After the Supreme Court made it optional for cinema theatres to play the national anthem before every screening, the government has set up an inter-ministerial committee to study the rules for playing the anthem and give its recommendations. The panel will be headed by Brij Raj Sharma, special secretary in the ministry of home affairs in charge of border affairs. Besides Sharma, the committee will include 11 other members, including joint secretary-level officials nominated by the ministries, including defence, external affairs, human resource development, law, information and broadcasting, among others.
Sharma is a Jammu & Kashmir cadre IAS officer and has been directed to frame guidelines on how the national anthem is to be played and sung. The panel will submit its report within six months. However, sources say, during this interval the government says it will seek directions from the Supreme Court on its interim order. The Sharma panel’s report, it is hoped, will clear the confusion that has created a public stir.
Former RAW chief Rajinder Khanna has been named the Deputy National Security Adviser, the first time that both the National Security Advisor and the Deputy NSA are from the intelligence background. Before confirming the appointment, sources say, the government held discussions on why the National Security Advisor (NSA) and deputy NSA should have a security background instead of the usual foreign affairs background. NSA Ajit Doval, a former IPS officer, retired as chief of the Intelligence Bureau (IB), the country's internal intelligence agency.
Khanna, a 1978 batch Research and Analysis Wing service (RAW) officer, is considered an expert on Pakistan and Islamic terrorism, and has supervised several counter-terrorism operations. After retiring from RAW he was re-employed as Officer on Special Duty (neighbourhood studies) in the National Security Council Secretariat. By appointing two intelligence officers as the NSA and deputy NSA, it is a clear signal that internal security is top priority for the Modi sarkar. The post was lying vacant since Arvind Gupta, a former Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officer, completed his tenure in August last year. Mr Gupta was appointed to the post in August 2014.
The naming of Vijay Gokhale as foreign secretary is being viewed as a sign that the government is focusing intensely on its approach to China, following the Doklam episode, which raised tensions between the two nations. A 1981-batch IFS officer and secretary (economic relations in the ministry of external affairs, Mr Gokhale succeeds Dr S. Jaishankar, who is completing his tenure this month-end. Whispers in Delhi suggest that Mr Jaishankar himself may well segue into some useful but new role, pretty soon.
Significantly, Mr Gokhale was Indian ambassador to Beijing during the border crisis and played a major role in intensive talks with Chinese diplomats. Apparently, his views on China are in convergence with Jaishankar’s, who too had an earlier stint as enjoy to China. Sources say that Mr Gokhale is representative of a new generation of China experts trying to make the point that old-style methods of dealing with Beijing need a relook. Sources say that Mr Gokhale’s appointment firmly ensconces a new outlook on China within the ministry of external affairs, one which marks a breakaway from the old thinking. How effective the new thinking will be, will be known in the months ahead as India negotiates with its aggressive neighbour....