Military & Aerospace

New Joint Doctrine – but who will walk the talk?
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 25 Apr , 2017

Anything to do with defence, and there is plenty electronic excitement. So this time, the media is agog with headlines of “New defence doctrine to ensure Army, Navy, IAF can tackle entire spectrum of conflicts”.

…who will execute this joint doctrine? Where are the command structures and the organizations that would implement this joint doctrine?

Reportedly, this new doctrine is to be released shortly. The obvious choice will be the Defence Minister to release the 80-page doctrine. Perhaps it has also been signed by the Defence Minister, as was Army’s Sub-Conventional Doctrine signed and released by AK Anthony as Defence Minister few years back even though the latter was quite inadequate; focusing on application of combat power to enhance ‘civil control’ in affected areas, that too on own side of the border – in sharp contrast to meet the borderless settings of hybrid warfare.

As for the new joint doctrine, media quoting MoD sources says it 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. 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 is giving to the world at large perhaps the source can be asked to elaborate upon since the state of the equipping of the military is no secret, and neither is the fact that the military had little say in strategic security formulation in India. The bit about “optimize utilization of resources for a greater military punch from limited budgetary funds”, when allotted two successive ‘negative’ budgets including the current one despite the expanding anti-India China-Pakistan nexus.

Similar attitude is visible in the deteriorating situation in the Kashmir Valley with continuing sermons to security forces to show restraint, while the state administration play fence sitters ensconced by layers of security. But getting back to the new doctrine, who will execute this joint doctrine? 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?

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?

The MoD source as usual can indulge in big talk but unless concrete and effective measures are taken to synergize, reorganize and equip the defence, this will remain another 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) remains a chimera. Adequate military synergy simply cannot come without a CDS. HQ Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) created 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. Now there are indications of some ‘middle-level’ posts in MoD being identified for military officers but that is only sidetracking the vital issue.

10 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 army, navy and air force – all 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. As per reports, even the truncated Cyber Defence Agency, Defence Space Agency and Special Operations Directorate are 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?

Fiasco of the last North Korean missile test was perhaps due to a US cyber attack. And Russia is signaling that it can immobilize the US Navy with electronic bombs – something which China too is feverishly working upon. While we have cause to applaud couple of hacking attacks in Pakistan, it will be 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.

…special operations need to be executed continuously at the strategic level, one-time signal through ‘surgical strikes’ notwithstanding.

Same goes for space where we must focus on both offensive space control (OSC) and defensive space control (DSC). Involvement of the military should be an imperative, though hardly being thought about. Military must be involved in planning and execution of national satellite plans, and trained in measures for passive protection of satellite systems. Shouldn’t missile defence, satellite communications, navigation, earth observation, ocean monitoring and surveillance, weather monitoring, and electronic intelligence systems be operated co-opting the military?

One wonders how many in MoD would be aware of PLA’s newly created Strategic Support Command, what its ingredients are, why the functions of intelligence, electronic warfare, cyber and space have been clubbed together, and most importantly what are the operational payoffs of it? 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. Then what are we waiting for? Do we understand that intelligence acquisition is just one part of special operation, and the latter cannot be the exclusive forte of intelligence operatives?

As for human intelligence, why is 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 at war (hybrid war), conventional war is only a part of hybrid war, and we cannot keep waiting for conventional war to happen.

…bureaucracy in MoD would like to believe conventional war will never occur.

Post the ‘surgical strikes’, former Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had boasted “we made the army realize their capabilities”, even as admits that he was unable to cope with the handling of Kashmir Valley. He had also said that he got the inspiration for the surgical strikes from Hanuman.  He and his ilk should perhaps read 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 did not advocate an armed conflict.

Perhaps that would evoke interest to actually get into the intricacies of hybrid warfare rather than saying army has lost importance because there has been no war for some time.

Of course, bureaucracy in MoD would like to believe conventional war will never occur. Finally this new joint doctrine, the question remains as to who will walk the talk?

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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 Prakash Katoch

is a former Lt Gen Special Forces, Indian Army

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3 thoughts on “New Joint Doctrine – but who will walk the talk?

  1. Respected sir,
    I do agree with ur basic premise about jointness , aerospace and cyber command but I would with ur permission like to delve at a more basic level,We first must have quality engineers and cyber experts for these commands,cryptology must be made fool proof,how many Phds of high quality has our country produced in cryptology, a very small number.Unless we take steps to address these problems rest all is just empty talk.First our national security apparatus should invest and develop human resources then we can talk of their utilization .Also our Armed forces should let go of their British cultural mindset where displine is assessed by no of salutes.
    The modern soldiers are much more aware pragmatic and materialistic . We must factor these while recruting for say cyber command the usual chain of command may be difficult to apply to these folks ,I hope you are understanding what I am trying to say Sir.The military should also involve technology universities more,tell them their requirements and give them funds to develop them,select academical soldiers and help them in innovation and give them better incentives,we need more innovaters to device better tactics and doctrines and persue relentless traing for their application.The younger generation is much more materialistic so we need to give more incentives .I would ask u a very basic question sir among the gentleman cadets how many of them were the toppers in their school academically or in sports I would bet a very few,the military is not attracting the cream of the youth as the IDF does.We must develop our younger and lower ranks if we are to succeed .

  2. Sir walking the talk or belling the cat is a big question. Our Military establishment is still WW II oriented and so is our military philosophy. We need to break from those shackles and become an armed force that is offensive oriented. Gone are the days of counter attacks, an outdated concept. The balance of forces in India is skewed because we have come up with to many commands each trying to get the best of it by coming up with its own assessments and threat perceptions. We need to consolidate our forces and position them accordingly. Its best to have one Army Commander deal with the Chinese. The whole of the Chinese frontier is dealt with by one HQ that balances its assets accordingly and fights a coordinated battle on all three fronts with the Chinese. Yes we need various Commands as you have brought out, including an areo-space defence command that co-ordinates the air defence of India. We dont need the Southern Command – lets give it to the Navy to have an Indian Ocean Command with Army assets under command for operations in its sphere. Like wise the Air- Force could also be committed to various theaters. Each command should also have its independent intelligence capabilities focusing their own theater of operations, and enmeshed into the overall intelligence set up. We need to expand our special forces to include SSF, all Scout Units and raise local TA units to operate in consonance with our special forces. A lot need to be done to give teeth and a dragons tail to the third largest armed force in the World.

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