Strategy: A Vital Determinant for Army Force Structure Planning

H.P.S. Klair, Research Fellow, IDSA


War Prevention may still necessitate a preventive war

- Kenneth N. Waltz


The lack of institutionalised mechanisms to formulate strategy is well known.1 The decade long suppressed funding, rather than activate revolutionary and innovative changes, has only led to curtailing the 'readiness' and 'sustainability' of the forces. Linear and incremental planning continues. Investment priorities remaining unchanged for two decades, 'is not to make sense, but it is to keep faith',2 and in the words of Bharat Karnad the Indian Military is equipped with the wrong weapons to fight the wrong enemy in the fin de siecle and beyond.

Given the present realities, the changing nature of threats, the conflict spectrum, the ongoing Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) and the nuclearisation of the subcontinent, it is imperative that we fashion our military strategy in the light of these developments and in consonance with our military doctrine. Our force options will flow from it. The nuclear backdrop to this paper is predicated on the draft nuclear doctrine as enunciated by the National Security Advisory Board. The conventional military strategy must have an interactive relationship with it, so as to facilitate synergy. This paper would attempt to see how specifically military strategy becomes a vital determinant or 'force driver' in our force structure planning, primarily Army force structure planning.

National Security Strategy

National security strategy is often used interchangeably with national strategy or grand strategy. It is defined as 'the nations' plan for the coordinated use of all the instruments of state power-nonmilitary as well as military-to pursue objectives that defend and advance its national interest'.3 It is nearly synonymous to grand strategy in wartime, which according to Liddell Hart 'coordinates and directs all the resources of a nation...towards the attainment of the political object of the war'.4 All strategy is concerned with the relationship between ends and means, power and objectives, capabilities and intentions i.e. how resources can be applied to achieve results. While the horizon of military strategy is bounded by the use of military forces, grand strategy 'looks beyond the war to the subsequent peace'.5 Since strategy is the method and means of achieving goals assigned by policy, it remains subordinate to policy, be it at the national level or the military/defence level.

Military Strategy

Military strategy is designed to attain, through the use of military assets, military and security objectives. It is predicated on physical violence or the threat of violence, whereas national strategy is not concerned with the efficient application of force but with the exploitation of potential force. The prefix military has become essential today, due to the various connotations the word strategy has acquired, though 'strategy' is derived indirectly from Greek 'stratego's'6 (general) and strategema, precisely 'stratagems' or tricks of war. It is a process which unites means with ends, and as such it is an intrinsically practical endeavour. Many analysts have attempted a prescriptive definition of military strategy and thus strayed from its essence and focus. Andre Beaufre's succinct normative definition7 of it being 'the art of the dialectics of will that use force to resolve their conflict,' appears to be the most appropriate. The semantic purist may wish to bring in other amplifications, but this should suffice for our purpose.

Military strategy is derived from the grand strategy of a nation and its military policy. The latter helps determine military objectives, which are tangible goals, that if accomplished assure the fulfilment of military policy. Military strategy provides the efficient means to fulfill policy, the other prime component of defence policy is the force structure or instrumentalities to execute policy. The clarity with which policy will be defined will provide clear military objectives and thus facilitate efficient and focused strategy. The absence of this clarity of policy as in Vietnam (by USA) made it difficult to define clear-cut military objectives and goals. The result was a deterioration into what Clausewitz had termed: an aimless progression of killing that was irresponsible to the extent that it did not fulfill any clearly preceivable military strategy. The predicament of the IPKF in Sri Lanka was also a product of this lack of clarity resulting in an unaccomplished mission.

Military strategy must not be restricted to war or the struggle of arms in a violent conflict. A strategy during peace time or in our context in 'no war no peace' situations has to be fashioned differently, as the objectives are different. This may be a prolonged affair when there is a long-term competition between adversial powers. Military strategy thus must cover the full range of functions that military force structures endeavour to cover from 'signalling' to 'war'.

The dynamic nature of national/military strategy must be clearly understood, as the best course of action for each side depends on what the other side does and hence the need to clearly read the adversaries' capabilities and intentions before designing one's own strategy. This as per Edward Luttwak necessitates following 'paradoxical logic' in contrast to 'linear logic'. Paradoxical logic takes into account what the adversary is likely to do in response to one's strategy, like field theory in physics in which everything depending on and varying with, everything else. This recognises that proceeding directly toward a goal will almost certainly result in the adversary erecting obstacles and taking countermeasures. This necessitates what is called the 'indirect approach', the round about or even devious course to ensure favourable results.

