The COAS has ordered a study on ‘Right Sizing’ the Army with a view to reduce the ‘Teeth – to – Tail Ratio – “the study will comprehensively look at all arms and services, including logistics organisation and establishment to achieve right-sizing. Operational logistics will be reviewed, along with the philosophy and concepts to arrive at an optimal substance model both in peace and war”, as per newspaper reports. The other objective of the study is to achieve savings in manpower and cutting down on the burgeoning revenue expenditure to free up resources for military modernisation.
…without a clear enunciation of the overall military strategy, reviewing the size of the military and Operational Logistics chain in isolation would not be the ‘Right Way’.
While it is a welcome step, without a clear enunciation of the overall military strategy, reviewing the size of the military and Operational Logistics chain in isolation would not be the ‘Right Way’.
Wars will be fought in future as ‘Integrated Multi-Service Campaigns’, hence looking at the Army in isolation would result in a skewed perspective. In the age of ‘Network Centric Warfare’ with stress on persistent situational awareness and surgical strikes by all arms manoeuvre teams under extensive fire support and information dominance, standardisation of weapons and equipment across the three services would provide for the economy of size and savings in manpower and revenue, as desired by the Hon’ble PM during his address to the Combined Commanders Conference on board INS Vikramaditya in December last year.
The start point for all this is the ‘Political Aim’, which may not always be enunciated by the Government very clearly. Many Governments of the world have gone to War without clear political aims, however a study of military history does indicate a set of Political aims whether limited or extreme. Some of these are listed below,
Limited Political Aims
- To take a slice of enemy territory or prevent him from doing so.
- To cause a change in policy of the enemy, e.g., prevent it from rousing trouble within one’s border and encouraging a province to secede.
- To prevent one country from becoming so powerful as to menace one’s security – reduce enemy’s military capability.
- To intimidate and deter the enemy.
Political and social instability, economic and financial turbulence/ crisis, socio-political turmoil, insurgency/ militancy/ secessionism are all facets of the above that attempts to degrade a country’s Comprehensive National Power.
Extreme Political Aims
- Regime change, to change the form of Government or the Ruling Class.
- To conquer another country.
Based on the political goal(s) chosen, a calibrated full spectrum of military, non-military and trans-military actions (with deniability) would be resorted to. These actions, especially non-military and trans-military, would be on going even during peace time to ensure that when the ‘clash-of-arms’ does occur, the enemy’s ‘Comprehensive National Power (CNP)’ has been adequately degraded to ensure own success. The Chinese call it ‘The Unrestricted Warfare (URW)’, while the US terms it ‘The Full Spectrum Dominance (FSD)’. Political and social instability, economic and financial turbulence / crisis, socio-political turmoil, insurgency/militancy/ secessionism are all facets of the above that attempts to degrade a country’s CNP.
However, it is not just the Political goal(s) that dictate the Military Objectives, the enemy’s obstinacy also needs to be factored for the Armed Forces to reach certain Military Objective(s) in order to attain the Political Goal(s). The Military Objective(s) then dictates the Military Strategy – from which comes the force structures and the ‘right sizing’ so desired.
The magnitude of the Political Objective(s) and the obstinacy of the enemy determines how far reaching the Military Objective(s) should be,
- If the government’s Political Goal is limited, but it faces a determined/obstinate enemy, then it must have far reaching Military Objective(s) (India v/s Pakistan today).
- If the Political Goal is ambitious, even if it faces a moderate of obstinate enemy, it must attain far reaching Military Objectives (India v/s E Pakistan 1971, and China v/s India 1962 plus today)
- Only if the government’s Political Goal is limited and the enemy is not very obstinate, can it set for itself a limited Military Objective (India v/s Pakistan 1971, and India v/s China).
…any ‘Right Sizing’ exercise must first get this calculus correct, else the potential to prosecute future wars could be negatively impacted.
As India faces a threat across its Northern and Western borders, with two very different enemies, it cannot have the same yardstick to prosecute war against both. The Political Goals and the Military Objectives against each would be different, and the methods to prosecute the war would also be very different. So also, should per chance in future, India be faced with a two front war (not counting the non-state actors) the strategy to effectively counter across both fronts would also be rather different. Hence any ‘Right Sizing’ exercise must first get this calculus correct, else the potential to prosecute future wars could be negatively impacted.
Western Front: Military Objectives
The likely Political Goal could range from limited – to cause a change in policy of the Pakistan Army to prevent it from rousing trouble within one’s border and encouraging a province to secede, to the extreme of regime change viz., to remove the stranglehold of the Pakistan Army and ISI on the Government of Pakistan.
Considering the intransigence of the Pakistan Army and its non-state actors, whether the Political Goal is limited to stopping cross-border terrorism, or recapture of POK (including Gilgit -Baltistan), or far reaching viz., establish a strong democracy and removing the stranglehold of the Army – the military objectives have to be far reaching. Punitive deterrence with better force multipliers, optimum force ratios with an integrated front plan, along with a robust BMD shield to counter Pakistan’s nuclear threat and decimation of his reserves at every level would be essential towards achieving the desired Political Objectives. A very strong Counter Terrorism Grid would also be essential both cis and trans frontier, to negate the threat from the non-state actors. Concurrently, the aim in the Maritime domain could be to deny all SLOCs, destroy the efficacy of Pakistan Navy and quarantine all its ports (could also destroy / degrade it), thereby present a threat of an amphibious landings to complement the ground offensive.
