In hostile interactions between nations, there are ‘no rules’ for the Victors till the status quo has been established. India is a continental country and should, therefore, have a realistic outlook and possess strong Land Forces, unlike other nations which maintain strong Navies and have sea barriers to protect them. Wars, if fought, should have decisive outcomes so as to ensure a century of peace thereafter, goes the old Clausewitzian dictum. The importance of restructuring Indian Army’s battle groupings to fight decisive “deep operations” in order to permanently achieve the strategic upper hand should, therefore, not be lost sight of. Our national war aim should not be the capture of territories or assimilation of hostile populations but to ensure the destruction of enemy forces, and a favourable outcome to neighbourly relations in the decades ahead. In the wars fought by India since Independence, this reality has been significantly lacking in decision making inputs.
India cannot wish away wars and live on the assurances of unpredictable neighbours, who do not have a democratic governing culture…
With the promulgation of ‘FM-100-5 Operations’ guidelines in 1982, the US Army finally bade farewell to the ‘Attrition Theory’, and transited to the ‘Manoeuvre Theory’ in order to win wars. Earlier in 1967, during Exercise DNIEPER, the Soviet Union had switched over to the ‘All Arms Battle Concept’ and fine-tuned its offensive doctrine based on successively coordinated and staged forward ‘Echelons’ in order to achieve “Penetration”, “Shaping of the Battlefield”, and the conduct of “Deep Operations” using Corps-sized mechanised Operational Mobile Groups (OMG), for maintaining the momentum of sustained unstoppable offensive operations under nuclear as well as non-nuclear battlefield conditions. This was the ‘trigger’ which led to the change in American military thinking, as NATO had no viable answers to counter the overwhelming threat posed by the finesse’ of Red Armour operations.
After great study and deliberations, the Chinese Central Military Commission has also in early 2016 switched over to the “Theatre Forces Joint Command” structure, for the purpose of “winning wars with manoeuvre under modern battlefield conditions.” But we find that the Indian Army’s War Theory has mostly stagnated and become repetitive, ever since the conduct of the massive Exercise BETWA in 1968! The reasons are not hard to find. It takes a gestation period of Five Years to conceptualise, debate and produce a workable War Doctrine even if we have two successive dynamic and like-minded Army Chiefs.
The transformation of the Force structure and mastering of the Battle Drills will require another Five Years. For this to be successfully achieved, it is not enough to look inwards to dwell on “what we lack”, but we should also closely study the weaknesses in the Force structure and Logistics support vulnerabilities of our adversaries, in order to create the psychological ‘Shock Effect’ on our opponents as the Japanese attained over the Russians in 1904-1905, and the Chinese did the same to us in 1962. The sequence of unfolding events in many cases, usually quickly and inevitably lead to a war situation. From a historical perspective, India cannot wish away wars and live on the assurances of unpredictable neighbours, who do not have a democratic governing culture.
In the Indian context, our Army cannot plan on aggressive operations ab initio due to the policy restraints of our democratic polity…
Rooted as we are with the familiarity of English language and Western military thinking, few in India have closely studied the techniques evolved by the Red Army and successfully employed to develop the winnable “Deep Battle” concept, from the launch of Operation POLKOVODETS RUMYANTSEV in June 1943 for the recapture of Kharkov. The successful German technique of Blitzkrieg was only a ‘tactical level method’ compared to the Deep Operations theory which was perfected by the Russians against the massed and well-equipped Wehrmacht, which was capable of fighting manoeuvre battles and were strongly deployed in depth.
Similarly, the Russian offensive launched against the more than million strong Japanese Army in Manchukuo in August 1945, is a military classic, as to what was achievable in 12 days of hard fighting against a determined foe in difficult terrain, who had not grasped the impact of manoeuvre theory in ‘modern day warfare’. The honour of Russian Arms was thereby restored in East Asia. The relevance of these studies is important in the context of optimally practising ‘Air-land Battle’ synergy, exploiting fleeting ‘political windows’ of opportunity in our subcontinent, and irrevocable rejection of the ‘flawed’ concept of concluding only “stalemate battles”, if a war is thrust upon us. Mere additions to the Glossary of Military Terms and new acronyms cannot guarantee success in a future war, if we do not shed our apparatchik mentality on questions of Higher Command.