In Liddel Hart's words the true aim of strategy 'is not so much to seek battle, as to seek a strategic situation so advantageous that if it does not of itself produce the decision, its continuation by a battle is sure to achieve this. In other words dislocation is the aim of strategy'.8 Dislocation not just in the physical or logistical sphere (e.g. upset dispositions, endangers supplies etc) but more importantly in the psychological sphere as well. Psychological dislocation springs from this sense of being trapped. The two combine together to achieve Liddell Hart's truly indirect approach' to dislocate the opponent's balance. Since strategy seeks not to overcome resistance but to diminish the possibility of resistance, it exploits movement in the physical sphere and surprise in the psychological sphere to achieve it. The two are mutually compatible in a synergetic relationship where movement generates surprise and surprise gives impetus to movement.

The relevance of aims like destruction of the enemy's armed forces, victory and Clausewitzian 'blood is the price of victory' approach, is counterproductive. An efficient and effective strategy should produce a decision without any serious fighting and where fighting becomes necessary or inevitable, the 'aim of strategy must be to bring about this battle under the most advantageous circumstances, the less, proportionately, will be the fighting'.9 In states like India, which do not seek conquest but the maintenance of its security, the aims of strategy may be met by limited objectives which help force the adversary to abandon his purpose.


While fashioning military strategies it is essential to reiterate that though war is the ultimate physical clash of adversarial states, with the military the dominant component-military strategies can be as much about peace and war prevention as about bringing one's military forces to battle in the most favourable circumstances possible. To structure these strategies it is essential to understand the nature and causes of war or more relevant today 'military conflict.' Gwyn Prins10 argues, that 'the means of destruction have become so tremendous that their nature tends to negate their political effect, and their use tends, fairly reliably, to defeat or to frustrate the original political purpose for which force was to be employed'. Secondly, strength based on a particular capability bandwidth cannot cover the full conflict spectrum. Illustratively the Israeli success at Blitzkrieg tank tactics heaped a humiliating defeat, sowing, the seeds for revenge in the form of the 'Intifada', to 'defeat so technically competent an enemy it was better to escalate downwards into the realm of guerrilla warfare rather than upwards, to confront the enemy on its own terms'. The Pakistan proxy war strategy has similar (not same) motivations. Thirdly, 'the application of force, whether by states or by their increasingly 'asymmetric' opponents, serves only, serves perhaps best, to paralyse. Decisive resolution by military means increasingly eludes us.'

Among the causes of war 'the quintessential is a leader's misperception of his adversary's power'.11 It is not the actual distribution of power that precipitates a war, it is the way in which a leader thinks that power is distributed. War teaches the lesson of reality (peace is made when reality has won. The road that leads from misconception to reality separates war and peace. War remains the best teacher of reality and hence the most effective cure for war).

Since the nature of modern war and weapons does not permit an allout indefinite engagement, the proper aim of conventional armed forces therefore is not to defeat the enemy but to restabilise the situation at some different level, thus allowing some form of negotiation or mediation to resume. In sum, diplomacy becomes a continuation of war by other means.

The primary constraint today is imposed by nuclear weapons in the region. Hence military victory by conventional means would not be a sound aim if it carried the opposition across the nuclear threshold. This will force military planners to set objectives which do enough to turn the tide and yet not trip the nuclear threshold. The aim is to enlarge the conventional war window by certain limited war aims, against an adversary where we enjoy a conventional edge. This calls for finesse of judgement and delicacy of execution. Where we do not have an edge in conventional means, the strategy options would be different.

This imposition of constraints on the operational aim apparently runs contrary to the Clausewitzian 'grammar of war' and 'represents a degree of political control which conflicts with the nature of war, or calls for a precision incompatible with the friction of war'.12 However, today with sensible applications of technology, fine tuning of this kind is feasible and military strategy has to be guided by the wider view from the higher plane of grand strategy. Controlling the level of violence is a basic postulate of war.

The Process

The place of military in the national security lexicon was explained in an earlier paper.13 The American Blue Ribbon Commission on Defence Management14in its summary states that the 'National Security Objectives provide a clear statement of what we must achieve, military strategy should provide a clear statement of how we will achieve it within the constraint of resources'. It must answer the under mentioned:-

(a) What kind and what number of forces to field.

