by Nitin A Gokhale

In reprioritising defence planning across the three services, the recently-formed Defence Planning Council (DPC) has set three major tasks for itself in the short and medium term. They are: One, formulate a National Security Strategy (NSS), two build military infrastructure along India’s land and maritime borders and three create indigenous capability to manufacture ammunition.

The DPC created after a six-month-long consultative process within the MoD, the three service headquarters and the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS), has in its first meeting last week decided to finalise a draft of the NSS that can be put out in public domain to invite suggestions and comments as soon as possible before it can be promulgated after the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) clears it.

The second important decision was to focus on infrastructure development along the northern land borders with China. Strategic roads, logistics bases, advance landing grounds for Air Force and tunnels for all-weather connectivity have been identified as one of the topmost priorities. A time-bound roadmap is being evolved and stricter monitoring of the ongoing projects has been ordered to avoid delays.

Significantly, the DPC has decided to augment resources under the Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC) and also create new assets in the group of islands that are closer to Indonesia than to rest of India.

So for instance, a feasibility study to have an air base on the Great Nicobar Island in addition to the one existing at Car Nicobar, will be undertaken. Basing India’s fighter jets in ANC—sometimes rightly described as an unsinkable aircraft carrier—will be a more effective power projection than an aircraft carrier. And way more inexpensive than building a third aircraft carrier. A deepwater port at Kamorta is also being planned to enhance Indian maritime capability on the Eastern Seaboard. On the Western coast, a bigger naval facility on the Minicoy island is being planned to beef up India’s naval presence.

Finally, while a good beginning has been made in allowing private sector players to manufacture ammunition in India (so far it was the monopoly of the Ordnance Factory Board), a plan is being drawn up to create additional capacity to make India self-sufficient in critical ammunition so that in a crunch situation the armed forces do not have to depend upon foreign suppliers. Eight tenders have recently been opened for manufacture of different types of ammunition in the private sector.

The DPC, rooted in an idea that was part of the Raksha Mantri’s (Defence Minister’s) operational directive in the past decade, is looking at several other aspects including speeding up manufacturing of the Light Combat Aircraft Tejas and its final induction in the IAF after final operational clearance is granted.