Doctrinal Reawakening of the Indian Armed Forces

By Ashraf, Tariq M. | Military Review, November/December 2004 | Go to article overview
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Doctrinal Reawakening of the Indian Armed Forces


Ashraf, Tariq M., Military Review


INDIAN AND PAKISTAN (Indo/Pak) military doctrines have had distinctive defensive undertones since the two countries gained independence from the British in 1947. Notwithstanding the three wars and several near wars the two countries have engaged in as independent nations, there has been no significant shift in respective military and warfighting doctrines until recently. In the last year, events in the region and elsewhere have highlighted what the two countries need in order to modify existing doctrine.

Some regional events that triggered the review of military doctrine include the Indian subcontinent's nuclearization and how it affects the nature of war in the region and the roles of Indo/Pak military services; lessons from the 1999 Kargil crisis and the possibility of waging limited conventional warfare under a nuclear umbrella; and the 2001 to 2002 period of massive military mobilization and posturing referred to as Operation Parakaram.

Global events affecting doctrinal thinking in Indo/ Pak militaries include America's Global War on Terrorism, manifested in the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and U.S. President George W. Bush's doctrine of preemption.

These events have had so pronounced an effect in the last year, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF), the Indian Army, and the Indian Navy (IN) have published new doctrinal documents and manuals or modified editions of existing ones. This spurt of doctrinal changes and revisions comes at a time when India and Pakistan have declared their intent to enter into a composite dialogue.

Referring to the timing of the announcement of the Indian Army's new "Cold Start" doctrine, military columnist Sultan Hali notes, "The timing of this 'disclosure' of India's new war doctrine is of interest. Why have India's top military commanders returned to their drawing board to work on this new war doctrine-the Cold Start strategy-while a highly hyped peace process is underway?"1 South Asia's Nuclearization

The nuclear genie emerged from the lamp in South Asia in 1998. The availability of a nuclear capability has altered the nature of war in the region and the role of the three military services in their respective realms of warfare.

India and Pakistan nuclearized their air forces first. Attack aircraft capable of being configured with nuclear weapons emerged as the first nucleardelivery platforms for both countries. This ushered the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the PAF into the limelight of the strategic military equation and reduced the strategic significance of Indian and Pakistani armies and navies.

Worried that the Air Force might lay claim to a lion's share of the strategic military expansion, the Army and Navy campaigned for strategic roles-the Army by laying claim to the surface-to-surface ballistic missile force, the Navy by harping on the sea-based dimension of the nuclear deterrence triad. Indo/Pak armies garnered strategic roles by gaining control of the nuclear-tipped, surface-to-surface missiles (SSMs), while their navies are still endeavoring to develop a nuclear capability to justify their strategic role.

Nuclearization shifted the objective of war from territorial occupation to destruction operations because annexation of sizeable territory was considered much more likely to violate the other side's nuclear threshold than controlled destruction of an adversary's military and economic potential. This transformation reduced the significance of the larger Indo/Pak armies and enhanced the importance of the air forces because they were more suitably equipped and configured for effective destruction campaigns. Strategic affairs analyst Subhash Kapila says India's strategic military objectives should "shift from capturing bits of Pakistan territory in smallscale, multiple offensives to be used as bargaining chips after the cease fire and focus on the destruction of the Pakistani Army and its military machine without much collateral damage to Pakistani civilians.

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