(b) What kind of equipment they should have.

(c) How much do we spend on readiness and sustainability on one kind and modernisation on the other.

(d) Technology exploitation programme.

Technically strategy alone does not determine the required military capabilities and the kind of forces required to fulfill them. Opposing forces, technology development and availability, and service preference, all play a part. But strategy is supposed to cover all these externalities in its formulation and application.

Hence to overcome biases and be an efficient force driver, it is essential that military strategy be formulated at the highest level. Because service proposals frequency tend to 'imply a dominance or priority of one service over the other, with all that it implies for encroachment upon the other services' role, stature and claim to resource',15 It is also institutionalised within the army and we are no different from most other armies where the 'guilds of the army-its branches, particularly the powerful combat arms branches-freeze the army by their understandable interests in maintaining the continuity and stability of internal power. Any change in the army poses a potential threat to its internal balance of the branches; therefore will instinctively move to paralyse the army leadership against change'. This ensures a 'stable balance of power among its three traditional combat arms branches-infantry, artillery and cavalry'.16

Such institutional biases can only be removed by evolving efficient multi-disciplinary mechanisms. Efficient utilisation of resources in meeting the given objectives is possibly the most reliable barometer against which various options can be evaluated by a joint service organisation at the apex, with the requisite authority and competence. These alone can decipher the service strategies which though couched or wrapped in the language of war, weapons, technology and strategy, are at their core about organisational and institutional interest. This malaise is widespread, both inter and intra service and needs to be guarded. It is a function of organisational behaviour and present in most large organisations. The army like many large institutions, 'is captive of its own internal fiefdoms'.17

Threat Perception

While strategy is a process that unites means with ends, it has to surmount the threat/obstacles/challenges en route. Hence a clear understanding of these in relation to our objectives is essential. While these are being covered in a separate paper, for the purpose of this paper it would be adequate to say that our strategic frontiers lie well beyond our territorial borders in the space Kissinger had foreseen 'from Suez to Singapore' and would include the Central Asian Republics (CAR). The apex military structure in consultation with the JIC, (Joint Intelligence Committee) needs to prepare a 'net threat assessment' which compares our military capabilities in comparison to our potential adversaries. This is used to formulate and evaluate the military strategy options.

In consonance with our potential and recognition of our responsibilities, it is essential to have the military capabilities to strengthen diplomacy within our strategic frontiers. Such a role has to be predicated on our ability to shape and influence events in the region (a la Maldives). The importance of regional stability will grow as regional and global economic interdependnce grows. Our regional leadership will dictate regional responsibilities and 'burden sharing' to safeguard challenges common to our national interest and the regional community. Energy security, security of the sea lanes and the security of the Indian community or Diaspora in the region are legitimate security interests. This requires precise military capability and more importantly tri-service capability, 'seamlessly integrated'. Such a capability though smaller than our primary security challenges from our two larger neighbours, cannot be a lesser inclusive capability, premised on what is good for the cat is good enough for the kittens. Such a capability needs to be specifically structured for, though overlapping of capabilities is inevitable and desirable.

The threats from China and Pakistan are well known and shown in the matrices below for brevity:

Table 1. Future Sino-Indian Probability Matrix

Short Term Peace - Effort at encirclement and containment using proxy powers.

- Aggressive patrolling and calibrated buildup in certain sectors possible.

Mid Term Transition period till India - Chinese may exploit window of becomes the third pole in opportunity (border skirmish-territory Asia. occupation).

- Efforts at encirclement continue.

- India needs countervailing strategies during this period.

Long Term Rivalry - Short border war/skirmish.

- Retaliation on weaker ally.

- Threat to economic infrastructure.

- Countervailing strategies by both India and China.

Future Indo-Pak Probability Matrix

Short Term Brinkmanship - Continued state sponsored cross- border terrorism.

- Inadvertent escalation.

- International pressure.

Mid Term Stabilisation of conflict - Stabilisation based on nuclear deterrence, international pressures and economic dictates.

- Gradual waning of cross border terrorism.

Long Term Deterrence based peace. - Internal economic and political Power Transition instability in Pakistan.

- Limited engagement.

The above threats have to be seen in the context of the spectrum of conflict extending from low intensity conflict to conventional and nuclear dimensions. While full spectrum capabilities are essential to avoid any 'windows of vulnerability' that may be exploited, the more sophisticated use of force i.e. signaling, posturing discriminate deterrence and extending to proxy and limited war are the more prevalent form of armed conflict in the 'action fields' of tomorrow, vis--vis the 'battlefield' of yesteryears. Thus military threats from our adversaries have to be seen over this conflict continuum. The nuclear backdrop will remain.

