The author feels that the Cold Start Doctrine is no longer the option that can be exercised in a technology driven battlefield with a looming nuclear threat, omnipresent. He goes on to take stock of tomorrow’s battlefield and opines in favour of a new doctrine being evolved that would reduce own force attrition by use of technologically superior platforms. This doctrine, in turn, needs to provide the goal posts that our R&D should be headed for with indigenisation being the key strength.
A NEW WAR DOCTRINE AND DEFENCE INDIGENISATION IN INDIA
The country has been gripped with a variety of emotions with respect to its relationship with Pakistan over the last couple of months. Approximately 77 Indians have been martyred after the surgical strike on Pakistan. The public has been enraged, the proud Indian Army is pummeling the Pakistani forces as a punishment for every misadventure of theirs. The ‘doves’ in India have been quite effectively silenced as they have no excuses for Pakistan’s treachery and foolhardiness.
In the midst of all this chaos of skirmishes, there is a crying need to take a long- term view of the events and scan the horizon for the best way to deal with the current situation and its possible spin offs with more profound consequences in the future.
For a start, we can list out some axiomatic truths of the India – Pakistan relationship:
* Pakistan is in no mood to give up its Kashmir fixation.
* Pakistan is still well grounded in its philosophy of bleeding India with a thousand cuts.
* Pakistan is well aware of the consequences of a full- fledged war with India but is foolhardy enough to believe that New Delhi will continue with the philosophy of restraint that has been pursued hitherto by India.
* The prospect of a full- fledged war depends on how well Pakistan continues to exercise control on jihadi elements. If the military loses out to them (the civilian govt, has no control at all), then the whole of Pakistan may be dragged into the conflict, maybe even against the majority of its own people’s will.
* Pakistan has a presumption of parity of conventional war capability with India on the Western front on the basis that a friendly China would be sufficiently helpful to them to keep Indian engaged on the Eastern borders if need be.
* Economically Pakistan is jealous of India’s progress and would like to do anything to prevent India from becoming an economic superpower that it is so well poised to become.
From the Indian perspective a few issues of import are:
* India is saddled with a non- cooperative Pakistan which does not understand the language of progress for the entire region; a fact that is assured if there is lasting peace between the two countries.
* India is poised for explosive economic growth which is the best thing that can happen to its people since independence. We have waited seven decades to reach where we are and cannot afford to fritter away the gains on account of a conflict with a self-destructive neighbour.
* One of the several faltering steps and indeed failures of India over the last seven decades has been its failure to develop self-sufficiency in defence armament.
* The right approach that should have been pursued was to utilise the economic potential of a home grown defence industry to not only enhance defence capability, but also to make it a strong component of the engines of economic growth.
* Indian defence R&D and manufacturing industry has shown a ‘can do’ attitude only in patches, resulting in the country resorting to firefighting purchases from abroad at astronomical costs and crippling consequences to local indigenisation efforts.
* This sort of patchy approach is delaying India’s rise as a regional power. The existing developed nations are conscious of India’s potential and are very quick to reorganise and change their own perspective of doing business with India. While they are to extract every penny of profit from the world’s largest defence import market. This has to be seen in light of the approach to transfer of technology, the poor output of offset clauses and the recently launched make in India campaign.
Keeping in view the points above, we need to evolve the long- term policy. In a nutshell, the objective of the policy would be to develop an indigenous defence capability, strong enough to prevent war for the next fifty years in order to ensure an undisturbed march to our economic goals.
This comprehensive defence capability needs to drive a new defence doctrine in tune with the times and emphasise on R&D and indigenous military hardware production capability to drastically reduce dependence on imported hardware.
Let us first look at what the new defence doctrine should be. The last major defence doctrine developed in India was General K Sundarji’s Cold Start doctrine. For all its intellectual merit as a masterpiece of military writing, the question to be asked is how relevant is this doctrine in the light of today’s power equations and capability of weapons, delivery systems, nuclear options and indeed the whole gamut of technology that is employed by both India and Pakistan.
Cold Start is a doctrine confined to conduct of conventional war with a range of weapons and their capability not much different since WW II. The essential principal of the doctrine being fast and effective acquisition of large and strategic chunks of enemy territory in order to bring them to their knees. Such a military policy in the eighties was designed to provide the political establishment with the necessary leverage to enforce a ceasefire/ surrender of the enemy on favourable terms to India.
The significant difference to be noted in the sphere of conventional war is that attrition rates then, in the eighties, were a fraction of what is possible and most likely in the event of a conventional war today. Add to this the scenario of a trigger happy Pakistani establishment, who in the certain eventuality of defeat in conventional war with India, turns to the suicidal use of nuclear weapons as its last resort. The military result undoubtedly would be in favour of India but at what cost? Our economic dreams will be shattered and all the material progress made over the decades would be lost permanently.
The focus of the new military doctrine should therefore be more firmly anchored on the more relevant current requirements in the battlespace viz. better Beyond Visual Range (BVR) fighting capability combined with superior surveillance & intelligence gathering ability that provides sufficient neutralization time to our own forces. We will need to dominate the cyber space, outer space and the electronic spectrum. Such a doctrine would go a long way in reducing attrition of our conventional forces, cripple the enemy faster and help in bringing speedy conclusion of the war in India’s favour.
Given the fact the India does not harbour ideas of annexation of Pakistani territory, the object of future war with Pakistan would be annihilation of its conventional war capability. This annihilation of its war mongering capability would hopefully force a change in the civil government- military relationship in Pakistan. Post such conflict, it could be presumed that we will be dealing with a much more rational Pakistani civil dispensation. Several other possibilities exist such as the break- up of Pakistan under its own internal forces etc. These would only increase India’s grip over the situation.
Our efforts in R&D and indigenous capabilities need to be based on the fundamentals of the military doctrine. at India is already in possession of, or is capable of developing the relevant BVR and intelligence gathering technologies. These capabilities are supported by our space, software and data handling technologies.
The time has come for some serious crystal gazing as to what would be the reigning technologies of the future? From the beginning of warfare, the trend of future tactics has been to acquire more stand- off capability and improve intelligence gathering. This fundamental principle has not changed over the millennia. India must therefore work on this this time- tested principle to develop the latest in sensors, precision technology and unmanned weapon systems which will be the future of warfare. Better sensors and first strike stand-off weapons give the capability to dismantle enemy command and control structures faster.
One who is able to dismantle the enemies ‘eyes and ears’ faster will be the winner in a conventional war with much reduced attrition of his own weapon delivery systems. With superior sensors and BVR capabilities, of which missiles of various categories would be a significant part, the need for the latest technology conventional weapon delivery systems like aircraft, ships and tanks, would be a couple of notches less. Use of conventional weapons would turn into a second wave operation to essentially perform a mop up function with minimal resistance and therefore significantly reduced attrition rates.
If we work with alacrity over the next 5-10 years we would be able to develop a top of the line indigenously produced weapon capability which coupled with the new defence doctrine would ensure a most potent deterrent to our most significant adversaries.
Lt Cdr L Shivaram (Retd)
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of BharatShakti.in)