Indian military doctrines should focus on China, not Pakistan - Hindustan Times

Indian military doctrines should focus on China, not Pakistan

Mar 29, 2023 08:46 AM IST

Even as the top military commanders meet in Bhopal for next three days, the Indian military must shed off its cold war and colonial mindset and evolve new doctrines as old friendships have given way to “no limits” alliances.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will address the last Combined Commanders Conference this Saturday in Bhopal before he and the BJP leadership goes fully into election mode for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. The three day conference, attended by officers of the ranks of Commander-in-Chiefs and above, will begin on March 30.

File photo of Gen Anil Chauhan taking over as India's second Chief of Defence Staff.
File photo of Gen Anil Chauhan taking over as India's second Chief of Defence Staff.

The conference comes at a time when there is global turmoil with ongoing war in Ukraine amidst growing Russia-China bonhomie, China eyeing Taiwan in pursuit of self-declared ‘One China’ policy and rising religious radicalization infusing fresh blood into the terror industry. It is time that the Indian military commanders—many of whom are still steeped in Cold War mindset, are brought to speed over the rapid geo-political changes where old friendships have virtually dissolved and new groupings are being forged to tackle the challenge of aggressive dictatorship in China.

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While the Indian military has stood up to the PLA challenge all along the 3488 km Line of Actual Control (LAC) post May 5, 2020 Chinese transgressions in East Ladakh, the tri-services leadership needs to shed its colonial bureaucratic mindset and focus only on its war fighting capabilities. It has to synergize with the infusion of stand-alone weapons, robots, and automatic intelligence as they will determine who wins the future wars. The military leadership must not get digressed into global narratives spun out from either Anglo-Saxon west or the Russia-China détente and instead focus on what is good for India.

This means that the military leadership should not be resistant to change and promote faster decision making at the cutting-edge levels. It has been more than three years since PM Modi appointed the first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) but the creation of military theatre commands is still work in progress with only two steps---joint man ship and integration—complete and two more steps—theatre and joint operations—left to complete. Admitted that military theatre commands are a big step and requires careful deliberations with formulations of new war doctrines, but the process partly has been dragged by vested interests in the three services as this move will diminish the powers of the Chiefs of Army, Navy and Air Force staffs as the military operations will be with theatre commanders under the CDS.

Just as faster creation of military theatre commands is the responsibility of the tri-service commanders, the success of PM Modi’s “Aatmanirbhar Bharat” indigenization program is also their responsibility as only countries with home grown military-industrial complex and latest technology are allowed to sit on the global high table. Rather than aspiring for latest hardware toys from abroad, the military leadership must promote indigenous platforms so that they can be technologically refined for future wars. The need of the hour is to design and develop hardware platforms with the help of Indian private sector, not merely importing latest hardware platforms from abroad.

Indigenous hardware should be accompanied with military leadership evolving its own home-grown war doctrines which are synergized to national objectives rather than be a copy and paste exercise from the so-called studies conducted by sundry think tanks in the west. Simply put, the focus should be on original military tactics and thought and far removed from the word coinage of the Anglo-Saxon west or even China. Fact is that there is hardly any original thinking in military war colleges with words like “kinetic” and “asymmetric” warfare being copied from western think tanks.

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval are expected to spell out their military vision for India at the Bhopal conference, the Indian military needs to decolonize its mindset to imbibe the vision of the political leadership as the latter are much in tune with the times and are clear about India’s principal adversary. The new military doctrines should be focused on China and not on its client state Pakistan as the days of blockading Karachi harbor have passed into war history.

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    Author of Indian Mujahideen: The Enemy Within (2011, Hachette) and Himalayan Face-off: Chinese Assertion and Indian Riposte (2014, Hachette). Awarded K Subrahmanyam Prize for Strategic Studies in 2015 by Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA) and the 2011 Ben Gurion Prize by Israel.

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