DPC turning out, as expected, to be yet another bureaucratic pimple

Image result for pics of NSA ajit doval with indian military services chiefs

[PM and Doval]

The worst fears about the Defence Planning Committee (DPC) being yet another bureaucratic contrivance rather than an instrument for centralizing national security and defence decision-making were realized once the outcome of its first meeting became known.

One report talked about the DPC chaired by NSA Ajit Doval with the three armed services chiefs  — Admiral Satish Lanba, General Bipin Rawat, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa, defence secretary Sanjay Mitra, expenditure secretary  Ajay Jha, foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale, and Lt Gen Satish Dua heading the Integrated Services HQrs as member-secretary writing up the minutes, surveying the “geostrategic landscape” and deciding to come up with an äction plan. Another reported that the stress was on the military services alighting on a coordinated plan to avoid developing duplication and triplication of capabilities that would be mindful of the financial constraints and keep in view rapidly advancing technologies and the likely nature of the wars of the future. In this context, the navy was asked not to push for the third indigenous aircraft carrier (that NHQ had hoped would have on board the prohibitively costly electromagnetic aircraft launch system (EMALS) that the US Navy is finding to be unaffordable.  All present also apparently agreed that the flab needs to be excised. That’s all that has come out in the public realm.

This is all very good, particularly the non-sanctioning of the EMALS carrier that this analyst has long suggested is a criminal waste of money and operationally will reduce the Indian navy’s footprint in the Indian Ocean, because the bulk of the not so very large naval forces will have to be deployed to protect its prized aircraft carriers — which however many ships are tasked as escorts will be unable to do given that the near future heralds the dawn of hypersonic glide weapons speeding to targets at Mach 7+ , superceding supersonic Brahmos-type missiles that had already rendered aircraft carriers obsolete as I have argued in my writings, and extensively in my last book, ‘Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)’.

But these are operational aspects of force planning that the DPC, perhaps, will deliberate on, hopefully with an open mind, in the months to come. The basic problem, however, is with the forces that the services HQrs have planned. I have long contended that the Indian armed services, considering their organization and history, are not transformation-minded and, therefore, not transformation-enabled. What they have in mind when talking future war capability is beefing up the force structure in place with modern versions of weapons already in the arsenal. So it is one-for one replacement, which is all that they are catering for as their force planning predicate. This defeats the entire notion of a transformed military based on genuine integration in line function and in terms of support logistics, full-spectrum command, control and communications, and procurement.

Moreover, with robotic, functionally autonomous, weapons now being experimented with in terms of man-machine interface by advanced militaries, and with cyber capabilities integral to the offensive and defensive plans  and generally warfighting, what the DPC should ideally do is design a future force guided by these defining metrics. This will necessitate configuring a singular future force with air, land, and naval elements that are slimmed down, and which will require the military’s “tail” to actually be lot bigger in size than “teeth”. This goes against the grain of the flawed understanding of trending military technology in govt and military circles, which is reflected in the illiterate Indian print and electronic media, and in DPC wanting “lean and mean” military forces. (Talk of banalities!)

Such force redesign is impossible without a military organization with a single head of the armed forces and one-point adviser to govt — Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). CDS is what the Modi government promised before it was elected in 2014. Four years later the country gets the NSA as CDS (as the previous post in this blog argued) and in Doval, a policeman fixated on Pakistan and smaller and weaker neighbouring states, not a strategist with the mental wherewithal for strategic thinking. All you have to do is listen to the speeches he has delivered to-date (and to be found on youtube.com) to know that not a single original idea has ever been uttered by him on national security issues in the flood of banal statements that he has mouthed over the years. Hard to imagine then that overnight he will become a tremendous intellectual defence resource for the country, and hence even less likely he will be able credibly to give imaginative guidance to the services chiefs and MEA, or instruct the defence and expenditure secretaries to fork out the monies (which task — allocation of funds for military planning being beyond his brief as NSA-cum-DPC head).

