- RN Ravi is now the third deputy to national security adviser Ajit Doval
- Mr Ravi has been centre's interlocutor with Naga insurgent groups
- This could be a precursor to new appointments in security establishment
RN Ravi, former chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, was appointed as deputy national security adviser on Thursday. He will now be the third deputy reporting to national security adviser Ajit Doval.
The other deputy nation security advisers are former secretary, Research and Analysis Wing, Rajinder Khanna and former diplomat Pankaj Saran. Being a 1976 batch officer of the Indian Police Service, Mr Ravi would now be the senior-most among the three deputies as Mr Khanna is a 1978 batch IPS officer and Mr Saran a 1982 batch officer of the Indian Foreign Service.
Mr Ravi has been the National Democratic Alliance government's interlocutor with Naga insurgent group National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah) and is credited to have played a key role in the 2015 peace accord between the centre and the outfit.
He is known to have worked closely with Mr Doval in the past. He was handling the North-East when the latter was the director of the Intelligence Bureau. Interestingly, both Mr Doval and Mr Ravi are Kerala cadre IPS officers. Mr Doval is eight batches senior to the latter.
The other aspect of Mr Ravi's re-designation is that it brings the Joint Intelligence Committee completely under the control of the National Security Council Secretariat.
"As of now, the government has merged the Joint Intelligence Committee with National Security Council Secretariat with the re-designation of RN Ravi," revealed a senior official.
"The idea is to ensure proper collation and consolidation of intelligence," the official added.
The responsibilities have been allocated to the three deputy national security advisors keeping in mind India's new security challenges, both internal and external.
"RN Ravi will handle the internal part of India's security policy while Pankaj Saran will look after external aspects. Rajinder Khanna will deal specifically with intelligence," explained a senior bureaucrat.
Defence experts said that India needs to improve its management of internal security and deploy better counter-terrorism strategies.
"Our intelligence apparatus needs to be well-prepared against all threats. We cannot take anything lightly. This new appointment is crucial because it makes the office of the National Security Adviser all-powerful. The best minds have been chosen by the National Security Adviser," said a senior intelligence official, who did not wish to be identified.
However, critics have different opinion.
"The economy is in a shambles. India's relations with all its neighbours are at their lowest. What will these three gentlemen (the three deputy national security advisers) bring to the table? The government lacks a coherent policy on all fronts," said another retired intelligence officer.
Meanwhile, there's also speculation in bureaucratic circles that RN Ravi might have been given a new assignment to open up space for the government to appoint a new chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee in a couple of months.
The time period is crucial as in two months' time the posts of both Director Intelligence Bureau and secretary, Research and Analysis Wing, will fall vacant.
"If government wishes to placate any senior contenders for these two posts, then one of them can be appointed as the new chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee," explains a senior officer.
Arvind Kumar, a 1984 batch officer from the Assam-Meghalaya cadre, is the senior-most IPS officer in the Intelligence Bureau and is tipped to be the next director.
In the Research and Analysis Wing, 1982 batch officer K Ilango is the senior-most followed by three 1984 batch officers. Among them are Samant Goel of the Punjab cadre and V Johri of the Madhya Pradesh cadre.
The centre also gave a three-month extension to Maharashtra Director General of Police DD Padsalgikar, a 1982 batch IPS officer, earlier in August.
"He too can be a contender for the post of Director Intelligence Bureau. But for the government to appoint him, he needs to be in service when the present director retires in December. So either the government can give him another three month extension or it can appoint him as the next director before November 30. In that case, the present director could become the new chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee," explains a former bureaucrat.