Military & Aerospace

Strengthening India’s Ability: To Prevent Future Wars
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Issue Vol. 35.1 Jan-Mar 2020 | Date : 21 Dec , 2020


 “You may not be interested in War; but War is interested in You!” — Leon Trotsky

Strong countries prosper by avoiding wars. Sweden has not fought any war since the beginning of the eighteenth century and the same is the case with Switzerland. But these are small countries which have always remained heavily armed and where military service is mandatory for all adults. Large countries which have studiously avoided the trap of getting into wars are the United States and Russia. The United States following the Monroe Doctrine avoided getting into any war on the European continent for nearly a century, till the Kaiser dragged it into World War I in April 1917 by adopting an indiscriminate submarine campaign. Soviet Russia’s policy of taking all measures to avoid getting into a war with Nazi Germany concluded with the signing of a Non-Aggression Pact in 1939.

History is witness that a weak country, however prosperous it is or ‘people-serving’ its government is, invites aggression! A strong retaliatory capacity supported by sharp military intelligence is the only proven insurance against aggression. Thus, the ‘anti-war’ intent of a nation which has unfriendly and aggressive neighbours, gets translated into reality only if it has proven and well trained forces which can take the war deep into enemy territory. The fear of escalation into nuclear war should get removed from the minds of our planners, as once the decision to go to war is taken, the adversary’s nuclear stockpile and delivery means will be targeted and degraded within 60 minutes. Thereafter, the ensuing nuclear asymmetry will preclude the usage of these weapons.

Creating Strategic Anti-War Capabilities

To prevent a nuclear war, having a strong ‘second strike’ capability is a must. This India already has because of its geographic spread and different types of potent nuclear delivery mechanisms. Nuclear submarines carrying nuclear-tipped cruise missiles are a great deterrent to nuclear war. These are a potent substitute for submarine-based ballistic missiles, as a larger number of cruise missiles can be carried and these missiles are difficult to shoot down.

Having an S-400 Triumf Air Defence (AD) unit with each of our border guarding Army Corps is a must to ensure that tactical nuclear weapons, if employed by the adversary, have a very slim chance of success. The dire need for ensuring that our Brigade-sized combat groupings get sufficient integral AD cover, must be met so that their combat potential does not get degraded even before they join the battle and there is more scope for inter-operability from purely ‘defensive’ to offensive roles, in the shortest timeframe.

The resources that are required to build up a third Carrier Battle Group (CBG) can be more fruitfully diverted to create two wings of Maritime Strike aircraft, having their own AWACs, in-flight refuelling aircraft and Maritime Reconnaissance Aircraft equipped with anti-ship cruise missiles and depth charges.

There should be a dedicated Information Warfare Directorate under the Ministry of External Affairs whose main objective should be to target the populations of hostile countries during peace. These psy-war operations should be subtle, refined and should utilise the advances in social media. This Directorate should have sufficient numbers of language experts knowledgeable about the targeted countries. The expertise of Indian ‘show-business’ should also be harnessed as and when required.

Boosting Anti-War Capabilities of the Indian Air Force (IAF)

The IAF requires to drastically raise the ‘serviceability status’ percentage of its fleet which consists of different types of aircraft. This could involve upgrading the training, standards and skills of the forward echelons maintenance staff and by assigning more manpower and funds. Keeping in mind that the Government of India’s (GoI’s) decision-making process to acquire new equipment is taking about 12 years to fructify, it is crucial that we ensure an above 90 percent serviceability status of our critical and aged flying assets. We also need to train more aircrew. There should be three sets of aircrew per combat aircraft in order to ensure at least three sorties take off in every 24-hour cycle during war. The existing highly trained air crew should not be subjected to fatigue which will drastically increase the chances of human error and slow reflex-actions while flying. While the IAF presently has 1.6 trained aircrew per combat aircraft, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) has a bench strength ratio of 2.5! So there is the pressing need to nearly double our strength of aircrew in the ensuing three years.

