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DSA is as much yours, as it is ours! (MAY 2018)

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The Government of India has announced the formation of a new body to oversee the entire gamut of defence and national security for the country. The fresh development is that it includes steps taken earlier by previous attempts at policy analysis and implementation, and it also features an innovation in having the National Security Advisor as the lead player in the new structure. The NSA will now head a new body called Defence Planning Committee that includes the Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee, the Service Chiefs, and the Secretaries of Defence, Foreign Affairs and Expenditure from the Ministry of Finance. An interesting feature of this new body is the simultaneous creation of four sub-committee to focus on policy and strategy, plans and capability development, defence diplomacy and the defence manufacturing ecosystem. This is a fairly holistic approach to matters connected with defence and national security. Especially at a time when senior military officers have been airing their grievances from public platforms about the slow pace of modernisation afflicting their services. This is a departure from the past when military officers were seldom seen and never heard. The crisis must, indeed, be serious.

Hence, the announcement of this new body. But the moot question is whether creating yet another supervisory structure is going to propel the process when the real issue is really of taking decisions. And decisions have been pending for inordinately long periods, thus, resulting in acute shortfalls in vital areas. The air force is, of course, crying hoarse on the depleting numbers of combat squadrons, the irreplaceable weapons of aerial warfare. The army has a laundry list of purchases, from assault rifles to main battle tanks to artillery pieces, the whole hog. And, the navy can’t seem to get another aircraft carrier sanctioned, nor additional conventional and nuclear powered submarines. The nature and quality of military equipment must always be reflective of national priorities, capabilities, and above all, intentions. In the Indian context, none of these are fixed pillars from which to draw a long-term road map of defence planning and implementation. A vision document detailing the mid- and long-term national security scenario is imperative to realising the dreams and aspirations of India’s professional military men. Such a document would pave the way for prioritising technologies, their research and development, and their subsequent induction into the military structures.

 

The crisis of India’s procurement muddle is sometimes also due to shifting goal posts by the armed forces themselves. The on-off debate over single or double engined fighter jets and the yet to be seen medium multi-role combat aircraft are only the most visible examples. The army’s desire to change from 7.62mm to 5.56mm and back again in a matter of two decades is another such story. The navy has been far more consistent with its vision and plans, but it just doesn’t get the resources allotted. The new DPC will look at the whole gamut, but its greatest contribution to India’s defence and national security would be to make the procurement process speedier and onsistent, something many have announced but none achieved.


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