Doval’s appointment is a reorientation of the national security apparatus to focus on internal security issues. Sources said there is a feeling in the Modi government that in the past decade, the over emphasis of external security issues and foreign policy had negative implications for internal security.
However, Doval is not likely to confine himself only to internal security matters. In fact, his belief has been that security threats from the neighbourhood, whether from Pakistan or Chinese funding of northeast insurgents, threats originating in Myanmar or Bangladesh, or even the growth of radical Islam in Sri Lanka and Maldives, are all aspects of internal security.
The government is expected to appoint a foreign policy adviser, someone of Doval’s choice. However, with a strong foreign minister like Sushma Swaraj and a foreign secretary, there is a feeling that the adviser’s job will verge on the cosmetic. More so because Modi showed quite plainly on his first day in office that he could hold his own in a foreign affairs set-up, and only needed the MEA on his side. He could even do without a foreign policy adviser.
Doval will preside over the entire national security apparatus. The IB (though technically supposed to report to the home minister), will, along with RAW report to him. He will head the cyber security structure which is divided between the NTRO and CERT-IN. Most important, Doval, as head of the executive council of the Nuclear Command Authority, will be the custodian of the nuclear codes.
The Modi government is expected to take some bold initiatives in setting up stronger counter-terrorism structures. Doval has been a strong votary of both Natgrid and the National Counter Terrorism Centre. These two structures are expected to be pushed through. States had objected to the policing functions of NCTC but Doval himself has proposed several solutions to this logjam. What seems clear is the focus on a strong, centralized national security apparatus, which will not only be defensive in its orientation.
The current deputy national security adviser Nehchal Sandhu is also, like Doval, a former chief of the Intelligence Bureau. It is not known whether he will continue in the Modi government, but at the moment the foreign policy component is weakly represented. Therefore, a successor to Sandhu would probably be from the MEA establishment.
The foreign policy establishment has pushed for one of their own to head the national security structure. Of the past five NSAs, three have come from the foreign policy quarter. Both M K Narayanan and Shivshankar Menon devoted greater attention to external issues. Certainly, a great part of Narayanan’s job was to complete the nuclear deal. Menon was believed to have great strategic clarity, but not much experience in internal security matters.
Security experts feel that gaps in India’s internal security architecture have only deepened. Doval will have to beef up the cyber security structure which has been Menon’s baby for some time. It remains to be seen, however, whether the government appoints a full time cyber security czar which the Manmohan Singh government could not, due to internal dissension.
The new NSA was chief of Multi Agency Centre and Joint Intelligence Task Force under the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA regime and was known to be the most trusted man of then home minister L K Advani in the internal security establishment.
A 1968 batch IPS officer of the Kerala cadre, Doval was the first police officer to be awarded the country’s second highest gallantry award Kirti Chakra in 1988. Doval was also the person to negotiate the release of the hostages of IC 814 in return for whom the Vajpayee government freed three deadly terrorists.