Present Military Strategy

'India for nearly 5000 years had adopted what may be broadly accepted as defensive defence strategies,18 this resulted in repeated external aggression. The four periods of exception i.e. the Kanishka Empire, the Chola Empire, the early Mohgul Empire and the British Indian Empire, when strategic outposts beyond the state boundaries were maintained and this ensured security against external aggression. These exceptions offer us valuable lessons for the future. A recognition that our strategic frontiers lie far beyond our territorial border would be a befitting, internalisation of the lessons of history and would help us build the requisite strategy and capabilities.

The same can also be deduced from the four points officially made with regard to our national security interests.19 Ideally military strategy would flow out of our national security policy and strategy. Even though the above have not been explicitly spelt out over the last five decades, a reasonably clear understanding of military objectives is possible (given the general consensus on foreign policy that we have experienced since independence) so as to fashion a military strategy if not systematically and holistically, at least in an ad hoc manner till the government in its wisdom decides to act on the Estimates Committees recommendations on the need for a 'clear articulated and integrated defence policy' and a 'formal National Security Doctrine'.20 The 'ad hoc process'21 of the services preparing 'national strategy papers, which act as de facto national strategy in the absence of any Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs/Cabinet Committee on Security (CCPA/CCS) endorsed strategy' may be the best we have till better instrumentalities are in place. The priorities of Indian strategy have been 'independence, internal security and territorial integrity'.22

But structures can only be in place once it is recognised that the 'diversified bureaucratic apparatus of modern states is itself a powerful obstacle to the implementation of any comprehensive scheme of grand strategy. Each civil and military department is structured to pursue its own goals'.23 The services 'consensus' approach is flawed, as it is likely to have each service desired role built in and hence inefficient in utilisation of resources, especially in a country where political and bureaucratic expertise is not available to arbitrate.

The replies of MoD to Parliamentary standing committees on defence indicate that in addition to the four points to depict national security interests, defence planning is predicated on 'defence of the country based on a policy of dissuasion and deterrence. Dissuasive capability envisages the defence of the nation's territory through sufficient and strong defence deployment on the borders to deny the enemy success at crossing the borders'.24 This includes a defensive deployed force and a counter-offensive component. India has practically if not formally, adopted a doctrine of war prevention from the very beginning. The Panchsheel Agreement, Tashkent Declaration and Simla Agreement are evidence of the doctrine.25 The strategy per se may be sound, the causes of its failure may lie in its implementation. Kenneth Waltz's truism that 'war prevention may still necessitate a preventive war' needs to be imbibed, because an exclusively defensive approach is to preclude victory. Yet a cross section of our elite believes that it is 'better to save lives than in avenging them,'26 unfortunately the paradoxical logic of strategy dictates that in 'revenge lies safety'27-a lesson that the long drawn proxy war has not taught us. This is confirmed by the Kargil Review Committee Report28 which states that 'bringing to bear India's assumed conventional superiority was not a serious option in the last ten years'.

On the internal security front George Tanham29 states that 'India has not developed a coherent internal strategy for domestic law and order and separatist and insurgency problems, or a counter to Pakistan's policy of assisting these separatist movements'. He feels India has 'developed counter insurgency tactics' not an overall strategy.

From the above it is clear that in India the existing Military strategy rests primarily on deterrence (by denial) in consonance with our war prevention doctrine. With this as the core a more effective and clearly articulated strategy needs to be formulated. A strategy that can reconcile the dichotomy India faces and highlighted by the Defence Minister Mr. George Fernandes,30 who stated that 'India has traditionally pursued a non-aggressive, non provocative defence policy based on the philosophy of defensive defence'. This represents the political doctrine of employing military power. But military efficiency will continue to demand the pursuit of the principle that 'offence is the best means of defence.' In addition to our 'policy of restraint, our philosophy of defensive defence may have been perceived in many quarters as a sign of weakness, as a manifestation of unwillingness to defend ourselves'.

