India — Defence Transformation: A Case For Mind Over Matter

Op mis­sion of the Armed Forces: There is a need to remem­ber the oper­a­tional mis­sion of the Armed Forces while car­ry­ing out plan­ning, train­ing and pro­cure­ment for them i.e.

“The Armed Forces should be able to oper­ate both dur­ing day and night, in all types of cli­mat­ic con­di­tions, over all types of ter­rain and be effec­tive in all types of oper­at­ing envi­ron­ments obtain­ing at the time of appli­ca­tion.”

MoD’s role

The min­istry of defence has tra­di­tion­al­ly per­ceived con­trol of the Armed Forces to pre­serve the pri­ma­cy of civ­il con­trol as also pre­vent pos­si­ble coups which were endem­ic in the 50s and 60s. For this rea­son, all major func­tions gov­ern­ing man­pow­er, organ­i­sa­tion, finance, exter­nal con­tacts, pro­cure­ment etc. were made the pre­serve of the min­istry, leav­ing day-to-day func­tion­ing to the ser­vices. This result­ed in major diver­sion of ener­gy of both the min­istry and the ser­vices in estab­lish­ing a work­ing rela­tion­ship over the “them ver­sus us” divide. More­over, the knowl­edge of the mil­i­tary domain rests nat­u­ral­ly with the ser­vices, leav­ing the min­istry offi­cials the choice of learn­ing on the job with par­tial inputs from self-serv­ing offi­cers. The lack of a for­mal edu­ca­tion per­tain­ing to the com­plex sub­ject of defence and mat­ters mil­i­tary, pri­or to tak­ing up their jobs in the min­istry, has had a telling effect on the effi­cien­cy of the min­istry offi­cials and they have con­tin­ued to exist, sans the respect from ser­vices, due to over­rid­ing pow­er vest­ed in them by the min­istry. All this, has result­ed not only in deep fis­sures between MoD and Ser­vice Head­quar­ters but also in the MoD becom­ing a mar­gin­al play­er in the secu­ri­ty cal­cu­lus of the coun­try. Pas­sage of time and peri­ods of polit­i­cal tur­moil in the coun­try have proved that the Indi­an Armed Forces har­bour no polit­i­cal ambi­tions — in fact abhor a polit­i­cal role. In this back­drop, par­tic­u­lar­ly when we are under pres­sure from Chi­na and seek for our­selves a role of pri­ma­cy in South Asia and a place on the Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil, there is an urgent need to relook at our self-debil­i­tat­ing intro­vert­ed and com­part­men­talised func­tion­ing in MoD. An inte­grat­ed func­tion­ing with­in MoD will trans­form MoD func­tion­ing from “Them vs Us” to “Us”, an atti­tude, we urgent­ly need to fos­ter in order to migrate to an inter-agency / inter-depart­ment / inter-min­is­te­r­i­al func­tion­ing which the emerg­ing secu­ri­ty envi­ron­ment is demand­ing. We must move towards a “whole of the gov­ern­ment approach.”

For any coun­try strate­gic guid­ance flows from its Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Strat­e­gy, Defence Pol­i­cy guide­lines which lay down the Defence Strat­e­gy and its Joint Mil­i­tary Strat­e­gy. In our case the RM’s Op Direc­tive stands-in for all three. There is a need for the ser­vices to draw up a “Joint Mil­i­tary Strat­e­gy” which cov­ers impor­tant aspects like oper­a­tions, intel­li­gence, logis­tics and train­ing which will guide their actions. For this pur­pose, ser­vices can make suit­able assump­tions relat­ed to the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Strat­e­gy as well as MoD’s Defence Strat­e­gy


Sep­a­ra­tion of mat­ters defence and mil­i­tary

There is a dis­tinct dif­fer­ence in the activ­i­ties that gov­ern these two ter­mi­nolo­gies. “Defence” of which the Defence poli­cies and Defence Strat­e­gy are the epit­o­me, con­sti­tutes the con­cerns of the Defence Min­istry and its thrust areas. The Defence Min­is­ter is assist­ed by the Defence Sec­re­tary who hus­bands this aspect. The term “mil­i­tary” epit­o­mis­es issue of how the ser­vices are organ­ised to fight. Joint Mil­i­tary Direc­tives, Joint Mil­i­tary Strat­e­gy, are the instru­ments from which the Oper­a­tional Direc­tives and Strate­gies flow to the three ser­vices. These issues being pro­fes­sion­al in nature can­not be under­stood by any­one out­side the uni­formed fra­ter­ni­ty.

Asym­me­try in fight­ing capa­bil­i­ties

There is a seri­ous asym­me­try in South Asia as far as the con­flict con­tin­u­um is con­cerned. While the three coun­tries USA, Chi­na and Pak­istan which hold prime inter­ests in South Asia field a full spec­trum capa­bil­i­ty i.e. Nuclear, Con­ven­tion­al and Sub-con­ven­tion­al, India responds with only two seg­ments i.e. Nuclear and Con­ven­tion­al. India there­fore needs to acti­vate the offen­sive sub­con­ven­tion­al com­part­ment if it is not to place itself at a dis­ad­van­ta­geous oper­a­tional posi­tion. Spe­cial Forces along with intel­li­gence agen­cies are the favoured instru­ments for the acti­va­tion of the sub-con­ven­tion­al com­part­ment.

