Military & Aerospace

Military Modernisation in the Absence of a National Security Doctrine
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Issue Vol. 31.1 Jan-Mar 2016 | Date : 03 Apr , 2016

“It has always been the law that the weaker should be subject to the stronger.”               — Thucydides

It was a sad commentary for the nation when, in 1999, during the Kargil War the then Chief of Army Staff had lamented, “We will fight with what we have.” This was the unfortunate consequence of a decade of neglect in the modernisation of the military by the earlier governments. There seems to be a notion amongst the political class and bureaucrats that buying some pieces of new weaponry and weapons system make an army ‘modern’, and that these are readily available off the shelf. No wonder the governments tend to leave the modernisation to that last moment when they are confronted with an imminent conflict situation.

Military organisations and choice of weapon systems are dictated by the nature of the adversarial threat…

Despite all the talk of globalisation and economic inter-dependence in the world at large, governments are duty bound to provide safety to its people within its territorial boundaries and now its Diaspora too – “salus populi suprema lex” (The safety of the People is the supreme law).

Thereby, as a corollary, war becomes an instrument of state policy as much as other elements of national power (diplomacy, economy, commerce and trade) to ensure the safety of its people, their beliefs, customs and way of life. It also has a responsibility towards its people on foreign soil. Clausewitz’s observation that, “War is not an independent phenomenon, but is a continuation of politics by different means….war plans results directly from the political conditions of two warring states….” is as relevant today as it was two hundred years ago.

As a consequence, the State configures its military power consistent with its national interests. National strategy is about shaping the future and achieving the desirable ends with the means available. Spelling out the vital national interests and the way the Government would pursue these as also identify the red lines to safeguard these interests and ensure the safety of its people. This would give the military a framework for long term force modernisation programme. In the absence of any such broad framework the military forces are merely indulging in periodic technological upgrade of its weapon systems, war-like equipment and other connected stores.

National strategy is about shaping the future and achieving the desirable ends with the means available…

Military organisations and choice of weapon systems are dictated by the nature of the adversarial threat, the battlefield terrain and methodology of warfighting. At the national level, additional aspects need clear enunciation. These include, inter alia, imperatives such as the sanctity of the International Border/Line of Control/Line of Actual Control; the need to localise the conflict to a region; limiting its duration; when adopting a strategic defensive posture build in the option to undertake proactive or preemptive action; indicating the limit of penetration into enemy territory and also enunciate the level of destruction to be inflicted on enemy forces. Measures that need to be adopted to deter a two-front war.

By clearly enunciating the foregoing, the Polity expresses the ‘National Will’. On ‘National Will’ Edward Luttwak states, “The effects that armed forces induce in others depend on their perceived strength multiplied by perceived willingness to use that strength, and if that willingness is deemed absent, even the strongest forces, whose strength is fully recognised, may not dissuade or persuade at all.”

It was a sad commentary for the nation when, in 1999, during the Kargil War the then Chief of Army Staff had lamented, “We will fight with what we have.” This was the unfortunate consequence of a decade of neglect in the modernisation of the military by the earlier governments. There seems to be a notion amongst the political class and bureaucrats that buying some pieces of new weaponry and weapons system make an army ‘modern’, and that these are readily available off the shelf. No wonder the governments tend to leave the modernisation to that last moment when they are confronted with an imminent conflict situation.

Nuclear weapons have added another dimension to future wars…

In the Kargil War, the political decision not to cross the Line of Control in the Kargil-Drass sector imposed upon the army a war of attrition that resulted in heavy casualties. Operations in mountainous terrain allow offensive forces to by-pass and isolate the forces in static defences. Such a manoeuvre is directed at the mind of the enemy and the enemy commander. Probably, victory in Kargil could have been achieved in an earlier timeframe with, may be, fewer casualties had the forces been given permission to conduct operations across the Line of Control. This was denied to the Indian army due to political calculations.

This is a typical Indian political affliction since a precedent existed in the 1962 War with China when the Indian Air Force was not permitted to operate because of fear of Chinese retaliation on major Indian cities. Obviously, the Chinese did not possess an adequate Air Force to undertake even any worthwhile close support missions. Deep strategic bombing missions were more a far-fetched figment of imagination of a panic stricken government. Had they possessed such a force they would not have hesitated to employ them in full measure. Wars are aimed to achieve the political objective soonest thus achieving a quick termination of the war with minimum casualties. While it is true that a belligerent adversary may start a conflict but its termination is not entirely in his control unless he is prepared to use overwhelming force. It is said that ‘good policy is frequently not good politics’.