What he will end up doing is leave it to the military chiefs to draw up plans. Whence, he can be certain there will be no re-orientation of the armed forces from Pakistan to China, and no restructuring of forces to follow in train, involving the rationalizing of the armoured-mech heavy land forces into a single composite armoured-mech corps with materiel and monies thus freed up diverted to raising and forward deployment of three offensive mountain corps for rapid debouching on to the Tibetan plateau for war. This would mean paying only lip service to the “Wuhan consensus” that Modi and Xi agreed on and which the foreign secretary Gokhale is threatening to implement when the trouble is there was no consensus.

Jay Ranade, the Mandarin-speaking former RAW man on China ops, for instance, points out that two very different communiques were issued at the end of the Wuhan Meet. The Indian version mentions “guidelines” issued by the principals to their respective militaries to ensure there’s no Dokla La redux, but the Chinese version, typically, has no such mention. Consequently, while India will put out — as per China friendly MEA’s faulty appreciation of what transpired at Wuhan, Beijing will sit pretty and do nothing other than maintain its agro on the LAC and await the Modi govt, prompted by Gokhale and his ilk to, as usual, do its trademark tail-between-the legs routine!

Meanwhile the defence secretary will again get to play god, and play off the three armed services against each other — because the DPC does not in any way sideline the defence secretary’s role. And the expenditure secretary will report to Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley, about the proceedings, allowing him to sit back  and do the normal thing when resources are scarce — fund programmes in drips and drabs to guarantee that India’s military has only limited capabilities for use against, weaker, smaller adjoining states, if that, leaving national security no better off after the DPC than it was before its founding. This is the reason why I had warned that the DPC will amount to nothing more than yet another bureaucratic layer gumming up the works, another bureaucratic pimple on the already pock-marked face of the Indian state.


About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
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23 Responses to DPC turning out, as expected, to be yet another bureaucratic pimple

  1. Rupam says:

    Bharat ji what do you mean by ‘Tail’ to be bigger than ‘Teeth’? Would be great if you could elaborate on that.
    Thank you

  2. With Artificial Intelligence-driven autonomous robotic warfare systems 21st Century military forces will need more rear area remote controllers and servicing/upkeep personnel than actual men in the field who will fight alongside machines until a time comes when humans will become expendable altogether, and it will be HG Wells’ world with warring machines! The time-table will be a bit attenuated with subcontinental militaries but that’s where we are headed and the Indian armed services haven’t even begun to contemplate this future coming up fast at them.

  3. Indian says:

    With due respect to you, please do not treat other people as illiterates and as if you are the only intellectual in entire India.

    “Hard to imagine then that overnight he will become a tremendous intellectual defence resource for the country,”

    when you say the above lines, i request you to do your home work properly on education qualification of Doval sir.

    For your kind information, he is a graduate from National Defence College, which you can find it here in the description of the author – http://www.vifindia.org/occasionalpaper/2013/july/03/chinese-intelligence-from-a-party-outfit-to-cyber-warriors

    Second to become an expert on national security, one need not have an college degree.You (being a professor) comment on almost every defense related issues along with criticizing generals and air force officials (who know the ground reality very well and serve on ground and use those weapons – who know things better)

    Third: Just go through http://www.vifindia.org annual reports as to how extensively he has engaged with diplomats and other officials regarding variety of subjects and how extensively he has researched for nearly 5 years (2009 to 2014 – director of VIF). (when you say – “hence even less likely he will be able credibly to give imaginative guidance to the services chiefs and MEA”)

    Here are some references for you:

    Click to access 216083233-VIF-Annual-Report-2013.pdf

    Click to access 131562549-Annual-Report-2012.pdf

    Click to access 106350187-VIF-Annual-Report-2011.pdf

    to tag a few links.

