he Indian Armed Forces are poised to make a big leap; there are a number of big equipment purchases which should in due course make the inventory more modern and allow the military to conduct war fighting with a view to gaining an upper hand. The Indian Armed Forces, having recognised the potential of, and vulnerabilities to, the new technologies, and have embarked on a process of modernisation, however gradual this may be. The issue of transformative strategies, is however little understood as it involves changing every aspect of warfighting, from mindsets to weapons. A single line change will not have the same effect as an across the board transformation.
Recently, the government announced that three new commands, relating to special forces, cyber and aerospace will be created. These will be placed under the tri-services headquarters (or Integrated Defence Service HQ) and will draw elements, assets and manpower from all three services, as well as from other relevant government departments. However, it is expected that the new formations will report to the chairman of the COSC.
Sun Tzu held that “the most successful General was one who achieved his ends without a battle.” On similar lines, Clausewitz stated that “a war is an act of violence pushed to its utmost bounds.” In such a scenario, war planners and preventers, both face unprecedented complexity. To start with, and to state the obvious, the military must be capable of fighting resolute defensive-offensive battles, which form a shield of skillfully delivered blows, whether in the mountains, plains, or deserts. The aggressive content of such battle must enable a quick switchover to the offensive so that the battle can be carried into the enemy territory at the earliest.
The point is, transformation is revolutionary and India is still living in the past. New developments in weapons, equipment and other capabilities give rise to new tactics and strategies. Due to rapid technological progress, military doctrines needed to be revised more frequently; perhaps once every five years. It is not only necessary to move ahead rapidly but also to do so logically. Progression has to be sequential and logical otherwise the agendas for the future will remain staggered with one segment remaining behind the other. What is needed is simultaneous and leap-frogging modernisation to make the armed forces truly transformed.
There is, no doubt, that the armed forces are interested in developing new doctrines, acquiring new weapons and in pushing for integration. But in our training establishments and other institutions that teach warfare, traditional approaches to warfare are still being pursued. Therefore, new paths have to be created and institutionalised, which will generate the thought processes for the pursuit of modern warfare. This is a major mindset revolution that can only come with a thought provoking process and out-of-the-box thinking.
The Indian military, as it presently stands, is a colonial creation and its ways to an extent still mirrors the past. There is little to show that our system for warfighting is anticipatory in nature. Past experience, including in Kargil in 1999, demonstrates that the military must be at an exceedingly high state of operational readiness. The military must be capable of mobilising and taking to the field at short notice, ready to grapple with a range of possible contingencies under varying terrain conditions. The forces operational orientations, organisational structures and logistic back-up must be prepared to sustain such eventualities. That we stand at a considerable distance between theory and practice in terms of combined, all arms warfare is a reminder that we need to move fast. With conflict becoming multidimensional, there is need to reorganise the networking system of the armed forces. In the ideal world, we would need a combination of man, machine and technology to set the pace for change. But in the real world, the elements do not combine ideally. It is precisely for this reason that command and control systems need to be synergised and integrated warfighting an obvious necessity. And it is not as though we would be starting from scratch. Forward movement has been initiated but the future is already here and our soldiers are still fighting with uniforms of the past, to make one illustration.
In the event of a war, the Indian military should be capable of successfully prosecuting and winning a two-front war. However, unrealistic this scenario may look, it is necessary to be ready and that calls for major upgradation of systems and networking. Obviously, this cannot occur when other elements of national power are lagging behind. A two-front war has twin connotations and it is necessary to delineate the same. One is a conflict with China and Pakistan, or both. The other is a conflict with either Pakistan or China, while the military continues to be deployed for counter-insurgency operations. Strategic complexity therefore increases with the level of involvement in either conflict scenario or being involved in both. The combination of preparing for conventional and subconventional warfare is in fact, partly responsible for where we are today. The merits of the statement being left open to debate. While the military would ideally like to extricate itself from internal commitments, all calculations of the capabilities must thus take note of the existing realities.
The military, and this term should then be used in the truly integrated sense of the term, must be able to execute inter and intra-theatre moves of reserves and resources to create the desired asymmetry and, thus, keep the enemy on the defensive. In the next decade or so, military capabilities must be enhanced by acquisition and assimilation of force multipliers at the operational level. It is posited that future wars will be fought in all dimensions of security, physical, to include land, sea, underwater, air, space and cyberspace, economic to include energy, health, food and education and, human security to include protection from disease, hunger, unemployment, crime, social conflict, political repression and environmental hazards.
conduct of war, strategic, tactical, and operational will merge into each other. This will be even more applicable in a situation of asymmetric warfare. What asymmetric warfare does is to generate a notion of tactical victory with strategic results. While the era of nuclear madness has passed, it is imperative that India takes steps to strengthen its defences, harden communication equipment and acquire protective gear to operate in such contingencies. After all, Pakistan is not acquiring nuclear weapons today at a rate quicker than before for the sake of urban architecture. This reality must not be lost on those who seek to introduce a change in mindsets while attempting transformation of the armed forces.
In more ways than one, India is unprepared to fight the wars of the future. Mired in mindsets that still prepare the nation to fight conventional wars, there is an urgent need to explore the means by which it will be possible to put together India’s human, technological and military assets to fight future wars. India must, therefore, put in place operational systems today that will create the institutions and military machine to fight tomorrow’s wars. — The author is an avid watcher of defence and strategic issues