Great effort is being put in by the Armed Forces in scripting various doctrines but given the current state of our higher defence organizations, particularly the Ministry of Defence (MoD), and the fact that Armed Forces are kept at arm’s length in strategic policy formulation, makes follow up of these doctrines very difficult, reducing them to exercises’ in semantics. The latest edition to these doctrines is the Indian Army Land Warfare Doctrine 2018. This doctrine is required to be read in conjunction ‘Joint Doctrine of Indian Armed Forces – 2017’, as stipulated on the Indian Army website. The ‘Joint Doctrine, Indian Armed Forces – 2017’ was issued in April 2017 by HQ Integrated Defence Staff (IDS), which as reported by media was “to ensure Army, Navy, IAF can tackle entire spectrum of conflict”.
Media quoting MoD sources had stated the ‘Joint Doctrine, Indian Armed Forces – 2017’ underlines the need for “application of military power” in an integrated manner to enhance operational efficiency as well as optimize utilization of resources for a greater military punch from limited budgetary funds. And, that it also charts out a broad framework of principles for joint planning and the need to build integrated land-air-sea-cyberspace war-fighting machinery, but also “signals” the intent of the military to the world at large. What signal it was giving to the world at large perhaps the source could have been asked to elaborate upon since the state of the equipping of the military was no secret. The bit about “optimize utilization of resources for a greater military punch from limited budgetary funds” needed to be seen in backdrop of successive ‘negative’ budget allocations despite the expanding anti-India China-Pakistan nexus. Similar attitude was visible in the deteriorating situation in the Kashmir Valley with continuing sermons to security forces to show restraint, while the state administration played fence sitters ensconced by layers of security.
But the vital question with respect to this ‘Joint Doctrine, Indian Armed Forces – 2017’ is who will walk the talk? Where are the command structures and the organizations that would implement this joint doctrine? Is this meant solely for the Strategic Forces Command (SFC) or the Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC) with the latter anyway always looking over the shoulder because of inadequate teeth? As usual, the MoD source indulged in big talk, but unless concrete and effective measures are taken to synergize, reorganize and equip the Armed Forces, this will remain another paper exercise – jokingly referred to as NATO (no action, talk only). Recommendations by the Kargil Review Committee (KRC) and Group of Minister (GoM) Reports to appoint a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) remain a chimera. Adequate military synergy simply cannot come without a CDS. HQ IDS established post Kargil Conflict was to be part of MoD but this came up as a separate HQ, which killed the purpose for which it was raised. There has been some talk of some ‘middle-level’ posts in MoD being identified for military officers but that is only sidetracking the vital issue.
12 years back in year 2005, HQ IDS had ordered five studies by different organizations, which had made concrete recommendations that were agreed to by the operational directorate heads of the three services (Army, Navy and Air Force) chaired by the CISC. So why do we need to keep ordering more and more studies unless the intent is to continue status quo in perpetuity. The Naresh Chandra Committee had recommended establishment of an Aerospace Command, Cyber Command and Special Operations Command, which have reportedly been downgraded to smaller organizations. Two of these are awaiting approval by the Cabinet Committee on Security, while the third appears lost in red tape. Was any operational consideration given to this arbitrary scaling down of these three proposed commands? Take for example, Cyber Warfare, where these programs in the US and China are led by the US Military and the PLA respectively, with good reason. In India, the military has been deliberately kept away. Do we realize the significance of cyber warfare as part of hybrid war?
Russia is signaling it can immobilize the US Navy with electronic bombs – something which China too is feverishly working upon. China is already contesting the US in cyber supremacy. We may applaud couple of hacking attacks in Pakistan but it is naïve to assume that NTRO can cope with the total military aspects of cyber warfare. Lackadaisical attitude on such vital issues can lead to strategic shock and loss of face. Same goes for space where involvement of the military is an imperative, though hardly being thought about. Similarly, special operations need to be executed continuously at the strategic level, one-time signal through ‘surgical strikes’ notwithstanding. Study hybrid warfare by Russia, US, NATO, China and one common tool extensively employed is special operations. Facing 1000 cuts by Pakistan past decades, why are we dragging our feet over establishing a Special Operations Command / Division? As for human intelligence, why is it that the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) mandated to operate cross-border sources since its establishment not permitted to do so? Can we have R&AW coordinating with DIA rather than stonewalling the latter fearing loss of turf? The beginning could be made by the political hierarchy acknowledging that we are constantly at hybrid war, conventional war only being one part of it. Can we afford to keep waiting for conventional war to happen?
Post the ‘surgical strikes’, then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had boasted “we made the army realize their capabilities”, even as he admitted he was unable to cope with handling of the Kashmir Valley. He had also said that he got the inspiration for the surgical strikes from ‘Hanuman’. He and his ilk need to read up Chanakya, who had advocated six-fold policy to deal with neighbours; co-existence, neutrality, alliance, double policy, march and war, and If the end can be achieved by non-military method, even by methods of intrigue, duplicity and fraud, he would not advocate an armed conflict. Perhaps that would evoke interest in the political hierarchy to understand nuances of hybrid warfare. Of course, bureaucracy in MoD would like to convince the political hierarchy that conventional war will never occur and Armed Forces are just a necessary evil. Finally at the cost of reiteration, are we in a position to walk the talk of ‘Joint Doctrine, Indian Armed Forces – 2017’; dispassionate analysis would tell you – no.
