big move to strengthen armed forces: 3 new integrated divisions proposed to secure india

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New Delhi: The Defence Ministry has cleared a decade-long proposal to create three new institutions involving the Army, Navy and Air Force for special tasks: (1) The Armed Forces Special Operations Division; (2) The Defence Cyber Agency; (3) The Defence Space Agency.

The proposals -- the Cabinet notes -- have been placed before the Cabinet Committee on Security, headed by the Prime Minister and includes members from the ministries of Defence, Finance, External Affairs, and Home. The proposals will be taken up in one of the next meetings of the CCS. The first presentations were readied in 2010.

Cyber and space agencies are considered particularly important, given the vulnerability faced by the armed forces in the face of a cyber-attack which could hurt not just the armed forces but also civilian sectors that are computer-based - whether it be the airlines or the railways, telecommunications, the power sector, including the nuclear power stations affecting millions of lives. Similarly, space satellites can also be very vulnerable and could hurt television, communications and other critical areas. Attacks could be more damaging than a border skirmish, is the feeling: it could create havoc among the civilian population.

The decision is an important move towards "Jointness" or closer cooperation between the three Services and that has not been forthcoming in recent years because they themselves have objections to certain proposals. The Indian Air Force has, in the past, objected to the creation of a chief of the Defence Staff, a fourth-four star officer.

All three Services have commandos -- the Army having the largest number. The Navy also has the Marcos and the Air Force, the Garuds. With the formation of the AFSOD, the commandos of all three Services will be able to be grouped together, train to a large extent and work together, whenever necessary.

The DCA has been an urgent requirement particularly in the face of regular efforts by people funded by organisations in Pakistan to hack into India's security establishments. Chinese hackers have also been a persistent threat. The DCA is expected to take strong defensive measures to fight off hackers and viruses and prevent their entry into protected accounts. Suspected US activity against the Iranian atomic power plants to neutralise them is one example of such activity.

The armed forces have also been talking about the militarisation of space. India has a large number of satellites in space for communication, reconnaissance and other purposes, and defensive measures are necessary. India is still to have space-based weapons like lasers or particle beams for deployment.

Initially, the armed forces had asked for commands and therefore, larger organisations. Manohar Parrikar, the then defence minister, had wanted the staff to be pared down and hired in relation to the tasks ahead. These will be leaner and perhaps, meaner personnel. The Special Operations Unit will be a division, a smaller outfit and the agencies too, will employ lesser manpower.

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