(ii)Threat perception& Doctrines
(iii)Indian modernization process: History
(iv)Manpower and Equipment crisis
(vi)Indian Procurement policy
(vii)The way ahead
Modernisation of armed forces on par with varying threat perceptions and technological innovation is essential to have a phenomenal war waging capabilities. In the 21st century, it would be difficult for a manpower oriented army to win a major conflict with an enemy who is technologically superior. Both Afghan war and Iraq war demonstrated that it’s difficult to have a victory under asymmetric warfare conditions, were enemy movements are largely unpredictable. As countries tend to use asymmetrical warfare to weaken adversaries, without technological superiority, it would be difficult to attain total superiority against enemy forces.
India is the 7th largest country in the world. Its economy is flourishing at an astonishing rate of 7.2% per annum. But still its 1.2 million armed forces are yet to undergo modernization process. The restraint policies followed by the government of India forced armed forces to remain as a force, only are to be used as a last resort. From 1947 Kashmir War to 1999 Kargil war this restraint attitude of political leadership made the conflicts difficult to resolve and often failed to utilize the dominance that they had during course of war.
Indian armed forces are lacking an array of equipment. The army’s critical shortages involve 155 mm howitzers, attack helicopters, air defense assets, various ammunition and missile systems, close quarter battle carbines, assault rifles, machine guns, and sniper rifles. Moreover, it also lacks some basic gears such as modular bullet-proof jackets, lightweight ballistic helmets, and high ankle boots. Air force and Navy also have a chunk of equipment on the wish list. Prominent among them are 126 MMRCA, Medium Range Transport Aircraft, Tankers, submarines, and destroyers. Moreover majority of Tanks and Vehicles with army became obsolete and some of them are only exciting on papers. Indian procurement policy is burdened with lack of clarity and a big chain of the approval process. The ambiguity in GSQRs (General Staff Qualitative Requirements) and the sluggish bureaucratic system makes the process painful and time taking.
THREAT PERCEPTION AND DOCTRINES
After liberation from British, Indian policy makers decided to stick to the defense policies laid down by Field Marshal Claude Auchinleck, who emphasized the need for keeping force level of 2 million men, a 20 squadron air force and a navy with 69 capital ships and 2 aircraft carrier task forces. But the financial burden followed by 1947 Kashmir war, forced the government to cut down defense expenditure and the Auchinleck policies were never implemented. India is sitting in a hostile neighborhood and prone to attack from three or more fronts. It shares the border with two nuclear-armed nations, Pakistan and China, with whom she fought wars in the past. India also has indigenous Left wing extremist and separatist forces, which may grow into full-fledged militia groups, if necessary, actions were not taken.
India-Pakistan ties after independence are strained and it’s arduous to resolve as it involves a large strategically important territories being claimed by both sides. After the partition, Pakistan forcefully occupied a large chunk of territory in Kashmir with irregular troops. The restraint response from Indian leadership made the loss cumulative and put India into a disadvantageous position. Though India managed to limit the two front threat projected by Pakistan by liberating Bangladesh in 1971, Political leadership failed to utilize the opportunity to force a settlement on Kashmir issue. Though some argue that India was under intense International pressure, it was obvious that it’s the restraint attitude from the government made the countries reach an early cease-fire agreement as the shortage of ammunition and the threat posed by US carrier battle groups could have been snubbed by Soviet help. Kargil conflict divulged that Pakistan is ready to go any extent to occupy Kashmir by force. Though the attempt was futile, it was a wake-up call for the Indian government and questioned the military preparedness of the nation.
The Sunderjee doctrine which was being pursued from 1981, proved to be inefficient during the operation Parakram, which was launched as a response to Dec 13, 2001, parliament attacks. The Sunderjee doctrine limited armed forces role to largely defensive and offensive capability was limited to three strike corps stationed at central India far from borders. The doctrine divided armed forces into two parts;
• Holding Corps: Comprised of 7 divisions, deployed alongside the border. It consisted of Infantry divisions for static defense, mobile mechanized divisions that could respond to enemy penetrations, and a small number of armored units.
• Strike Corps: Consisted of armored divisions, mechanized infantry and had extensive artillery support. It was based in central India far from borders and expected to mobilize once holding corps successfully repels enemy invasions.
The plan was largely defensive and more concentration was given to holding corps which was ill equipped for an offensive operation. This made the entire offensive operations depend on the mobilization of large strike corps. During operation Parakram, Strike corps took three weeks to reach the borders. If India wants a swift and limited offensive against Pakistan, without escalating it into the nuclear dimension, they need to have a force which can be mobilized at short notice and could penetrate deep into enemy territory, in limited time frame. This will enable Indian leadership to have an advantageous position, and henceforth limiting conflict to conventional means. The slow pace of mobilization during operation Parakram enabled the United States to exert pressure on our leadership to withdraw the forces. So any limited offensive that army wants to undertake should be commenced within a stipulated time frame, which will, in turn, prevent any international pressure.
The cold start doctrine is designed specifically for this purpose. An entire mobilization of military assets is not feasible for a limited offensive. A massive column will invite a lot of attention, and it would alert enemy forces, which will, in turn, drive out the opportunity for a surprise attack.
The cold start doctrine is built around 8 small division sized Integrated Battle Groups (IBGs).They are supported by artillery, mechanized forces and would have Air force and naval support. The IGBs will cross through different parts through forward positions of Rajasthan and Punjab, which will make enemy decision making more complicated and challenging. The IBGs are smaller in size compared to Strike corps, this will enable them to avoid attention from foreign spies and satellites during mobilization. Apart from this, the holding corps is now redesigned as pivotal corps and is having the capability for limited offensive operations.
Cold Start doctrine Invited lot of skepticism from International community. A US embassy, a secret letter leaked by Wikileaks, points out that “Indian forces could have significant logistical and reinforcement problems, during the first phase”. The report also questions the will of political leadership to launch a limited offensive following a military or terror strikes, as India didn’t respond militarily to Mumbai attacks of 2008. Some also believe, such a limited offensive would invite widespread agitation from the international community and may lose the favorable status India have over Pakistan. Through the cold start limits offensive strikes to a low scale invasion of enemy territory from 50-70 km, thus limiting the war to conventional level, Experts believes that such a move could be disastrous and would lead to nuclear exchanges. As Pakistan nuclear policy states that, if India occupies large scale of territories or destroys its majority of military assets both on the ground and in air, they would use nuclear assets to protect their interests, cold start style offensive could be misinterpreted and may lead to full-scale nuclear conflict.
The Full-scale implementation of such doctrine would require modern equipment and a robust C4ISR. India already started upgrading its age-old assets and they are regularly practicing the tactics through various exercises like Divyastra and Aswamedh. The doctrine also emphasizes the need for joint operations with other forces and relies largely on airpower. The air force argues that Air power should be used independently and should have a different doctrine to engage with Airborne threats. The navy also has a different doctrine, which involves landing troops through the coasts of enemy territory. As India lacks a Joint Chief of Staffs for better coordination and utilization of forces, full-fledged implementation of cold start is difficult to coalesce.
(To be continued.....)