Left to fend for themselves, the military will base their planning on assumptions and hypothetical scenarios. Invariably, the forces will be structured to meet the worst case scenarios. In this case, the worst case scenario for India is a two-front war resulting from the collusive support of China in a war with Pakistan. In the alternative scenario, Pakistan could take advantage of the situation in the event of an India-China war. In such a case, India has to have well-balanced forces in defence deployed on both fronts ab initio. The strategic reserves too would be structured for their specific deployment in only one contingency.

Strategic surveillance and intelligence operations have been the bane of India’s existence…

Nuclear weapons have added another dimension to future wars. How to prevent the use of nuclear weapons? By threatening the use of nuclear weapons!! As a consequence, the world cannot get rid of nuclear weapons, because of nuclear weapons. The intransigence, it seems, is a function of the weapons themselves. While the existence of these weapons does not deter conventional war, it however, removes one traditional incentive of war – urge to invade, subdue and occupy territory of another nation. India has disputed territories with both Pakistan and China. POK is Indian Territory in possession of Pakistan. Aksai Chin and Shaksgham Valley is Indian Territory in possession of China.

In a deft political move, China raised a bogus claim for the area of Arunachal Pradesh as being part of erstwhile Tibet and hence Chinese territory that is in adverse possession of India. The other smaller disputed pockets of territory astride the Line of Actual Control also exist. Sikkim State as a British protectorate had an International Border which was demarcated consequent to the signing of a Convention between Britain and China relating to Tibet and Sikkim on March 17, 1890. So what would that imply? It would mean that the world will, for a while, look away if the war is confined to these disputed territories. These territories are in the high altitude regions of the Himalayas.

Another factor of the Indian polity that is noteworthy is the policy of ‘strategic restraint’. Stephan Cohen observes, “One of the most remarkable attributes of India as an independent state has been its reticence to use force as an instrument of state policy. From the delay in sending troops in defending Kashmir in 1947, to the 24-year hiatus in testing nuclear weapons in 1998, India’s decisions on use of military force have come as an unwelcome last resort, and with rare exception, have been counterproductive, solidifying the wisdom of restraint.” With a multiplicity of security threats there is more noise but less clarity on the issue of security.

The MoD is often only balancing the budget earmarked for capital defence procurement…

In 1947, the Indian Army advancing in Jammu and Kashmir was stopped before it gained full victory. During the 1962 War, as mentioned, the Indian Air Force was held back from launching any close support or offensive missions against the advancing People’s Liberation Army (PLA) or targeting their supporting bases across the Line of Actual Control. The unabashed reason to not react to the Chinese occupation of Aksai Chin was a pusillanimous excuse, “not a blade of grass grows there”. Post 1965 War, all captured territory was returned to Pakistan.

After the 1971 War, 95,000 Prisoners of War were returned to Pakistan without extracting a written commitment on accepting Jammu and Kashmir as being an integral part of India. In 1999, during the Kargil Conflict, the Line of Control was not allowed to be crossed. All these indicate the deep political desire to use as little military force as possible even if it meant that the end state would be reverting to status quo. It appears that the political objective of the wars was to ardently maintain status quo!

Resultantly, the military should prepare for a war where it would be reacting to an initial enemy offensive. However, the military continues to prepare for major offensive across even the International Borders. The ‘Cold Start Doctrine’ was one such concept that was completely out of sync with the political philosophy prevailing. Similarly, in a reactive scenario against China, the huge lumbering Mountain Strike Corps does not fit the bill of a strategic defensive posture that needs to be adopted to ensure territorial integrity. There is a school of thought that advocates that this strategic reserve force has enhanced the level of deterrence, this claim is debatable and would not hold in a counter argument. Similar is the case of the Indian Air Force and the Indian Navy. These Services need to know their role in the event of a limited regional war in the high Himalayas.