In a ‘good’ Army, sparks should fly in military journals and analysis reports of recent wars, and in-house criticism of and reviews of the conduct of major level Army exercises. Such blogs in the Army’s ‘Divisional Commanders and Above’ secret net, should carry on for a couple of months followed by centrally held Operational discussions to further refine our operational Art, before the next big exercise is held. The emergence of different workable solutions to military problems is a sign of a healthy and potent Army. For example, even under a communist ruled set-up, the switchover that Marshal M N Tukhachevskii, along with Generals Viktor Triandafillov and G Isserson achieved in the Red Army during the early to mid-1930s period, from the concept of “Broad Front” operations to “Deep Battle” operations, with the active support of Marshal Yegorov who was then the Commandant of the ‘Frunze Academy’ of Higher Military Command Training, Moscow; which involved the raising of seven full-fledged new Mechanised ‘Corps’ groupings was epochal! Though these large Mechanised groupings were redistributed after Stalin’s purges of the military in 1937, they formed the lifesaving background of experience for the revival of the Red Army’s offensive potential from late 1942 onwards.
India’s dealings with China are hallmarked by a gross lack of understanding on the part of the former’s policymakers of its rich and continuous history…
In the Indian context, our Army cannot plan on aggressive operations ab initio due to the policy restraints of our democratic polity. India can only plan on undertaking aggressive operations if attacked first, as then the public sentiments will be strongly supportive towards our Army. This vital factor makes it obligatory to have advanced logistics preparations undertaken and put in place during peacetime. The ‘set-ups’ required for quick recycling of own battle damaged and captured enemy equipment should be made foolproof and supremely efficient, in order to maintain the tempo of offensive and defensive operations. There is very little scope for being given a second chance in the next war.
Since ancient times, China is amongst the most predictable of nations on earth. However, India’s dealings with China are hallmarked by a gross lack of understanding on the part of the former’s policymakers of its rich and continuous history. Typically, the Chinese rulers to save “face”, expect outward manifestations of “paying respect” from others, even if the Chinese State has to pay reparations and indemnity to its strong opponents, for them to stay at peace with it! ‘China proper’ consists of 17 ‘core provinces’ inhabited by predominantly Han population.
Xinjiang, Tibet, Qinghai, Inner Mongolia, Yunnan and Heilongjiang are regions where the Chinese rulers had undertaken conquests for brief periods at the peak of their power, or when invaders from these regions had overwhelmed parts of China in the past. Chinese rulers for the most part of history had been paying the warlike border populations of these parts hefty annual bounties and maintaining friendly ties with their rulers, by betrothal of Chinese royal princesses, to keep their depredations under check. The basic ‘comprehension’ of China can start only if one understands the physical grouping and zones into which the Chinese provinces and regions can be categorised, as given below:-
‘Bei’, ‘Dong’, ‘Nan’ and ‘Xi’ are Chinese words for North, East, South and West. ‘Shan’ stands for mountains (was initially referred to the North – South ‘Taihang’ Range, Southwest of Beijing.) ‘He’ stands for river. ‘Hu’ stands for a large lake. ‘Guang’ means a large sized territory. Most of the Chinese provincial names have emerged as a combination of these character words. The Chinese first imperial Dynasty, ‘Qin’ (221 BC – 206 BC) gave rise to the Sanskrit name Chiina and later, the Western name of ‘China’ was given to this country. Its despotic founder King Zheng of present day Shaanxi – Ningxia region, who was later renamed Shi Huangdi (First Emperor), has special significance for Chinese hearts.
