Joint Military Doctrine: Veterans Respond

"In essence, what we are seeking is the best utilization of our resources to achieve our objective of territorial integrity. How do we maximise the taxpayer’s money? True, it calls for uncommon coordination between the controllers of these resources."


Joint Military Doctrine: Veterans Respond

In essence, what we are seeking is the best utilization of our resources to achieve our objective of territorial integrity. How do we maximise the taxpayer’s money? True, it calls for uncommon coordination between the controllers of these resources. But this is what is expected. Stories are legion of the clash of egos and subpar functioning of tri-service teams. They worked effectively enough in 1971 with comparatively obsolete communication systems as compared to those of today. There’s no reason why they should not work in present times. It’s simply a question of leadership.

Responses were invited from our learned tri-service veterans to the 68 pages new joint military doctrine compiled by ‘Directorate of Doctrine’, HQ IDS and released on 25 April 2017 by the COSC. Several reviews on it have already been published, including those of Bharat Karnad, Anit Mukherjee, Sandeep Unnithan and Sushant Singh.

Gp Capt Johnson Chacko (Retd) wrote a separate analysis on the document and what it should be. Broadly criticizing the document, he agreed with the core principle or the concept of promoting cohesion amongst the services but diverged in the approach the Joint Doctrine was suggesting, which he found lacking in a lot of areas, chiefly that is a bottom-up approach when it should be ‘top down’.

“In the Joint Doctrine, the doctrine itself has been referred to as Armed Forces Doctrine and Military Doctrine in different places. National security has been abrogated as the sole domain of the Military as is amplified in National Security Objectives and National Security Policy. National Security Strategy indicates the primary role is that of the Military with the rest as ‘Add Ons’. Central to the National Security Strategy is ‘Deterrent Nuclear Capability’. An appendix on Civil Military Relations is out of place in a Military Doctrine.

“There are references to Internal Security in this document, but that is not essentially a part of Military doctrine. It should be a part of the Internal Security Doctrine. It is essentially a function, under aid to civil power. The Military cannot have prolonged involvement in internal security duties as that will create disaffection within the area from which the Military draws its resources. The philosophy of application of force is different and is best left to the Police forces,” the article by Gp Capt Chacko says.

His analysis has been generally endorsed by most Veterans and some of his views from the piece are articulated in the concluding remarks of this article. Following are the responses:

Air Mshl N Menon (Retd), ex-AOP Air HQ

I am in general agreement with the views expressed by Gp Capt Johnson Chacko. India has never\expounded or stated her national interests. From our national interests will flow our long term and short term goals. From these can we express our economic, foreign, social and military objectives. Without such a background a 'joint' military doctrine is a non-starter.


Maj Gen Anil Sengar (Retd), ex-GOC Inf Div

Clearly, there is a lack of understanding on what a joint doctrine should be. It is wrong to call it a joint doctrine as it is a bottoms up approach. They are trying to build on the services doctrine which is a wrong approach. The first forty pages are un-actionable padding which can be skipped while reading without detriment to the paper.

The writers seemed to have overlooked the purpose of the paper,  i.e. ‘Joint Doctrine’ and thus included issues that have no relevance to the subject e.g. ‘Civil Military Relations’ and whole lot of definitions. What they have stated already happens. Could have done without it as this document gives no guidelines and prevented the loss of face that it has resulted in. In the absence of agreements between the services on integrated ops, they could have called it something else.

The fault lies elsewhere. Majority of the senior officers are comfortable at the tactical level and not at the strategic or intellectual level. Because our promotion system allows average officers to rise to the highest ranks by doing the very basic and being system fit. Anit Mukherjee rightly points out at the intellectual drought. This also reminds me of the article by Mohan Guruswamy on senior army hierarchy.

Maj Gen VK Madhok (Retd), 1st Course JSW/NDA


There cannot be a formal joint doctrine in the absence of a national, foreign and defence Policy. That is the first step. In its absence, it is futile even to discuss the subject in question.

Col Pradeep B Dalvi (Retd), ex-Instr AWC

I agree with Gen Madhok. The Jt Doctrine promulgated as Northern, Western and Southern region (Maritime command) without allocation of resources to its respective commands is a non- starter. Today we have 17 Commands in all three services plus Strategic Command and A&N Command. What happens to so many Army Commanders and their resources? No clarity at all. In absence of strategic directive by the government and Joint COS/CDS, this exercise is eyewash.

