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With New Order, NSA Ajit Doval To Be Most Powerful Bureaucrat In 20 Years

Four-and-a-half years into its term, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has decided to revive the Strategic Policy Group or SPG to assist the National Security Council and help undertake long-term strategic defence review. The move has made National Security Advisor Ajit Doval the most powerful bureaucrat in India since the time the office of NSA was created in 1998.

The SPG will be the principal mechanism for inter-ministerial coordination and integration of relevant inputs in the formulation of national security policies, a senior Home Ministry official told NDTV.

Earlier, the SPG was chaired by the Cabinet Secretary. Now, the new notification states that the SPG will be chaired by NSA Ajit Doval. Its members include the NITI Aayog vice chairman, cabinet secretary, the chiefs of the three defence services, the RBI governor, the foreign secretary, the home secretary, the finance secretary and the defence secretary.

The secretary of the Department of Defence Production and Supplies, the scientific adviser to the defence minister and the secretary, cabinet secretariat will also be members of the panel. The other members are secretary, department of revenue; secretary, department of atomic energy; secretary, department of space; director, Intelligence Bureau, and secretary, National Security Council Secretariat. Representatives of other ministries and departments will be invited to the meetings of the group as and when necessary.

The NSA will convene the meetings of the SPG and the cabinet secretary will coordinate implementation of the group's decisions by union ministries and departments, and state governments.

"It's nothing new. This group was functioning in previous UPA government too. It was recommended by the committee which was set up to look into lapses during Kargil," a senior functionary of the government said.

However, the timing of revival of SPG is being questioned by many in government itself. "The intent of the government to revive SPG at the fag end of tenure of the government is not clear," a senior bureaucrat confessed.

A retired bureaucrat said, "NSA is all-time powerful now and too much centralised power in one command centre is not very healthy in a democracy."

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