Direction of Higher Defence: II
Kapil Kak, Senior.Research Fellow,IDSA
Having identified the broad spectrum of extremely complex factors and problems that impact India's security, the management of defence and its higher direction merits a comprehensive examination. During the fifty years of our existence as a free nation, the British legacy-based systems for decision-making, planning and direction may have contributed to stability but have not metamorphosed in any substantive manner. A long-term focus, closer coordination, integration, cost-efficiency and elimination of adhocism have not been attained. Numerous past efforts in this direction have been stymied by inertia, resistance to change, organisational lobbying, perhaps some apathy of the services establishment itself but, most importantly, due to the bureaucracy's misplaced apprehensions on institutionalised change serving to erode its power base. The armed forces too have sought to preserve their isolation from state and society as they have, by and large, been left to run their affairs without any interference.
It needs to be reiterated that the combat power of the Indian armed forces is conceived as a political instrument that serves the objectives set forth in the national security strategy. It was Van Clausewitz who laid down the dictum that armed forces are created by states to engage in war which itself originates in a political framework, political considerations remaining the highest consideration in its conduct. The art, science and history of higher defence control, is thus the interaction between the political and military elements of a nation. Defence strategy, entailing employment of armed forces to secure national security objectives, and higher direction of defence must both constantly evolve through objective analyses of the present and future needs. The dynamics of unprecedented change in the challenge and threat environment and resources available to manage the same call for evolving and sculpting anticipative and quick-response systems.
Defence Doctrine and Planning
It is clear that successive governments in the past could have initiated measures to create more effective mechanisms for evolving defence policy and managing the same. This is particularly relevant when defence expenditure has averaged 3.01 per cent of GDP and 18.59 per cent of central government expenditure over the last 35 years (1961/62-1996/97). A Parliament-mandated National Security Council (NSC) created in 1990 has remained unoperationalised despite assurances to the contrary by Prime Ministers on the floor of the House. The report of the Committee of Defence Expenditure, also called the Arun Singh Committee (1990), which has apparently recommended far-reaching changes in the higher defence decision-making has remained shelved. The Estimate Committee's Nineteenth Report to the Lok Sabha (August 20, 1992) which made admonitory references to India having fought four wars and launched armed operations in and at the request of neighbouring countries without a clearly articulated and integrated defence policy, has elicited no tangible response. This appears tantamount to the politico-bureaucratic establishment's scant regard for the assertions and recommendations of an important committee of the representatives of the people.
The absence of a comprehensive defence doctrine, integrated planning and effectively synergised policy has been shown in bold relief in all the operations in which the Indian armed forces have taken part. Non-employment of the Indian Air Force in the 1962 War with China, purely on a misapprehension that India's undefended cities would come under punishing attack of the Chinese Air Force was due to the lack of a co-ordinated assessment. Likewise, our intervention in Sri Lanka 25 years later without a planning foundation exposed this lack of integrated analysis. Perhaps our triumphs of the Indo-Pak War (1971) and operations in Maldives (1988) could be largely ascribed to the success of inter-personal relationships at the highest decision-making levels and a range of fortuitous circumstances. The more significant lesson here is that a resounding military victory on the battlefield (1971) was squandered at the negotiating table. A trans-ministerial debate on the pros and cons of our final position at Simla may have unfolded options other than returning over 93,000 prisoners of war (POWs) without a quid-pro-quo from Pakistan.
In the planning and decision-making process, the overall goals of defence policy are of great salience as these define the quantum, quality and character of defence that is required to be provided to meet the objectives set forth. For decades, defence of national territory against external attack and aid to civil authorities for internal disturbances and natural calamities have been its two essential components. But in recent years, the defence policy spectrum appears to have widened, possibly consequent to India's perceived regional role, as also the realisation that military power must seek to defend India's strategic and security interests.
In the absence of any formal briefs or directives to the Chiefs of Staff by the Defence Minister, it is significant that the Sixth Report of the Standing Committee on Defence, presented to the Lok Sabha on March 8, 1996, defines India's national security interests (and guidelines for defence policy) as follows:
"(a) Defence of national territory over land, sea and air, encompassing among others the inviolability of our land borders, island territories, offshore assets and our maritime trade routes.