As a follow up to the ‘Joint Doctrine, Indian Armed Forces – 2017’, HQ IDS issued the ‘Joint Training Doctrine, Indian Armed Forces–2017’ on November 14, 2017, after it was approved by the Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC). The 51-page doctrine aimed to boost synergy and integration amongst the Armed Forces. It is well established that no single service can fight the war by itself – a fact established decades back; the folly of not using the Air Force in the 1962 Sino-Indian War being one example. So, the need to train together is obvious. The joint training doctrine outlines the macro-level approach to joint training, fundamentals, objectives, joint structures, planning and covers other associated connected aspects.
A first time document of this type, the Joint Training Doctrine also underlined the need to systematically prepare for war throughout the spectrum of conflict (nuclear, conventional and sub-conventional) with active domains of space, cyberspace and electromagnetic, plus special operations in support of military operations, in pursuance of building an integrated war-fighting machinery, maintain credible nuclear deterrence and guard against unconventional threats. All this looks good on paper but the problem is the lack of joint structures and unified command that can implement both these doctrines; Joint Doctrine, Indian Armed Forces–2017 and Joint Training Doctrine, Indian Armed Forces–2017. HQ IDS only has operational responsibility for Out of Area Contingencies (OOAC) and therefore can oversee only limited joint training in this context on an annual basis.
The abovementioned joint training too is ad hoc since there is no dedicated Joint Task Force (JTF) for OOAC; implying every time there may be fresh set of individuals training for the particular task. At the national level, there is no thought or strategy about joint training say of the Army, Air Force and the Special Frontier Force (SFF), which would be vital for contingencies in Tibet. There is little progress on the National Defence University which is essential to train the higher leadership, same as the need to set up a Joint War College for the Military. The talk of rehashing the lopsided higher defence organizations and synergizing the Armed Forces come up periodically and after some time is brushed under the carpet, in a manner similar to defence and other scams brought to the fore for political brownies only.
Resultantly, despite the politico-bureaucratic war-gaming, we remain where we are. Remember then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar stated during the India Today Conclave in March 2015 that the CDS was a must and hoped to propose a mechanism for the creation of the post within the next three months? In July 2015, media reported the proposal to create the new post of a Permanent Chairman of COSC (PC COSC) was in “an advanced stage of planning”. Not very surprising a faux passé then emerged whether a CDS or a PC COSC will be appointed. A national daily promptly mentioned “consensus” about having a PC COSC instead of a CDS had emerged – consensus amongst whom? But now, talk of both the CDS and PC COSC have subsided, which may probably surface again just before the forthcoming general elections.
The excuse of differences over the CDS amongst Army, Navy, and Air Force continues to be played even though the Service Chiefs unanimously affirmed to then Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee during a tri-Services meeting on September 8, 2005 that not only a CDS must be appointed immediately, he must be given “full operational powers”. Ironically, on Navy Day 2018, the Chief of Naval Staff & Chairman COSC stated that the three Services were in agreement for a PC COSC, also indicating that the Air Force was not agreeable to a CDS. That the Air Chief was maneuvered by MoD’s bureaucracy can hardly be discounted because keeping the military divided has been the game bureaucrats have been playing over the ages. A PC COSC will be a toothless tiger as the present rotational one, having operational powers only for OOAC.
The CCS note under which HQ IDS was established, mischievously states, “As and when a CDS is appointed, he will have equal voting rights as Service Chiefs and in case of disagreement by two Service Chiefs, arbitration will be done by MoD”. So the question of CDS being single point adviser to government was killed before the CDS is established. The bureaucracy is adept at ‘coaxing’ an odd service chief to disagree to CDS. But national security issues can hardly be sacrificed to the whims and fancies of any Service Chief. In UK it was Gen Gerald Templar, Chief of Army Staff who was against appointment of a CDS, however, Field Marshal Mountbatten prevailed. In the US, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) organization came into being under the Nichols-Goldwater Act of 1986 that included the various global / theatre commands. The office of the Chairman JCS (‘Purple Suiters’) also had a specified number of staff; around 920. As this is through an Act, amendments can only be made by Congress. Incidentally even a Brigadier General in US puts on his rank after Senate approval. The lesson for India is that appointment of a CDS, Joint Commands, their responsibilities and staff should be by an Act of Parliament and not through bureaucratic razzle-dazzle of CCS that can be altered with every whim and fancy of bureaucrats and individual politician. The irony is that the political hierarchy is more interested in pushing through Acts of Parliament that permit anonymous foreign funding of political parties that cannot be questioned, or pushing through more reservations.
In China, the synergizing of China’s armed forces began under President Ziang Jemim, who took personnel charge to kick start and speed up the process. Unfortunately, no Prime Minister in India has shown that inclination despite successive Prime Ministers emphasizing the need for joint command structures and joint organizations. Under the present dispensation, military soldiers are being constantly degraded. Now the grapevine is that the CDS stands dumped altogether, though no reason has been given for doing so. Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is yet to make any statement on such issues. It hardly needs emphasis that without unified commands and unified defence structures, joint doctrines worked out by the Armed Forces remain only as good intellectual exercises.
Indian Army Land Warfare Doctrine 2018 covers: the geostrategic environment – environmental realities and future security challenges; spectrum of conflict and force application – current dynamics of no war, no peace, conflict scenarios, non-combat and hybrid warfare, military operations other than war (MOOTW), enhancing defence capability, military diplomacy, and; capacity development – focus areas, multi-front capability, ISR and precision strike, theatreisation of critical assets, information warfare (IW), techno-centric warfare, space warfare, special forces capability, force projection capability, operational readiness, nuclear environment and training. This doctrine is to “lay the foundation for formulation of strategies for the Northern and Western Fronts and Operational Directives”.