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Congress Manifesto promises to make National Security Advisor answerable to all politicians

At present NSA reports directly to the Prime Minister

Today the Congress party released its manifesto for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.  Apart from making many tall promises which are typical of any election manifesto, the party also made some promises which have raised concerns.

The party has promised that if it comes to power, it will bring a law in the first session of new Lok Sabha itself to prevent and punish hate speech. It is a clear indication that the Congress party plans to bring back a bill similar to the section 66A of IT Act and the Communal Violence Bill which could not be passed by the UPA government. The party also promised to review the AFSPA, and review of deployment of security forces in the Kashmir Valley.

In a similar proposal with far-reaching consequences, the party has promised that it will bring the National Security Advisor and National Security Council under the purview of the Parliament. The manifesto says that Congress will provide a statutory basis to the National Security Council (NSC) and the office of National Security Adviser (NSA). Their powers and functions will be defined under the law and both authorities, and the agencies under them will be accountable to Parliament.

It may be noted that the NSA and NSC were established by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government.

National Security section of the Congress manifesto

The NSA works directly under the Prime Minister, and the NSC consists of the NSA, the Deputy NSA, The Ministers of Defence, External Affairs, Home and Finance, and the Deputy Chairman of NITI Aayog. Although bringing these institutions under the control of Parliament sounds good, there are inherent problems with the issue. The defence establishment of a country needs to have relative autonomy in taking decisions related to national security. Making the NSA answerable to Parliament will mean that the post will be subject to political interference, which is not desirable. This will mean that the top security official of the country will be answering questions of politicians.

Moreover, the NSA and NSC deal with matters of national security, and such matters can’t be discussed in public. National security issues can’t be a matter of political interference. Another fact is that the security establishments will also not be able to reveal much information to the parliament because such matters are highly confidential and can’t be disclosed in public. They may be able to provide some information to parliamentary committees, but the committee members would not be able the discuss the subject of such meetings in parliament or public. This also has the potential for compromising national security.

Therefore, the proposal of the Congress party is worrisome from the national security point of view.

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