Ajit Doval gets five more years as NSA

Marking his first executive appointment in the new government, PM Narendra Modi reappointed national security advisor Ajit Doval for another five-year term. Doval, the first NSA to serve two consecutive terms, has also been elevated to Cabinet rank.

With his reappointment, Modi’s national security team is complete — with S Jaishankar and Amit Shah as the other members of the trio. National security formed a big part of Modi’s election campaign, and according to sources, will be one of the top focus areas for the government.

Doval enjoys the PM’s confidence and has straddled the worlds of security and foreign policy in the past five years. He started an NSA-level conversation with Lt Gen Nasir Khan Janjua in Pakistan, until Janjua was eased out by the Pakistan army for being too close to Nawaz Sharif. He has conducted special representative talks with China, though that has barely moved.

However, his relationship with his US counterpart John Bolton is believed to be primarily responsible for American actions and positions after the Pulwama terror attack and Balakot air strikes.

Doval has moved beyond the traditional remit, involving himself in defence matters, both in operational and policy terms. Quietly, he has also recast the national security superstructure in the government, integrating various bodies and departments into a more unified system. Visitors to the National Security Council Secretariat in Sardar Patel Bhavan know it now has only one occupant, with other ministries having had to find other accommodation.

Doval has three deputy NSAs, but for the first time, all three have active portfolios. They include Rajendra Khanna, R N Ravi and Pankaj Saran, besides Lt Gen V G Khandare (retired) as an advisor. Separate but related is Lt Gen Rajesh Pant (retired), the new cyber security coordinator — he took over from Gulshan Rai in April. Earlier, he headed the Military College of Telecommunication Engineering. He is fluent in Russian and a reputed expert in information warfare.

Doval also rebuilt the Strategic Policy Group to be the lead body for national security policy. Earlier, this group was led by the cabinet secretary. In October 2018, the government changed its rules and it is now led by the NSA and includes the cabinet secretary, the three Service chiefs, and the secretaries of defence, home and external affairs.

“The SPG shall be the principal mechanism for interministerial coordination and integration of relevant inputs in the formulation of national security policies,” the government notification said.

In April 2018, the government revamped the existing defence planning system by establishing a Defence Planning Committee under the chairmanship of the NSA to “facilitate comprehensive and integrated planning for defence matters”.

No comments: