Thursday, July 25, 2024

Military doctrine


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By P K Vasudeva

The Indian Army unveiled its new war doctrine on 28 April 2004, and named it as the ‘Cold Start War Doctrine’. Thereafter, in ensuing twelve months, the new war doctrine was circulated to all the Army Commands for discussion and comments at formation levels. In tandem, the Army Training Command (ARTRAC) and the Army War College were tasked to fine-tune the operational concepts of the doctrine. India released information on a new war doctrine known as “Cold Start” and its military has conducted exercises several times since then based on this doctrine.

“Cold Start” involves joint operations between the three defence Services and integrated battle groups for offensive operations. A key component is the preparation of the country’s forces to be able to quickly mobilise and take offensive actions without crossing the enemy’s nuclear-use threshold. Ten years after the Kargil Review Committee (KRC) and a Group of Ministers (GoM) attempted the first major revamp of defence management in the country, the Government has now set up a high-powered task force to review the unfinished tasks and make further suggestions for implementation. After the (KRG) submitted its report in 2000, the Government had set up four task forces to go into different aspects of national security. These task forces reviewed internal security, intelligence, border management and higher defence reforms. Based on the recommendations of the task forces, a GoM under the chairmanship of L. K. Advani, the then Union Home Minister came up with a report in 2001 consisting of about 300 recommendations for reforming the national security management structures. These recommendations initiated comprehensive changes in India’s post-independence history. Although successive Governments have continued to implement these reforms, the process has run out of steam.

No doubt, the Government has spent a large amount of resources on police modernisation, strengthening of intelligence agencies and setting up of new institutions such as the National Disaster Management Agency, National Technical Research Organisation, Defence Intelligence Agency and Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-IN). Some steps towards integration of the Armed Forces with the Defence Ministry have also been undertaken. The Nuclear Command Authority and Strategic Force Command and the Andaman and Nicobar tri-service joint command have also been set up. Defence acquisitions have also been streamlined.

But some crucial big-ticket items have been missed out. For instance, the setting up of a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) has been stalled. This has impeded the full integration of the Armed Forces into the Defence Ministry structures. Basically but regrettably, the bureaucratic opposition is not allowing the CDS to be formulated as its own importance they fear will be diluted.

The bane of Indian security reforms has not been so much the dearth of resources but the lack of strong institutions and effective coordination. In this context, the performance of the National Security Council (NSC) and its structures needs to be reviewed. The role of the NSC has been advisory. But it has not been able to come out with a comprehensive national security strategy for the country, which is urgently required. Sadly, the coordination role of the NSC remains weak and has grown weaker. The performance of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) needs to be evaluated in the light of its de facto separation from the National Security Council Secretariat.

It was to obviate some of these weaknesses, recognised during the Kargil war, that the Arun Singh committee was formed. In carrying out its mandate, the panel deliberated over testimonies from different stakeholders but did not examine the functioning of various organisations. Hence, its analysis was more opinion based than data driven. It argued, “The Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC) has not been effective in fulfilling its mandate”. However, it recommended the appointment a CDS based on other democratic armies. For historical and bureaucratic reasons, this measure was not approved. The country needs fresh thinking by fresh minds to take a measure of the extent of national security challenges and devise steps to address these. The earlier GoM had in fact recommended periodic review after every five years.

The new national security institutions that were set up after Kargil are working at below par capabilities. They are neither adequately staffed nor resourced. In some cases debilitating turf wars have broken out. Some have simply been neglected to the point of atrophy.

Consequently, the 14-member task force headed by Naresh Chandra, a former bureaucrat who has held top administrative jobs in the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and Prime Minister Office, was set up and has as its members, former military commanders, intelligence chiefs, diplomats and strategic analysts. The panel starts its work on July 14 and has been given six months to complete its report.

Although there have been sectional review attempts such as on procurement or defence research, this is the first comprehensive attempt at reviewing the entire gamut of defence preparedness and management in a decade.

Task force members comprise of Air Chief Marshal (Retd.) S Krishnaswamy, Gen (Retd.) V.R. Raghavan, former Department of Atomic Energy chief Anil Kakodkar, Admiral (Retd.) Arun Prakash, former RAW head K.C. Verma, former Union Home Secretary V.K. Duggal, G. Parthasarathy, former diplomat, and senior journalist Manoj Joshi.

The Naresh Chandra committee will try to contemporise the KRC’s recommendations in view of the fact that a decade has passed since the report was submitted. It is also expected to examine why some of the crucial recommendations relating to border management and restructuring the apex command structure in the Armed forces have not been implemented, especially in view of the fact that the KRC had stated: “The political, bureaucratic, military and intelligence establishments appear to have developed a vested interest in the status quo.”

Undoubtedly, the recommendations of the task force must be implemented lest our adversaries keep threatening us and continue usurping our strategic locations all along the borders. We cannot remain a soft State in the garb of maintaining peace with our neighbours. The modernisation of our Armed Forces should continue to act as a strong deterrent. —INFA


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