In the natural progression of a country to take its rightful place in the world hierarchy by the middle of the next decade, India has no alternative but to make its processes simple, productive, modern and cost effective. Having a robust National War Doctrine will be the fitting measure to eradicate systemic inadequacies and the pitfalls of short term and tenure based thinking of retiring senior executives in the government. A Military Doctrine is only a component to achieve the aims of the country’s all encompassing and multi-dimensional War Doctrine. A good War Doctrine helps to prevent War whereas a good Military doctrine will help to achieve victory in the event of a war. Making economic progress of high order and promotion of social equity under the democratic framework demands that India pays serious attention to this little understood aspect of power play.
A War Doctrine is a combination of a nation’s policies, future concepts and steadfast principles into an integrated system for the purpose of governing its military forces…
In 1934, at the famous Nuremberg Rally, Adolf Hitler, the then Chancellor of Germany had proclaimed, “I respect those who fight; because human existence has always been a constant struggle, and only those who could fight and win have had the right to live in liberty with honour and prosper.” A War Doctrine is a sphere of serious thought which usually only countries with large standing forces and war equipment inventories can think of adopting in order to ensure SAP levels of maximum efficiency out of the huge investments made in both manpower and materiel.
The exception to this rule is those countries which have a low threat environment and who depend on unhurried mobilisation and expansion of their forces to meet unforeseen contingencies. Then there are also some other countries who have very little of the above-mentioned two different requirements yet they adopt a well-thought out War Doctrine because of their pride in having deterrent capability, and also the fact that they fiercely value their freedom and martial capabilities, good examples being Switzerland, Sweden and England. Without a War Doctrine, nations have always succumbed to invaders in spite of their prosperity and cultural advancement.
Modern National War Doctrine has its origins in the feat of Arms of Frederick the Great and Napolean Bonaparte in Europe and Mao Zhe-dong in Asia. King Frederick of Prussia laid the foundations for the eventual unification of the numerous quibbling and impoverished petty German States into the mighty German nation and more importantly, the containment of Austro-Hungary, which was the dominant hegemonious power in Central and Northern Europe. His army became a model of discipline, of being well versed in battle drills and capable of making swift marches and long movements with only light equipment and shorn of any inessential baggage, even in winter.
Napolean, on the other hand, revolutionised War Doctrine by creating the concept of ‘Nation at Arms’ with total mobilisation of the population to create ‘Citizen Armies’, fired by revolutionary zeal and patriotism. He also changed the concept of European warfare by creating autonomous Corps-sized groups of All Arms under several able ‘Marshalls’, who after being tasked did not wait for further orders and seized the initiative at the slightest of opportunity.
Most of the time, India is engaged in fighting a covert war with any one of its adversaries…
Mao Zhe-dong restored the pride of the Chinese nation which had remained unconquered since the time of Changhez Khan, though repeatedly defeated by the European powers and Japan since the 19th century and subjected to bullying to make it cede ‘concessions’ and sign ‘unequal’ treaties. Mao’s contribution to War Doctrine was in his unequalled organisation and mobilisation of the peasant masses of the vast rural areas of China to create inexhaustible Communist armies who thrived and expanded by capturing war materiel from their opponents in urban areas. He restored the pride and status of the peasants and soldiers, who were looked down upon in traditional Chinese society.
Even the USSR under Stalin never thought that he had the chance to succeed and were till the end on good terms with the KMT regime headed by Generalissimo Chiang-kai-Shek. Mao’s little studied post WW-II 1948-1949 aggressive and relentless massive military campaigns starting from Manchuria and steadily spreading South were brilliant in concept, masterly in planning and execution and were led by several till then unknown but able Marshals and Commissars (including the latter day famous Deng Xiao-peng). The far superior KMT armies got outmanoeuvred and were forced to surrender.
What is a War Doctrine?
In modern parlance, a War Doctrine can be described as the combination of a nation’s policies, future concepts and steadfast principles into an integrated system for the purpose of governing all types of Military Forces in force projection roles as well as in actual combat. It ensures consistent, coordinated and timely planning, capability building, and decisive employment of all the components of national power and persuasion tools. A War Doctrine represents the studied and refined cutting edge of available strategic thoughts and references on the employment or non-employment of force; that has been accepted by the Armed Forces, to ensure maximum efficiency and attainment of desired political goals swiftly. Such an accepted War Doctrine has to be a well understood methodology, and all national elements involved must respect and adhere to it as far as possible.
India needs to learn to speak softly and be eternally patient while dealing with her neighbours…
The ‘peril’ of making such a War Doctrine dogmatic also needs to be avoided for well considered reasons, as there may be the need to adapt it to every particular set of circumstances. The implementation aspect of National War Doctrine is called ‘Military Doctrine’. This is usually implemented by a combination of combined arms/combined services groupings, which are well-rehearsed and practiced in adopting integrated tactics, under a single Commander who is assisted by a competent General Staff. This Commander is ‘responsible’ for the ultimate outcome of operations and should, therefore, enjoy autonomy as well as authority over all the force components.