    • Graduating from National Defence College does not endow a person with any credentials of strategic thinker and conceptualizer, no more than interacting over the years with diplomats, senior military personnel as head of VFI. If it did then a large portion of Brigadier-rank officers and equivalent from the other military services and civil services who have passed out of NDC, or uniformed officers who have headed military training institutions over the years would all have produced stellar policy ideas. There is no evidence of any of this. Doval is different in that he has left a video trail that is readily accessible, on which basis people can make up their own minds about his capacity to be a genuine NSA — meaning able to generate an array of viable policy options for the PM to choose from. But that’s not how Doval sees his job is what the post tried to point out.

      [Incidentally, I was a regular lecturer at NDC until some years back when an IAF person was heading it and he couldn’t take the valid criticism about his service that I made in my talk, and he blackballed me. This is fine with me. But, assuming you know people who have been to NDC and/or know military officers who have heard me speak at NDC or other military training institutions, you may care to ask them what they thought of what I said. General-rank officers now who have heard me speak tell me now how much they appreciated my harsh critiques of the military and of the country’s foreign and military policies.]

      • &^%$#@! says:

        It;s OK. The great Ramanujan did not have a degree prior to his climb to immortality. But that was a very rare exception. BTW is the divinely gifted “Charlie” Browne the IAF officer referred to?

      • Have mentioned this in earlier posts, but ACM NAK Browne went one better (and this was subsequent to my blacklisting from NDC by the then IAF service commandant)! As chairman, chiefs of staff committee, he wrote a DO letter to all the heads .of military training institutions to ban me from their institutions. Dutifully, the commandants of these organizations, honourable exceptions apart (such as the College of Defence Management), fell in line. The apparent provocation was my comment made, albeit half in jest, after Browne had finished his talk to the Higher Command Course at the College of Naval Warfare, Goa, and formally sought my “permission” to sit in on my talk on India’s nuclear policy and strategy, “Sure, you will learn something!” I said. It was a jibe that led to his DO letter. Ah, the punitive-minded IAF brass.

      • &^%$#@! says:

        To suggest that MMRCA’s can be built in Base Repair Depots goes way beyond genius. It is sherr lunacy and ignorance.

      • &^%$#@! says:

        Sorry, it is sheer and not sherr

  4. AKHIL says:

    Doval may not be the quintessential strategist that India so rightly deserves, but he clearly seems to have the will to do good for this country, which is a rare and valuable trait which a couple of his suave and eloquent predecessors lacked, to say the least.

    Given Delhi’s lousy eye for talent, the man is a prized catch. At least Modi can be sure that his right hand would say no to Dollars coming his way.

    I think it s a mistake to judge someone’s cerebral capacity solely on their academic credentials or the lack of it.
    But judging someone by their you-tube talks isn’t a bad idea though.

    There is no dearth for people with impressive resumes(if Delhi choose to look beyond babus), but can Delhi trust them? i think is the real tricky question.

    What is your take on an ex-military man appointed as NSA?


  5. Akhil@ – Apropos “At least Modi can be sure that his right hand would say no to Dollars coming his way”, consider that Doval’s son Shourya — a supposedly influential person in this dispensation — heads a company called Zeus Caps involved in investing Gulf monies all over the world.

  6. Akhil says:

    Doval Jr. is a Charted Accountant and an MBA from LBU & Booth School of Business, so i evidently he has the required mental faculties and is qualified to run “a fund” for some Saudi Oil Billionaires, i think in all fairness he deserves the benefit of doubt( As far as i know his company didn’t materialize out of thin air after Modi took over).

    Now, i am not saying his India Foundation is not lobbying at all, I know it takes money and influence to establish a bahari/outsider(Modi) as the resident of 7RCR.

    And let us not forget who broke the story ” The Wire”, i hope i need not remind you that Mr.Siddharth Varadarajan of The Wire has an axe to grind.
    Mr. Varadarajan and his gang of Urban Naxals are desperate to have something on Doval, so that they could negotiate with the Dovals to get his wifey’s(Nandini Sundar) name cleared.

  7. Observer says:

    True i agree.

