Over the past decade, the state has been intent on streamlining its defence policies and inter alia define the prospects that its military establishment must seek in preservation of the nation’s military security. Towards that end, the government had a series of studies and committees constituted. However, pinned down by political indifference and bureaucratic wrangling – both, civil and military – efforts made in that direction have not made sufficient headway. Besides, the three services too had constituted their thinking groups to vitalise military strategic theologies and to identify the ways and means of achieving that end.
The state of military preparedness remains no better than what it had been at the time of the Kargil Conflict…
Unfortunately, these confabulations could never surpass the affliction of resource-accretion, thus remaining short of delving into ingenuous deployment of these in warfare. In the overall analysis, political disorientation, partisan rivalries, corrupt practices and unaccountability of defence research and industrial sectors have paid put to those efforts, so much so that the state of military preparedness remains no better than what it had been at the time of the Kargil Conflict.
There is now a new government, apparently intent on overcoming our systemic debilities and free the military establishment to reach its potential. Obviously, the way to begin that noble quest would be to spell out of a political mandate, prod the defence establishments to streamline their structures and deliver designated outputs and enjoin the military to transform in tune with relevant military theology. For the second listed course to proceed, articulation of a military doctrine is imperative.
It would be perfectly justified for the Indian citizens to ask as what goals the state will set for our military institution and what the military doctrine will be to achieve that end. The question, as to how practically implementable that doctrine might be, should also be a valid concern – one does not want to commit national resources for chimera, after all. It is, therefore, difficult to turn away from such fundamental queries as:
The Indian political establishment depends upon civilian institutions in managing national security concerns…
- Why, even while maintaining the world’s third largest military force, are we unable to deter adversarial military impositions – territorial encroachment, proxy war, terror attacks, and the ever looming prospect of military aggression?
- How might the chasm between the force level and the capacity to maintain these with full compliment of war wherewithal – military hardware, ammunitions, transportation and logistic infrastructure, and appropriate funding for these – be covered, for the entire military force to be in full operational fettle?
- How may we defend India with our main weaponry having to be purchased from abroad? How long may the world’s third largest military force remain at the mercy of foreign military industry?
- Within the means feasible to garner, how best can the Indian military deter the alliance of two powerful enemies – with the kind of unbridled hostility they indulge, it would be foolish to consider them as mere ‘adversaries’ – from stream-rolling over our Indian nationhood?
There is not much to twirl our moustaches about when we tread upon honest answers to the above listed queries. Indeed, strict evaluation indicates that our enemies are only partially deterred from military aggression but yet find ways to strike at us militarily; we have a strong force-structure of which we maintain in operational readiness only a part and for political expediency we have allowed strangulation of military technology. No doubt, even with the resources committed over the five decades after the lesson of 1962 debacle, we could have nurtured a more powerful military force had our political management of that institution been astute.
To be counted in global politics, the Indian military will have to gear up to participate in UN assignments and various allied military manoeuvres…
There are two courses open to seek answers to the above listed queries. The simplistic one is to prod along, as we have done so far, to exploit imported weaponry around a fixated war doctrine and marshal both our political restraint and soldierly valour to buy military stalemate. The other, more rewarding but intellectually pioneering course is to devise such a war-fighting doctrine that assimilates our assets and limitations to deter intransigence and punish the rogue if that deterrence fails. It may be a combined political and military endeavour to break free of the mundane and, given the Indian dispensation, proceed to make her defence investment count better returns.
Setting the Stage
It is beyond the scope of this discussion to home in onto the likely contours of an appropriate military doctrine for the Indian military. In any case, doctrinal inquisition is not a one-stop affair, it evolves over time alongside operational practices adopted to deal with military challenges, and is regulated by the nation’s defence architecture, industrial capacity and fiscal viability. It would, therefore, be in order to discuss the parameters and considerations that might facilitate the process and so streamline the diffused military thinking to order.
The first key consideration is that the nation’s political demeanour makes it apparent that articulation of military power is not on her agenda. In military preparedness, she is bound to by consensus amongst internal institutions most of which, patriotic rhetoric apart, are either inert or chary of matters military. Further, the Indian political establishment depends upon civilian institutions in managing national security concerns and even if uninitiated in military institutional complexities, to set the level of defence preparedness.
Therefore, the time when the political leadership is able to spell out a sensible mandate is yet far. Meanwhile, the military leadership will have to proceed with evolving a truly beaconing military doctrine based on informed and practical assumptions. Wisdom, therefore, dictates that the drafters of the doctrine evaluate the environment under which it may have to be implemented. Thus might emerge the best options, within the resources available, to devise an implementable doctrine – in consultation with the policy makers, with their endorsement and intent of marshalling the state institutions to purpose.
A military doctrine has to be customised to exploit national strengths while covering its limitations…
Next, the doctrine would have to set conventional military goals in dealing with the aggressive impositions of China and an ever antagonistic Pakistan. To dissuade China from attempting to secure her territorial claims by her powerful military means, the politico-diplomatic cost of such a venture on China has to be rendered unprofitable – just the military cost may not deter her.
One way to do so maybe to bank upon a defensive strategy executed with extreme aggressiveness, including special and behind-the-lines operations, in conformity to the advantageous features of terrain, Tibetan dissent and continuation of long drawn war of varying tempo, thus denying her the satisfaction of proclaiming victory. In dealing with Pakistan, the current concept of launching strong manoeuvre forces to conduct deliberate, sharp, short and yet debilitating operations would remain relevant, though perfecting of balanced force-composition and calling Pakistan’s nuclear bombast may be thought of.