"(b) To secure an internal environment whereby our Nation-State is insured against any threat to its unity or progress on the basis of religion, language, ethnicity or socio-economic dissonance.
"(c) To enable our country to exercise a degree of influence over the nations in our immediate neighbourhood to promote harmonious relationships in tune with our national interests.
"(d) To be able to effectively contribute towards regional and international stability.
"(e) To possess an effective out-of-the country contingency capability to prevent destabilisation of the small nations in our immediate neighbourhood that could have adverse security implications for us."10
It would seem that the aforesaid guidelines seek to formalise the traditionally secondary internal role of the Army, possibly in conformity with the extant trends. Perhaps implicitly, such turbulence-management tasks are envisaged as being outside the capabilities of the central police and para-military forces. Exercise of a degree of influence over the nations in India's neighbourhood could be perceived as "hegemonic" though a series of confidence-building measures (CBMs) that have been initiated may blunt this sensitivity somewhat. The guidelines appear to have emanated without a trans-ministerial and inter-disciplinary consideration of mutually incompatible imperatives of overall policy. Possibly the out-of-country contingency capability is visualised strictly in response to requests from governments, but without such a clarificatory clause in the articulated guidelines, this element would seem to run counter to cooperative and comprehensive peace in the region. The guidelines serve as an example of the strands of diplomatic and defence policy not always being woven dextrously.
Higher direction of defence and its policy formulation are strictly the prerogative of the political leadership, as it should be in a democratic dispensation, there being full political control over the armed forces. This fundamental principle has been scrupulously followed by our apolitical armed forces, unlike the examples of Pakistan and Bangladesh in our neighbourhood. However, a subtle but tangible shift of civilian control from the political executive to the civil service has caused the existing disjunction to persist for decades. This unjustified, wasteful bureaucratic control in which civil servants exercise such unlimited authority over the armed forces does not exist in any of the Western democracies or socialist countries. A number of high-level committees in the past (Nawab Ali Yawar Jang Committee, Mishra Committee and a Parliamentary sub-committee) have recommended redressal of this imbalance.
It needs to be recalled that following redesignation of the Commanders-in-Chief of the three services as Chiefs of Staff (in 1955), possibly in conformity with the newly initiated democratic norms, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) acquired a status exclusive of the chiefs and their headquarters. These functioned as subordinate services outside the framework of the central government. As averred by Shekhar Gupta, the Chief Editor of the Indian Express, "In no other major democracy are the armed forces given so insignificant a role in policy making as in India. In no other country do they accept it with the docility they do in India."11 It has been said that while too little control over the armed forces can lead to serious problems, too much control can also smother the military and make them ineffective in the long run.
Integration of Services Headquarters with MoD
Our systemic weakness of the higher defence command and staff being outside the structure of government militates against the political leadership having opportunities to interface effectively with the Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC). This comprises three Service Chiefs, with the longest in the assignment serving as its Chairman. All major democracies like the US, UK and others have incorporated the higher military leadership in the machinery of the government. Such a step for India would serve to improve politico-military responses to challenges and threats, enhance the cost-efficiency and quality of higher direction of defence, and assist in gainful exploitation of the armed forces, as a political instrument to be seen more objectively and realistically. The perceived requirement to exercise financial and administrative checks upon the armed forces can continue to be fulfilled through scrutiny and examination of proposals beyond the boundaries and powers of the Chiefs, by the Department of Defence and Finance of the political executive.
Historically too, integration of the top military echelons within the structure of government, characterised higher defence organisation in India 2,000 years ago. The Mauryans had an Empire stretching from Kabul to Kamrup and Kashmir to Karnataka. "According to Megasthanes, the Greek Ambassador in the court of Chandragupta, the Mauryan War Office (with the Functions of the Army and Navy fully coordinated) had all the attributes of a modern organisation."12 In contrast, the Muslim theocratic military regimes established in medieval India, provided the Emperor absolute and unlimited powers without any institutional advisory mechanisms. As for later periods, the British reorganised the 18th Century Presidency Armies into an Indian Army on April 1, 1895. Decision-making systems were evolved to suit the needs of imperial defence until shortly before our independence, when further changes were made to conform to the needs of the new nation.
