Expert pitches for a national security strategy for 21st-century warfare

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New Delhi: Submarine Veteran Commodore Anil Jai Singh has opined that a National Security Strategy is essential for 21st-century warfare. There was no real foundation for India’s structural military reforms in the absence of such strategic guidance.

Speaking at a workshop titled “Defense Modernisation in India: Policies, Commands, and Capabilities,” he also warned India against copying other countries’ security strategies, emphasising the importance of developing its own model that takes into account the multi-dimensional kinetic and non-kinetic challenges.

Commodore Singh observed the difficulties associated with procuring defence equipment using standard competitive bidding models. He cited the example of equipment purchased from various Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), which caused operational, maintenance, and training issues.

He also stressed the importance of India making early decisions on nuclear-powered attack submarine collaborations in order to achieve its goal of becoming the pre-eminent blue-water power in the Indian Ocean.

This would be consistent with major powers such as the United States recognising India as a preferred security partner in the Indo-Pacific region.

The workshop was organised by CUTS International as part of the Defense News Conclave Project, which is being carried out with the assistance of the US State Department (U.S. Consulate Kolkata).

This project aims to raise awareness about the significance of India-US defence relations, particularly in light of recent developments in the region.

Maroof Raza, a media commentator on military and security issues who moderated the workshop, stated that there are many interconnected areas in the field of defence, so you can’t operate in watertight compartments.

Amit Cowshish, Partner at Dua Associates and former Financial Advisor (Acquisition) at the Ministry of Defence, observed that it was time to focus more on the outcomes of India’s defence budgets rather than just the allocation and utilisation.

In order to match aspirations with execution, he believes that Indian defence budgets should be restructured to be more result-oriented. He identified important innovations, such as a system for managing committed liabilities, as important areas for defence finance reform.

Cowshish also noted that there was “no cut-and-dry policy on Atmanirbharta,” and the stated goal of self-reliance in defence was based on a patchwork of policies.

He noted that while there had been many calls for deeper integration between Services Headquarters and the Ministry of Defence, there was little clarity on the modalities of such integration.

Manvendra Singh, former Member of Parliament and Chairman of the Rajasthan Soldier Welfare Advisory Committee, emphasised the importance of India having a coherent National Security Strategy.

He emphasised the need for a bottom-up approach to jointness and integration of military commands, beginning with joint planning of the services. He proposed establishing a Joint Logistics Command as the first step toward greater coordination before moving on to joint operational commands.

Mr Singh also stated that setting benchmarks for defence spending was impractical due to the constantly evolving nature of security challenges.

He noted the need for more two-way dialogue between the armed forces, Parliament, and the defence bureaucracy concerning civilian-military relations.

Mr Singh also mentioned non-traditional security challenges, such as climate change, to which the armed forces must respond dynamically.

Anubha Rathaur discussed her experiences as a forward field commander during the Kargil conflict. She discussed the difficulties that female officers face in such field assignments.

Rathaur emphasised the role of limited indigenous defence production during that time period, citing shortages of spares, ammunition, armour, and even mosquito nets experienced by their units.

Concerning women’s representation in the armed forces, she observed that logistical challenges were always cited as reasons for not appointing female officers to forward positions.

This needed to change, and all logistical issues should have been addressed before the announcement of expanded induction of female officers into the armed forces.

The virtual session was well-attended, with over fifty people tuning in to hear experts debate these issues. This was the third in a series of such workshops conceived as capacity-building sessions for media professionals to gain a better understanding of defence and strategic issues.

SMART GOVERNANCE DESK

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