­op­ment of joint force ca­pa­bil­i­ties in­clud­ing for net­work-cen­tric war­fare (NCW). Fu­ture mil­i­tary per­spec­tive (short-, mid- and long-term) or joint mil­i­tary vi­sion and mil­i­tary mis­sions so de­vel­oped would lead to for­mu­la­tion of LTIPP based on in­te­grated sys­tems dy­nam­ics and force de­vel­op­ment im­per­a­tives. The clas­si­fied por­tion of the SDR should in­clude: ad­ver­saries or coun­tries that are in se­cu­rity com­pe­ti­tion, co­op­er­a­tion and friends; com­par­a­tive eval­u­a­tion of the na­ture of threats or com­pe­ti­tion; threat from com­pet­ing strate­gic and se­cu­rity al­liances; goals and ob­jec­tives of bi­lat­eral, mul­ti­lat­eral and in­ter­na­tional de­fence co­op­er­a­tion; pol­icy on role of armed forces in asym­met­ric threats and in­ter­nal con­flict; strat­egy for pro­tec­tion of crit­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture from cy­ber threats; de­fence-re­lated as­pects of cy­berspace, space and per­cep­tion war­fare, and; strat­egy for en­ergy, wa­ter and food se­cu­rity. Ax­iomat­i­cally, ap­pro­pri­ate core groups would need to be es­tab­lished work­ing out the NSS and SDR.

There has been de­bate in the me­dia about the need for a Na­tional Se­cu­rity Com­mis­sion. We have a Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil that barely met un­der the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment while the NSAB was also work­ing part-time un­til re­cently. Whether a new Na­tional Se­cu­rity Com­mis­sion is ap­pointed or the ex­ist­ing Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil is re­or­gan­ised (acro­nym for both be­ing NSC), it has to be a dy­namic or­gan­i­sa­tion work­ing on 24 x 7 ba­sis. Be­sides be­ing headed by the Prime Min­is­ter him­self as the ex-of­fi­cio Chair­man, a Deputy Chair­man on per­ma­nent ba­sis, CCS and NSA as mem­bers, with full-time mem­bers and staff from all re­quired fields would be re­quired. Si­mul­ta­ne­ous to the NSS and SDR, we need to holis­ti­cally re­view Com­pre­hen­sive Na­tional Se­cu­rity, to in­clude: per­sonal se­cu­rity; com­mu­nity se­cu­rity; food se­cu­rity; health se­cu­rity; mil­i­tary se­cu­rity; eco­nomic se­cu­rity; en­ergy se­cu­rity, po­lit­i­cal se­cu­rity, and; en­vi­ron­ment se­cu­rity. The Com­pre­hen­sive Na­tional Re­view would also ad­dress all non-tra­di­tional threats.

Gov­ern­ment web­site of Min­istry of In­dus­try and Com­merce states that 50 per cent of all de­fence equip­ment held by our mil­i­tary is ‘ob­so­lete’. This needs to be tack­led ex­pe­di­tiously. We should not be mak­ing the mis­take of only look­ing at big ticket projects only. What we ac­tu­ally need is a revo­lu­tion in mil­i­tary af­fairs (RMA) span­ning the mil­i­tary and mat­ters mil­i­tary ver­ti­cally and hor­i­zon­tally. An RMA un­der the di­rec­tions of the Prime Min­is­ter would be fa­cil­i­tated with the per­sonal equa­tion that Par­rikar has with Prime Min­is­ter Modi. In terms of the de­fence-in­dus­trial com­plex, we also seem to be go­ing wrong in fur­ther ‘com­mer­cial­is­ing’ the DRDO. This has been the prob­lem all along. What is needed is the DRDO fo­cus­ing on R&D syn­ony­mous with their name whereas the com­mer­cial part needs to be left to the civil in­dus­try un­der guid­ance of the gov­ern­ment. Man­ning of decision mak­ing and man­age­ment level ap­point­ments in DRDO, de­fence PSUs, and ord­nance fac­to­ries by mil­i­tary pro­fes­sion­als (mil­i­tary be­ing the user) is a must, which has been avoided by th­ese or­gan­i­sa­tions for vested in­ter­ests. In­di­geni­sa­tion must be given a boost with a dy­namic road map for R&D, pro­duc­ing state-of-the-art arms, equip­ment and tech­nolo­gies to be de­vel­oped in ac­cor­dance spec­i­fied time lines. Re­lax­ation of FDI in de­fence beyond 49 per cent for state-of-the-art tech­nol­ogy is a wel­come step but con­cur­rently the De­fence Pro­cure­ment Pro­ce­dure (DPP) too needs to be sim­pli­fied to make it un­am­bigu­ously at­trac­tive to in­vestors, both in­dige­nous and for­eign.

In­dia has also largely ne­glected ‘mil­i­tary diplo­macy’ to pro­mote na­tional se­cu­rity in­ter­ests that is dis­tinct from co­er­cive diplo­macy and im­plies peace­ful ap­pli­ca­tion of re­sources from across the spec­trum of de­fence to achieve pos­i­tive out­comes in de­vel­op­ing the coun­try’s bi­lat­eral and mul­ti­lat­eral re­la­tion­ships. Though ap­pli­ca­tion of na­tional power is through do­mains of diplo­macy, in­for­ma­tion op­er­a­tions, mil­i­tary and eco­nomic, mil­i­tary diplo­macy can con­trib­ute in all the four. The se­cu­rity im­per­a­tives for In­dia are mul­ti­ple and dy­namic with a volatile neigh­bour­hood in­clud­ing an ag­gres­sive China and an ir­ra­tional Pak­istan that re­fuses to stop fol­low­ing a state pol­icy of ter­ror­ism. The last decade has been char­ac­terised with ut­ter ne­glect of the de­fence sec­tor and we need to take fo­cused cor­rec­tive ac­tions.

The Union Min­is­ter for De­fence, Manohar Par­rikar, be­ing briefed by Cap­tain Theophilis, Com­mand­ing Of­fi­cer INAS 303, about

MiG-29K fighter air­craft, dur­ing his visit to the Naval Air Sta­tion INS Hansa, at Goa, on Novem­ber 14

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