India’s National Security Council: Stuck in the Cradle?

Journal article

Babu, D. Shyam (2003) India’s National Security Council: Stuck in the Cradle?, Security Dialogue 34 (2).

In 1999, India constituted its National Security Council (NSC) to fill a widely felt vacuum in the country’s higher defence management. It was reasoned that having become a de facto nuclear power, India could no longer afford to ignore vital issues affecting its security. India’s small but articulate security community also demanded the establishment of the NSC in response to criticism that the country lacked long-term security perspective and planning. However, even a cursory look at the organizational structure and functions of the NSC will expose so many shortcomings that it can rightly be questioned whether sufficient thought was given to such basic issues as the kind of national security council the country needed and how such a body could be integrated into India’s parliamentary system. On the whole, existing institutions were either slightly modified or simply renamed as NSC institutions. Structurally, the NSC is unlikely to be effective in discharging its mandated functions: formulating long-term strategic policy and promoting ‘integrated thinking’ in national security affairs. On the other hand, the present ineffective NSC is better than an independent and overarching body that might upset the balance among institutions concerned with national security within India’s parliamentary democracy.

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