The third consideration would have to be aimed at dealing with the current trends of politico-military subversion, like China’s role in the build up of Pakistan’s conventional, nuclear and logistic capabilities; Pakistan’s unrelenting export of terrorism, and various forms of internally instigated and externally promoted sub-conventional wars, prospects of which loom ominously over India’s future security.
To be counted in global politics, the Indian military will have to gear up to participate in UN assignments and various allied military manoeuvres. To meet this end, highly capable Special Forces, backed by modern conventional battle formations would be necessary. That would be another consideration in evolution of the doctrine.
Conduct of modern warfare requires support of the latest in deception, cyber and psychological warfare and C4I2 technologies…
A military doctrine has to be customised to exploit national strengths while covering its limitations, it may be another consideration in making of the doctrine. Even if dependent on import of major weaponry and equipment, India is competent in construction, transportation and IT engineering. Therefore, while imports and indigenous development of sophisticated military hardware may continue, force-multiplication of such hardware through technological and logistic enhancements that are within our capabilities may be another key consideration.
Exploiting our capacity to produce modest designs in large numbers, we could hedge sophistication with numbers, covering quality with quantity till our military industry comes of age. Finally, ingenious, fearless and hardy soldier being our best asset, we could invest more on his training and morale to compensate for our technological and fiscal limitations.
How will the Doctrine Help?
Having already discussed the necessity of devising formal military doctrine to guide the nation’s military preparedness, we may now briefly outline some of the answers that such a doctrine may provide. The doctrine would bring to focus a new era military force-structuring in terms of types of battle formations, their roles and organisation, and their numbers that may be maintained at full, partial and sequestered state. It would optimise joint-service assignment of forces and the level of acceptable redundancies. More importantly, it would be cognisant of the trend of sub-conventional conflicts reigning before, during and after a conventional war has shaped the situation, and thus promote comprehensive integration of war-plans.
In the current dispensation, with combat, support and logistic elements held in irreconcilable states of incompatibility, battle formations are handicapped in terms of ‘balance in composition’. Indeed, the current scaling of fire power, mobility, electronic warfare, communications and logistics back-ups fall well short of what is needed to fight a modern war on land, sea and air. Ad hoc attachments to reconcile this mismatch may work in peacetime exercises, not in war. A doctrine would help overcome that anomaly. It would also re-tune the practice of incremental ‘arm-modernisation’ into force-modernisation that is focused to the kind of war propounded, allocation of funds and priorities being dictated accordingly.
Pakistan’s presumed nuclear rational-irrational paradox seems to deter India’s exercise of conventional military power…
Revamp of strategic and tactical intelligence set-up may be facilitated by the guidelines enunciated by the doctrine. Further, with the emergence of ‘dual-purpose’ capabilities like money-trafficking, cyber-subversion, media-manipulation, economic arm-twisting and technology denial, the scope of military intelligence can no more be confined to the traditional force and terrain information; societal, fiscal and political input are very much part of it, particularly in sub-conventional operations. The doctrine would facilitate cover that void through linkages with national intelligence agencies in a formally structured manner.
Conduct of modern warfare requires support of the latest in deception, cyber and psychological warfare and C4I2 technologies. Whereas these are still treated in peripheral terms, we need to institute measures to institutionalise these capabilities into every level of the force-structure. Expansion of the charter of the Territorial Army to marshal complementary effort from expert soldier-citizens operating in the banking, excise, engineering, cyber, financial, industrial, transportation, media and policing sectors may also be proposed.
We could build upon our national competencies in transportation, communications, storage, material handling, earthwork and bridging capability and so provide to our commanders more tactical freedom to deploy their resources in succession. Besides, we could exploit IT to disorient the adversary and corrupt his command and control set up, and so make up to some extent for our limitations in sophisticated weaponry.
Whereas global military technology does not cater to the kinds of land, air and to some extent, sea terrain, the Indian military forces have to operate upon scarce effort has been made in past six decades to develop terrain-customised military hardware that could accord distinct advantages to own forces in war. A native military doctrine would see to amelioration of that oversight.
Majority of our military leadership, bureaucrats and politicians responsible of national security remain shackled in thought and deed…
Pakistan’s presumed nuclear rational-irrational paradox seems to deter India’s exercise of conventional military power. It is a case of the weak deterring the strong, where-in the paranoia of anti-India afflictions on one end and the call of the jihadi ‘noble death’ on the other contrasts the fundamentals of deterrence. Similarly, India’s ‘minimum nuclear deterrence’ may not really matter to China that could, under the garb of cultural revolution, exterminate 36 million people and sink 15 cities to construct one ‘great dam’. A doctrine free of such self-condescending impositions may get us out of that jam.
Finally, we could choose our best time and terrain to act as it may suit us. Every situation need not be restored ‘pronto’, with high casualties like Kargil, in exchange for deliberate build up – and engage in psychological and diplomatic game to bridge the time.
The Doctrinal Dream
Majority of our military leadership, defence ministry bureaucrats, politicians responsible of national security and strategic think-tanks, though competent, remain shackled in thought and deed to a placid and obfuscating system. Yet there comes a time when such people break out of that system and realign the state-apparatus towards a better destiny. In that context, for the doctrinal initiatives to be implementable, we have to address those who would actually implement the change – that is, the executive functionaries, both within the military as well as in the defence bureaucracy.
It is historically recognised that the conduct of war has much to do with intellect, creativity and initiative. From this angle, it is imperative to devote attention towards the conceptual inquisition of the strategic complexions of warfare that may confront the Indian defence forces in the coming years. There are fundamental disputes in the neighbourhood, and even if it takes two to fight, just one is enough to start it. India, therefore, has no choice but to be ready to secure herself with the available and affordable resources. A new-look Doctrine may just help her do that.