A proper understanding of Chinese history and the characteristics of its political class is essential to formulate the defence policies of India…
Similarly, the present extant of China represents the boundaries of the last ‘Qing’ Empire (1644 AD – 1912 AD) when it was at its peak; who were the ferocious and much hated by the Han people ‘Manchoo-Jurchen-Mongol’ combine of conquerors from the Northeast. It is a historical fact that all Chinese dynasties have shown inevitable decline after the first three generations, and the present day Communist dispensation is not likely to beat this trend after 2025. Except in urban areas, the Chinese people historically have respect for a strong State set-up which ensures peace and least taxation policies. They have very less respect for democracy as we know it, as it is considered a sure way for hastening disorder and paving the way for the emergence of regional warlords. A proper understanding of Chinese history and the characteristics of its political class is essential to formulate the defence policies of India, so as to ensure peace and reap long-lasting economic benefits.
The ‘Deep Operations’ Theory and Concept
There is a tendency amongst many military thinkers to confuse “deep battle” with “deep operations”. These are actually entirely different issues both in scale and technique. To be prepared to undertake “Deep Operations”, there is the need to reinforce the ‘Effort’ on the main axes by deliberately thinning out ‘Holding forces’ on the Fronts. Whereas “Deep Battle” is fought at the tactical level at the stage of Break-In operations, “Deep Operations” are fought at the strategic level, when conditions of large-scale manoeuverability have been created.
The Soviet ‘Draft PU-39 Field Service Regulations’ (War Doctrine pamphlet) prepared by Tukhachevskii during early 1937 clearly enunciated the principles of employment of offensive mechanised forces in battle including “development of Penetrations”, the clear-cut “roles of Echelons” in extending the momentum of Deep Battle at the Operational level, stage-managing the flow of the logistics chain in order to sustain the offensive firestorm into the enemy’s battle-depth areas, conducting simultaneous “Maskirovka” operations to keep the enemy ‘confused’ about own intentions and build-up, and “how to launch the manoeuvre of strategic significance” as opposed to tactical or operational manoeuvres. These actions should create ‘false impressions’ in the enemy higher commander’s mind that the offensives they are facing have “limitless resources”.
While ‘control by detailed orders’ (Befehlstaktik) are essential at the tactical and operational levels, the style of command has to effortlessly switch over to ‘directive control’ (Auftragstaktik), in the ultimate stages of a large-scale offensive operation in order to gain strategic victories. Tukhachevskii was truly the Great Captain of War of the twentieth century “who never was”, as the shadow of his brain’s output when pulled out of the locker in spring 1942 and implemented, successfully guided the Red Army’s brilliant counter-offensives and later period front level grand offensives, which sent the Wehrmacht reeling back into Germany.
Elaboration of the “Deepening Idea”
For the ‘Break In’ operation in the plains in the Indian context, at each Army level, two RAPID divisions are required. This will continue from ‘D Day’ to ‘D Plus 1’, and will also serve as Holding Attacks on the enemy’s defences and draw in their Tactical Reserves. Further progression of the offensive operations can be based on the following historical example.
There is a tendency amongst many military thinkers to confuse “deep battle” with “deep operations”…
In August 1943, the Red Army perfected the art of inserting a “Development Echelon-1” into a penetration during ‘D Plus 2’ consisting of an Armoured Division, during the successful ‘Belgorod – Kharkov’ offensive by Marshal Rokossovski’s Voronezh Front. This was followed up with the insertion of a “Development Echelon-2” consisting of a Mechanised Division during ‘D Plus 3’. These actions led to the sucking in of the German Theatre Reserves and a confused state of uncoordinated fighting taking place in the enemy’s operational depth of up to 30 km. Thereafter, both sides got exhausted by ‘D Plus 4’ and awaited logistics replenishment.
At this crucial stage, the Soviets launched their “Shock Echelon-1” consisting of an Armoured Division on the night of ‘D Plus 4’, followed by the launching of “Shock Echelon-2” consisting of a Mechanised Division on ‘D Plus 5’ night. These were fresh troops and they easily managed to have a run of the battlefield in the enemy’s strategic depth. With periodic replenishments being ensured/‘Shock Echelons’ being replaced by the already inserted and replenished ‘Development Echelons’, a pattern of successful engagements was created at several ‘Break In’ Points, leading to the entire collapse of the enemy’s front, irrespective of the piecemeal nature of resources pumped in by the Germans and however tactically outstanding their commanders were.