The DRDO is on its own blinkered trip forever reinventing the wheel…

The decision of the Indian Air Force to do away with the medium bomber after the Canberra was phased out indicates India’s pacific desires. Is India going to build up a conventional missile force on the lines of the Chinese Second Artillery? Is the Air Defence Artillery capable of defending the Indian skies against the Chinese conventional missiles? Can the Indian Navy intercept Chinese vessels in Sea Lanes of Communications (SLOC) in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) meaningfully so that it would have a salutary impact on Chinese offensives in the mountains? Network-centric war is highly vulnerable to Cyber Network Operations; its counter is an offensive across boundaries – would that fit into India’s restraint doctrine? Strategic surveillance and intelligence operations have been the bane of India’s existence. There is strong advocacy for Special Operations Forces (similar to the Delta Force, SEALS and Green Berets of the US and Special Air Service/Special Boat Service of the UK) but again, these go against the political genre.

The three Services are preparing for modernisation without any clear political direction. As such, it is usually an exercise in acquiring the best that technology can offer and the price India is willing to pay. It is merely compelled by next generation technological advancements. This is resulting in each Service making acquisitions based on their respective doctrines and a lopsided force configuration. The Long Term Integrated Perspective Plan (LTIPP) produced by the Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) and approved by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) is a patchwork not flowing naturally from an integrated combined Services design to fight a future war. While the LTIPP focuses on acquiring a range of offensive weapon systems, the weakness of the adversary is not being addressed.

A military doctrine would direct Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) research projects, which is not the case today. The MoD often is only balancing the budget for capital procurement. The Union Budget was announced on 29 February 2016 with no mention of the allocation for Defence. A substantial amount of capital budget remained unspent and would lapse shortly. It is a mute testimony to the low priority accorded to military modernisation. Another Defence Budget is due, but will that matter? As uncorroborated reports go, 40 per cent of the defence capital procurement budget is unspent in this Financial Year (2015-2016) and is to be returned to the Finance Ministry. That does not auger well for military modernisation.

Smart power, economy, commerce and trade along with military alliances all contribute to the security of the nation…

On its part, the Forces need to take steps to orient the troops (skinware) to imbibe technology and prepare to fight in small teams under mission type orders (Auftragstaktik) in an environment of Directive Style of command. However, there is a serious dichotomy existing wherein the Army training establishments still teach and practice the procedure of marking of a Forming Up Place for a deliberate set piece attack while simultaneously advocating the capabilities of night vision devices and thermal imagers that, normatively speaking, virtually turn night into day.

Similarly, it has not revised its basic antiquated pamphlet of ‘Attack’ to suit the changed battlefield. So it is not only modern equipment that enables a force to be prepared for a modern war situation but changing mindsets is more vital. Incorporating Artificial Intelligence and 3-D printing into the whole gamut has not been thought of while the more modern armies are already well on the way to include these in their inventories. The DRDO is on its own blinkered trip forever reinventing the wheel.

These questions remain without any answers so the military trudges on paths they create for themselves in the best interest of the nation. As the global Centre of Gravity (CG) shifts from the Western Hemisphere to the Eastern Hemisphere, India does not have the luxury to take a detached view of security.

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If war is too important to be left to the Generals, it is now, more than ever before, too important to be left to the ignorant – whether they wear uniforms or not. Superior power is preferable to the available alternatives but may not be a guarantor of peace. Nor does superior economic and political power guarantee that the nation’s political goals will be achieved. Smart power, economy, commerce and trade along with military alliances all contribute to the security of the nation and by derivation security of the People. As India rises in stature in the comity of Nations it can no longer be a passive recipient of regional or global outcomes.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Lt Gen (Dr) JS Bajwa

is Editor Indian Defence Review and former Chief of Staff, Eastern Command and Director General Infantry.  He has authored two books Modernisation of the People's Liberation Army and  Modernisation of the Chinese PLA

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10 thoughts on “Military Modernisation in the Absence of a National Security Doctrine

  1. It is said that , a country which achieves independence by peaceful means generally ends up paying more in blood post independence .if we take stock of what we have paid in blood post independence during approx seven decades, the saying proves right. More we progress in time, more it is becoming clear that the so called AHINSA &SATYAGRAH has been a deep conspiracy forced down our throat by a DELIBERATE DESIGN.The damage that it has done to us as a country, more so in its defense is simply immeasurable and there seems no end.
    I compliment Gen Bajwa for compiling the ever repetitive phenomena of a SCARED NATION which takes refuge under those lofty /fancy excuses of non belligerency and peaceful and on the contrary remains insensitive to the spilling of blood of its youth.I see only one reason that there is UTTER LACK OF ACCOUNTABILITY AT THE VERY TOP.

