The Indian National Defence University (INDU) was conceived in 1967 by the Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC). The K Subhramanyam-led 1999 Kargil Review Committee also recommended INDU and this was endorsed by the Group of Ministers (GoM) report. In 2002, the government appointed K Subramanyam-led Committee on the National Defence University (CONDU) re-endorsed establishing INDU, which was approved by the Union Cabinet in 2010. In 2013, then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh laid its foundation stone at Binola, eight km from Manesar in Haryana but little has happened since then.
In August 2016, the draft INDU Bill 2015 was placed online for public comments. The bill listed out nine objectives and its preamble read: INDU will propagate higher education in National Security Studies, Defence Management and Defence Technology and promote policy oriented research on all aspects relating to national security, both internal and external, and INDU will inculcate and promote coordination and interaction not just between the three Armed Services but also between other agencies of the government, civil bureaucracy, PMF, CAPF, intelligence services, diplomats, academicians, strategic planners, university students and officers from friendly foreign countries.
In contrast to INDU, mission of the US National Defence University clearly states: “US National Defense University (NDU) supports the joint warfighter by providing rigorous Joint Professional Military Education (PME) to members of the US Armed Forces and select others in order to develop leaders who have the ability to operate and creatively think in an unpredictable and complex world.”
So, is INDU meant for Armed Forces ‘and’ for promoting jointness and training with others (as in case of the US NDU) or is it meant for ‘all’ with armed forces a parallel entity? The draft bill elaborated top functionaries of INDU but nothing about courses to be run, course capacities, duration and the like at Schools for National Security Studies, Defence Management and Defence Technology.
Two-thirds of the students at INDU will reportedly be from Armed Forces and remaining 33 percent from other civilian government agencies and the police. There will also be students from friendly foreign countries in the university, whose number will initially be 500, and eventually go up 2,500.
But considering INDU is to augment existing PMEs like National Defence College (NDC), College of Defence Management (CDM) and Defence Services Staff College (DSSC) coupled with shortage of military officers, it is unlikely military will be able to utilize two-third vacancies. With minimal bureaucratic participation in courses, bulk course vacancies will be utilized by civilian government agencies and the police. Is this what we want?
Only the NDC, CDM, DSSC being affiliated to INDU creates the impression INDU is primarily meant for Armed Forces but will definitely get diluted by the scale of attendance as discussed above. The bureaucracy will contribute small number of students but will bag the lion’s share of ‘running’ INDU including the top slot. The military posts can easily be manipulated through QR’s and sheer obduracy.
Witness the top post of Manohar Parrikar Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis (MP-IDSA) which was supposedly rotational is sans a military head past decades. Take the proposed INDU School for Defence Technology, why are the Institute of Armament Technology, Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics or for that matter the DRDO not affiliated with INDU? Is this to cover up their inadequacies or to give them additional posts through the backdoor with IITs restricted to contributing students?
What about affiliating IITs, other training establishments? Why is it that neither the US NDU nor the Chinese NDU have Schools of Defence Technology? With INDU under MoD, who will be the faculty in the School of Defence Technology – DRDO officials to legitimize what the DRDO is doing? Should the School of National Studies be renamed School of International Studies? Should we review the course strengths in the proposed schools considering post course employment opportunities? Lastly, why this elaboration on caste, creed religion etc in the draft bill – is this stepping stone for reservations in future.
Unless above issues are addressed, we are likely to end up with a dysfunctional bureaucratic monolith with the focus on policing India; another bureaucratic coup at the cost of national defence. Incidentally, Senior Defence Management Course (SDMC) at CDM has two vacancies for joint secretary level officers from IAS, which have hardly been utilized.
A subsequent media report quoting MoD sources revealed that after consultations with then Defence Minister Arun Jaitley and other ministers in 2017 the draft bill was revised. This included renaming INDU to Indian Defence University (IDU) for some inexplicable reasons. 54 years after the COSC conceived INDU in 1967 and 11 years after the Union Cabinet in 2010 where is INDU?
An interesting development last year went largely unnoticed. In 2009, the Raksha Shakti University (RSU) was established at Gandhinagar, Gujarat as an internal security institute. It was renamed Rashtriya Raksha University (RRU) later. In 2020, Government of India took over RRU from the Government of Gujarat through an Act of Parliament – RRU Bill 2020. The stated mission of RRU is: “To identify, prepare and sustain statecraft of national strategic and security culture through continuous enhancement and development of educational, research and training cadres from the military and civilian society.”
The RRU website lists out 15 schools under it, two of which are School of Information Technology and Cyber Security (SITCS) and School of Military Affairs, Strategy and History (SMASH). But a glance through the faculty indicates that the School of Military Affairs, Strategy and Logistics is a recent addition or perhaps in SMASH ‘logistics’ has replaced ‘history’. The media had been obliquely hinting of addition of a ‘military wing’ in the RRU.
Recent years have witnessed placement of diplomats and bureaucrats on the RRU faculty. But significant is the inclusion of defence veterans on the faculty, which include: Lt Gen BB Shekatkar, Lt Gen Dushyant Singh, Maj Gen V Pingle, Col Rohit Dev and Gp Captan RK Singh. News reports of June 11, 2021, say the National Security Guard (NSG) and RRU have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for cooperation and collaboration aimed at strengthening the core competencies of the NSG. On the occasion of signing of the MoU, Vice Chancellor of RRU said, “RRU has also established the Security and Scientific Technical Research Association (SASTRA) to serve the innovation requirements of the forces.”
RRU is under the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) whereas IDU is to be under the Ministry of Defence (MoD). 54 years after the COSC conceived INDU in 1967 and 11 years after the Union Cabinet in 2010, where is INDU? The Armed Forces needed a university years back to research future warfare in the fast changing dynamics of the geostrategic environment. Ironically there is no urgency at all at the national apex. It appears to be no priority for the Chief of Defence Staff either.
Media reports of last year quoted the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) saying that the IDU Bill has been waiting for Cabinet approval all these years. This gladdens the deep state, as it would our adversaries especially China. If this is by design, it raises questions like: is RRU being groomed to take on the role of IDU because RSU was established by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2009 as Chief Minister of Gujarat; if not, why has the IDU been on cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) since 1967, and; if IDU is dead, who killed it?
About the Author
Lt Gen. PC Katoch (Retd), PVSM, UYSM, AVSM, SC is a third generation army officer who superannuated as Director General Information Systems of the Indian Army in 2009. A Special Forces officer, he participated in the 1971 Indo- Pak War, commanded an independent commando company in counter-insurgency in the Northeast, a Special Forces Battalion in Sri Lanka as part of the Indian Peace Keeping Force, a Brigade on Siachen Glacier, a Division in Ladakh and a Strike Corps in South Western Theatre. He has had his work published in leading defence and national security publications and think tanks in both India and abroad.
(This article was first published in the Indian Defence Review and has been reproduced with due permission from the author)