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It's time to fight the status quo

Implement the recommendations of the Naresh Chandra Committee on national security without delay.

india Updated: Jun 15, 2012 00:16 IST
Pran Vasudeva
Pran Vasudeva
Hindustan Times

After the Kargil Review Committee (KRC) submitted its report in 2000, the Centre set up four panels to review India's internal security and intelligence apparatus, border management and defence reforms. Based on the recommendations of these panels, in 2001, a Group of Ministers (GoM) came up with a report consisting of 356 recommendations based on the above issues. Although successive governments have implemented many of their suggestions, the much-needed reforms process has run out of steam completely.

The next big impetus for national security reforms came after the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, when the Union government took some steps to strengthen the country's internal security. It set up the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC). But today, the NIA is hardly visible and the NCTC is facing stiff challenge from the chief ministers of the states ruled by the non-UPA governments.

There is no doubt that the government has spent a large amount of resources on police modernisation, strengthening of intelligence agencies and setting up of new institutions like the National Disaster Management Agency, National Technical Research Organisation, Defence Intelligence Agency and Computer Emergency Response Team. It has also taken some steps to integrate the armed forces with the defence ministry, establish the Nuclear Command Authority and Strategic Force Command and the Andaman and Nicobar tri-service joint command and streamline defence acquisitions.

However, loopholes still exist. The national security institutions that were set up after the Kargil War are not working well because they don't have adequate staff or resources.

As a result, the 14-member task force on national security headed by Naresh Chandra, a career bureaucrat, was set up on July 14, 2011. The committee has tried to contemporarise the Kargil Review Committee's recommendations and has examined why some of its crucial recommendations relating to border management and restructuring of the apex command structure in the armed forces have not been implemented, especially since the Kargil Review Committee had clearly stated in its report: "The political, bureaucratic, military and intelligence establishments appear to have developed a vested interest in the status quo.'' The report of the Naresh Chandra panel was submitted to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last month.

The report recommends the creation of a permanent post of Chairman of Chiefs of Staff (COSC) without affecting the autonomy of the three service chiefs, on the lines of the US military and creation of a separate command for Special Forces to function under the chairman, chief of staff committee. At present, the Indian Army has the control of key elite special forces.

The Kargil Review Committee had also recommended the creation of a new post: Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). This would be a correct choice for India to ensure that serious deficiencies in defence procurement, as pointed out by the former Indian Army chief, General VK Singh, do not arise again. To improve the relations between the defence forces and the ministry of defence, the Naresh Chandra Committee has also suggested the deputation of army, navy and air force officers to the ministry. This recommendation must be taken forward without delay. The most significant issue now is to see if the government is serious in responding to the suggestions made by the Naresh Chandra panel. Hopefully, the recommendations of the panel will not be put in the cold storage like the Kargil Review Committee report.

Pran Vasudeva is a defence analyst. The views expressed by the author are personal.

First Published: Jun 15, 2012 00:15 IST