    In fact modi govt. has been liberal with him: (action should have been taken against him for violating VISA norms)

    in fact if my sources were to be believed, varadarajan allegedly got 3 cr from nandan nilikeli due to pressure from Antonia Maino (alias Sonia Gandhi) to start wire portal. (INFO NEED TO BE CONFIRMED)

    Even doval has details of varadarajan, but he is focussed on his work as NSA. After 2019, you will see how modi will handle varadarajan ruthlessly.

    Thirdly, as far as shourya is considered, there is actually no conflict of interest. if you want to know read from Swarajya.com ( https://swarajyamag.com/ideas/in-search-of-an-allegation)
    There is no crime in investing gulf money nor amounts to any conflict of interest. world over business men have influence over politicians. So it is a common issue world over. Gulf money is invested in Ola cabs, CIti bank etc. and people from these companies are also close to govt. and some of them are close to other countries govts also.
    so no issue of that.

    Next, its sad that even Prof. Karnad has also shown only one side of the facts (SOME TIMES) in his previous post, that doval is not powerful and some thing and so on like that. But to the contrary, one of my friend’s cousin works in the PMO. He said that “doval is perhaps the most powerful person after modi. in fact he said that doval does not showcases that he is powerful but with some events happening, it is clear that there is doval’s influence in modi’s decision. !”
    see some of the decisions: (to list a few)
    1) VERY IMPORTANTLY : Army chief Bipin Rawat, (2 officers were superceded)
    2) delhi governor – a member from VIF
    3) Principal secretary Nipendra Mishra – a member from VIF (as against argument by Prof. Karnad that Doval is less close to PM than P K Mishra who is an addl principal secreatary (not principal secretary!)- again he (both PK Mishra and nipendra mishra) is also a members from doval’s VIF)

    (infact modi and doval relations point back to 2006 and 2007 – read Nitin Gokhle’s book “Securing India”)

    4) Economic advisor to PM – bibek debroy (former dean of VIF – Economic affairs studies)
    5) RAW and IB chief, etc even home secretary. almost all major bureacrats are close to him.
    and there are many more.

    infact he is more important to modi for many reasons.one of which is to deal with the political class.
    modi did not even spare arun jaitley and some of his ministers-
    some excerpts from firestpost.com:

    “Modi has not spared even his closest confidante Arun Jaitley, who holds three portfolios including finance and defence. Just a few days ago, Modi placed another Gujarat cadre officer Hasmukh Adhia in the finance ministry.”

    “Two security guards have been posted right outside the office of oil and petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan. They keep a strict tab on who is meeting the minister. Pradhan’s ministry is cash-rich and thus scam-prone, because just one signature of the minister can result in the outflow of government money worth hundreds or even thousands of crores of rupees.”

    “His biggest weapon in this invisible war within is his most trusted lieutenant Ajit Doval, the National Security Advisor.”

    “….So much so that some ministers are engaging professionals privately to ‘clean’ their cars of possible bugging devices before they get inside!”

    doval is more important to modi for many reasons.one of which is to deal with the political class. and there are many cases like ishrat jahan and others, where the opposition has to be handled very shrewdly.

    that’s the reason he agreed to doval for not splitting NSA post into 2.

    Lastly, As far as prof. karnad’s point that doval has not given a single original idea is considered, it is actually not an issue. as far as the advices to PM is logical and feasible, its ok and fine. Not just him, there are many analysts who have same and similar views and ideas.

    just because new ideas have to be given, people may end up giving crazy and dangerous ideas.

    Just look at this YOUTUBE video from prof. karnad’s own website (no offense intended but look at it – a solution to maldives where he says – take 2 frigates and end yemeen’s rule)

    2 other panalists including the host disagrees and here also the other two panalists have same view. but that does not mean that one has copied from other and the other is not proper strategist.

    and what prof. karnad justifies later to fmr oreign secretary Salman is also for short term solution (Regarding admiral sinha – action he to to island leasing and so on). maldives has infact leased an island to china!