To counter a rising India and ensure a ‘Unipolar Asia’ under its stewardship, China would aim to politically and militarily humiliate India, should it resort to war.
While China may not activate the Northern Front in such a situation, but it could build up troops in the Tibet Autonomous Region in the garb of exercise, and resort to transgressions and face-offs, thereby trying to assist its ‘all-weather ally’. Hence there would be a need for a continued balanced and robust Border Management Posture all along the Northern Borders.
Northern Front: Military Objectives
To counter a rising India and ensure a ‘Unipolar Asia’ under its stewardship, China would aim to politically and militarily humiliate India, should it resort to war. Its Military Objective(s) would thus be far reaching in selected sectors / politically sensitive areas. However, any stalemate would be a loss of face for China, and any loss of territory would be politically and militarily unacceptable. Loss of or threat to a politically sensitive area and capture of sizeable PoWs would be disastrous to the PLA and CPC. It could trigger a nuclear blackmail. The recent restructuring of the PLA Theatre Commands, is a step towards implementation of its War Zone Campaign doctrine – ‘winning informationalised local wars’.
The Indian Political Goals would more likely be limited to preventing China from annexing any portion of Indian Territory, and to deter him for any misdemeanour. As such India’s Military Objectives would accordingly be also limited. India would need a balanced and robust Border Management Posture, along with own concept of Anti- Access and Area Denial, with a credible deterrence to achieve limited gains trans frontiers, blunt the PLA offensive and capture sizeable PoWs. The PLA has elaborated in detail the employment of its Second Artillery conventional missiles as part of its overall campaign planning. Hence there is a need for India to have a robust BMD system to counter this clear and present danger.
Blocking China’s SLOCs across the Indian Ocean (Asia-Pacific?) could also be considered. Effective degradation and destruction of any PLA Navy venturing into the India Ocean would be a part of the Maritime Strategy.
In such a scenario, it would be more than certain that Pakistan would attempt some mischief – its probability of occurrence increasing as we move North of Sutlej. Should it open a second front for India, it may be prudent not to go for far reaching Military Objectives, but limit it to blunting the Pak misdemeanour and achieving limited gains in some sensitive sectors. The need for a robust BMD along the Western front also would be essential.
The Maritime threat could be to own SLOCs and the Littoral states. The Maritime Objectives could be limited to denial of crossings to PLA Navy across the Malacca/ Sunda/Lumbok Straits, deny victuals from known the ports along its ‘String of Pearls’ and the effective defence of Indian Littoral States. Blocking China’s SLOCs across the Indian Ocean (Asia-Pacific?) could also be considered. Effective degradation and destruction of any PLA Navy venturing into the India Ocean would be a part of the Maritime Strategy.
Future Force Structure
There is an urgent need for Indian Military to move beyond jointness to Integrated Warfare. For this, there is a need for creating Integrated Force HQs for the Northern, Western and Southern Fronts. These need to be over and above the extant Command HQs of the 3 Services, with all the field formations (including the Commands), under the operational control of these Integrated HQs and functioning directly under the CDS/ Permanent COSC. This would ensure Integrated Front planning – the need for facing future wars. A separate Integrated Strategic Front should also be created, to cater for the strategic assets, i.e., nuclear weapons, cyber warfare, special operations and any central Strategic reserves envisaged.
Persistent Situational Awareness (PSA), 24/7, 365 days of the year is sine-qua-non for effectively prosecuting future wars. Heavy fire power by air, Attack helicopters, UCAVs, Artillery, Tanks and ICVs, ships and submarines, degradation of enemy information loop, information dominance and delaying/blocking/channelizing enemy reserves at every stage of war would be the likely milieu of the future battlefields on the ground or Air or in the Maritime domain. This would lead to a reduction in the traditional force-ratios, thus needing assets only for mopping up and holding rather than capture/secure. However, all forces would need to be mobile to be able to exploit fleeting opportunities that PSA would be able to highlight.
The clear and present dangers that India faces across both its unresolved borders are as different as chalk from cheese. Hence there cannot be a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution to force structuring.
With fast paced intense battles being the norm, traditional methods of Logistics support would not suffice. The need would be for a highly mobile and mechanised logistic support common for all 3 services, which would be less manpower intensive thereby resulting in manpower savings as desired.
Based on the above, clear strategies have to be formed for prosecuting the future wars, and the logistics structures needed to support the same. From this would flow the optimum force structures, priorities for modernisation and the planned ‘force substitution’.
The clear and present dangers that India faces across both its unresolved borders are as different as chalk from cheese. Hence there cannot be a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution to force structuring. While the Western front would need highly mechanised and mobile forces, the mobility across the Northern mountainous borders have a different connotation. Similarly, the logistics grid needed on the Western Front is different from that along the Northern Borders. In the same manner, the Southern Maritime domain has its own characteristics, very different for the other fronts. So the ‘Right Sizing’ should look at the Indian Military as a whole and not be restricted to any one Service, and be based on Military Objectives and Strategies desired for the future wars.