NSA to head new Defence panel

The committee will draft reports on national security strategy, says notification

The new permanent higher defence management committee headed by the National Security Adviser can help improve India’s defence planning in the long term, but may end up having no noticeable impact if the present government does not return to power in 2019, several military sources and observers say.

While some of them hailed the move to place the committee under the NSA, Ajit Doval, others said it gave the NSA an unprecedented role in the process of planning India’s security strategy.

Plan of action

A government notification on Wednesday said the Defence Planning Committee (DPC) would prepare a draft national security strategy, develop a capability development plan and work on defence diplomacy issues and improving defence manufacturing in India. The DPC will submit its reports to the Defence Minister.

The DPC will have the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, three service chiefs, secretaries of the Ministries of Defence, Expenditure and Foreign Affairs as its members. The Chief of the Integrated Staff in the MOD will be the member secretary, and his headquarters will be the secretariat.

The notification listed four sub-committees of the DPC. One will look at policy and strategy; the second will work on plans and capability development; the third on defence diplomacy; and the fourth on defence manufacturing ecosystem. Members of these sub-committees will be decided by the DPC, which is expected to hold its first meeting soon after Mr. Doval returns from Germany on April 21, officials said.

Mixed reaction

Most observers said the DPC would be able to make no visible impact during the tenure of this government.

“The government will be lameduck in a few months’ time. It will make no impact during this government’s tenure. If the next government is a different one, they will dump this committee,” a serving senior military officer said.

Another officer said this the first time the NSA would be having such a direct role in planning India’s security strategy.

“I am not saying it is right or wrong. But no NSA has had chairmanship of such a committee, with such luminaries,” he said.

Vice-Admiral S.C.S. Bangara (Retd.), who had a ring side view of the only effort to bring military integration after Kargil conflict, said there were many good aspects to the present move.

The Vajpayee government called off in the last moment a plan to appoint India’s first Chief of the Integrated Staff, who would have overseen theatre commands and integrated strategies for all three service arms.

“Long ago we used to have a Defence Planning Committee but it had no clear mandate. We have had the National Security Advisory Board making reports. But none of it worked. We do not still have a national security strategy that is handed down by the government, and our acquisitions are not informed by such a laid out strategy,” he said.

The government will be lame duck in a few months’ time. The panel will make no impact in its tenure

Senior military officer

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