Expand­ed bat­tle­field

With the USA con­sol­i­dat­ing a huge mil­i­tary advan­tage over like­ly region­al chal­lengers and with their dis­play of this asym­met­ric advan­tage dur­ing the two gulf wars and in Afghanistan, the world has com­menced redefin­ing of the tra­di­tion­al bat­tle space. Chi­nese are the lead­ers of this con­cep­tu­al rede­f­i­n­i­tion, which they spelt out in their work called “Unre­strict­ed War­fare”. A pletho­ra of avenues deal­ing with the eco­nom­ic, social, polit­i­cal, legal, diplo­mat­ic are­nas have been brought into focus in what has become a form of total con­tention. War­fare thus has raised the bat­tle are­na from the MoD’s domain to a “whole of gov­ern­ment” domain. Respons­es have to now encom­pass a num­ber of min­istries /agencies /departments. A new response mech­a­nism there­fore has to be devised by India to meet these new forms of chal­lenges which would be applied along with mil­i­tary force.

Proac­tivism vs reac­tivism There is much virtue in mak­ing countries/people respond to our actions rather than react­ing to exter­nal stim­uli all the time. How­ev­er, there are those who argue that when we react we have ful­ly com­pre­hend­ed the chal­lenge and there­fore are respond­ing to know­ables with doables and are there­fore bal­anced at all times. This under­stand­ing can be eas­i­ly defeat­ed by a State which applies the “accel­er­at­ed time fac­tor” in inter- State inter­ac­tions. This accel­er­at­ed time fac­tor calls for unleash­ing upon the oppo­nent a series of actions which dis­ori­ent the reac­tive mech­a­nism and grind it to inac­tiv­i­ty for want of clar­i­ty of the oper­at­ing space / activ­i­ties.

Joint mil­i­tary strat­e­gy

At present we do not have a CDS who has to pro­vide the glue required by the three ser­vices in order to make them fight syn­er­gis­ti­cal­ly and not in com­part­ments as they do at present. This glue at the apex lev­el would be in the form of Joint Direc­tives, which would even­tu­al­ly result in the for­mu­la­tion of a “Joint Mil­i­tary Strat­e­gy”. The COSC in the mean­time — till a CDS is appoint­ed — has to over­see the above for­mu­la­tions.

Fronts vs seg­ment­ed the­atres

There is a need to look at our adver­saries in a holis­tic man­ner than the seg­ment­ed way we do at present. We need to view chal­lenges posed by Pak­istan across the whole west­ern front in order to achieve bet­ter results in a cost effec­tive man­ner. Our abil­i­ty to do so calls for a change in the way we are organ­ised in the Army Head­quar­ters. Pak­istan vir­tu­al­ly orches­trates the entire bor­der, since their GHQ direct­ly con­trols all the Corps. The same applies to our north­ern front oppo­site Chi­na.

India is increas­ing­ly being drawn into a like­ly “two front” sce­nario in a future mil­i­tary con­flict. Indi­an sur­vival and vic­to­ry depends upon the “swing” fac­tor of its deploy­able forces. The SWING has to be rehearsed ade­quate­ly in order to make it effi­cient. There is also a need to ensure that we devel­op our mil­i­tary organ­i­sa­tions in a man­ner that they are equal­ly effec­tive in plains as well as in moun­tains

Migrat­ing from attri­tion to manoeu­vre war­fare

Manoeu­vre war­fare is aimed at the mind of the oppo­nent where­in he is brought to sit­u­a­tion of help­less­ness due to the obtain­ing oper­a­tional sit­u­a­tion rather than by the destruc­tion caused to his Armed Forces. Our war against erst­while East Pak­istan was a clas­sic war of Manoeu­vre and not one of Attri­tion. This method there­fore needs to be seri­ous­ly exam­ined for adop­tion, so that we do not seek solu­tions in num­bers alone.

Two front war

With the deep­en­ing of Sino-Pak rela­tions, India is increas­ing­ly being drawn into a like­ly “two front“ sce­nario in a future mil­i­tary con­flict. Indi­an sur­vival and vic­to­ry depends upon the “swing” fac­tor of its deploy­able forces. The SWING has to be rehearsed ade­quate­ly in order to make it effi­cient. There is also a need to ensure that we devel­op our mil­i­tary organ­i­sa­tions in a man­ner that they are equal­ly effec­tive in plains as well as in moun­tains. Forces have to be re-posi­tioned in a man­ner that our capa­bil­i­ty against both fronts is opti­mised. There is a need to rework this aspect.

It is com­mon mil­i­tary knowl­edge that moun­tains eat troops. Also our “north­ern front” would be the front of deci­sion. Our war against Chi­na should be con­vert­ed to a war of logis­tics, since Chi­na has a longer logis­tic chain than us. This will give us a deci­sive edge over them in any future con­flict. This con­ver­sion can eas­i­ly be done by negat­ing China’s advan­tage in num­bers.

This can eas­i­ly be achieved by doing the fol­low­ing:

  • Rais­ing reserve for­ma­tions in the face of a con­flict.
  • Con­vert­ing TA from third line func­tions to sec­ond line func­tions, so that they can take up the defen­sive and relieve reg­u­lar for­ma­tions for offen­sive actions.
  • Con­vert the Assam Rifle units to five fight­ing for­ma­tions so that they can cov­er depth areas more effec­tive­ly and retrieve reg­u­lar troops for offen­sive pur­pos­es.
  • Trans­fer 105 mm and 130 mm artillery guns being replaced by 155 mm guns to sup­port Assam Rifle for­ma­tions. The man­pow­er for this could be pro­vid­ed by Home and Hearth TA units.