Changes would provide a boost to defence preparedness, usher in an RMA, evolve requisite strategies and policies including for national security, response to asymmetric war, defence procurements, R&D, technology acquisition and reorganising the defence-industrial base. Development and economic progress are undoubtedly priority tasks for the new government but national defence and security issues must be given equal importance if India is to gain its rightful place in the comity of nations.
While both China and Pakistan possess advanced Sub-Conventional capability, India is lagging behind…
The security imperatives for India are multiple and dynamic with a volatile neighbourhood. The last decade has been characterised by utter neglect of the defence sector, the main features being – lack of a national security strategy and a comprehensive defence review; disjointed acquisitions in the absence of a security strategy and clear national security objectives; ignoring military modernisation, allowing the capability gap between own military and the Chinese PLA to increase exponentially; failure to establish a deterrent to proxy and asymmetric war; poor response to border violations, cross-border attacks and intrusions, showing the military and the country in poor light; inadequate border management; military-industrial complex in downward spiral with patchy windows of excellence, forcing import of over 80 per cent of defence needs; generalist bureaucrats ruling the roost in the Ministry of Defence (MoD) without accountability, one example being critical deficiencies in the Indian Navy courtesy MoD intransigence resulting in serious damage to the naval fleet with avoidable loss of lives and equipment, while the MoD failed to take any responsibility whatsoever; civil-military relations hit rock bottom with military deliberately lowered in the Warrant of Precedence; government fighting its own soldiers in Courts denying them authorised pay and allowances, even to the extent of forcing war disabled soldiers and war widows into long legal battles and paid media denigrating the military to show it in poor light.
The debate over the budget for defence and for economic growth is never-ending but recent media reports of the demand for a ten per cent increase in the defence budget just to cater for inflation (forget modernisation) indicates the grim picture. A country which is not strong militarily can hardly develop economically without a ‘safe and secure’ environment especially in a geographical and geo-political setting such as India. We also failed to grasp that conventional response and diplomacy by itself is no match to irregular threats despite having been subjected to proxy war for over two decades.
The debate over the budget for defence and for economic growth is never-ending…
Kautilya had advocated three types of war – Open, Concealed and Silent. An ‘open war’ he described as one that is fought between states; a ‘concealed war’ is one which is similar to a ‘guerilla war’ and a ‘silent war’ is one which is fought on a continued basis inside the kingdom so that the power of the King does not get diluted. India is faced with a multitude of traditional and non-traditional threats, which in today’s context are overlapping. While we continue to fight asymmetric wars, these we will continue to contend with breakout of hostilities in other segments of the conflict spectrum. That is why in the case of a China-Pakistan dual threat, a two and a half front war is talked about.
Significantly, current and future threats that India faces dictate there can be no shortcut from possessing full spectrum conflict capabilities, broad divisions of the conflict spectrum being the Nuclear, Conventional, Sub-Conventional and Cyberspace. China already has full spectrum capability. India and Pakistan are taking baby steps in cyberspace but what should be a matter of serious concern is that while both China and Pakistan possess advanced Sub-Conventional capability, India is lagging behind. This is a strategic asymmetry considering that Sub Conventional war is and will continue to be the order of the day albeit we need to also address asymmetry vis-à-vis our adversaries in other fields, particularly in the context of China.
Security Strategy and Defence Review
The MoD has defined India’s strategic interests extending from the Persian Gulf in the West to the Strait of Malacca in the East and from the Central Asian Republics in the North to the Equator in the South. Strangely, despite the large disputed borders and China illegally occupying large tracts of Indian Territory, there is no mention of China. And, given the centrality of India in South Asia and the overall asymmetry between India and its neighbours in South Asia being central to the persisting security dilemma in South Asia, China is exploiting this as well. Rectifying such aberrations apart, the government with its majority mandate provides India the opportunity to undergo the much-required strategic transformation.
Appointing a CDS should be done on priority as recommended by the Kargil Review Committee…
A priority task should be to define a National Security Strategy (NSS) followed by a Strategic Defence Review (SDR). The foremost need is to enunciate the NSS to shape the environment in India’s favour. In doing so, organisations and entities such the MoD, MHA, Military, Economic Ministries, Department of S&T, DAE and ISRO need to be closely integrated. Threats and vulnerabilities need to be taken into account. While threats are mostly identifiable, vulnerabilities may not be clearly identifiable as latter are only indicators. Challenge of implementing NSS lies in preventing vulnerabilities transforming into threats using non-military elements of national power.
The NSS should include the following:
- India’s political aims goals in terms of power projection, promoting security, economic, technology, environmental and bio-diversity interests.
- India’s interests in other countries and regions extending outwards from South Asia.
- Interests and relationship matrix with major powers and the United Nations.
- Threats, challenges and competitors to India’s interests in respect of above paradigms.
Like the NSS of any country, there would also be a need to include following classified parts first, strategy to deal with competition and challenges by setting time-bound objectives in diplomatic, economic, technology, and defence and security fields vis-à-vis the competitors; second, identify economic, strategic, military and technology leverages – inter-se priorities of countries; third, lay down strategic choices for entering strategic partnership in the short, mid and long term context; fourth, review of internal dynamics of India, its linkages with trans border threats and challenges posed for the security forces including assessing degree of expected involvement of armed forces in the internal dynamics.
We cannot afford to continue with ‘generalist bureaucrats’ in the MoD with little or no knowledge of military matters…
The Strategic Defence Review (SDR) must immediately follow up from the NSS though work on both can progress simultaneously. The SDR should state present military strategy as derived from NSS and project into the future. The NSS could be broadly relevant up to next 15 years and the thinking into period beyond that may be termed as vision. The SDR should comprise analysis of present military strategy and revised goals, related emerging technologies and consequent Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA), mesh future conflict spectrum and the battle-space milieu, compare above with roles and individual responsibilities of the Army, Navy and Air Force, leading to the development of joint force capabilities including for Network Centric Warfare (NCW).
Future military perspective (short, mid and long terms) or joint military vision and military missions so developed would lead to formulation of LTIPP based on integrated systems dynamics and force development imperatives. The undeclared portion of the SDR should include adversaries or countries that are in security competition, cooperation and friends, comparative evaluation of the nature of threats or competition, threats from competing strategic and security alliances. goals and objectives of bilateral, multi-lateral and international defence cooperation, policy on the role of armed forces in asymmetric threats and internal conflict, strategy for protection of critical infrastructure from cyber threats, defence-related aspects of cyber-space, space and perception warfare, and strategy for energy, water and food security.
Axiomatically, appropriate Core Groups would need to be established working out the NSS and SDR. Simultaneous to the NSS and SDR, work should also commence to holistically review Comprehensive National Security, to include personal security, community security, food security, health security, military security, economic security, energy security, political security, and environment security. The Comprehensive National Review would also address all non-traditional threats.