Yet 10 years have passed since the decision was taken, and there has been a curious rethink on the issue. The Border Security Force, despite its lack of experience in guarding such mountainous terrain as that found along the Burma border, may in fact be deployed there. Such decisions demonstrate the lack of consensus and cohesion among the defence and home ministries. Indeed, a similar lack of clarity exists on which force—the Army or the Federal Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP)—should be responsible for guarding the vast and disputed Sino-Indian border.
Other recommendations that haven’t been implemented to date include the issuing of multi-purpose national ID cards, establishment of a National Maritime Commission, upgrading of infrastructure in the border areas, and establishment of a specialised marine police.
The National Task Force’s review and the recommendations are expected to be forward looking and all-encompassing. As noted by a strategic analyst and former spy in India’s external intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing, B. Raman: ‘Such a futuristic review has to project over different timeframes the threats to national security that could be expected in the future in the short-, medium- and long-term, examine whether we have the required capabilities to be able to meet those threats, identify existing deficiencies in capabilities, recommend action to remove them, and suggest a time frame for removing them.’Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
Much has changed since the last big review in 2001. India’s economy, along with that of China, largely withstood the threat of global economic slowdown, and India now has one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Such growth has allowed India’s military to boost spending on capital acquisition, and today, the Indian military is on the verge of rearming itself with modern weapons and platforms.
India’s influence has also grown in the region and across the world. Thus, any futuristic exercise to review national security needs has to go beyond the classical or conventional perceptions of security management. According to members of the new task force, its objective is not only to equip Indian security managers to anticipate and meet future threats, but also to project India’s comprehensive national power across the globe.
The man heading the task force certainly has impeccable credentials. Naresh Chandra has been India’s home secretary and defence secretary, in addition to being a former cabinet secretary—the top bureaucratic appointment in the country—and is thus familiar with the workings of the armed forces and the intelligence community. After retirement from civil service, he served as the Indian ambassador to the United States and has extensive diplomatic experience.
Some of the other members, including retired Air Chief Marshal SrinivasapuramKrishnaswamy and retired Naval Chief Adm. Arun Prakash, are regarded as highly respected strategic thinkers. Their combined experience is likely to prove invaluable in carrying out this potentially revolutionary exercise.
However, many defence and security analysts have also pointed out the need to diligently follow up on the recommendations and to convince the serving officers of the necessity of changes, reforms, new thinking, and new concepts and ideas to achieve the desired end results. Unless that happens, any review will just end up being another exercise in futility.
Nitin Gokhale is Defence & Strategic Affairs Editor with Indian broadcaster, NDTV 24×7