The National Security Adviser is an oddity in the Parliamentary system, since he only owes accountability to his appointing authority, the Prime Minister. This further empowers the Prime Minister''s Office, detracting from India''s parliamentary democracy by making it resemble a presidential system
Accounts of the National Security Adviser (NSA), Ajit Doval, as a man of action have only been reinforced by his response to the terrorist attack at the Pathankot airfield early this month. While a laudable quality in an operational-level commander, however, when this trait (to take action) is present in abundance in a person required to function at the strategic level, it may be problematic.
Perhaps, the most onerous responsibility of the NSA is his duty as Secretary to the Political Council of India's Nuclear Command Authority (NCA) and as Chair of its executive council. The appointment requires a cool, reflective, person to tenant it. The Pathankot episode throws up the question: Whether Doval is the best man for this sensitive job.
On this score, the criticism attending the response to the Pathankot terror attack should not be spin-doctored into oblivion. The Prime Minister on a visit to the site, and the Army Chief in his Army Day press conference, have tried to restore confidence in the system. Acknowledging a few home truths would better serve the system.
A key point was brought forth by the previous NSA, Shivshankar Menon. He observed the cancellation of the NSA’s trip to China for strategic-level talks, implying this was an instance of misplaced priorities. Second, an NSA getting involved in essentially a tactical-level operation is liable to miss the wood for the trees. Third, the NSA's bypassing of institutions such as the Home and Defence Ministries and the military serves to sap traditional chains of command and constitutionally ordained authority.
Since the NSA is at the fulcrum of India's nuclear command and control, these observations have implications for India's nuclear command and control.