|By Lt. General P.C. Katoch (Retd)
Former Director General of Information Systems, Indian Army
Media is agog with headlines of “New defence doctrine to ensure Army, Navy, IAF can tackle entire spectrum of conflicts”. This new doctrine is likely to be released shortly. The obvious choice will be the Defence Minister to release the 80-page doctrine. Perhaps it has also been signed by the Defence Minister, as was Army’s Sub-Conventional Doctrine signed and released by AK Anthony as Defence Minister even though the latter was grossly inadequate focusing on application of combat power to enhance ‘civil control’ in affected areas, that too on own side of the border – in sharp contrast to meet the borderless settings of hybrid warfare. As for the new joint doctrine, media quoting MoD sources says it underlines the need for "application of military power" in an integrated manner to enhance operational efficiency as well as optimize utilization of resources for a greater military punch from limited budgetary funds. It also charts out a broad framework of principles for joint planning and the need to build integrated land-air-sea-cyberspace war-fighting machinery, but also "signals" the intent of the military to the world at large. What signal it is giving to the world at large perhaps the source can be asked to elaborate upon since the state of the equipping of the military is no secret, and neither is the fact that the military had little say in strategic security formulation in India.
The bit about “optimize utilization of resources for a greater military punch from limited budgetary funds”, when allotted two successive ‘negative’ budgets including the current one despite the expanding anti-India China-Pakistan nexus. Similar attitude is visible in the deteriorating situation in the Kashmir Valley with continuing sermons to security forces to show restraint, while the state administration play fence sitters ensconced by layers of security. But getting back to the new doctrine, who will walk the talk? Where is the command structure and the organizations that would implement this joint doctrine? Is this meant solely for the Strategic Forces Command (SFC) or the Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC) with the latter anyway always looking over the shoulder because of inadequate teeth? The MoD source as usual can indulge in big talk but unless concrete and effective measures are taken to synergize, reorganize and equip the defence, this will remain another exercise referred to jokingly referred to as NATO (no action, talk only).
Recommendations by the Kargil Review Committee (KRC) and Group of Minister (GoM) Reports to appoint a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) remains a chimera. Adequate military synergy simply cannot come without a CDS. HQ Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) created post Kargil Conflict was to be part of MoD but this came up as a separate HQ, which killed the purpose for which it was raised. Now there are indications of some ‘middle-level’ posts in MoD being identified for military officers but that is only sidetracking the vital issue. 10 years back in year 2005, HQ IDS had ordered five studies by different organizations, which had made concrete recommendations that were agreed to by the operational directorate heads of the three army, navy and air force – all chaired by the (CISC). So why do we need to keep ordering more and more studies unless the intent is to continue status quo in perpetuity. The Naresh Chandra Committee had recommended establishment of an Aerospace Command, Cyber Command and Special Operations Command. As per reports, even the truncated Cyber Defence Agency, Defence Space Agency and Special Operations Directorate are lost in red tape. Was any operational consideration given to this arbitrary scaling down of these three proposed commands? Take for example, Cyber Warfare, where these programs in the US and China are led by the US Military and the PLA respectively, with good reason.
In India, the military has been deliberately kept away. Do we realize the significance of cyber warfare as part of hybrid war? Fiasco of the last North Korean missile test was perhaps due to a US cyber attack. And Russia is signaling that it can immobilize the US Navy with electronic bombs – something which China too is feverishly working upon. While we have cause to applaud couple of hacking attacks in Pakistan, it will be naïve to assume that NTRO can cope with the total military aspects cyber warfare. Lackadaisical attitude on such vital issues can lead to strategic shock and loss of face. Same goes for space where involvement of the military is an imperative, though hardly being thought about. Similarly, special operations need to be executed continuously at the strategic level, one-time signal through ‘surgical strikes’ notwithstanding. Study hybrid warfare by Russia, US, NATO, China and one common tool extensively employed is special operations. Then what are we waiting for? As for human intelligence, why is the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) mandated to operate cross-border sources since its establishment not permitted to do so? Can we have R&AW coordinating with DIA rather than stonewalling the latter fearing loss of turf? The beginning could be made by the political hierarchy acknowledging that we are at war (hybrid war), conventional war is only a part of hybrid war, and we cannot keep waiting for conventional war to happen.
Post the ‘surgical strikes’, former Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had boasted “we made the army realize their capabilities”, even as admits that he was unable to cope with the handling of Kashmir Valley. He had also said that he got the inspiration for the surgical strikes from Hanuman. He and his ilk should perhaps read Chanakya who had advocated six-fold policy to deal with neighbours; co-existence, neutrality, alliance, double policy, march and war, and If the end can be achieved by non-military method, even by methods of intrigue, duplicity and fraud, he would did not advocate an armed conflict. Perhaps that would evoke interest to actually get into the nuances of hybrid warfare. Of course, bureaucracy in MoD would like to believe conventional war will never occur. Then about this new joint doctrine, who will walk the talk?