    No offense intended but an argument.


    • Observer@ — Perhaps, inadvertently, you have proven my point. Doval is important to Modi for the main reason that as former IB chief he knows where, bureaucracy-wise, all the skeletons are buried, and can suggest civil servants for Secretary-Addl Secy-Jt.Secy in GOI and in the other services, including the military. Indeed, Doval has managed to appoint people (per some knowledgeable sources) from his own village in Uttarakhand to the posts of army chief, IB chief, etc. It is one way simultaneously to ensure the PM’s agenda is not impeded, the appointees know who has put them there (some officers of the Gujarat cadre apart) and are amenable to his guidance, and to strengthen his standing with Modi, Viola!

      If it is conceded that Doval is no great strategic thinker, then the question arises what’s the NSA’s job, exactly? If he is there to smoothly run the bureaucratic apparatus of the Indian state what’s the Cabinet Secretary and the rest of that bureaucratic impedimenta there for? It is precisely the problem Brijesh Mishra acting as super cabsec created during Vajpayee’s time. NSAs in every other system “advice” the executive branch head on national security, which basically means coming up with foreign and military policy guidelines and options on the larger geostrategic and geopolitical issues for the boss to mull over. And that is just the job Doval is unable adequately to tackle — which is the point I have tried to make.

      It is curious, you bring up the Maldives issue. Had the Modi govt reacted in a no-nonsense fashion to Yameen’s initial provocation as I had advocated, the country would have been spared the situation it finds itself in with China ensconced on its maritime doorstep. Modi may be prepared — myopically — to sacrifice India’s position in Male to court Xi, but because all this resurgence of Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai is going to end in a security nightmare milieu some years down the line — mark my words — in fact much worse than Nehru’s similar initiative fetched in the early 1950s-1960s, by when it will be impossible to dig the Chinese out of the atolls they will have consolidated their naval and elint presence on. Then what? The nation should be ready to be thus permanently hobbled strategically.

      This loops back to Doval as NSA — is he so strategically blind, ignorant, or whatever, that he counselled the option of doing nothing that was implemented? If so obvious a security problem was not expeditiously addressed and ruthlessly dealt with, can he be expected to wrap his head around more seminal problems looming on the horizon?

      (As to my co-panelists on the TV show you mention, well, what can I say, except urge you to read the usual wishy-washy nonsense that passes for military analysis that they dish out, when they are moved to do so.)

      • Observer says:

        Will disagree a bit. why are you always pessimistic?

        As against your perception, that doval is not an expert on policy issues, i advise you to read certain articles on succes of foreign policy in news paper and also a book by Nitin Gokhle – “Securing India : The Modi Way” where he has clearly mentioned regarding many advises which doval has given regarding foreign policy to defence and security.
        (they are doing many things regarding cyber security, and others – SECREATLY) but we have to understand that the system is lethargic. its not some business org that we can fire the employees and revamp it within few months. many babus have there own vested intrest which has atleast reduced a bit after 2014.

        JUST READ THIS ARTICLE: YOUR FRIEND Fmr NSA Shiv Shankar Menon approach VS DOVAL approach. (http://www.newindianexpress.com/world/2017/mar/27/dovals-china-obsession-made-india-go-for-sri-lanka-regime-change-former-lanka-defense-secy-1586564.html)
        you frined did nothing when it was happening, now nothing much can be done.

        “… as oon as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power and Ajit Doval became NSA, the China issue was brought to the fore. Gotabaya said that Doval had twice asked him to cancel the China-funded Colombo Port City project and take back the southern container terminal at the Colombo port from the Chinese.

        Because rajapakshe was unnecessarily favouring china, Doval made sure that he lost his election.