  2. Part II of my comment ……

    Our whole Army needs an orientation metamorphosis. We need to change from a Defensive force to an Offensive force. It can be done internally within the Army without calling for extra manpower or equipment. We need to change our force structures to get onto an offensive force footing. We don’t need to raise Mountain Strike Corps. Let’s shed things like standard Corps and Divisions that keep planning counter attacks. We need forces tailored to be offensive organs of the defence forces. Let’s call these forces Army Groups molded as per the terrain to take the offensive battle into the enemy territory. Let’s have the whole of the Chinese frontier under one Army Command lets for example call it ‘The Northern Strategic Command’. It will give the Army Commander more flexibility in placing his Army groups in a more precise manner, and distributing his resources in a manner best suited for war fighting in his Command Theatre. There is a lot that can be done within the Armed Forces to gear up and be ready for war.
    The three arms of the Armed forces have disparate thinking on what should be there and why. There is too much individualism between them and the bureaucracy happily plays one against the other. Who should have attack helicopters is just one example.
    As far as Strategic thought is concerned it’s its Alien to the Indian Political Establishment.

    • This is the first time an Army officer discussing the problems in defense forces. openly. I am not an Army man . But by studying the full details of the 1971 and 1998 Kargil war. I fully support most of your views. Army required attack helicopter but there is a big danger. Majority of our defense officers failed to distinguish the weapon and weapon carrying vehicles and spending billions of dollars on weapon carrying vehicles rather than on weapons. Attacking helicopter is an example. In this connection I suggest every army officers should read an article “Attack Helicopter: Should India have them?” By Capt AG Bewoor.
      Though the article was written mainly to dissuade the Gov. from supplying AH (LCH) to the Army, he raised some valid points without suggesting remedy. He never thought that there are civilians who can deal with defense matters better than them.. The internet has helped the civilians to study the various war strategy adopted in various wars all over the world. But there is a great danger in using attacking helicopter in the war front. Solution to the problem has already reached the appropriate authority. So this Govt. is entirely different from the past Govt. This is the first time we have a PM and MoD who are encouraging talented people in all the field and accepting valuable suggestions. I do not know how many army officers will be able to find out what is the real danger.because the writer has not written the exact reason.

      • Gp Capt AG Bewoor really doesn’t understand the mechanics of warfare. He is typical flyboy who thinks what’s in the air is the air force baby. Most of the Air force Pilots will not be able to identify one tank from another. Attack helicopters are not antitank weapons. They are a maneuverable elevated weapons platform. They are very affective against different kind of ground targets that will be available in a tactical battle field. After all who will be fighting the ground battle – an Army man and not an Air force AVM.. It defies all military logic to let Air force have Attack Helicopters. It happens in India only. The Ask the air force as to how many aircraft they will commit so support a ground battle – they will tell you that their prime task is against enemy air. There is hardly an cohesion between the forces and each pursues its own agenda. Its a dangerous trend. Wars in the future will not be fought in different dimensions – they will encompass all dimensions including space. Its a wake up call for all specially the Government that runs a World War II Army. They are playing with National Security.

  3. Sir you have put forth interesting views with regard to absence of strategic focus at the level of the Government. Strategic apathy is malady at two levels. The first being the Government and the second being the Armed Forces themselves. Taking then one at a time let’s start with the Government.
    Is the Indian political establishment geared up to handle Strategic issues and set Strategic policies for the country? Sadly it’s not in the state to do so since its main focus is towards vote bank politics and political skullduggery. The Indian political class is still not educated enough to be able to pursue such a train of thought. The end of it is that they are not qualified for this job. Secondly the advisor to the political class is the Indian bureaucracy which is an educated class of people unqualified for any kind of job. They being the height of efficiency are incapable of any issue except for granting themselves hefty pay and perks and assured career progression and pay for being Non Functional (NFU) most of the time.
    Coming to the Armed Forces I feel we are also to take a large part of the blame for the way things are as they be now. The First issue is that we got sucked up in the vortex of Nehruvian philosophy of pacifism and haven’t been able to extricate ourselves from it. Sadly our Armed Forces have stagnated, especially the Army. We are still patterned as a World War II Army. We have not made any substantial progress in continuously molding our forces according to changing times and threat perceptions. Generals spend time going over ancient wargames year by year and rewriting them time and again. As one superseded officer sitting in the last row in the war game put it , “ So many generals have come and gone and they are still trying to capture Pt 4398 for the last 30 years”. Our equipment is poor, we are out of ammunition stocks to fight a war and mentally we are stagnated. contd…..

