Defence University for India: An Appraisal of the Proposition by Maj Gen Mrinal Suman

May 14, 2010 at 12:25 pm 1 comment

Following write-up is taken from http://www.indiandefencereview.com:

Establishment of a defence university in India was first suggested in an article that appeared in College of Defence Management Journal in 1978. The article evoked considerable interest and was often debated in academic circles of the services. However, there was little progress on ground and the matter lay dormant till resurrected in the wake of the Kargil War. The Task Force constituted in May 2000 to review the Management of Defence observed that there was no synergy between academic research and the requirements of the Government. It felt that advisors to the Government in security matters needed a great deal more information and analysis, as defence policy formulation was a constantly evolving exercise owing to the ever changing nature and increased complexities of security threats and challenges.

The Task Force, therefore, suggested that a National Defence University (NDU) be established to carry out research and impart education. It wanted some of the existing institutions to be affiliated to NDU. It also recommended establishment of a College of National Security Management, Information Resource Management and Maritime Security.

The Group of Ministers (GoM) studied the Task Force report and concluded that university research in India in the field of defence was not managed, funded, or structured effectively. It further observed – “Whereas academic research is carried out more or less in a policy vacuum, official agencies undertake their policy making tasks in the absence of the wealth of information available with the academic community. There is a need to ensure that the Government’s policy and decision making processes are informed by the findings of rigorous analyses and research.” Therefore, it recommended setting up of NDU, which could undertake long term defence and strategic studies, as “the development of country/region specialisation along with associated language skills and studies in strategic areas need to be ensured.”

The Government accepted recommendations of GoM regarding the need to have NDU on 11 May 2001. A 13-member expert committee (Committee on NDU or CONDU) was constituted to examine the issue in its entirety. It visited the USA and China to learn about functioning of their defence universities and recommended adoption of the US model, albeit with modifications to suit Indian needs.

CONDU based its recommendations on the following two primary issues:-

  • Deficiencies in Existing Security Policy Making Mechanism. A primary requirement for the attainment of India’s national security aims and objectives is the existence of an effective and focused policy planning mechanism, which has to be long term, integrated and anticipatory in nature. The committee felt that national security policy architecture with formal processes and structure was needed to provide synergy between academic research in the field of security and the Government’s requirements for inputs for security policy formulation.
  • Training Needs of the Services. There are three training components towards the advancement of military officers in their careers – professional service training, training for joint operations/planning and training for combined military-civil leadership roles in national security policy and planning at the strategic levels. The committee felt that higher education in the fields of national security and security policy was non-existent in India.

CONDU felt that the above considerations necessitated establishment of Indian National Defence University (INDU). Its salient recommendations were as follows:-

  • INDU should be established as a multi-disciplinary Centre of Excellence in the country in education and research on national security issues.
  • The President of INDU should be a serving three-star officer of the armed services and the Vice-President should be an officer from the Indian Foreign Service. The faculty should consist of 70 officers from the armed forces and 65 from the civil services.
  • INDU should have a mix of existing and new institutions. Three new institutions should be created for education and research on national security and technological issues. As part of these new institutions, a new “think tank” for defence and security issues should be established with a focus on policy-oriented research.
  • Three existing institutions should be affiliated to it for award of degrees, while another existing institution should be upgraded.
  • A War Gaming and Simulation Centre should also be established.
  • INDU should accord recognition by awarding degrees, short-term diplomas, and credits for courses undertaken by serving personnel from the armed forces, paramilitary forces and officers from various civil services.

The estimated cost of establishment of INDU was pegged at Rs 226 crores in 2003-04, excluding the cost of land as defence land was proposed to be utilised for the purpose. The total expenditure was proposed to be spread over seven years. See box for the proposed outline structure.

It is learnt that the Finance Ministry has not cleared the project and wants the proposal to be deferred. It feels that existing facilities in Indian universities and defence training institutions can perform these functions with suitable augmentation and fine tuning.

Appraisal of CONDU Proposal

The Task Force had expressed its dissatisfaction at the existing state of research on strategic issues on four counts:-

  • Limited research activities.
  • Poorly managed, funded and structured research regime.
  • Lack of orientation to public policy.
  • Lack of synergy between research and official requirements.

The Task Force, therefore, suggested establishment of NDU. GoM accepted need for NDU purely for long term defence and strategic studies as it felt that ‘policy orientation and synergy between the academic community and governmental functionaries were lacking’. Other requirements like training needs of the services and distant learning were added later on by CONDU.

