Modi government has decided to create an overarching Defence Planning Committee (DPC) under National Security Advisor Ajit Doval that will drive the country’s military and security strategy, draft capability development plans and guide (and accelerate) defence equipment acquisitions, according to a defence ministry notification seen by Hindustan Times.
The move, which is a significant change in India’s defence strategy architecture, comes as the country faces several potential threats in a highly militarised neighbourhood; is trying to balance budgetary constraints with its need for arms; and is working on increasing its own expertise in manufacturing and exporting defence equipment. Until now, defence planning has been synonymous with hardware acquisition.
The DPC will be a permanent body chaired by the National Security Advisor and comprise the chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, three service chiefs, the defence, expenditure and foreign secretaries, and prepare draft reports on “national security strategy, international defence engagement strategy, roadmap to build (a) defence manufacturing ecosystem, strategy to boost defence exports, and priority capability development plans”, according to the notification. It will submit its reports to defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman. The DPC is expected to meet soon after Doval returns from Germany on April 21.
Analysts point out that because the Prime Minister’s Office, the defence ministry, the finance ministry and the three services are part of the same committee, decisions on military purchases could now happen much faster.
The Chief of Integrated Defence Staff to the Chairman of the Chief of the Staff Committee (CISC) will be the member secretary of the committee, according to the notification, and the HQ of the Integrated Defence Staff will be the secretariat of the DPC.
The notification lists four sub-committees that could be created under the DPC across four broad areas: policy and strategy; plans and capability development; defence diplomacy; and defence manufacturing eco-system.
While India does have a defence planning architecture in place, this is the first time it is creating a body that will factor in everything from foreign policy imperatives to operational directives and long-term defence equipment acquisition and infrastructure development plans to technological developments in other parts of the world while coming up with a plan.
The DPC will prepare military doctrines and, in turn, define Indian military objectives for the future. The doctrines will reflect India’s no-first-use nuclear policy as well as take into account the possibility of a two-front war (on the country’s western and northern fronts). They will justify the Indian Navy’s demand of two aircraft carriers and the role of Indian Air Force in the era of long range stand-off weapons and missile theatre defence.
Senior defence ministry officials said that defence minister’s operational directives will flow out of new military doctrines to ensure that India’s strategic interests are not threatened by any of its neighbours, or a proxy. The operational directives are classified instructions issued to any military arm to protect national interest.
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