The Indian decision framework post-independence evolved from the painstaking work of Lord Ismay, an expert on higher defence, who also helped the Americans in organising their higher defence management structures after World War II. To his credit, Lord Ismay evolved a system of inter-locking committees which provided for full political control over the armed forces and yet ensured a level of functional integration between the three services with minimal red tape or bureaucratic control. For example, following his recommendations, the Defence Committee of the Cabinet (DCC) comprising the Prime Minister, Defence Minister and selected Ministers, with Service Chiefs and Defence Secretary in attendance at all meetings, was set up as the apex national defence body. The Defence Minister's Committee (DMC), chaired by the Defence Minister, working under the DCC, with Service Chiefs, Defence Secretary and FA (DS), as members served as the top policy formulation organ in the MoD. These committees were conceived with a rare strategic foresight, assiduously nurtured, and made to perform an inherently useful role soon after independence.
But over the years, the committees either ceased functioning or their character altered drastically. This has insulated the armed forces leadership from security and defence decision-making, and eroded the role of Service Chiefs as professional military advisors to the government. The horizontal component of this disjunction also precludes professional interaction between Services HQ and agencies outside MoD. Not surprisingly, the armed forces are reportedly isolated from approaches to nuclear policy, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), disarmament initiatives, chemical weapons policies/treaties. Missiles epitomise coercive power in international relations. Any efforts to safeguard our core strategic and security interests through development of a retaliatory capability would invariably involve the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Atomic Energy Establishment, Defence Production, Armed Forces, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), etc. The armed forces thus cannot be decoupled from the decision-making process at any stage. There is a distinct tendency to hoard information, as part of our functional ethos of turf protection, rather than have it expeditiously transmitted to agencies that need it to prepare their future plans or contingencies on extant trends. The Defence Minister's (Morning) Meeting, a three-decades-old reincarnation of the erstwhile DMC is an informal ad hoc weekly discussion forum more in the nature of a review or stock-taking, there being no formal agenda. Its dedicated staff from the erstwhile Cabinet Secretariat (Military Wing) has since been disestablished. Subjecting decisions of the important Inter- Services Committees viz. Principal Personnel Officers Committee (PPOC) and Principal Supply Officers Committee (PSOC), endorsed by the COSC, to endless scrutiny at various levels of the MoD has deeply eroded their envisaged character and rendered them toothless. Whilst numerous possibilities for restructuring the higher direction of defence are indeed possible, as a beginning, the question of reactivation of the DMC needs to be addressed on priority. The complexities of management of defence in today's environment preclude continuance of informal and ad hoc arrangements. Serving under the CCS, the DMC would need a full-fledged Secretariat of multi-disciplinary staff, a task that could easily be performed by the Directorate General, Defence Planning Staff (DGDPS) of the COSC.
A striking feature in our management of decision-making, on the civil side, has been the tendency to duck primary issues, buy time, and create a plethora of successive committees of Secretaries only to have these rendered non-operational through deliberate inaction. A Committee of Defence Planning (seven Secretaries and three Chiefs) established in 1978 wound down soon after. Likewise a Foreign and Defence Policy Advisory Committee (1986), which had three Ministers of State and four civil servants-without any representation of military leadership-never got activated. However, recent efforts to enhance the role and scope of deliberations by the Strategic Planning Group (selected Secretaries and three Service Chiefs) and Committee of Secretaries appear to be bearing fruit though the military's insulation from defence decision-making remains a chronic problem. The resultant disjunctions in higher defence control and a "suspicion loop" involving the political-bureaucratic-military leadership persists. As the journalist G.K. Reddy said many years ago, the "bureaucratic screen between the political leadership and the armed forces needs to be removed-the concept of civilian supremacy should not be carried to the point of making the services feel inferior and subordinate to even those in the bureaucracy." Professional advice tendered by top echelons of the military leadership needs to be available to the political executive without it being filtered or altered to suit the perspectives of the civil service because a decision made on a distorted input or interpretation could be a military disaster. This would also obviate temptations to rope in a pliable Service Chief for a militarily unsound decision to meet political exigencies. In an integrated framework, an informed, objective and professionally sound trilateral debate would precede any decisions on politico-military issues that need rapid responses.