  4. General you have but me in a dilemma is it to cut the coat according to the cloth we should practice or buy the cloth according to coat size we want when it is not known who is likely to wear it for whom. At times doctrines are not enunciated and are in the every ethos of the nation or its planners or what you may call them. At times statement throw them out (of our borders) might not be enough but Joi Bangla might be more then sufficient.
    You during your service tenure have been used to quantifying achievements at lower levels and laid goals to be attained and no further that was one way of gauging success or efficiency and good enough but the other could also be alternative senarios to strive for the best within the resources allotted and then cut the available cloth to make the coat. why stick to Cold Start doctrine why not upgrade to Hot Wheels within the same resources
    please don’t say again there is no national doctrine at your age and service there is something known as HIGHER DIRECTIONS OF WAR which may be just a couple of four letter words
    just my humble submission

  5. India has lot of Military Modernization in the interest of National Security, in my Opinion the country needs extra 100 fighter Air crafts. The Army should have enough personals to handle a war on the western front with Pakistan; India should have a million troops to face China. The Navy faces the bigger danger in the Indian Ocean not just by Pakistan and China but America because they are all weather friends of Pakistan and China. India needs 30 submarines and 4 Aircraft carriers but they cost lot of money .


    • How do you come to a conclusion we require 100 more fighter plane?. Please prove with data. Technical matters should have data.. I am sure you have not made any study and carried away by IAF officers are telling. Their calculation are all wrong. They may be good fighters but not managers.. Kindly read my reply
      to SuchindranathAiyerS

  6. What might a Neta-Babu know about military matters? A weapon is NOT a toy. It is the manifestation of a strategy and a military doctrine. The first compromise occurs when a weapon is bought because of availability rather than forged to purpose. Then the tail begins to wag the dog. With India’s steadfast loyalty to a failed Constitution and Policies that foster “Reservations” and “Extortion” (aka corruption for nearly a century, India has been rendered incapable of both formulating a strategy and a military doctrine as well as forging its weapons to match its capacities and needs. There is a limit as to how far and how well one can fly on borrowed wings. As I was fond of saying, during Strategic Planning courses that I used to conduct in the ’80s, a powerful car in the wrong hands, without a destination or map can drive you to disaster rather than carry you from point “A” to point “B”. In India’s case Tte steering wheel is in the hands of the purblind.

    I am reminded off Sir Basil Lidell Hart:

    ” The military weapon is but one of the means that serve the purposes of war: one out of the assortment which grand strategy can employ.”

    “[the blurring of the line between policy and strategy] couraged soldiers to make the preposterous claim that policy should be subservient to their conduct of operations, and (especially in democratic countries) it drew the statesman on to overstep the definite border of his sphere and interfere with his military employees in the actual use of their tools.”

    “As has happened so often in history, victory had bred a complacency and fostered an orthodoxy which led to defeat in the next war.”

    “For whoever habitually suppresses the truth in the interests of tact will produce a deformity from the womb of his thought.”

    and, finally,

    “No man can exactly calculate the capacity of human genius and stupidity, nor the incapacity of will.”

    • The problem is with our defense officers because they failed to distinguish the weapon and weapon carrying vehicles and spending billions of dollars on weapon carrying vehicles rather than on weapons. But Russians have understood the difference and moved in the right direction and today Russian forces have got the most modern weapons in the world. That is the reason USA is avoiding direct confrontation with Russia. Our defense officers are only fighters and not managers. They do not know inventory control. Russians have decommissioned seven air craft carriers and kept only one in service. Where as our Navy want more number. We will never learn from the past experience. Why is IAF is asking more fighter planes. None of the fighter plane will be able to escape from missile attack once jammers are used to block fighter plane small radar with electronic India has to concentrate only on missiles and its avionics. We do not require any extra fighter planes. Similarly India has to develop supercavitating torpedoes and not warships to protect our coast lines . Defense officers are not experts. Present MoD and unbiased general public have become experts. We will not allow the defense forces to spend money to purchase unwanted war materials.
      Read this article given below.
      Pentagon Worries That Russia Can Now Out shoot U.S. Stealth Jets
      Similarly why do we require field guns? First of it is heavy and cannot be transported like all terrain armored vehicles fitted with missile batteries. Using computer programs one can calculate the exact required of missiles required to
      enemy installations. Read the article given below. It is available in the net.
      New Russian Weapons Have Changed the Military Balance in Syria

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