Siddharth Varadarajan

Journalist | Writer | Analyst

Government drags its feet on choosing IDSA director

NEW DELHI: The Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) might be India’s premier strategic affairs think-tank but the Manmohan Singh Government does not seem particularly perturbed that it has remained headless for more than a year.
PS: One day after this piece appeared, the MoD swung into action and named N.S. Sisodia as the new director of IDSA. So what on earth were they waiting for all this time?

18 August 2005
The Hindu

Government drags its feet on choosing IDSA director

Siddharth Varadarajan

Panel of four names with Pranab Mukherjee for the past 7 months

NEW DELHI: The Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) might be India’s premier strategic affairs think-tank but the Manmohan Singh Government does not seem particularly perturbed that it has remained headless for more than a year.

Ever since K. Santhanam retired as Director at the end of July 2004, the institute has been run by deputy director C. Uday Bhaskar, a senior naval officer and well-known commentator on defence and security-related issues. A panel of four names — selected by a committee headed by N.N. Vohra — has been with Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee for more than seven months now. Mr. Mukherjee, as IDSA president and its principal source of funds, must choose one of those four names or add a candidate of his own and pass it on to the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) for approval. But as of now, there is no sign of a decision being taken any time soon.

As if this indecisiveness over the choice of director were not bad enough, the Defence Ministry has now begun an inquiry into how Mr. Bhaskar was named “officiating director” without the file being first referred to the ACC. “It is obvious that if the top man leaves, the second-in-command will have to run the show,” a senior official familiar with the case told The Hindu on Wednesday.

The Government’s indifference is especially puzzling given the money that is being invested in the IDSA’s new building and the fact that the institute will turn 40 this November. The building’s budget is Rs. 30 crores, over and above the approximately Rs. 4.5 crores the institute receives every year.

Search committee

In December 2004, a four-member search committee headed by N.N. Vohra was set up. Aware that the institute had remained without a director for several months already, the committee met immediately and after a few sittings, was able to come up with a panel of names. The list was handed over to Mr. Mukherjee on January 10, 2005. Since then, however, nothing has happened.

The Hindu has learnt that several attempts were made by the committee to expedite a decision, but to no avail. “The names were forwarded to the PMO by the Defence Ministry, only to be returned because they were not in the “prescribed format,” the official said. This procedure itself is a little unusual, sources said, because the practice in the past has been for the Defence Minister to simply send across one name for the ACC’s approval.

The candidates

Among the candidates believed to be in the reckoning are former finance secretary N.S. Sisodia, joint secretary in the National Security Council Secretariat Arvind Gupta, Uday Bhaskar and the recently-retired defence secretary Ajai Vikram Singh.

Since it was first established in November 1965 the IDSA has had only five directors: Maj. Gen. Som Dutt (retd.), K. Subrahmanyam, P.R. Chari, Air Commodore Jasjit Singh and K. Santhanam. The institute has a research faculty of about 60 scholars, including more than a dozen officers on deputation from the Armed Forces.

“For an institute of this size and importance,” said an official, “there has been very little strategic planning on the part of either this Government or its predecessor. If we want to be taken seriously on the world stage, this has got to change.”

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This entry was posted on August 18, 2005 by in Indian Foreign Policy.

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