A ‘heavy breakthrough capability’ in India’s context relates to having the capability to reach objectives up to 600km in depth, should the political circumstances impose war on our nation. Our democratic set up will never allow India to become the aggressor, as the people’s support will never be available for even thinking of such dangerous and unproductive ventures. India does not believe in either territorial conquest or forcible amalgamation of unwilling or a different type of population. Such actions can only be carried out by totalitarian regimes which can easily misrepresent facts to their countrymen and live a lie while festering rebellions gather smoke waiting for the central authority’s power to wane. It was exactly such a situation that arose in the erstwhile Soviet Union leading to its break up.
The Indian government spends huge sums of money every year for the modernisation of the Armed Forces. An approximate sum of Rs 79,600 crore1 was spent under the Major Budget Head 4076 during the Financial Year 2013-2014. The rough breakdown is as given in the table:
The figures clearly show that the government is prepared to provide funds to those who take the initiative and bid for resources, ensure projects are tightly controlled and expenditure monitored and have high levels of managerial and coordination efficiency in a structured mechanism in order to implement 100 per cent funds utilisation over a ten-month period during the financial year. It has been observed over the last five years that Army HQ has remained highly cautious, not exerting itself to carry out the required modernisation of the Army on the scale that is required to meet the security challenges of the future. There is no valid reason other than this to presume as to why the average value of the annual budget for the modernisation of the Army could not have exceeded Rs 25,000 crore.
A nation is feared and taken seriously for its conventional arms capability, if it is already a nuclear weapons state…
In such important matters, the results of the good work put in today become effective only six to seven years later. Foresight and drive are paramount to achieve long-term force strengthening objectives. It is pertinent to note as a comparative figure of efficiency, that in the private sector, an MNC like Hindustan Uni Lever2 repatriates more than Rs 16,000 crore of profits annually out of India merely by selling products such as soaps, toothpaste and shampoo! This is more than the Indian Army’s modernisation budget.
It is important to understand that the Army’s modernisation push should not in any way be at the expense of the other two services by getting funds transferred to the Army’s Head. Such an ‘easy’ solution would be foolhardy and will immeasurably hurt the country’s long term capability development efforts. The Army needs to do much more than the Indian Air Force and the Indian Navy as far as modernisation of warlike stores and building up deterrent capabilities are concerned. It is not only superior planning that is required to ensure this but also ‘enlightened’ lobbying in the quarters concerned as well as building public opinion and Parliamentary consensus to get the proposals through. This is eminently achievable under Indian conditions and circumstances. This will also make the Indian Army a formidable instrument that will support the country’s foreign policy and achieve sustained peace and tranquility in the Asian neighbourhood. We must, on a war footing, target to achieve an average expenditure of Rs 35,000 crore annually over the next five years for modernisation of the Army in order for it to become a superior force.
Not unrelated to the ‘paradox’ of the largest component of the Armed Forces getting the least amount of funds for its modernisation effort, is the little known fact that of the sidelining of Staff Duties (SD) Branch and the Weapons & Equipment (WE) Branch in Army HQs. Often these Branches are ‘headless’ or are treated as temporary parking slots for birds of passage. Almost all the senior officers posted here are in their ‘last rank’ posting and are therefore not inclined to exert themselves or increase their workload. Most of them are contented by burying themselves in the details and remain oblivious of the larger picture. The hard fact remains that these branches are the most important Line Directorates of the Army during long spells of peace. Yet they have remained neglected for a very long time not receiving the attention they deserve. The results achieved speak for themselves. If the importance and levels of functional efficiency of these branches are improved on a war footing, the Army can achieve higher levels of punch in future conflicts including decisive offensive capabilities at short notice, unlike the embarrassing situation that had emerged during OP PARAKRAM.
Our Army’s manpower management efficiency today compares poorly with other large size modern armies…
The SD Directorate is responsible for ensuring the optimum utilisation of the manpower structure of our Army. It lays down the organisational structure of formations and units, decides manning levels, carries out new raisings and sanctions all types of extra regimental employments and functional attachments of manpower. Similarly, the WE Directorate ensures the right selection of weapon systems after elaborate trials, does the drafting work for General Staff Qualitative Requirements (GSQR) for all equipment and forwards Requests for Proposals (RFP). It is directly responsible for preventing the negative impact of obsolescence of warlike stores, planning the long term indigenisation of costly equipment manufacture and giving the Army’s requirements to the DRDO and OFB at least six years in advance, life-cycle management of all existing systems and ensure timely mid-life upgrades. Such fields specially require domain specialisation and an officer posted to these Directorates should complete three tenures there during his 25 years of service provided his performance and integrity levels are of very high order.
