Despite complex external and internal security threats, unresolved territorial disputes, the rising tide of left wing extremism (LWE) and urban terrorism, India’s national security continues to be sub-optimally managed.
In 1999, the Kargil Review Committee headed by the late Mr. K Subrahmanyam had made far reaching recommendations on the development of India’s nuclear deterrence, higher defence organisations, intelligence reforms, border management, the defence budget, the use of air power, counter-insurgency operations, integrated manpower policy, defence research and development, and media relations. The Cabinet Committee on Security appointed a Group of Ministers (GoM) to study the Kargil Review Committee report and recommend measures for implementation. The GoM was headed by Home Minister L K Advani and, in turn, set up four task forces on intelligence reforms, internal security, border management and defence management to undertake in-depth analysis of various facets of the management of national security.
The GoM recommended sweeping reforms to the existing national security management system. On May 11, 2001, the CCS accepted all its recommendations, including one for the establishment of the post of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) – which has still not been implemented. A tri-Service Andaman and Nicobar Command and a Strategic Forces Command were established. Other salient measures included the establishment of HQ Integrated Defence Staff (IDS); the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA); the establishment of a Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) headed by the Defence Minister with two wings: the Defence Procurement Board and the Defence Technology Board; and, the setting up of the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO). The CCS also issued a directive that India’s borders with different countries be managed by a single agency – “one border, one force” – and nominated the CRPF as India’s primary force for counter-insurgency operations.
Ten years later, many lacunae still remain in the management of national security. In order to review the progress of implementation of the proposals approved by the CCS in 2001, the government has now appointed a Task Force on National Security and given it six months to submit its report. The task force must review the performance of the National Security Council (NSC), which is responsible for long-term threat assessment and the formulation of comprehensive perspective plans designed to upgrade the capabilities of the security forces to meet future threats and challenges. The task force must also consider whether the NSA should continue to remain only an advisor or he should be given limited executive functions, particularly for counter-terrorism operations, including covert cross-border operations, and intelligence coordination and assessment. Cyber security and offensive cyberwar operations also require apex level policy guidance and oversight.
The integration of the armed forces HQ with the MoD continues to remain cosmetic and needs to be revisited. An issue that needs no further debate is the appointment of a Chief of Defence Staff as the principal military advisor to the government. It is an idea whose time has come. However, the appointment of a CDS should be followed by the establishment of tri-Service integrated theatre commands for greater synergy in the planning and execution of military operations and aid to civil authority. Another key requirement is for the immediate raising of an integrated cyber, aerospace and Special Forces command.
The task force must also consider whether it is necessary to appoint a constitutionally mandated National Security Commission to oversee the day-to-day management of national security in this era of strategic uncertainty and threats and challenges that are continuously evolving and morphing into new forms.