Rear Admiral Vineet Bakhshi (Retd), ex-CO INS Shivaji

Can we really have an Indian Military Doctrine in the 21st century, when there is a fast paced technological and social change taking place? Can a set of procedures or beliefs be espoused to such a complex operation as war in the current milieu? The ‘no first nuke’ use is a doctrine. Cold Start is a doctrine. Blitzkrieg was a doctrine. The Maginot line was a doctrine. Is it really plausible to define a Joint Services Doctrine other than that defined by the Constitution to maintain the integrity of this country? I aver that it is only semantics to do so.

In essence, what we are seeking is the best utilization of our resources to achieve our objective of territorial integrity. How do we maximise the taxpayer’s money? True, it calls for uncommon coordination between the controllers of these resources. But this is what is expected. Stories are legion of the clash of egos and subpar functioning of tri-service teams. They worked effectively enough in 1971 with comparatively obsolete communication systems as compared to those of today. There’s no reason why they should not work in present times. It’s simply a question of leadership.

There are limited assets which are strategic in nature, and these can well be placed under a Joint Military Command, such as Nuclear, Space, Cyber, AWACS, Special Forces and Capital Procurement beyond Command Headquarters’ powers. Beyond this, a sailor feels distinctly uneasy in the mountains as does a land lubber feel discomfort at sea. Each of the armed forces are highly specialized and can continue to sharpen their teeth when permitted to grow in their own environment. It’s just high quality coordination that is required and a willingness to share resources. It is a function of leadership and of situational awareness.

Aspects which call for inter service operability such as communication systems, GPS and survey maps, lexicon, power sources for equipment, would warrant standardization. The security of shore assets such as air force bases, logistics bases, armament depots, dockyards, hospitals, training establishments etc, could be taken over by specialized security battalions under the Joint Services Command. Such a move would not only provide a build-up of a specialized Shore Security Force, but relieve highly trained personnel for their primary duties.

The issue of service–civil relationship is a vexed one and is a reflection of the thinking of the political class over the years. It seems to have been vitiated a bit over time, and it is unlikely that any doctrinal thought will change it. To conclude, a Joint Services Doctrine would be one where the three Services can work efficiently together when required.


CONCLUDING REMARKS by Gp Capt Johnson Chacko (Retd)

The military doctrine needs to have a de-novo top down approach and should not consider the existing structure of 17+ commands and what will happen to them etc.

Once the concept/principles/foundation is clear as to what is needed, an organizational structure can be developed and populated. Allocation of resources is a long distance away. We may want 17+ Commands to accommodate senior officers, but is that needed? Do we need to entrust training and administration to a service specific entity as the medium becomes important and do we need to entrust operations under a single Command for application of integrated military power?

The Joint Doctrine says that Comprehensive National Development as derived from the Constitution is the national aim. I think we can grant that. Can we derive national interests from that? Which agency will expound national interests? If there is a dispute on whether comprehensive national development should be the aim or not, we could debate that. To me, the Constitution does not indicate anything else.

The defence policy is to facilitate Comprehensive National Development by ensuring non interference by any foreign power for disrupting or delaying that, by application of integrated military power in an offensive or defensive manner. Who is supposed to articulate this formally? Any suggestions for modification will be great.

The foreign policy in the UPA regime has been to develop people to people contact (Track 2 or 3 or whatever) and make foreign relations subservient to economic/trade relations so that we head towards a South Asian Union like the European Union. Military becomes irrelevant or so they thought. NDA is probably tilting towards the Chanakyan philosophy and befriending the enemy’s neighbour. Notice overtures to Japan, Mongolia, Iran etc. What has all this got to do with the Military Doctrine? Doctrine can evolve when things change.

I think the COSC has taken the initiative to publish the Joint Doctrine with all its shortcomings. It can be modified once the remaining pieces of the jigsaw puzzle like the economic doctrine, internal security doctrine etc fall into place as any doctrine is supposed to evolve depending on a lot of factors.

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Compiler’s Email: col.vinay.dalvi@gmail.com

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