Finally, moving out of defence colony

New Delhi‘s decision to post military and defence attaches to several new countries reflects India‘s changing assessments of strategic interests. Countering China, safeguarding critical gateways and increasing export of Indian military hardware is behind the choice of these new outposts that include several countries in Africa, East Europe and Asia Pacific. Now, GoI must ensure that defence personnel in missions abroad aren’t limited to procurement, trade and training, as defence is an essential component of strategic relations.

A better understanding of a defence attache’s role is a must for the most optimum outcome. Export opportunities for India’s domestic defence industry are essential to their work. Gone are the days when defence procurement and trade were the only areas of focus. Posting dedicated staff in Mozambique, Ethiopia and the Ivory Coast reflects the interest in deepening India’s strategic engagement in Africa, and addressing the interest in Indian military hardware. The military component in strategic relations must drive this engagement. Djibouti, the Philippines, Poland and Armenia aren’t just potential buyers of ‘toys for the boys’. Terrorism, intel gathering, defence advice and peace support require specialised engagement. The defence establishment must be ready for a broader, more strategic role. Defence personnel as foreign area officers must ensure an effective partnership with the foreign office.

Expansion must not, of course, come at the cost of reducing defence personnel in countries that are strategic partners. Rather than ‘rationalising’, current geopolitical challenges and fragmentation require more robust engagement, especially considering India’s tightrope walk on many international flashpoints.


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