In the recent tense confrontation on the Sino-Indian border, although India frequently advocates a “tough stance towards China”, the South Asian research experts of the Walter Schoenstein Center for Asia-Pacific Studies at Stanford University poured cold water on it. A Paper published by the Center shows that the Indian Army has structural contradictions – it lacks a “theory of victory”, which will cause the Indian Army to be caught in a dilemma when required to use force.
India’s “The Print” website stated on August 31 that the latest Paper published by Stanford University showed that the Indian Army’s orthodox military doctrine prevented its military strategy from playing a role in “Ladakh-style conflicts”. According to reports, ground forces dominate India’s military strategy. Since independence, India has fought five wars in the turbulent northern land border area. The Indian Army already accounts for a large proportion of the military budget and is still growing. It currently accounts for 57% of military expenditure (23% for the Air Force and 14% for the Navy). At the same time, the Indian Army accounts for a larger proportion of the total force, reaching 85% (9% for the Air Force and 4% for the Navy), yet “it does not seem to have played its due role.”
Researchers believe that the defense policy of the Indian Army and even the entire military was dominated by an offensive doctrine. The “theory of victory” of this policy is based on the deterrence logic of punishment—Indian threats of costly retaliation to prevent enemy aggression. The cost of the so-called “punishment” is usually to seize the enemy’s territory as a bargaining chip. Studies believe that this offensive doctrine has been practised in India’s previous conflicts with Pakistan. However, in the 20 years since India’s conflict with Pakistan in the Kargil region in 1999, three strategic trends have fundamentally altered India’s security environment: “Nuclear deterrence makes large-scale conventional war impossible; China’s military strength and assertiveness constitutes an unprecedented challenge; radical new technologies have redefined the military state of the art. India’s security policy has not kept pace.”
According to reports, in view of the balance of military power on the northern border of India, India cannot decisively defeat Pakistan or China on the battlefield. “If it is not able to make its opponents pay a high price, India’s military doctrine cannot deter its opponents– both China and Pakistan have strong determination to bear the cost of conflict.” If India continues to pursue large-scale, offensive military options, it will “increase the risk of escalation and even nuclear reaction by the enemy”.
The Paper stated that the Indian Army lacks key capabilities to prevent or defeat opponents in the modern information age, especially C4ISR (command, control, communications, computer, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) capabilities, the inability to integrate sensors, launch platforms, long-range weapons and communications systems, and the lack of an organizational structure for joint deterrence and combat. The conclusion of the Paper is that the most fundamental problem of the Indian Army is the lack of a theory of victory in keeping with the times, making it difficult for the Indian Army to effectively deter and fight as required.
The article in The Print, cited in this article, can be seen at https://theprint.in/opinion/indian-armys-orthodox-doctrine-distorts-military-strategy-in-ladakh-type-conflicts-study/492132/
The Paper of the Stanford Centre referred to in this article can be seen at https://carnegieindia.org/2020/08/06/army-in-indian-military-strategy-rethink-doctrine-or-risk-irrelevance-pub-82426Paper