From ‘D Plus 8’ onwards, the enemy was forced to order a deep withdrawal of his forces to prevent their rout and capitulation. From ‘D Day’ to ‘D Plus 3’ the pattern of operations was based on the ‘Detailed Orders’ (Befehlstaktik) principle, and from ‘D Plus 4’ onwards, on the ‘Directive Control’ (Auftragstaktik) principle. From this period onwards, the Russians were the masters of the offensive as they further perfected their battle drills. In the subsequent offensive, Marshal Vatutin’s 1st Ukrainian Front and Marshal Koniev’s 2nd Ukrainian Front liberated Kiev and smashed up Manstein’s Southern Army Group against the Carpathians Mountains by March 1944. Most Western commentators wrongly give credit to the Soviet material superiority, and overlook the application and perfection achieved in practicing the Deep Operations Theory.
Restructuring of Indian Army to execute the “Deepening Idea” Concept of Operations
The requirement of creating the capability for undertaking “Deep Operations” in the plains, calls for urgent steps to adopt the proven ‘Echelons System’ of manoeuvre warfare and bury the existing ‘Attrition Theory’ of deliberate and predictable offensive operations. A suggested Force structure for the Indian Army is given below:
By regrouping all the existing (I) Armoured Brigades, (I) Mechanised Brigades and the Armoured Brigades presently allotted to defensive formations, this is an achievable Force configuration in a matter of three years. The whole gamut of ‘deterrence’ will then change!
Creating Offensive Capabilities in the Mountains with Available Force Levels
History has shown that when India had been complacent, other nations have ruthlessly invaded and scattered our unprepared armies…
In the mountains, a Division in major offensive role requires at-least one ‘Class 9 all weather two way road Axis’ to logistically sustain its offensive actions. Therefore, careful attention and planning has to be paid to connect the Class 9 Axis on own side with that on the enemy side in the least possible time. The requirements of moving artillery ammunition and supplies override all other considerations. A high degree of advance dumping for all requirements of three weeks duration will have to be carried out prior to own offensives.
History has shown that when India had been complacent, peaceful, preaching to neighbours about, “trust, good values, and brotherly relations”, other nations have ruthlessly invaded and scattered our unprepared armies with disdain and contempt. That is what we deserve if we are weak! The following historical narrative is worth recapitulating in this context. The great Chinese Buddhist scholar Yuanzang had left China in 629 AD for India via the Samarkand route and returned to China in 645 AD, hailed as a hero. He converted the imperial ‘Tang’ Dynasty to Buddhism.
The Chinese Emperor Tang Taizong sent a Chinese General named Wang Xuanze to the Emperor Harshavardhana’s court in 643 AD in return for the Indian Emperor having sent an ambassadorial delegation to Chang’an, the then Chinese capital. The Chinese repeated this gesture in 648 AD under the same general. But Emperor Harsha had died in 647 AD and there was no clear succession. In those troubled times of internal strife, Wang Xuanze’s mission was waylaid, and he fled and took refuge in Lhasa with the founder of the Tibetan nation Srong-Brtsan-Sgam-Po.
India needs to have a ‘Mountain Strike Corps East’ and a ‘Mountain Strike Corps North’ consisting of four Divisions each…
To oblige the Chinese who were keen to seek allied relations with the martial Tibetans and had even given an imperial Chinese princess in marriage, the Tibetan ruler lent his Army to General Wang Xuanze in 649 AD, to carry out a punitive expedition through the Chumbi Valley into the present day areas of North Bengal and Bihar. In 649 AD, both the Chinese Emperor Tang Taizong and Tibetan ruler Srong-Brtsan-Sgam-Po died, but this expedition is recorded in Chinese history, as they had captured and taken to Chang’an, an Indian Prince as hostage. This was the first recorded antagonistic India-China dealings in history. This goes to show that India’s Northeast as well as Northwest had always been vulnerable to invasions.
