China’s premeditated aggression and intrusions on the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Eastern Ladakh, is a manifestation of its geopolitical intent to constrain, intimidate and dominate India. China has employed force levels unmatched since 1962 against India, which it regards as a future strategic rival. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) transgressions in Ladakh has also brought about greater physical proximity between and increased prospects of strategic and operational collusion between the militaries of China and Pakistan.
“Such developments should leave no doubt in the minds of Indian strategic planners and defence policymakers that India faces a two-front challenge. And it requires a major doctrinal and capability rethink” states a Policy Paper co-authored by Lt Gen Anil Ahuja (Retd.), Senior Adjunct Fellow for Defence Policy, & Brig Arun Sahgal (Retd.), Senior Fellow for Strategic and Regional Security, Delhi Policy Group.
“Our current military posture, which despite technological changes remains manpower intensive and attrition oriented, merits an urgent review,” both the authors urge.
In a Policy Paper titled `Informationised Warfare with Boots on Ground: A Concept for the Defence of India in the Continental Domain’ the authors have examined the operational situation along India’s northern borders. And, they have highlighted important lessons and exposed the prevailing myths about the role and deployment of Indian armed forces.
Both former Army officers have gone on to propose an optimal, India specific, blend of manpower-cum-high technology-centric restructuring of the Indian Army’s war fighting doctrine and capabilities.
In evolving a contemporary doctrine for India’s defence in the continental domain, the authors recognise the changed realities of preparedness for short and swift multiple domain operations. And talk about the need to blend kinetic and the non-kinetic battle, the redundancy of the concept of capturing territory in depth for subsequent negotiations and the necessity of optimising manpower resources to the extent possible in an India-specific environment.
The importance of deploying suitably constituted Integrated Battle Groups and also exploiting the Army’s core competence in high-altitude combat has been highlighted in the Policy Paper.
The paper suggests a strategy of “Strong Positional Defence Augmented with Technology and Firepower” along the Line of Control (LOC) with Pakistan. And has recommended the doctrine of “Positional Defence by tailor-made Integrated Battle Groups which are supported by Specialised Mobile Reserves”, for developing effective capability along the LAC with China.
The authors assert that effective deterrence against Pakistan and China can only be achieved by integrating operations in conventional and strategic domains, an aspect that has not yet been explored. And have further suggested that India’s endeavours to achieve “dissuasive deterrence” in the short-to-medium term must include conventional capability enhancement, and also the development of full-spectrum deterrence. This may require a review of India’s nuclear posture.
In conclusion the paper states that in a two-front threat scenario, the military asymmetry with China has widened while the gap in conventional asymmetry with Pakistan is narrowing. For countering the combined threat, the Indian Armed Forces need to develop an India-specific doctrine. This will help in fighting a full spectrum trench to space war across multiple domains and deploying technology as well as “boots on the ground” along the LOC and the LAC.