Book Review: Battle Ready for the 21st Century

Major General (Dr.) P K Chakravorty, VSM (Retd), Senior Fellow at CLAWS reviews Battle Ready for the 21st Century.

Book Review: Battle Ready for the 21st Century

Battle Ready for the 21st Century - Edited by Lieutenant General A K Singh, PVSM, AVSM, SM, VSM and Brigadier Narender Kumar, SM, VSM, and published by Pentagon Press LLP, is a new book by the Centre for Land Warfare Studies and (CLAWS). The 284 page book at is a significant addition to India's strategic discourse and is available at ₹995 in hardcover and ₹750 on Kindle.

The book deals comprehensively with all aspects of combat as applicable to the Indian environment in the 21st century. It is important to quote Admiral Arun Prakash, former Chief of Naval Staff, who in the Foreword states, “By compiling and editing the valuable collection of essays the Editors have rendered yeoman service to the cause of India’s national security. The book has 15 Chapters which deal with various aspects of Battle and the capabilities to be developed by the Armed Forces in this century.

The opening Chapter deals with the Notion of Victory. It covers all aspects of victory starting from the tactical level onwards to the operational level and finally at the strategic level. The next aspect it touches upon is the end state and onwards to global contemporary conflicts. Here in Operations Desert Storm (1991), Iraqi Freedom (2003), Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan), Syrian Conflict and Israel’s mowing the Lawn Strategic Doctrine has been explained. It would be interesting if these would have been compared with the surrender of Japan after the use of nuclear weapons at Hiroshima and Nagasaki were discussed.

Thereafter the Indian context has been analysed right up to the surgical strikes. Finally the aspect of Calibrating Victory in the Indian Context is discussed. With China the potential exists from a flare up to a confrontation whereas with Pakistan it would be a punitive response which may escalate into an all-out war. In the case of China there is a need to build a credible deterrence and if required a quid pro quo in selected areas. Rightly summarised there is a need to rethink victory in the current century.

The next Chapter deals with Dynamic Military Strategy. The need for a Dynamic Military Strategy has been justified due to the peculiar nature of threats which India faces. Accordingly there is a need to cater for a dynamic military strategy that caters for a wide spectrum of future conflicts ranging from conventional to sub conventional conflicts and multi space domains. The military strategy for conventional conflict ideally should be based on Dissuade, Deter, Deny and Defeat.

In the case of Hybrid and sub conventional conflicts the strategy should be Disrupt, Degrade and Defeat. This calls for the Indian Army to be capable of fighting a New Generation Warfare with kinetic and non-kinetic capabilities. Undoubtedly there is a need for maintain a second strike capability in nuclear deterrence. A point to ponder with Pakistan and China having second strike capability how it impacts our nuclear strategy.

Titles available on Pentagon Press and Amazon

Grey Zone Conflict has been comprehensively tackled in Chapter 4. There are four main principles of fighting this ambiguous conflict. The aspects of tackling primarily involve identification and application of Government and civilian tools. The other aspect is to build capabilities in multi domain warfare. The next Chapter deals with Technological Impact. It focuses on Data, Quantum, Robotics and Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) swarms. Technology would lead us gradually to less of open confrontation thereby transforming the character of War. Chapter 6 deals with Cross Domain Synergy in future combat.

The aspect of a force being capable of operating effectively in land, sea, air, cyber and space is a must for conflicts of the future. Future wars would be in multiple domains and jointness would play an important role. The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) would play an important role with the Theatre Commands. Cross domain synergy is imperative for the Indian Armed Forces. The subsequent Chapter deals with Crisis Management and Escalation Control.

This is an extremely well researched paper and gives details of Herman Kahn’s seminal work on Escalation. Kahn’s escalation ladder has 16 steps starting from crisis and thereafter the entire matrix. The chapter thereafter deals with two events, the Kargil War and Balakot. The nuance of these events where escalation was controlled against a nuclear backdrop is brought out simplistically.

Reimagining Mountain Warfare is dealt with in Chapter 8. The Chapter justifies the reasons to fight an Asymmetric War in the Mountains. The need for accurate Intelligence, Surveillance and d Reconnaissance would be the key to fight operations intelligently by suitably placing troops in areas where he is likely to address. Further use of Kinetic and non-kinetic weaponry would be extremely important.

Our defences must be hardened to make them indestructible against Precision Guided Munitions. (PGMs). Logistics will be primarily based on the aerial route to included drones and other means. Leadership would need a directive style with minimum orders and ability to function fully delegated operations without communications.

Urban Warfare is an interesting aspect covered in Chapter 9. As aptly described it is a nightmare for a soldier to fight in urban terrain. The Chapter comprehensively covers the subtleties of these operations after deep research of combat in Grozny, Mogadishu, Baghdad, Fallujah, Mosul and Aleppo. The major aspects are the following:-

  • Intelligence Preparation of the Battle and identification of the Centre of Gravity.
  • Employment of intelligence resources and weapon systems.
  • Technology enabled operations to include information, cyber, AI and Air Dominance.
  • Operations planned centrally and executed in a directive style on a mission mode.

Mechanised forces must isolate the objective. Decimate the objective by PGMs and Drones. Thereafter based on the terrain undertake assault by armour or ground troops. The Chapter covers aspects undertaken by the Indian Army in Counter Terrorism Operations. Rightly stated Urban Warfare in an Information Age requires Transformation; a change in mind set at the political, strategic and tactical levels. Operations in this mode are manpower intensive. Chapter 10 deals with the Maritime Domain.

Analysis reveals that by 2030 challenges at sea are bound to escalate. An emergent collusion between a more capable Pakistan Navy and Chinese Navy with more resident capacities in the Indian Ocean Region will raise the bargaining stakes for China and embolden Pakistan to pursue Asymmetric warfare with greater vigour. There is a need to build a strong Navy for better maritime security. The next Chapter deals with Relevance of Aerospace Power.

It has been emphatically stated that we need an optimum force structure of 30-32 squadrons against the current holding of 28 squadrons and the need for an Aerospace Command. Chapter 12 deals with the two front dilemma which is a difficult task to execute for the Armed Forces. However, contingency plans need to exist for the same. The Central Armed Police must be modernised to handle the Counter Terrorism operations.

The remaining part of the book analyses aspects pertaining to Intelligence, Artificial Intelligence (AI) & Cyber, Information & Psychological Operations and Disruptive Strategies which deals with aspects of Smart Power. Overall, the book is extremely well researched and must be read by officers in the Ministry of Defence, Ministry of External Affairs, Indian Armed Forces and Analysts in the strategic field.

About the Reviewer

Major General (Dr.) P K Chakravorty, VSM, (Retd) is a Senior Fellow (Veteran) at CLAWS. Views expressed are the reviewers own and do not neccessarily reflect the editorial policy of Mission Victory India.

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