by Rajat Pandit

NEW DELHI: A draft national security strategy (NSS) and long-pending reforms in the country’s higher defence management and planning will be high on the agenda of the new Defence Planning Committee (DPC), which is slated to meet under the chairmanship of national security adviser Ajit Doval for the first time on Thursday. There have been at least three attempts in the past to formulate drafts of a NSS, which has to basically revolve around preserving India’s territorial integrity and strategic autonomy in face of myriad external and internal threats, but they have all come to naught. 

A draft NSS prepared by the defence ministry’s Integrated Defence Staff, for instance, was forwarded to the then NSA and PMO in January 2007, but never formalised and approved by the Prime Minister-led cabinet committee on security (CCS). “The DPC will, of course, decide on what to prioritise and what are the key challenges in its first meeting. But yes, the draft NSS and organisational reforms will be right up there,” said a source.

Interestingly, the DPC meeting comes at a time when the National Security Advisory Board (NSAB), an expert group of non-officials under the National Security Council (NSC), has prepared a draft NSS on the directions of the PMO. Sources said “this draft NSS could also be reviewed” by the DPC, which includes the three Service chiefs, Admiral Sunil Lanba, General Bipin Rawat and Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa, as well as foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale, defence secretary Sanjay Mitra, and secretary (expenditure) in the finance ministry Ajay Narayan Jha to give it the requisite inter-ministerial mix.

The lack of long-term strategic planning to systematically build military capabilities, with proper inter-Service prioritisation due to budgetary constraints, in tune with the country’s expanding geopolitical objectives, as also the continuing failure to build a robust defence-industrial base also remain big worries.

The DPC, on its part, is also tasked to prepare drafts of a strategic defence review, an international defence engagement strategy, a road map to build a defence manufacturing eco-system, a strategy to boost arms exports and prioritised capability development plans for the armed forces, as was reported by TOI earlier.

“The DPC incorporates the external affairs and finance ministries right at the planning stage itself to ensure military plans do not get derailed due to lack of budgetary support later. It will set up four sub-committees on ‘policy and strategy’, ‘plans and capability development’, ‘defence diplomacy’ and ‘defence manufacturing Eco-system’,” said the source.