In the Indian context and regional security scenario, it would be advantageous if we adopt a well thought out War Doctrine incorporating and supported by all facets of national strength and policies, so as to enhance our deterrence capabilities and create the necessary caution in the minds of our potential enemies. Such a coordinated measure will work to ensure peace in our neighbourhood so that the country can continue to make steady economic progress over the next decade. The sinews of military strength should remain camouflaged, but should become glaringly evident when employed. The building blocks of a country’s successful War Doctrine are:
- Superior political and military intelligence agencies
- Strong diplomatic engagement and pursuit of tangible long term goals
- Projection of ‘soft power’ and economic competitiveness
- Show of ‘restraint’ and ‘ambiguous response’ to provocations aimed to perpetuate hatred
- Hard military response to situations where the outcome can be permanently advantageous
- Continuous R&D concerning major Weapons and Platforms, and concurrent setting up of indigenous manufacturing capabilities
- Adopting military technology advances quickly to our sub continental requirements
In order to remain a mighty land power in the future, India has to understand the geographical needs…
- Developing strong second strike nuclear punch and adequate strategic forces
- Ensure possession of overwhelmingly superior air power assets in our neighbourhood
- Retain the ability to launch ‘game changing’ counter-offensives in mountains and plains
Pitfalls of Going Against the Well-established War Doctrine
The tendency to commit military power for limited interventions, as India did in Sri Lanka during 1988-1989 or as Britain did in the Basra region of Iraq from 1991-1994 and in the Helmand region of Afghanistan from 1995-2014 (as part of NATO Expeditionary Groupings), should be avoided as this leads to loss of national prestige and creation of self-doubt and divisive criticism in the public domain. In the same vein, while Special Forces are certainly important, they cannot create situations of permanent national advantage or substitute the achievements which only mainline forces can wring by fighting a hard and lethal war. Therefore, the mainline forces should never remain neglected.
Also the country’s internal security situation should be tackled by a single unified paramilitary force, which alone can ensure concentration of effort where and when necessary, as well as ensure the much needed rotation of units to proper reserve locations after doing a two years hard counter-insurgency tenure. The solutions are all written on the wall but it takes moral courage as well as professional honesty and managerial skills to implement hard decisions. We have made doing one’s tenure and earning bravery or proficiency awards the pinnacle of measuring success, instead of aiming to restore peace and normalcy in the shortest possible time.
A country without a clearly defined War Doctrine will wallow from crisis to crisis…
Killing any number of militants is not as important as asphyxiating the phenomenon of insurgency in the shortest possible time. In this respect we need to humbly study how Vietnam fixed the insurgency prevalent amongst the tribes inhabiting its forested highland region and made these same areas amongst the most prosperous plantation lands in the world. The way Sri Lanka under a new President crushed the insurmountable LTTE in two years time is also a very good example. Today, the Maoists are surviving in Central India and that there are still remnants of armed militant groups in Jammu and Kashmir goes to prove that our methods and managerial efficiency to eradicate these blights are wanting. Our country should invest in skills and talent in the Armed Forces and paramilitary forces and develop a strong results oriented culture when such forces get committed. Economy must be achieved by going for an initial surge, tight monitoring of the quality of methods employed, and not by increasing the manpower strength. Tackling an insurgency by creating a permanent deployment matrix of the security forces indefinitely should be avoided, as this will hamper any transformation of the state police force required to handle the problem themselves.
A country without a clearly defined War Doctrine, which is adopted by consensus after learned and well informed debate, will wallow from crisis to crisis when faced with hard security situations and even commit blunders due to the inherent short-term thinking of the bureaucratic establishment. National policy will then remain in the hands of a coterie of top bureaucrats who are well past their prime and who will always suggest only fire fighting measures to the political leadership, resulting in the country remaining unprepared for contingencies involving the use of force, and more importantly – nurture national strength in the long term to create the required deterrence effect so as to ‘preclude’ the use of force in the first place.
‘Weakness’ definitely encourages detractors and opponents and while it is true that we cannot achieve all that we aspire to, a better way would be to clearly assess what our country is capable of achieving over the next ten years, and direct our national policies to attain the achievable with 100 per cent certainty. A very good example is that of Iran’s realpolitik over the last ten years. Despite the pressing Western sanctions Iran has succeeded in achieving an average annual GDP growth of over five per cent which is even better than India. In the strategic game, Iran has benefited the most by getting a strong Iraq destroyed by the US and its allies without committing even one soldier or firing one bullet. Iran today has also the greatest say in current day Iraq where the long downtrodden Shia majority considers it as its natural ally and prop to the Government. The US has unwittingly released the genie of the ISIS, and there is no power bold enough to commit troops on the ground to wipe it out. In ten years time, the whole population of Northern Iraq and Eastern Syria could become indoctrinated like the North Koreans and become a grave threat to Western civilisation.
