Just weeks before the end of the government’s term, the Cabinet Committee on Security has cleared 300-odd recommendations of the Naresh Chandra Committee but decided against creating the post of a four-star general for the moment, one of the key suggestions of the 14-member task force.
The CCS, which met this week, is learnt to have dropped all major proposals related to higher defence management. These include creating the post of a four-star general who would head a permanent chiefs of staff committee, cross-staffing military personnel in the defence ministry and other important departments, a major revamp of the procurement structure and related issues.
Sources said the defence ministry maintained that the creation of the post of a four-star general could not be done when the earlier proposal of a chief of defence staff was still under political consultation. Defence Minister A K Antony had even written to political parties on this but there was no change in the status quo.
With this matter still in the political realm, the CCS took the line that it could not take a decision that might appear circumventing the political process. On the other hand, many in the security establishment were of the view that this administrative rearrangement was different from the CDS process and should be delinked.
The four-star general was conceptualised as a first among equals who will head the committee of the three service chiefs and be in a position to foster better tri-services coordination while dealing with the government.
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The CCS also dropped a whole bunch of issues that came in the basket of higher defence management, which included posting military personnel in civilian positions within the defence ministry and outside in a bid to involve the services in decision-making processes. The idea was to start with director-level positions so that middle-ranking officers get the exposure to work with the bureaucracy. The 309 recommendations that have been accepted largely relate to policy priorities. One such key area is preparing to meet the challenges of an aggressive China. So it has been agreed to upgrade India’s strategic deterrence against China, which would include enhancing naval capabilities in the Indian ocean.
However, the committee has made it clear that this upgrade cannot happen at the cost of diluting capabilities against Pakistan. This paradigm has also been accepted. On internal security, one of the key provisions that has been accepted is providing proper air support to anti-naxal operations and more joint training between the Army and paramilitary forces deployed on the border.
The other key area is intelligence, where it has been agreed that India’s external intelligence agency, Research and Analysis Wing, will work under the guidance of the National Intelligence Board which has members from other agencies. This, sources said, clears the ambiguity that is often spoken about because of the agency coming under the Cabinet Secretariat.
Besides, it was decided that the Navy will be fully responsible for the security of the Indian coast and it has to coordinate with others agencies for this. This ambiguity had surfaced following the 26/11 attacks, where the Navy blamed the Coast Guard which reported directly to the defence secretary even though it is led by a senior Naval officer. At that point, an inquiry was conducted on how the terrorists entered Indian waters when an intelligence alert on this had been sent out. It was also decided that the air intelligence wings will not collect human intelligence in a bid to refocus priorities of these agencies.