The primary thrust of CONDU has been that the Indian policy makers are bereft of advice from the academic community of well researched security concerns. It felt that research lacks in policy orientation and hence, suggested new facilities under INDU. CONDU, quite inexplicably, failed to identify underlying reasons for this infirmity. Had it done that, it would have realised that there was no shortage of well-run defence research institutes/centres and competent scholars. The root causes for the malady lay elsewhere, as given below:-

  • India lacks a tradition of long term strategic thinking and policy planning. Even within the Government, there is a total indifference to advance planning.
  • Policy makers are averse to accept external advice as they consider themselves to be fully equipped to take decisions in national interest.
  • Day-to-day routine business takes precedence over futuristic thinking and planning.
  • Individualistic and compartmentalised mindset of functionaries hinders wider consultations and dialogue. They are highly protective of their turf and consider collective decision making as an encroachment of their domain. They decline to share information with others.
  • Functionaries lack knowledge and training to take defence related decisions.
  • Finally, Indian functionaries resent criticism and difference of opinion. They do not take kindly to dissention and expect academicians to toe the official line. That is the reason why all Government-funded institutions get coerced into producing placid and non-contentious research studies. The value of such studies, therefore, becomes suspect.

India boasts of some of the finest institutions involved in research and analysis of strategic subjects in Asia (see accompanying boxes). The Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis (IDSA) and the United Service Institution of India (USI) have commendable track records.  Full potential of these institutions has never been utilised by the Government functionaries. It is not known if these institutions ever failed to deliver when requisitioned by the Government for any specific study/analysis. CONDU has totally neglected the expertise, brain-power and infrastructure with these and other premier defence institutions.

Recommendations made by CONDU can be grouped as follows:-

  • Creation of additional facilities.
  • Amalgamation of existing facilities.
  • Corporate fellowship programme.
  • Distant learning programme.
  • Affiliation of existing institutions.

Creation of New Facilities

CONDU has recommended establishment of some additional institutes. Their envisioned role vis-à-vis available facilities has been examined in the following paragraphs. Creation of new research facilities through INDU ought to be justified only if the envisaged research and education functions cannot be performed by existing institutions.

  • National Institute of Security Studies. CONDU has sought establishment of National Institute of Security Studies for conducting required research programmes on all strategic issues of concern to the Government to enable it to take fully informed decisions.

These functions can easily be assigned to IDSA, which is considered to be the premier strategic and security studies think tank in India. Over the years the Institute has enlarged its focus of research from defence studies to cover issues of national and international security.

The Institute has a well-qualified multi-disciplinary research faculty of over 50 scholars drawn from academia, defence forces and the civil services. Its library has an excellent collection of more than 50,000 books covering national security, defence strategy, international relations, conflict and peace studies and related subjects.

  • College of National Security Policy. Establishment of a College of National Security Policy has been recommended by CONDU ‘to act as a think tank contributing to security policy formulation’.

National Defence College (NDC), founded in 1960 with identical objective, is fully equipped to fulfill the above requirement. The study at the College relates to strategic, economic, scientific, political and industrial aspects of national defence. The scope of study includes an examination of internal and external threats to the security of India as well as possible trends for the next ten years.  Studies include analysis of diverse factors such as foreign policies of other nations, conflicts over vital economic interests or territorial claims and factional, communal or political differences. Formulation of national strategy for various contingencies up to and including the outbreak of war is also analysed. NDC provides future decision-makers with the necessary skills and background for filling senior positions in national security and associated fields.

  • Institute of Advance Technology Studies. As emerging technologies have a profound influence on defence systems and doctrine, CONDU has recommended setting up of an Institute of Advanced Technology Studies at Bangalore in a new campus.

However, CONDU overlooked the existence and potential of Defence Institute of Advanced Technology (DIAT), located near Pune. It is the foremost institute in the field and functions under Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). It has been accorded the status of a ‘deemed university’ in recognition of its academic excellence. Its charter includes the following:-

  • To impart higher education and training in various fields of science and technology having a bearing on defence requirements in general and weapon systems in particular to the officers of MoD, public sector undertakings, private sector and others.
  • To carry out research, design and development activities with a view to maintain adequate standards required for (i) above.
  • To maintain active interaction and liaison with Universities and other civil and defence teaching institutes in the country and abroad for to and from flow of scientific knowledge.

The Institute has some of the best scientific brains in India and possesses infrastructure spread over 500 acres of area. Being under DRDO, it has the added advantage of close interaction between the scientists, field staff and the user services.

Amalgamation of Existing Facilities

CONDU has sought establishment of an Institute of Defence Management (IDM) at Secundrabad by amalgamating existing College of Defence Management (CDM). It has also recommended establishment of a Centre for Research and Policy and a College of Industrial Research and Management under IDM.

Justification for such a recommendation is not clear. An easier and simpler option would have been to exploit full potential of CDM by enlarging its charter and scope. Founded in 1970, CDM strives to be the nation’s leading centre of excellence in developing management thought with a focus on optimising the effectiveness of the defence services. Its vision is to fulfill the need for enlightened leadership, resource optimisation and effective decision making ability to meet the ever-increasing challenges to national security.

CDM’s highly reputed Research and Consultancy Faculty undertakes project studies for the three services and other organisations every year.  The College has three teaching faculties – Faculty of Organisational Behaviour, Faculty of Decision Analysis and Faculty of Resource Management.