The IAF needs to make a serious drive to develop and adopt indigenous unmanned ‘stealth’ combat-drones capability. In five years’ time, at least 50 percent of combat missions should be undertaken by pilotless aircraft/drones. This will require tremendous R&D as well as push by the user. Future wars cannot be expected to be fought like the last war we had fought. The IAF is also dangerously lagging behind in developing its own critical ‘Source Codes’ for operating advanced fourth and fifth generation aircraft. The electronics’ performance and lower detection envelope creation depend upon first-rate Source Codes, besides other factors. Their EMP hardening is also very important.

Enhancing Indian Navy’s Anti-War Capabilities

The Indian Navy has to quickly enhance the survivability factor of its combat assets against precision sea-skimming long range cruise missiles having electronic warfare and deception capability. It needs to equip all its ships with ‘Barak – II’ level anti-missile detection and shoot-down capability. The Navy’s electronics warfare capabilities need to be further enhanced to ensure survivability of its fleet. Nothing is more demoralising to a country than the loss of its fighting ships in the start-phase of a war.

The Indian Navy’s anti-submarine detection, tracking, and hunting capabilities need to be strengthened considerably. This needs to be based on a combination of airborne, fast-ships borne and networks of underwater tethered platforms. This also needs close real-time integration of ‘Network-Centric’ different Operations Controlling Centres. No ‘anonymous’ threats should escape the fleet’s attention and these should be considered as hostile once war breaks out. The Indian Navy’s capabilities for detecting and neutralising hostile submarines should be greatly enhanced.

A first rate Navy should have the capability to land and sustain a Division-strength amphibious force. This will require the support of two CBGs. Such an operational capability if employed during the latter stages of a war in India’s neighbourhood will be very effective and will contribute significantly to reduce the duration of the war. The Navy also needs to seriously develop long range, unmanned submarine craft having low noise signature. These should be equipped with programmable torpedoes and short-range cruise missiles. In short, the Indian Navy’s R&D programme should lead the way!

Creating an Offensive Cyber-Warfare Command

The Indian State should be able to wage a deadly cyber warfare campaign against its potential adversaries should the need arise. This ‘organisation’ necessarily has to remain ‘Top Secret’ and should preferably be placed under the R&AW. Its capabilities should not be publicised for obvious reasons. Key aspects such as crippling the target country’s power-grid system, air traffic control system, rail passenger reservation system, internet and telephony switches system, freight-handling control systems, ports-operation system and air-defence network system – should get shut down when targeted. There should also be constant pilfering of ‘classified’ information using ‘big-data’ analytics tools and techniques. The offensive cyber warfare organisation should work in close cooperation with the Ministry of Defence. Some of the existing DRDO labs should get merged with it to ensure best results in a time-bound manner.

This Cyber Warfare Organisation should have at least 75 percent talented ‘contract employees’ and collaborating cyber industry firms. Our ‘cyber-hijack’ techniques should get honed and perfected. The ‘Cyber Warfare Teams’ should be capable of planting realistic and authentic looking ‘Disinformation’ in the target country’s social media. The ‘Emergencies/Calamities Response’ set-ups in the target countries should be paid special attention so that these can be disabled during critical contingencies. The technique of launching ‘one-time’ cyber attacks from unsuspecting ‘Third Countries’ needs to be perfected. Without a doubt, these are useful anti-war tactics which would make any hostile country wary about getting into a confrontationist posture with India.

Creating War-Winning Capabilities

The Indian Army needs to respond more quickly and in overwhelming strength, if required, to emerging tactical scenarios. The most threatening scenario is the knocking off of the controlling HQs from the Brigade level onwards at the initial stage or at a later crucial stage of a war, due to the excellent surveillance, intelligence and targeting capabilities of the enemy. Therefore, it is essential to have a split-up ‘Command Element’ from the Brigade onwards, with the Reserve HQ serving up as a ‘decoy’. If we do not adopt this technique, the Indian Army will get paralysed like the Iraqi Army at the onset of Operation Desert Storm.