The extant dispensation suffers from proposals of Services HQ being examined at multiple levels of the MoD who have no operational or technological expertise. Situated alongside is the FA(DS) who vets proposals and processes cases beyond the MoD's powers with the Ministry of Finance. This endless duplication/triplication expectedly causes delays and cost over-runs. Amalgamating the Services HQ, MoD and FA (DS), and having service officers and the civil service interact both vertically and horizontally alongside their financial counterparts would make for higher levels of synergy and efficiency, and speedier decision-making. In the UK too, its MoD is an integrated organisation of civil servants, armed forces officers, scientists and other executives who work collectively and take joint decisions.
Our line item-based and input-biased budgetary system is unable to determine the capability that expenditure buys. Output as a measure of performance is not determinable, because life cycle costs and annual operating costs of components of combat power viz. armoured division, fighter squadron, destroyer, etc. cannot be quantified. Also, the impact of reducing defence expenditure in real terms, as has been the case in India for over a decade is, thus, difficult to evaluate. Budgetary resource planning and management is a major area of potential reform. It would enable decision-makers to choose between alternative costing options and prioritise force and weapon mix for effective joint planning. We need to progressively change over to a system of output expenditure followed by programme budgetting whilst retaining the useful features of the current system. Recent changes in this direction involving greater devolution to lower formations and placement of integrated financial advisors at various levels are a welcome trend. This would receive a further impetus in an integrated functional framework
Reengineering Planning Process
Merger of Services Headquarters with the MoD and their redesignation as Departments of the Army, Navy and Air Force under their Chiefs of Staff would achieve multiple gains. Aside from creating an integrated approach, politico-military considerations would be rendered more comprehensive and objective through military representation in the decision-making loop. As the existing higher defence control structures are so well armoured by precedent and military bureaucratic resistance, this extraordinarily important change could be the first step towards an incremental restructuring. There is not space here to go into great detail about the envisaged changes, only the concepts and a broad approach are suggested. Also, on objective analysis, no revolutionary changes are warranted; it is only proposed to reactivate and revitalise long-standing mechanisms, with refinements introduced to suit current needs and trends.
Reestablishment of the long-defunct DMC and restoration of its dedicated Secretariat are considered imperative organisational changes. The Secretariat would need a new structure to stay tuned with the changed environment. Perhaps, the DGDPS would best serve this need as it has been lightly loaded since its inception in 1986. Following some erosion in its original charter, it currently assists the COSC in long-term threat assessment and evolution of tri-service defence plans. Its multi-disciplinary inter-service charter would assist it to perform the strategic coordination and defence policy tasks for the DMC under directions of the Department of Defence. The COSC can draw upon the expertise of Services HQ and its own Secretariat (Joint Secretary, Military) to meet the erstwhile tasks of the DGDPS.
It would appear that preponderance of routine defence related tasks has precluded the MoD from grappling with the complexities of multilateral international security components of politico-military policies. Perhaps to the chagrin of the higher military leadership, renunciation of their legitimate role in the nuclear policy, CTBT, NPT and FMCT negotiations/considerations has impelled increasing recourse to post-decision situation management in preference to a more proactive role. The envisaged change of the DGDPS charter would enable it to also serve as an effective policy planning and international security affairs (ISA) division of the MoD. An effective liaison with governmental and autonomous think-tanks would help it evolve processes and procedures to deal with countries on security issues in a comprehensive and integrated manner. As Air Commodore Jasjit Singh has averred, "What we need is a multi-disciplinary ISA division in the MoD which would receive inputs from other departments and agencies and coordinate a national position in consultation with them, especially working in close cooperation with MEA."13
The DGDPS's assessment of security trends at the global, regional and national levels and synthesis of the same with inputs from intelligence, armed forces and research centres would help it evolve politico-military strategies and enabling policy options for the MoD and eventually, the DMC. Instrumentalities for assessments and strategic policy planning would improve substantively. The DGDPS would need to be beefed up with a small component of multi-disciplinary staff to make its initiatives fully integrated. Towards this objective, the DG and ADG, presently tenable by the three services, could be made rotatory between the IAS/IFS and the armed forces.
The recent welcome trend of strategic and policy research centres growing in numbers, from an extremely narrow base, requires to be actively encouraged by the government as also the private sector. Research throughput of such bodies, their inter-organisational dialogue, particularly with national and state print and visual media, and expansion of such bodies on a national scale would help create the much-needed bipartisan consensus on security and defence policies.
