The question often asked is do the nations security managers have adequate knowledge of military operations or how they pan out. Do we have a civil - Military operational balance, in building the national strategy and taking proactive decisions. Can we target civil infrastructure as part of military operations like the Russians are doing in Ukraine. Will it win us a war? Do we have the leverage to ensure success devoid of civilian participation.
We don’t have that leverage … for us it’s assurance of victory with the Pakistanis’ and at least a notion of victory with consolidated seamless offensive actions at tactical and operational levels with the Chinese. But who defined this?
What does that mean? It means that when we are forced to go to war. We need to stick to a plan. We need to implement possibilities at every juncture of space and time as war closing options with successes under our belt. A loser is only bullied. We can’t get ourselves into that quagmire of defeat.
With the pakis’ we need to structure in a manner that we hit his sensitivities and vulnerabilities with everything we have. Due to the economical imbalance, we need to ensure a longer duration war, which suits us conventionally. Exhaust and saturate them, breaking their will to fight. Of course a longer war means other consequences, like in Afghanistan and Ukraine. Will a short war with the Pakistanis help? No it won’t, that’s my perception. Because in a short war the national aim will not be met. That is aimed at the Pakistani military. To dismember them and discredit them. Expose them as the power grabbers and ensure Pakistan closes their terrorist organisations or at least ensures that they are disfunctuonal. There is no other aim. We don’t want a broken Pakistan. We don’t want an economical catastrophe in Pakistan playing up at our doorstep, which will only bring greater disgruntlement and further ensure an Afghanistan like situation. Where every one would want to wield a gun. Is this then a military aim? No it isn’t. Is it a political aim? Will the aim always remain a constant, like our war fighting strategy with only cosmetic changes. With technology and it’s employment change dynamics? Where is the technology coming from? Do we have a capable defence industry that would meet war time requirement of repair, replacement and recovery?
With the Chinese it’s different. We are asymmetrically at a disadvantage, both in technology and infrastructure. We need to build capability. Due to the economics again, they will always remain far ahead of us. So in case of a conventional war scenario. We have to take the battle to them once it begins. Chances of pre emption being non existent or minimal. Who therefore makes the decision of how much to be applied? Where? Towards what ends?
To ensure an aim therefore we need to put in national effort, make the nation realise that it’s a nation at war. We need to secure our grey lines. Ensure sustainability and viability of a sustained military option. For China it’s a longer duration war that suits their battle philosophy. Drain India by ensuring they are in a deployed and constant ready state. Ensure that the Indians fight conventionally. Run out their energy reserves and financial capability. Keep the air out of the battle. Dominate the South China Sea by giving depth by deploying naval assets in the Bay of Bengal and the South China Sea. Loosen the dog chain on Pakistan to ensure that Indian troops on the western front are not available for a northern contingency.
For us a short war with china is what we should aim for. Once it starts ensure utility and seamless application of all war fighting means in a consolidated manner to target and ensure pre planned victories. We need to harness the contact battle which is our strength to ensure that when applied, we mitigate all threat and give the Chinese a beating. Small tactical battles won are a bigger game changer in the northern front than huge operational battles getting into temporary losses or stale mate. But who will allow us that? Can the military leadership take this decision?
China in a conventional war, will use all forms of warfare. They won’t fight like the way we think they will fight. They are masters at planning, encirclement and envelopment. We need to take the battle to them, with a mix of conventional and sub conventional application. Use terrain to advantage, ensure IW and intelligence based warfare to target the jugular, in China’s case their logistic trains and communication channels. We often get misled in planning a tactical battle company to company or battalion to battalion. We need to ensure defensibility where he drains resources while applying, with we having adequate capability to launch immediate offensive actions at every level. Thereafter isolate him by dislodging his firm bases and hitting his behind. Ensuring that he perceives isolation and information voids. Give him a taste of his own medicine. We need to have a guerilla warfare mindset. Be invisible to his technology and yet have the ability to hit him constantly. Small teams, sons of the soil, crack commando operations, marcos operations in the South China Sea etc. once again but who will coordinate this seamless application of assets. Will not civilian infrastructures be drawn into battle. Trade ships held captive. Own civilian aviation coming into play for transport of men and material. NGOs for casualty evacuation. Media houses for perception management, deception and propaganda.
We also need to establish pockets of victory at every stage. Then play it as a definitive victory causing embarrassment to the PLA and the leadership. There is a need to constantly harness political will and diplomacy where we speak to the Chinese with a show of strength. That won’t happen until we can assure the government that we will give them the chips needed for an effective response strategy diplomatically. So who will tell us what is enough? What are the parameters of success. Who will define the clause of now at this stage we will talk to the political leadership of the adversary?
Two different strategies for two different neighbours. The problem is we react too fast - too soon. Example the redeployment and refocus of one of our western strike corps. We forget what we have been taught right from the beginning. The mountains eat up troops. The attacker is always at a disadvantage against good defences. The long range vectors and artillery are less effective in mountains. Tanks have limited utility. An anti AD missile system can be tucked in easily within the folds of ground to cause huge losses to the air. Yet we seem to be fighting the way the Chinese want us to fight. Deploy conventionally. Use conventional troops for a quid-pro-quo action etc. but the terrain dictates a different story. We fight on ridge lines, slopes and valleys, sidestepping of troops and infrastructure has major penalties. Who then will take a decision as to which sector will go offensive and which will remain dormant. Would the Chinese have the same strategy over different terrains and different parameters of fighting? Fails me.
What we need is a stable airforce ready to engage Chinese targets in strategical and operational depth. ISR resources to enable intelligence based warfare. Small teams to disrupt, harass, destroy. A naval submarine capability to remain invisible and hit their naval might, in this case the air craft carrier groups. An aggressive yet mature military leadership to ensure dynamic application of all available resources towards a national aim. A resilient political establishment that provides the material to wage war. The economics to be pumped in to ensure sustainable application.
Should the politicians or other security establishments be involved? Sir! It’s a nation at war, not the Indian military alone. All establishments have their role to play. Once the role play has been established, the progress and application of man and material needs to be coordinated and sustained. For this we need all national resources. As for decision making, all decisions need to fit in towards the national aim. For this the military leadership alone is not capable. We provide the means towards fulfilling the aim. Once a mission has been given, the military leadership then responds by being effective by ensuring maximisation and coordination.
Tactical decisions will be taken by tactical commanders. Operational decisions with the Northern adversary I fear, will have national significance, therefore by the national committee on security led by the PM.
With the Western adversary the national security committee will come into play only for strategical decision making. Who will control the escalation? When do we know when to stop?
I often in every congregation tell my counterparts. That war is not only the domain of the military. We are a nations tool to ensure the nations will. The cabinet committee on security has to approve the plan. After all they would know better how to fight the war diplomatically or financially. They need to mastermind the strategy. Regulate the media, build world opinion. Ensure that we have adequate tools at every stage of war, to establish equal footing. Finally don’t forget we have nuclear enabled adversaries. Who controls nuclear assets? It’s not the military, we just operationalise them.
The author is a military analyst & commentator on national security issues
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(Views expressed are the author's own and do not reflect the editorial stance of Mission Victory India)