Unfortunately, in the Indian Army, the prevailing situation is that officers with little chance of promotion are posted to these branches and in many cases, it is their first exposure to the highest rank that they can achieve. Therefore, their motivational level is low, and automatically, the Army’s modernisation effort has become slow and drags with no focus on management efficiency. For example, the Army’s manpower management efficiency today compares poorly with other large size modern armies that have achieved a standard ‘brick’ of 45 combat divisions for a million men in arms. This type of restructuring study does not require the assistance of management consultants such as McKinsey or BCG! We only have to look inwards and pool our existing talents to achieve this benchmark.
The Nuclear Arms – Conventional Armed Capability Paradox
A nation is feared and taken seriously for its conventional arms capability, if it is already a nuclear weapons state. This was the lesson America learnt after the Vietnam War. In the present and future regional and world conflict scenarios, it is enough if India possesses a second strike nuclear arms capability of 25 second generation thermo-nuclear ‘tested’ warheads, to prevent any hostile power from daring to escalate a conflict situation to a nuclear level. The ‘second strike’ capability has become far more important than the ‘first strike’ capability itself. It is like a single wild elephant standing near a wire fence creating the necessary deterrence to all other denizens nearby, even across the fence.
Our democratic set up will never allow India to become the aggressor…
Any country wantonly using nuclear weapons for a ‘first strike’ will attract a nuke-out by the USA, as per its secret nuclear doctrine and contingency plans. These are hard learned lessons of the US, which, despite being the world’s unsurpassed nuclear power, fared badly against non nuclear opponents in the Korean and Vietnamese Wars. After the US woke up to the realities of the world and laid stress on developing unmatched conventional war capabilities from the late 1970s, no opponents including China want to go near the mighty American war machine. All Chinese plans for the ultimate ‘liberation’ of Taiwan and completion of unification, stands indefinitely postponed, loss of face notwithstanding!
In the present scenario, nuclear weapons can only be used by a nuclear state facing complete annihilation or conquest. Any irresponsible nation state under the rule of a military dictator or irresponsible and misguided zealots that tries to employ nuclear weapons against its adversary, in all likelihood, will be met with either a pre-emptive or a massive retaliatory strike by the US even if this country is not at war with the US. First use of nuclear weapons is a sin which the world can neither tolerate nor forgive.
In order to ensure lasting peace in our neighbourhood, it is, therefore, necessary that a country of India’s size and population, which has dreams of becoming a permanent member of the UN Security Council, should aim to possess a credible ‘second’ strike nuclear capability. The nation must focus on developing a formidable conventional arms capability instead of resting its hopes on a first strike nuclear capability which mere possession of nuclear weapons provide. This is the only language our neighbours understand. We can then concentrate on achieving a sustained economic growth of eight to ten per cent of GDP, and increase the present levels of cross-border trade by at least 20 per cent annually over the next two decades. It has been rightly said that if goods do not cross borders, soldiers surely will. At present, goods are not crossing our borders in sufficient quantities so as to preclude future wars.
The good work that our external intelligence agencies do, never gets reported…
Achieving Heavy Breakthrough Capability by India
A ‘heavy breakthrough capability’ in India’s context relates to having the capability to reach objectives up to 600km in depth, should war be imposed upon the nation. Our democratic set up will never allow India to become the aggressor, as the people’s support will never be available for such dangerous and unproductive ventures. India does not believe in either territorial conquest or forcible amalgamation of unwilling or a different type of population. Such actions can only be carried out by totalitarian regimes which can easily misrepresent facts to their countrymen and live a lie while festering rebellions gather smoke waiting for the central authority’s power to wane. It was exactly such a situation that arose in the erstwhile Soviet Union leading to its break up.
For a heavy breakthrough operation to be successful, it ideally requires the concentrated offensive efforts of two army-sized groupings, be it in the plains or mountains. This boils down to having in the plains six Armoured Divisions and eight motorised Infantry follow on Divisions, along with the usual supporting arms and logistics complements. Whereas in the mountains, nine fully equipped and acclimatised Mountain Divisions will be needed to meet this requirement. These force groupings should have all necessary integral complements in order to have balance and sustain the momentum.
Such a force aggregation may at first sight look unrealistic and unattainable unless we go for costly forces expansion and disregard manpower ceilings constraints. But if we really do a re-think and change our philosophy of war, it is attainable in a realistic timeframe of four to five years without breaching the existing manpower ceiling. In the US, the Congress has mandated a compulsory Decennial Forces Structure Review, in order to cut costs and do away with what is redundant. Similarly, we in India should also adopt a Statutory Forces Structure Review every 15 years under Parliamentary mandate to confront the realities of our strategic environment more realistically.