Role of Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC)
An objective evaluation of the higher defence control would bring home certain inadequacies on the uniformed side as well. A brief examination would be in order. The COSC (first established in the early 1930s) serves as the Cabinet's highest professional advisory body on policy planning and force development, though practically its access is invariably confined to the Department of Defence. During war, the COSC is expected to direct operations in conformity with the political objectives set forth. It is also expected to resolve inter-service problems and refer to the MoD only those issues that are intractable.
India's experience with the functioning of the COSC has been a mixed one. On the positive side, the arrangement has not only endured over 50 years, but also contributed in a large measure towards inter-service bonding, so manifest today. There are undoubtedly some problem areas too. Criticism has been levelled on its functioning during the 1947-48 and 1962 operations against Pakistan and China as also reported Army personality dominance in the 1965 and 1971 Wars against Pakistan. Operations in Sri Lanka and Maldives also seem to have shown some of its glaring weaknesses. The heat generated prior to transfer of the maritime air operations role from the Air Force to the Navy (1975) and creation of Army Aviation (1988) serve as pointers to the COSC's limitations in harmonising incompatible perspectives of the services. Its lack of consensus on major issues leaves the political leadership with no choice but to have a civil servant to arbitrate and serve as an intermediary.
As decisions/recommendations are sought to be based on "consensus," in the interests of tri-service camaraderie, there is an inevitable temptation to shelve contentious issues. Each service tends to lobby for itself, sometimes even exaggerating threats to serve its short-term interests. Consequently, evolving inter-se priorities on force level and weapon mix or redistribution of defence resources to conform to the need for greater attention to long range air and naval assets have remained compellingly unresolved. Perhaps the absence of programme-budgetting which would make alternative weapon choices cost determinable exacerbates the dilemma of option-selection. Thus accommodation between services is invariably a compromise leading to sub-optimal utilisation of assets and capabilities. Either a vastly improved COSC or the eventual creation of a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) may address the problems somewhat, but the crucial prerequisite is the comprehensive integration of Services Headquarters with the MoD.
Concepts of CDS and Theatre Commander
The concept of CDS, variations of which obtain in the US, UK, France and other countries, is perceived to serve two important functions. First, to provide untrammelled single-point military advice to the political leadership and, second, achieve a far more effective coordination between the three services. There have been reports that on both counts the arrangement has faced numerous hiccups. Perhaps the nuclear weapon launch decision process invests the CDS' appointment with yet another dimension. In terms of functional model chosen, he could combine the dual responsibilities of the COSC or serve in an advisory capacity, leaving the Chiefs to exercise command function over their forces. In a yet another model (American), the Chiefs of Staff are only responsible for operational training and administration while the six Theatre Commanders deployed globally report directly to the political executive through the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff.
It would appear that none of the foregoing models would serve the higher direction needs until the extraordinarily important first step of integrating the Services HQ and MoD has been taken and the system allowed to stabilise. Besides, issues that would appear to impact introduction of the CDS merit a brief mention. First, the highly complex nature of inputs makes for competitive advisory inputs having a somewhat greater weight than the archaic single point advice. Second, exploitation of land, maritime and air strategies, as unique instruments of national power, with their varying levels of technologies may militate against their fusion. Creation of joint service doctrines and integrated strategies for specific operations of war may serve the purpose more effectively. Without the support of adequate joint staff and integrated planning across the board, he would remain more titular than effective. Third, fears of the Air Force and the Navy on dominance by the larger service (Army), even when the CDS appointment is rotatory, would need to be specifically addressed. It is perhaps not coincidental that the concept has succeeded in countries like the US, UK and France where the numbers and budgets of the three services are roughly 30 per cent each. Lastly, as our system would not permit the CDS a position above the Cabinet Secretary, the Chiefs would find it difficult to reconcile to a lowered precedence and loss of authority and accountability without any concurrent benefits.