Inability to neutralise the enemy’s rocket attacks and artillery capabilities in the Tactical Battle Area has been the Achilles’ heel of the Indian Army. This shortcoming should be immediately addressed and rectified by having a full-strength Surveillance and Locating (S&L) Unit with each Battle Formation. These S&L Units should be linked up in network-centric fashion with the dedicated Joint Surveillance and Targets Attack Radar System (J-STARS) set-up at the Theatre Command level. These should supplement conventional ground-based artillery and rockets fire tracking systems and be supported by real-time satellite imagery. Our area neutralisation techniques should ensure Counter Bombardment (CB) and Air Strikes onto the target within three minutes of the enemy opening up.

The Chinese PLA Second Artillery’s capabilities to launch mass long range cruise missile strikes onto our vulnerable areas in depth especially air-bases and war zone HQs, needs to be countered with S-400 Triumf and Iron Dome anti-missile complexes with each of our Army Corps deployed against China. The Indian Army also needs to religiously hold back in depth one-third of its defensive deployment forces as ‘Reserves’. These need to be grouped as All Arms Combat Teams having high mobility and rapid deployment capability.

Promoting ‘Jointmanship’ to Enhance Anti-War Effects

Creating fearful ‘Deterrence’ is the sure way to avoid getting into a war with an unpredictable adversary who may suddenly either want to “teach India a Lesson” or dream of unfurling their ‘religious identity’ flag on the ramparts of the Red Fort. We live in a dangerous world where the prime focus of our security establishment should be on how to ensure peace and keep making economic progress and jobs creation within the country. Therefore, the scarce resources allotted by the GoI should generate maximum Punch Effect when we face a warlike situation. A live case in point is the current debate going on in the Government decision-making circles regarding merging the Assam Rifles which is probably the finest Paramilitary Force in the world with the ITBP which is a Central Police Organisation.

The Assam Rifles is a 185-year old proven fighting force with both battle experience and fine traditions. If a decision has to be taken in national interest, it is the ITBP which should get merged with the Assam Rifles and be predominantly officered by the Indian Army while serving under the Home Ministry. This measure will enhance the effectiveness of our Border Management with China while also guaranteeing stable internal security situation in the crucial North Eastern Region of our vast country, where various fissiparous groups are active.

During war time, the predominant Service HQs in Theatre Commands should be given overriding Command and Control powers over the other two Service HQs and all elements operating on that war front. If Admiral Chester Nimitz could be the Supreme Commander of the South Pacific Theatre during WW II, ensuring defeat after defeat of the Japanese forces, there is no reason why this proven command doctrine should not be adopted in India. This will obviate all frictions that will come up, if we set up permanent Joint Theatre Commands during peace time.

Services’ Technological Contribution to Strengthen Anti-War Ethos

What is strikingly true in the Indian context is the absence of any significant contribution from the users in developing and sustaining ‘in-house’ R&D to improve the effectiveness of existing equipment and to tinker with developing technologies which are useful. This is because we do not have a Directorate of Technological Development with each of our Services HQs. Everything that has got to do with new technology, cannot be bought off-the-shelf abroad or outsourced to the DRDO which itself has become more of an ‘official’ approved contracting agency of the MoD at present. As a result, the services lose precious time and the nation loses precious dollars!

Who but a tank-man will know the best type of tank to be employed in the plains of Punjab and Jammu? We need a tank there, which can easily go over any small distributary or bridge, has excellent night-fighting equipment and preferably has a 125 mm smooth-bore gun which can also fire anti-tank missiles. A heavier tank of the 45-tonne class with a rifled 125 mm gun is needed only in the desert sectors, where long range fire fights are feasible. The prototypes of these types of tanks need to be developed by the Indian Army itself before asking for refinements by the DRDO. This certainly is possible if Mechanical Engineering and Automobile Engineering graduates get commissioned into the Armoured Corps in greater numbers. The Indian Army has to also take on the responsibility for developing and fielding unmanned drones having strike capability in the Tactical Battle Area. This can cause a lot of premature attrition to the enemy during the day as well as at night.