        I request you to show some optimism in your blog:
        recently india had a win over UK (permanent member) in ICJ with a huge marjin of vote share.
        the way other countries see us vis-a-vis china post doklam.
        india will have naval bases in seychelles, oman, and many other places.

        the way muslim countries treat us now vis a vis pakistan

        many of my cousins say, that the way their foreign friends look at india has changed after 2014. now the atmospere has changed, once there is some upliftment in the sentiment, slowly things will change. we must have patience. (i know you won’t agree to this point – you say we should be using military power with diplomacy) but it will take time.

        This was said by Army chief recently in his press conf. that they are going to stress on military diplomacy.

        and more importantly,

        again i say, any country will not become great overnight, its a slow process. its not work of 4 or 5 years, we have to do it in gradual way. suppose if we start developing (at country’s level) at the fastest phase, we have to suffer because of our adverseries.

        just see one of YOUTUBE video, as you have recommended, where doval reveals information about secret ISI meeting in 2002 regarding their strategy to bleed india (when india started to rise economically faster).

        he reveals “the isi changed the strategy to expand their ‘war to 1000 cuts’ (proxy war) from Kashmir to whole of India particularly economic centers. because if india starts growing economically,, the economic power will be converted into strategic and military power” – he said.

        you yourself have mentioned regarding insurgency funded by china. so first we have to become immune for these things . and that’s what doval is working first on (and there is considerable amount of progress in that). tell me have seen any major terror attack in major cities like how it was during UPA (like hyderabad blast, mumbai – in major cities where lots of people have suffered or got killed)?

        just imagine if we rise as a strategic power challenger to china or other country before becoming immune to our vulnerabilities, and china with the help of Pakistan, does the same thing to us – the way the US did to soviet. already there are many anti national elements in our country!

        And your vision of having “STRATEGIC RELATIONS and STRATEGIC POLICY” will also get executed perhaps gradually after our internal security is fixed first atleast to some extent even though not fully.

        and that is already happening

        Cheers! but china might have made considerable amount of progress but china wont remain in the top far long time. – very soon it will be the country of OLD people and will collapse for sure.

        And on the LIGHTER and UNRELATED note, (even if you dont believe in astrology) a great astrologer who has predicted many events (including DOKLAM and others exactly – https://twitter.com/search?q=i%20was%20right%20from%3A%40anirudh_astro&src=typd)

        has predicted this.
        1) fall of china in 1941 (https://twitter.com/Anirudh_Astro/status/950726056859770881)
        2) putin creating soviet union again. (https://twitter.com/Anirudh_Astro/status/963087906553389056)
        3)UN giving POK to India in 2029
        4) war with Pakistan in the same year.
        (you can check it on his twitter account @anirudh_astro)

        some might find astrology part silly but any way its for those people who believe it.


      • Please note: All of Doval’s “successes” have involved small states on the country’s periphery.

      • Vishnugupt says:

        Prof. Do you think the PLA Navy might have laid mines around Maldives to deter Indian Navy from doing a Op.Cactus 2.0?
        If this is the case wasn’t it wise for the Indian Navy to stand down since they don’t have good minesweepers apart from some Soviet era junk?

      • No, placing mines in peace time can be cause for war! And PLA-Navy hasn’t done it.

  8. avkirankumar says:

    Prof. Karnad Sir,

    i wanted to know which aircraft you would prefer for IAF (recent 110 aircraft proposal)

    i saw your previous blog that there is no proper clarification on specification of aircraft, but seeing the strength and deficiencies of IAF which would you prefer

    • Avkiran@ — Have long argued in my writings (many of them featured in the IAF section of this blog) that the best force structure would comprise the FGFA as the cutting edge, high end, aircraft, the Su-30 MKI upgraded to “super Sukhoi” configuration as the offensive component, and a vast fleet of Tejas Mk-1a’s, Mk-2s, and AMCAs as the bulk aircraft for extended air defence and for export, with advanced versions of the AMCA gradually replacing the Su-30s in the force.

  9. Observer says:

    irof. karnad sir, is induction mig 35s an good option

    and secondly can you tell how many squadrons (of each catogory) should IAF have? is 42 sq. a neccesity.

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