As for the concept of Theatre Commander, given the nature of our likely commitments in the future and the resource-driven nature of our defence policy, its applicability would appear somewhat questionable. The Americans perceive global commitments; their land borders have been secure for decades-not a shot has been fired on America's borders even in anger! This contrasts sharply with India's defence being primarily oriented towards protection of the homeland. In the 50th year of our independence as a nation-state, troops continue to be deployed along the "lines of control" with China and Pakistan. Yet when neighbourhood contingencies so demanded, ad hoc organisations (Sri Lanka: 1987-89 and Maldives: 1989) functioned satisfactorily, though admittedly not without some hitches.
The Theatre Commander concept is essentially precluded by the Air Force mission being far wider in scope than the perceived needs of the land or naval Commander at the corps or theatre/equivalent level. Exploiting the flexibility, resilience, mobility and strategic reach of air power would invariably demand inter-theatre switching of forces during war. This is more so when air assets for a low-defence-spender like India would always be at a premium. The cardinal tenet of effective employment of air power is the "unity of air power." Its operational and organisational processes must be commanded and controlled at the highest practical level by a single agency having the best expertise to do so. From the stand point of command and control as well, our Chiefs (who are generally sensitive to their command functions) would have no direct part in the conduct of operations. The Theatre Commanders would report directly to the Defence Minister through the COSC/Defence Secretary. It is, therefore, debatable whether all these considerations and the high costs of major reorganisation of command and control structures of the armed forces would permit India to incorporate the Theatre Commander concept in decision-making at the operational level.
The crucial requirement of integrating operational resources of the services towards a common objective could be equally effectively achieved through joint planning and joint conduct of operations. Interfacing mechanisms at the strategic, operational and tactical levels would need to be improved to near real time dimensions. Development of synergised tri-service combat power can be greatly improved through exploitation of the dramatic potential of C4I2 systems, information warfare, and revolution in military affairs (RMA) technologies to the extent these can be inducted. Our past experience suggests the need for creation of joint staff structures under the Chairman, COSC. Dedicated two-star rotational appointees could oversee areas of joint operations, joint planning, joint intelligence, joint training, joint communications, joint electronics, etc, and strive to constantly iron out problem areas. These could report to a specially selected, three-star rank officer permanently delinked from his parent service, who has one fixed-term tenure before retiring at 60. A SMALL staff organisation would greatly improve the synergising component of decision-making at the strategic/operational levels towards development of joint combat power. It is understood that the committee of defence expenditure also recommended a somewhat similar structure.
This paper has endeavoured to highlight how at the dawn of thee 21st century and a new millenium, India continues to face a wide range of challenges threats to its security. Given the complex nature of the strategic environment, management of integrated integration of diplomatic and military components of state power would do a daunting prospect, unless the decion-making system is restructued and defined.
India's threat perspectives would continue to be impelled by the primary long-term strategic challenge from China and the secondary medium-term threat of a lower magnitude from Pakistan. Besides, irregular or sub-conventional conflict across a wide spectrum is finding increasing acceptance to meet political and strategic objectives. This tends to exacerbate the internal dimensions of the threat matrix, which are rooted in socio-economic inequities, regional disparities and political mismanagement.
Our National Security Council, established in 1990, has remained a non-starter due to political apathy, bureaucratic resistance and, more importantly, absence of a dedicated staff. There is a need to statutorily establish a Cabinet Committee on Security and its dedicated Secretariat for National Security, integrating a mix of civil services, armed forces and intelligence specialists. The latter is envisaged to coordinate preparation of options on geo-strategic, politico-military and internal policies for decisions at the Cabinet level.
Management of higher direction of defence needs to be proactive, efficient and long-term biased and calibrated more dextrously with foreign and internal security policies. Integration of the MoD, Services HQ and FA (DS) would not only eliminate the disjunction of civil military interface but make for higher levels of synergy, efficiency and decision-making ability. There would appear no alternative to reactivating the long defunct DMC. The existing DGDPS, transferred to the Department of Defence, could provide secretarial support for the DMC and perform strategic coordination, defence planning and international security tasks for the MoD.
The COSC has had a mixed bag of successes and inadequacies and needs an effective revamp before the concept of a CDS eventually takes some shape. Establishment of joint structures for planning, training, operations, etc. would enhance the quality of tri-service combat potential and its balanced application along with other elements of national power. The larger dimension of evolving closely coordinated, integrated and proactive security policies, through the envisaged changes, should re-equip the state with more effective instrumentality to counter complex security challenges and threats to protect Indian national interests.