The Asian Age - - Oped - Dilip Che­rian

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 exIPS 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.

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