If India had had a clear War Doctrine, the 1962 India – China War could have been easily avoided…
Having a War Doctrine does not mean becoming aggressive or warlike like the Germans were under Nazi rule. Such a situation can happen only in a dictatorship. France did not have a proper War Doctrine in the 1930s, otherwise it could have prevented the occurrence of WWII, due to the dangerous slide of events which happened every year after Germany under Hitler moved its antiquated military forces into the Ruhr Valley in 1934, thus breaking the provisions of the Versailles Treaty. Had France militarily intervened at that point and driven the weak German forces out of the Ruhr, it would have halted the rapid rearmament of Germany into a formidable colossus by 1939. Imperial Rome ruled much of the Western world and the Mediterranean rim for centuries during ancient times, simply because it had a very clear War Doctrine that did not tolerate the emergence of any other military power in its neighbourhood. We are having problems with Pakistan mainly for this reason, because from 1980s onwards we have allowed it to emerge unchecked as an inimical military power, which is seething with a paranoid revenge syndrome and aspiring to attain military parity with India. Strategically, Pakistan is a state that should serve as a buffer between India and Afghanistan and India and Iran, to enable our friendly ties with them.
The Pakistani military should be stuck with the reputation of becoming the ‘loser’ in its dealings with India every time, thereby eroding its national standing. The acme of wise statecraft is to attain this goal without actually having to wage a war! The Pakistani populace should themselves be made to demand that their Army should stop making them a laughing stock and a detested lot of the world. Pakistan has the potential to become the Switzerland of Asia because of its rich human potential, provided they scale up their governance standards and scale down their military to a sensible level. Therefore, it is in India’s interest to unilaterally take measures and follow policies which would make the role of the Pakistan military in that country’s political and social discourse unpopular and misunderstood. This should be the aim that has to be achieved in the next ten years.
If India had had a clear War Doctrine, the 1962 India – China War could have been easily avoided. Strengthening our borders and using military deployment to establish our claim line is all very fine. But caution should never have been thrown to the winds, even if the CIA assessment, to which we were secretly privy, was that the Chinese would not wage an all-out war. How could we have disregarded the heavily weighing practical factors like China is a powerful one party military state? Mao had suffered loss of face when India gave shelter to the Dalai Lama and therefore, the spirit of the Tibetan rebellion could never be crushed for decades and possibly for a century; when the logistics backup of our forces had not been consolidated, why then did we try to dislodge the Chinese by military actions from the Dhola Ridge across the Namka Chu or from the Pimple feature in Walong, which were basically uninhabited areas claimed by both sides? If our so-called claim lines were so precious, why then did we not take back POK a decade earlier?
The absence of a proper War Doctrine for India has pitted her more often into the trap of waging ‘Limited Wars’ much to the advantage of her adversaries…
It is wisely said that ‘discretion is the better part of valour’. If we had not provoked the Chinese when we were definitely on a weak wicket, by 1963 winter the same play of events could never have occurred. Whatever happened, definitely boosted up Chinese prestige in the ‘real’ world, and this was definitely at our expense. Our foreign policy mandarins, it appears, have still not learnt their lesson, for their advice to be treated as professional and relevant. Because of this military catastrophe, our country lost more than a decade of economic progress and missed an early switchover to a liberal and competitive framework, which would have enabled us to have a per capita income more than that of South Korea today. Having a realistic national War Doctrine which can be questioned in Parliament when things go wrong, will help to insulate ourselves from the personal follies of leaders and prevent the emergence of naïve ‘cliques’ who direct national policies.
War Doctrine Essentials
The critical support elements that are required for a strong War Doctrine to emerge are:
- Ensuring GDP growth exceeding eight per cent annually over the next decade
- Adopting policies that work towards not getting into conflict situations with other nations
- Improving the quality of intake of the officers and men into the Armed Forces and PMF
- Ensuring by whatever means, 90 per cent (by value) indigenous development and production of war material over the next ten years. Bi-annual targets must be set, and regular heads chopping done
- Reduce dependence on imported hydrocarbons to less than 25 per cent over the next decade
- Become a major maritime nation – in areas of exports, trade, ship building, harvesting of marine wealth and its efficient marketing, offshore oil and gas exploration and in ports capacity
- Overhaul the national university system to enable us to sustain our industries with world class technology, and produce more PhD holders with papers publishing record in reputed international journals. Such persons should get ‘PhD Emeritus’ status for one year
- Assist emergence of genuine India based MNCs on the world stage
- Create a dent in the Olympic Games ten years hence, by a well planned and lavishly funded Sports Development Programme based on residential nodes established in each district