The Indian Navy needs to concentrate on further developing stealth technologies for its submarine fleet. This is basically a ‘User’ responsibility as it will enhance the survivability and lethality of our aging submarines. The IAF has to develop Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missiles which have ‘lock-on’ capability and can work with or without guidance. A switch over to ‘network-centric’ warfare techniques is a must to enhance the punch of the IAF. The numbers and quality of equipment with our Forward Air Controllers need a quantum jump in order to deliver flawless results while executing the Air-Land Battle in the current scenario.

Tools of Diplomacy and Politics to Create Anti-War Momentum

The Chinese leadership is very pragmatic and there is scope to make a realistic ‘deal’ with them on the border question. When it comes to defining the border in uninhabited regions, there should be ‘give and take’ and the opinion of the military leadership should be given higher weightage than that of the diplomats who have buried the issue in legalese. If giving up our claim on the Aksai Chin region could persuade the Chinese to accept the McMahon Line, it is worth pursuing such a settlement. Sweeteners could be added like opening ‘Tax-free’ trade between Leh and Kashi (Kashgar), between Rampur and Gar on the Hindustan-Tibet Road, between Siliguri and Xigatse, and between Dibrugarh-Bhamo-Kunming in agreed quantitative volumes. Increased volumes of overland Sino-Indian trade will help undermine the Sino-Pak strategic alliance like no other subterfuge measures can!

India needs to increase collaboration in naval construction and shipbuilding with Japan for long-term mutual benefit. For both countries, checkmating the naval ambitions of China is a common concern of utmost importance. India should also pursue with North Yemen the proposal to take on a 99-year period lease, the island of Socotra and develop it as a naval base. This will ensure that we have full control over the Arabian Sea. The Pakistan Army should be ‘used’ as India’s best ally within Pakistan, simply because its attitude and scheming towards India is so very predictable! Only the Pakistan Armed Forces can ensure that the economic progress of Pakistan remains minimal. It must be noted that the Pakistan Army has the constraint of not risking a full-fledged war with India, as this will end up with it losing all its special privileges and elite lifestyle. A militarily strong Pakistan helps to keep Afghanistan under some sort of control and even an ambitious Iran under check.


The proposed ‘Anti-War’ Doctrine by India enshrines the efficient use of available resources including flexing of muscles, if necessary, to prevent war from actually occurring in our subcontinent. The Indian economy has set in a pattern wherein it is able to achieve over 75 percent decennial GDP growth. This has lifted vast numbers of our population out of poverty and created an educated and skilled middle-class. Whatever politicians may say and promise during election time, they have a tough job meeting the aspirations of the electorate. Even if the job does not get fully done, India is still a success story to the world, provided we stay out of any major conflict. Crucial to this strategy is improving our efficiency in all spheres of war-making capabilities.

Dick Cheney had famously said while deposing in the US Congress, “It is the budget that drives strategy; strategy doesn’t drive the military budget!” Today, we are at a stage where we do not design and successfully manufacture combat aircraft, submarines, tanks and self-propelled artillery; neither do we manufacture most of our ammunition! Russia has a separate Directorate of Ammunitions Development and Special Chemistry whereas India’s MoD has a ‘Contracts Negotiations’ Directorate instead! Both force and wealth are the property of the strong and the rich, but it is the characteristics of knowledge and research that can be grasped by the poor to bridge this gap through coordinated and sustained actions. Future wars have to be won in the minds first!

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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

Col JK Achuthan (Retd.)

8 GR was commissioned in June 1980. 

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