New Delhi, Oct 11: There was a big development in New Delhi, this week with the Narendra Modi government deciding to revive the Strategic Policy Group (SPG). The SPG apart from being the main mechanism for inter-ministerial coordination, will also form the national security policies based on the integration of inputs.
However the big change is that the National Security Advisor, Ajit Doval would head the group instead of the Cabinet Secretary.
This group to be headed by Doval would also include the Niti Aayog Vice Chairman, the cabinet secretary, RBI Governor, three military chiefs, Home Secretary, finance and defence secretary.
The Strategic Policy Group would also have the secretary of Defence Production and Supplies, scientific advisor to the Defence Minister, and secretary cabinet secretariat. Officials from the departments of revenue, space, Intelligence Bureau and energy too would be part of the group.
Doval on his part would advise the PM on internal and external threats apart from overseeing strategic and sensitive issues.
For starters, the SPG is not a new creation. It was set up in 1999 under the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. The SPG was considered to be the first level of the National Security Council structure. The SPG was mandated to publish the Strategic Defence Review, a draft of short and long term security threats and also defence matters for consideration of the NSC.
The question that is being asked is why the government decided to put the NSA in charge. A Cabinet Secretary is a government servant with more institutional sanctity, while the NSA is a political appointee.
Sources, tell OneIndia that the decision was taken to ensure that there was better coordination. In the past it has often been seen that the SPG hardly met and whenever meetings took place, the discussions were limited in nature.
The official also added that the NSA enjoys a rank that is equivalent to a Minister of State.
This would help overcome protocol issues to chair meetings of the chiefs and also the secretaries, the officer also added. Further this move would also ensure concentration of power in the Prime Minister's office. The NSA advises the PM on matters relating to internal and external threats apart from overseeing strategic and sensitive issues, the official also added.
Under the UPA government the SPG hardly met. The deliberations too were related to particular issues such as left wing terrorism, fake currency and terrorism. The problem that the group faced was coordination. It was difficult to get the chiefs and secretaries together and hence coordination had become an issue. By putting Doval in charge, the government expects to tide over this hurdle.
Three tier security system:
In the recent days we have seen a lot of changes being made in the office of the National Security Advisor. In the past there was just one NSA, but today there are three deputies. Former chief of the Research and Analysis Wing, Rajinder Khanna looks after external and technical intelligence matters, while former Ambassador to Russia looks after diplomatic affairs.
Last week, R N Ravi, the former officer from the Intelligence Bureau and interlocutor for the Naga talks was re-designated as the deputy national security advisor. He will oversee internal security matters.
The deputy NSAs will help widen the responsibility of the National Security Council Secretariat, which works under Doval. In addition to this a China specific think tank run by the Ministry for External Affairs was formed. Known as the Genre for Contemporary China Studies (CCCS), its job would be to study China with an Indian view point. The CCCS is headed by the Minister for External Affairs and the NSA is the deputy chairman.
The creation of a Defence Planning Committee under the National Security Advisor was also another major development. The DPC was formed to facilitate a comprehensive and integrated planning for defence related matters.
The charter of the DPC is two fold: One is to analyse and evaluate all relevant inputs relating to defence planning. Two is to prepare at least five different sets of drafts including, "national security strategy, strategic defence review and doctrines; international defence engagement strategy; roadmap to build defence manufacturing eco-system; strategy to boost defence exports; and prioritised capability development plans for the armed forces over different time-frames in consonance with the overall priorities, strategies and likely resource flows."
One man many responsibilities:
With these developments, it is clear that the Modi government is making a major push aimed at revamping India's national security. Ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Modi had given a lot of emphasis to national security.
One of the key decisions he had taken after coming to power was appointing Doval as the NSA. A long standing convention of appointing someone outside the foreign services was broken and Doval who was part of the intelligence bureau was made the NSA.
With so many responsibilities, the question being asked is whether Doval has his hands full. Officers who have worked with Doval say that he is capable of handling so many responsibilities. Yes, he has a big responsibility on hand, but the Prime Minister trusts him to deliver and lay the road map ahead.