Corporate Fellowship Programme

This is also an add-on by CONDU. Fellowship programmes in strategic studies are being conducted by a number of universities, although the standard of research and instructions is certainly not of the requisite standard. The most prudent option is to improve standards in the universities. Additionally, USI can also be assigned this task. Located at New Delhi, USI is an autonomous body and already has a number of Fellowship Chairs for research projects. It has three centres under it, i.e. Centre for Strategic Studies and Simulation, Centre for Armed Forces Historical Research and Centre for United Nations Peace Keeping.

Distance Learning Programme

A separate department called National Defence Open University is proposed by CONDU to impart distant education in various disciplines, although at a later stage.

Presently, a number of Indian universities are offering distance learning programmes in defence subjects, albeit of indifferent quality. USI also possesses considerable experience in distance learning as it has been conducting highly popular correspondence courses to prepare officers for promotion examinations, Technical Staff College and Defence Services Staff College entrance examinations for the Army and the Navy. Every year, 2,500 to 3,000 officers attend these courses. It would be more prudent to streamline, upgrade and expand existing facilities in the USI and the universities.

Affiliation of Existing Institutions

The proposal suggests affiliation of NDC, National Defence Academy (NDA) and Defence Services Staff College (DSSC) with INDU.

NDA cadets get graduation degrees awarded by Jawaharlal Nehru University. NDC is affiliated to Madras University for the award of M Phil Degree in ‘Defence and Strategic Studies’. Similarly, DSSC is also affiliated to the University of Madras which awards M Sc (Defence and Strategic Studies) degree to all students who qualify on the course. Faculty members can register for M Phil degree. The College has six full time and eight part time vacancies for M Phil. Three vacancies are also available to the College faculty for Ph D. Present arrangements are working very well and one fails to understand the logic in disturbing them, except to justify creation of INDU by expanding its role. See figure above.

The Way Forward

The current proposal suffers from the following infirmities:-

  • It fails to take into account the assets possessed by the country in the form of well established research facilities. Instead of exploiting their full potential, the proposal by implication considers them beyond redemption and ignores them totally.
  • It recommends establishment of new facilities, thereby creating unnecessary and totally unwarranted duplication. If accepted, over 135 new vacancies would get created resulting in further increase in Government manpower and related recurring expenditure.
  • The proposal seeks a seven year time frame for the completion of INDU’s establishment. It belies need for urgency. A much quicker option would be to tap existing institutions and develop their expertise.
  • The proposal has been padded with unnecessary trappings to make it look credible and reasonable. As having a defence university only for research may have looked unconvincing, the scope of the proposal has been enlarged to include training, distance education and affiliation of existing institution. Actually, these add-ons dilute the primary objective of the proposal mooted by GoM and weaken focus on security related research.

As seen earlier, deficiencies of the present system are not due to lack of facilities or due to indifferent quality of research. It is just that their potential is not utilised by the decision makers. Take the case of NDC. Despite the lofty objectives for which it was founded, the bureaucracy considers it to be of little value and never sends its upcoming and bright officers for training. As per the list of prominent alumni (as shown on the College’s website), only two bureaucrats who attended National Security and Strategic Studies Course rose to the level of Secretary to the Government of India in the last 46 years. On the other hand, it is a merit-based and highly sought after course for the services – numerous Chiefs and other top brass appear in the list of prominent alumni. It just goes to show that the civil services do not consider it worthwhile to spare their best talent for acquiring strategic orientation.

The most pressing need, therefore, is to change mindset of Government functionaries. Research remains academic and is carried out in ‘policy vacuum’ as officials rarely seek inputs. Security policy planners should be encouraged to seek independent viewpoints. They must understand that acceptance of external advice does not show their inadequacy in any way. On the contrary, it displays an attitude of integrated, collaborative and holistic approach towards long term security assessments and policy formulation. Comprehension of strategic imperatives can only be done in a collegiate manner with inputs provided by various specialists. Unfortunately, critical comments by analysts are not taken kindly by the functionaries. Such a regime not only discourages honest advice but, more harmfully, lowers the quality of research. Competent academicians recoil from such a system.

Synergy between research scholars and Government functionaries can only be achieved by regular interaction and mutual confidence. There is a need to inculcate and nurture strategic thought in body politic. Research institutions can become centres of excellence and vibrant ‘think tanks’ only if their reports are valued and given due consideration.

India possesses research facilities of world standing. Their existing competencies must be harnessed and exploited. Minor restructuring of establishments, liberal funding, focused issue-specific research and greater autonomy will contribute immensely in creating dynamic and responsive environment for the study of strategic security matters. Establishment of INDU at a huge cost to the exchequer will serve little purpose except create additional vacancies and bloat manpower. The solution lies in replacing indifference and apathy of the policy makers by a healthy respect for strategic studies and research carried out by scholars at existing institutions.

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Entry filed under: Educational Policy, Higher Education, Higher Education Zone, India.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. U B Singh  |  May 14, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    interesting article.

    Reply

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