With the announcement of general elections just a few weeks away, the UPA government is racing against time to push through a significant initiative on the issue of national security — the recommendations of the Naresh Chandra task force.
Top sources said that with the comments of various stakeholder ministries/ agencies now being collated by the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS), the government is ready to place the recommendations before the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS).
“We are confident we will get a date to put the task force recommendations on the CCS agenda. The government does not want to let such a major agenda item slip through,’’ a senior official in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) told The Indian Express.
Officials said the task of processing the 400-odd recommendations put forward by the 14-member task force in May 2012, and seeking comments from about 35 stakeholders was a complex one. In all, about 3,000 comments from the concerned ministries/ agencies on specific proposals were received. A few, though minor, comments are still awaited by the NSCS.
While the earlier thinking was that portions of the task force report would be made public, it is now expected that this will happen if and when the CCS endorses the recommendations.
However, sources admit that during the lengthy consultation process, no consensus has emerged on what is seen as one of the most significant recommendations — creation of the post of Chairman of Chiefs of Staff Committee. With the service chiefs expressing different opinions on the issue, Defence Minister A K Antony will have to iron out the differences if the proposal has to be pushed through.
The report is said to contain a slew of other proposals aimed at strengthening civilian-military ties, including having a higher representation of uniformed personnel posted on deputation in the Ministry of Defence. A rejig of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and better coordination between military and civilian intelligence units is another issue that has been examined by the task force.
The other proposals put forward by the task force are: a revised mandate for some of the intelligence agencies, setting up an oversight mechanism in some agencies, and improvement of linguistic and technical skills in the external security network.
Officials in the PMO said even as the proposals were under examination, the UPA government introduced reforms on issues like cyber security and police modernisation. So, several key proposals of the task force have already been “implemented’’.