When, over the weekend, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke of self-reliance in arms, he endorsed what his National Security Adviser Ajit Doval has been advocating for long.
As director of the Delhi-based think tank Vivekananda International Foundation, Doval wrote in February 2012: “There is a powerful lobby in the country supported by a still more powerful and cash rich network of arms manufacturers and their front men who have a vested interest in stemming India’s indigenous defence production programme… Denigrating the capabilities of our scientists, DRDO and DPSUs is a part of this campaign.”
Doval expressed these views in an article, ‘India’s Defence Production and Research — Need for Transformational up-gradation’.
He argued: “The world is moving towards partnership — interdependence and India stands to gain from it if it positions itself in a commanding position by excelling in some high-end technologies and becoming globally competitive, in terms of quality and costs, for selected products…
“For acquiring self reliance — cutting across the barriers of public and private sectors, the Indian Defence Ministry can perhaps take a leaf from the experience of ISRO which outsources components, hardware and sub-systems for its launch vehicles and satellites from the Indian industrial units, both in the private and public sectors.”
As VIF director, Doval expressed strong views on a range of subjects, including SPG cover for Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Vadra.
A VIF expert committee led by Doval prepared a detailed report on the blasts at Modi’s rally in Patna in October 2013, which noted that the SPG had been created in 1985 on the premise that the assassination of a serving prime minister could seriously destabilise India’s constitutional polity. In 1991, following Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, the SPG Act was amended to provide security to former prime ministers and their families for 10 years.
“The spirit of the Act was lost when in 2002 the NDA government further amended the Act to apportion political goodwill extending SPG cover to former Prime Ministers and their families even beyond 10 years. This step in effect, diluted the original spirit of the Act, de-linking it from its original objective of preventing political destabilisation,” the report said.
“Interestingly, while the family members of late Shri Rajiv Gandhi continue to be covered under the SPG Act even 22 years after his death, no such cover was provided to the families of Shri Chandrashekhar, V P Singh, Narasimha Rao, H D Deve Gowda and I K Gujral. There is an urgent need to review the situation to co-relate security cover to the original objective of preventing political destabilisation, and not making it an instrument of political patronisation,” recommended the Doval committee.
On terrorism and the media, Doval wrote in an article, ‘Internal Security — Need for Course Correction’, published in February 2011: “Role of non-state actors like the Media, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), think tanks, etc., have also added to complexity of the situation. Publicity is the oxygen of terrorism and media inadvertently plays in their hands by giving them undue coverage. As perception management is an important aspect of internal security management, ability of these groups to influence the public opinion, without any corresponding responsibility, only confounds the problem.”
On Pakistan and India’s no-first-use nuclear doctrine, Doval wrote: “The 26/11 terrorist action at Mumbai depicted a new order of lethality in Pakistan’s unabated covert offensive against India. For almost three decades, India has passively accepted such provocations. It has failed to retaliate in a proactive manner that could raise costs for Pakistan and compel it to roll back its anti-India terrorist infrastructure… India’s tolerance threshold should not be unrealistically raised in the backdrop of nuclear blackmail as Pakistan has its own vulnerabilities many times higher than India and in its strategic calculus it cannot ignore the threat that India can pose should the conflict grow beyond a point. India also needs to revisit its no first use nuclear doctrine.”
In a paper published in 2007, Doval advocated a merger of the IB and R&AW. “Instead of convergence we inadvertently encouraged divergence by splitting the intelligence bureau into IB and RAW, and allowing mushrooming of intelligence outfits with ill-defined objectives and nebulous accountability.”
In an article, ‘Sohrabuddin Case and Police Encounters: Realities and Myths’, Doval said, “To convey the impression (explicitly or implicitly) that Sohrabuddin was targeted for belonging to a particular community, thereby creating a sense of insecurity in a section of society, is detrimental to national interests. It is little known that a large number of Sohrabuddin’s victims were Muslims while a good number of his closest associates (including Tulsiram Prajapati, who was also killed in a similar encounter), were Hindu.”
The NSA has been an advocate of strong action against Maoists. In a paper on ‘Combating Left Wing Extremism’, he said, “…First of all we should doctrinally accept it as a problem of terrorism and decide to deal with it as such. Proactively invoking Article 355 of the Constitution, legislations should be enacted empowering the centre to suo motu deploy central forces in badly affected areas. The state governments may be informed that provisions of Articles 365/352 could be invoked in the eventuality of breakdown of constitutional machinery if they fail to control the problem.”
Doval did not respond to a text message and email from The Indian Express asking whether his views as VIF director would find reflection in his role as NSA.