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[RSTV Archive] Indigenous Military Doctrine

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The Indian Armed forces are considering introducing Bhagwad Gita and Kautilya’s Arthashastra as part of the curriculum for Officers.

A few weeks back, the Prime Minister had stressed the importance of enhancing indigenization in the national security system, not only in sourcing equipment and weapons but also in the doctrines, procedures and customs practised in the armed forces.

What is a Military Doctrine?

  • Military doctrine is the expression of how military forces contribute to campaigns, major operations, battles, and engagements.
  • It is a guide to action, rather than being hard and fast rules. Doctrine provides a common frame of reference across the military.

Why do we need such a doctrine?

  • It helps standardize operations, facilitating readiness by establishing common ways of accomplishing military tasks.
  • It decides what you buy, produce, or prioritize, all of which flows from deciding your best fighting foot.

Definitions worldwide

  • Russia defines it as “a system of officially adopted State views on the preparation for armed defence and armed protection of the Russian Federation”.
  • The NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) defines it as “fundamental principles by which the military forces guide their actions in support of objectives”.

Objectives of a military doctrine

  • Doctrine links theory, history, experimentation, and practice.
  • Its objective is to foster initiative and creative thinking.
  • It provides the military with an authoritative body of statements on how military forces conduct operations and provides a common lexicon for use by military planners and leaders.

India’s Military Doctrine

  • The current combat doctrine of the Indian Army is based on the effective combined utilization of holding formations and strike formations.
  • In the case of an attack, the holding formations would contain the enemy and strike formations would counter-attack to neutralize enemy forces.
  • In the case of an Indian attack, the holding formations would pin enemy forces down whilst the strike formations attack at a point of Indian choosing.
  • India’s nuclear doctrine follows the policy of credible minimum deterrence, No first strike, No use of nuclear weapons on Non-nuclear states and Massive nuclear retaliation in case deterrence fails.

India has (since 2004) adopted a new war doctrine known as “Cold Start” and its military has conducted exercises several times since then based on this doctrine.

India’s own: Cold Start Doctrine

  • “Cold Start” involves joint operations between India’s three services and integrated battle groups for offensive operations.
  • A key component is the preparation of India’s forces to be able to quickly mobilize and take offensive actions without crossing the enemy’s nuclear-use threshold.

Need for Indigenization of Military Doctrine

  • To learn from others is laudable, but it prevents clarity on our innate strengths and capabilities.
  • For instance, re-evaluate how the Himalayas remained India’s true frontier for decades.
  • Using it as an advantage could translate into a series of airfields to quickly bring up men and material, while removing roads altogether.
  • Let the enemy battle it out in the forests. Our advantage is in bringing forces to bear against a China with incredibly long logistics lines.

Decisive factors in India’s doctrine

  • India is a country of continental size with land borders shared with a large number of countries, 1197 islands and a coastline of 7516 kilometres with a vast Exclusive Economic Zone.
  • Despite her historically developed racial, cultural, linguistic and religious diversity, India is a nation with an innately all-embracing, secular polity that has welcomed and assimilated various cultures into her existing milieu.
  • Her modern values are rooted in democratic governance and profound respect for human life.
  • Defending India calls for defending her physical, economic and cultural identity in the prevalent geo-political milieu.

(a) Geopolitical scenario

  • The geo-political scenario is fast changing and is likely to continue to do so in the coming decades.
  • Although the USA remains the only super power today, the world is witnessing the emergence of various centres of power, with India emerging as one of the leading global players.
  • Each centre of power is attempting to achieve a ‘balance of interest’ as opposed to the erstwhile ‘balance of power’.

(b) Economic scenario

  • With market forces playing an important role, economic strength is likely to become the currency of power. National economies are undergoing liberalization to cater to globalization.
  • The dominance of the developed world over the global economy is, nonetheless, likely to continue.
  • Even so, China and India have been acknowledged as emerging economic powers.
  • Economic linkages and inter-dependence amongst countries are likely to result in mutual security becoming an important issue.
  • Water, energy sources (mainly oil) and even environmental issues may emerge as causes of future conflict between states.

(c) Security Scenario

  • The security challenges facing India are varied and complex as it has two unsettled borders.
  • The country has experienced four major conventional border wars besides an undeclared war fought in Kargil in 1999.
  • It is engaged in an externally abetted proxy war for the last several years in Jammu and Kashmir and has been combating terrorism perpetuated by militant and terrorist groups sponsored by a foreign State.
  • At the same time, a number of insurgencies, spurred by tribal and ethnic aspirations in addition to left wing ideologies are being tackled in various parts of the country.
  • A number of nuclear weapon states are in India’s neighbourhood; hostile, radical or fundamentalist elements gaining access to and posing a threat with weapons of mass destruction (WMD) is also a possibility.

Way forward

  • The first step in this process is of course the visualization of how the next conflict and future wars will unfold.
  • The challenges are myriad and the views to meet these challenges are varied both in the manner it is to be done and the timing.
  • It is also a fact that a template which is applicable to a particular country cannot be applied across the board as we are dictated by our own peculiarities of terrain, resources and adversaries.
  • Major restructuring is the need of the hour and it would take time.
  • However, let us not forget that of the four wars we have fought since Independence, we were victorious in three – surely, there are some good fundamentals on which Indian military and strategic thought have evolved.
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