India needs to have a ‘Mountain Strike Corps East’ and a ‘Mountain Strike Corps North’ consisting of four Divisions each. These Corps have to be trained and equipped for high altitude operations, and should have an Aviation Brigade each to support their emergency logistics. The areas of Outer Tibet and Eastern Turkistan had never been under direct Chinese rule except for certain brief periods of military expeditions. The Manchoo Qing Banners (expedition forces) had briefly occupied Lhasa in 1720 AD, at the height of their power to install a pro-Chinese Seventh Dalai Lama, as the ruling Dynasty had given high credence to the continued blessings of the Buddhist spiritual Head.
Similarly, during the 1750s, the Qing (Manchoo-Jurchen) Banners had carried out an extermination campaign on the Zhunghar-Uighur population of present day North Xinjiang. In 1758-1759, a Qing Banner conquering force had defeated the Khoja Sufi Naqshbandi rulers of present day South Xingjiang and expelled the bulk of the local population across the Pamirs. The Chinese Empire receded into perpetual decline from 1842 AD, after the British used the might of their Royal Navy and the British East India Company’s Army to end the Opium War.
The prior existence of proper Groupings for command and control will also ensure the setting up of functional signal communications needed for ‘dispersed’ offensive operations, if required. Air superiority has to be ensured for successful dominance over the opponent, and to protect our vital lines of logistics replenishment. It is very essential to move up selected rail-heads to within 50 km of our mountainous border areas, for strategic reasons.
A country should talk ‘peace’ only if it has the military capability to cause serious harm…
Human beings have always been imperfect and greedy. Nothing exemplifies this statement than the proper study of history. China’s dream of world domination is over 2,000 years old, as her rulers believe that they alone carry the ‘Mandate from Heaven’! In hostile interactions between nations, there are ‘no rules’ for the Victors till the status quo has been established. India is a continental country and should, therefore, have a realistic outlook and possess strong Land Forces, unlike other nations which maintain strong Navies and have sea barriers to protect them. Wars, if fought, should have decisive outcomes so as to ensure a century of peace thereafter, goes the old Clausewitzian dictum. The importance of restructuring Indian Army’s battle groupings to fight decisive “deep operations” in order to permanently achieve the strategic upper hand should, therefore, not be lost sight of. Our national war aim should not be the capture of territories or assimilation of hostile populations but to ensure the destruction of enemy forces, and a favourable outcome to neighbourly relations in the decades ahead. In the wars fought by India since Independence, this reality has been significantly lacking in decision making inputs.
A country should talk ‘peace’ only if it has the military capability to cause serious harm. There can be no bar to fruitful military thinking even though such capability may not exist in the present. Brigadier Richard Simpkin states in his book, ‘Deep Battle’ that the greatness of the development of Deep Operations Theory in the Soviet Red Army was that, “they did not develop their thinking in the wake of changing historical conditions, but they correctly forecast the ‘possibilities’ of new technological instruments of war at a time when (their) Army had not been, and was not being reconstructed in the light of these.”
Colonel JFC Fuller wrote the book ‘The Reformation of War’ in 1923, in which he emphatically stressed the importance of winning the ‘First Battle’ in order to create a moral offensive and to prevent his country from being dragged into a protracted War. To achieve this, he prophesised that, “mobility … and not numbers, should be the line along which future preparations have to be made to re-model our Army.” After WW II, many a British army man wished that his words had been heeded! It has become imperative for the Indian Army to graduate to the doctrine of Deep Operations in order to stay relevant, and to ‘grab’ a respectable share of the ‘Capital Expenditure’ portion of India’s Defence Budget.
- Deep Battle : The Brainchild of Marshal Tukhachevskii – Brig Richard Simpkin, Brassey’s, London, 1987.
- China : A History – John Key, Harper Collins, London, 2008.
- Politics in China : An Introduction – William A Joseph, Oxford University Press, 2010.
- Soviet Deep Operations : The Campaign in Manchuria, August 1945 – Major Elvis E Blumenthal, USMC, CDC, Quantico, 1994.
- Barbarossa : The Russo-German Conflict of 1941-45 : Alan Clark, Hutchinson Publishers, London, 1965.
- Internet and other Open Sources.