Monday, June 6, 2011

India’s Doctrinal Shift?

The Indian Army is undertaking its first strategic transformation in more than two decades. And it has its sights firmly on China.

India’s 1.1 million-strong army is on the verge of major doctrinal and organisational change.
Working from the results of a ‘Transformation Study,’ which was produced by a team of generals led by Chief of Army Staff Gen. VK Singh when he was Eastern Army Commander, a series of radical suggestions are set to be implemented to bring about a paradigm shift in the way the Indian Army is deployed and
operationalised, both defensively and offensively.
Essentially, the changes are aimed at strengthening the Army’s capacity for fighting what one serving general has described as a war on ‘two and a half fronts’—a reference to possible simultaneous confrontations with Pakistan and China at the same time as managing an internal counter-insurgency effort.
So far, India’s four wars with Pakistan and one with China have been stand-alone conflicts, but India’s strategic thinkers are concerned that there’s a genuine possibility that close allies China and Pakistan could launch a joint offensive against India.
And the Army doesn’t want to be caught flat-footed. Instead, it’s looking for an overhaul in thinking that will produce a force capable of quick mobilization and rapid deployment.

Speaking at his annual media event, on January 15, Singh confirmed that this current line of thinking reaches up to the highest levels of the force. At the event, Singh revealed publicly for the first time that the Army would ‘reorganise, restructure and relocate’ various formations to help transform it into a more agile and lethal force. ‘We’re looking at reorganising and restructuring our force headquarters…for faster decision making, so that it becomes slightly flattened and more responsive,’ he said.

These views chimed with comments he made last year, when he told me: ‘Our focus is now shifting from being an adversary-specific force to a capability-based force, able to fight across the spectrum—in the mountains, in the desert, night and day, in the hot summer or harsh winter.’
According to Singh, the Army is planning ‘test beds’ to try out some of the concepts contained in the study with a view to eventually implementing them on a larger scale. ‘We’re looking at theaterisation of combat support resources to ensure synergy of resources in a theatre,’ he added.
So what does this mean in practical terms? Top generals have indicated that under these plans, the Army will be organised in a way that allows two theatres to be independent of each other so that one theatre won’t require the resources of another if both are engaged in combat operations. In addition, the Army is also reportedly planning to increase its aviation assets by securing more helicopters for the Army Aviation Corps.