Indian Army Updates

[op-ed snap] A blueprint for a national security strategy


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : There is a need for national security architecture.


There have been several attempts at formulating a national security strategy for India. According to some accounts, the National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) had formulated draft national security strategy documents on four different occasions and presented them to successive governments, but the political class wouldn’t bite. There has been a lingering worry in the minds of the politicians about a potential commitment trap if a national security strategy were to be put on paper.

Key issues with present security architecture

1. National Security Council

  • The National Security Council (NSC) set up in 1998 almost never meets, primarily because it is an advisory body, with the Cabinet Committee on Security being the executive body.
  • If the NSC is to be made more useful, the government’s allocation of business rules should be amended to give more powers to the NSC and its subordinate organisations, such as the Strategic Policy Group.

2. National Security Adviser’s role –

  • Second, the job of the National Security Adviser needs to be reimagined. Even though the NSA plays a vital role in national security, he has no legal powers as per the government’s allocation of business rules.
  • The K.C. Pant Task Force in the late 1990s had recommended the creation of an NSA with the rank of a Cabinet Minister.
  • Over the years, the NSA’s powers have increased, even though he is not accountable to Parliament.
  • The institution of the NSA today requires more accountability and legal formality.

3. Structural Reforms –

More national security organisations are not the answer; fundamental structural reforms in national security planning are needed.

Case Study of Defence Planning Committee (DPC) –

  • Take the case of the recently constituted Defence Planning Committee (DPC) tasked to recommend policy measures to improve India’s defence capability and preparedness, and national security in general.
  • Not only does the DPC have too many responsibilities on its plate, it is also an advisory body.
  • More worryingly, there is a feeling among the armed forces that by having the NSA chair the DPC, the government may have scuttled the demands to appoint a Chief of the Defence Staff, an issue the Hooda document highlights.

The Hooda document

Vision of document

  • The guiding philosophy of the document is enshrined in the following sentence: “This strategy recognises the centrality of our people. We cannot achieve true security if large sections of our population are faced with discrimination, inequality, lack of opportunities, and buffeted by the risks of climate change, technology disruption, and water and energy scarcity.”
  • At a time when national security is referred to in strictly military terms, it is heartening to see that a strategy document defines security in an out-of-the box and inclusive manner.
  • A glance at the key themes shows how well-designed the document is: “assuming our rightful place in global affairs”, “achieving a secure neighbourhood”, “peaceful resolution of internal conflicts”, “protecting our people” and “strengthening our capabilities”.

 1. Military jointmanship –

On the issue of military jointmanship, it recommends that “the three services should undertake a comprehensive review of their current and future force structures to transform the army, navy and air force into an integrated warfighting force.

2. Cyber Command –

While discussing emerging national security threats, the document differs with the BJP-led government’s decision to set up a Defence Cyber Agency instead of a Cyber Command as was originally recommended.

3. On Kashmir – 

There is a need to initiate structured programmes that bring together civil society members, family groups, educationists, religious teachers and even surrendered terrorists in an effort to roll back radicalisation.”


Let’s hope that this document is the beginning of a tradition in India of thinking about national security and strategy more systematically, consistently and comprehensively.

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