In a significant decision that could have major implications for India’s over all approach to national security, the Government of India, through a notification (October 8, 2018), announced reconstitution of the Strategic Policy Group (SPG) of the National Security Council (NSC) by bringing it directly under the charge of the National Security Advisor (NSA). Earlier, the Cabinet Secretary used to coordinate the activities of the SPG.

Structure of SPG –

The newly constructed SPG will have high functionaries of the government  – Vice Chairman, NITI Aayog, Cabinet Secretary, Chief of the Army Staff, Chief of the Naval Staff, Chief of the Air Staff, Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, Foreign, Home, Finance, Defence Secretaries and various other Secretaries of the GoI.

Brief History of SPG –

  • The SPG was originally created as part of the NSC to advise the Government on all matters of national security and strategic importance.
  • The SPG was designed to be the key agency to undertake periodical strategic defence reviews and come up with policy options for the NSC to deliberate and decide upon.
  • In this context, SPG was seen as the first ever formal mechanism established by Government of India for inter-ministerial coordination and integration of relevant inputs significant for the formulation of national security policies.
  • In this task, it was to be assisted by the NSC Secretariat (NSCS) and the National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) as its dedicated think-tank.
  • The NSAB brought together, under a formal structure, a group of eminent national security experts comprising senior retired officials, civilian as well as military, academics and distinguished members of civil society having vast expertise and experience in areas Internal and External Security, Foreign Affairs, Defence, Science & Technology and Economic Affairs.

Why the changes?

  • In the last two decades, the dynamics of India’s internal and external security scenarios have undergone a variety of changes through the interplay of competing and conflicting regional and global powers.
  • Through the emergence of widespread use of technology, states are losing their borders, external forces are managing to tap the domestic adult lines and have the character of an internal security problem.
  • Internally also, the security situation in different parts of the country have become more complex, ideologically intense and extremely violent. Terrorism and Left-Wing Extremism (LWE) continue to pose the gravest challenge and threat to national security.
  • The objective had to be to create a well-integrated, robust entity capable of providing vital, well researched inputs on the growing list of critical challenges faced by the nation from within the country and outside.

Implications of the change –

  • The NSCS will have well-defined verticals headed by at least four Deputy NSAs including Chairman, JIC, and also be assisted by a senior level Military Advisor.
  • The Defence Planning Committee (established in April 2018) and the recent approval for establishment of Defence Cyber, Space and Special Operations Agencies, could well be a part of  a larger reform initiative to bring in greater synergy and dynamism in the national security architecture.
  • The recent changes in the response system of intelligence apparatus of India, especially since Pathankot Attack, 2016 has necessitated a pro-active coordination mechanism to conduct well coordinated operations by the combined detachments of the security forces against the hardcore militants.
  • The strengthened nature of the national security architecture under the current PMO necessitated leadership of NSA to ensure smooth coordination and implementation of the key decisions taken by the SPG.

Way ahead –

Three areas of reform need to be carried out –

  1. The creation of a coordinating centre for effective operationalisation of terror related intelligence inputs that was sought to be earlier addressed by setting up a National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC) which could not muster across the board support from the States.
  2. The other issue requiring major reforms is the manpower policy of the Government for intelligence and security agencies. It has been repeatedly recognised that these services should not be treated as ‘normal’ bureaucracies.
  3. There is also an urgent need for India to evolve a bipartisan policy on security-governance by developing a Comprehensive National Security Strategy.

SourceVIF India

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