30 July, 2021

The Cart Can’t Pull The Horse

And the Defence Planning Committee can’t really improve defence management

The Cart Can’t Pull The Horse

On May 3, within days of its surprise formation, the newly constituted Defence Planning Committee (DPC)—at best a cut-and-paste job of the Cabinet Committee on Defence, the Integrated Defence Staff and, its predecessor, the Defence Planning Staff—held its first meeting under the country’s counter-terrorism czar, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, who reports to defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman. The DPC has the busiest people in the North and South Blocks—the foreign secretary, the defence secretary, the expenditure secretary, the service chiefs, one of whom is the rotating chairman and ceremonial head of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, just as the President of India is the powerless Supreme Commander of the armed forces. Such a weird Higher Defence Organisation (HDO) can at best tinker with the uncivil military-civil relations and inter-service rivalry that are anathema to the integration of the armed forces and defence management.

The DPC’s first meeting produced a queer mix of ideas and even decisions, notably on defence preparedness...

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