However even the above strategy has not been implemented due to a variety of reasons like:

a) Complete neglect of defence planning (an already flawed mechanism) which coincided roughly with our precarious balance of payment position and economic stagnation in the late eighties. The economic revival strategy rightly meant lower funding for defence. But rather than harmonise strategy with funding, neglect was the approach. Obfuscation of the issue came in the form of rationalisation that 'war on a sustained basis has become obsolete',31 and that in the post-Cold War world 'internal turmoil is the foremost danger to national security'.32 Hence, cuts in funding were seen as the 'peace dividend', even when the nation was involved in a proxy war at a new scale and dimension. This ostrich like peace interlude ended at Kargil, where the folly of extrapolating our peaceful intention on the adversary became starkly naked. We now have a 28 per cent increase in defence expenditure and a Chief of Army Staff bemoaning the 'lack of defence planning for the last 10-12 years and the need for sustained endeavour on this score'.33

b) Lack of an institutional mechanism to articulate a proactive strategy. Crisis management groups, committees of secretaries and the Cabinet Committee on Security sans a dedicated staff, are for reactive measures when an issue becomes serious enough to be on the agenda.


If 'deterrence' is the key word in our military strategy, a clear understanding of the same is essential. It has been defined as 'a political principle that avails itself of military and other means to persuade an adversary deciding between war and peace to opt for peace, and to dissuade him from war'.34 By definition it appears to be a suitable macro strategy for India with its status quo ist, peaceful and war prevention focus. But the politico-psychological processs of deterrence, to credibly communicate fear and influence behaviour is also dependent on the adversary's perception of your 'capabilities' and more importantly 'will' in relation to his own risk calculation. Secondly, absurd calculations of deterrent capability or weapons (e.g. nuclear) runs up against the rationality dilemma of disproportionate force for limited objectives. Hence the imperative need to have the credible capability to act rationally across the spectrum of conflict. This deterrent capability cannot rest on deterrence by 'denial' alone. This flexible and useable capability comes under the rubric of deterrence by 'punishment' or its euphemism deterrence by 'retaliation'. This 'additional dimension independent of the denial component is increasingly being used to cover contingencies where mutual deterrence at the nuclear level or use of asymmetric strategies by one side hopes to create a paralysis for action at any substantive level. This restores the freedom of action in a particular violence range for the side with an edge in such capabilities'.35 Such precise capabilities only can endeavour to overcome the dangers of involuntary escalation especially for nations like India wedded to war prevention strategies. Persuasion by selective destruction aims to push the adversary to the negotiating table without 'victory' or defeat'.

Since war can break out due to international aggression or crisis escalation, such deterrent capabilities also bridge the 'conflict of interest between stability and crisis escalation. If one concentrates only on deterring intentional aggression, one easily takes measures that increase the probability of crisis escalation. In contrast, exclusive emphasis on avoidance of the escalatory dynamics, may weaken deterrence against intentional aggression'.36

Though 'will' to execute strategy is the key to successful deterrence. But war prevention strategies predicated on deterrence frequently prove to be dangerously brittle and passive. For "if aggressive leaders sense weakness or apathy in the deterring power's position, they may decide to call its bluff'.37 The Kargil experience is a recent example of deterrence breakdown. Most Pakistani writers blame Indian overreaction for the conflict, as their plans had been based on a belief that we would not have the 'will' for escalation.

This upholds Luttwak's logic38 that 'military power cannot dissuade or persuade except in so far as its actual use is deemed possible. The possibility is a subject of great metapolitical speculation of the will of leaders and nations'. This can be reduced to simple mathematics in the phenomenon of suasion: the effect of armed forces induced in others depends on their perceived strength multiplied by the perceived willingness to use that strength, and if that willingness is deemed absent, even the strongest forces, whose strength is fully recognised, may not dissuade or persuade at all.

A display of easily provoked bellicosity helps maximise the potential of 'suasion'. But for a country like India wedded to peace and war prevention,' it is not easy. The solution may lie in understanding what Luttwak calls strategy's typical dilemma, the other side of the paradoxical coin, how to maintain a reputation for violence (to enhance suasion) when the aim is to avoid the actual use of force and still protect our interests. 'The usual way out of the dilemma is to present two Janus-like visages, proclaiming both a dedication to peace that rules out all aggression and a great readiness to fight if attacked'.39 Reaction to smaller provocation's holds the key to demonstrating will, as the less catastrophic action is that much more plausible and credible, contrary to the belief in tolerance thresholds and restraint.

Possible Military Strategy

A brief look at our security challenges had highlighted our possible adversaries, competitors, strategic frontiers and interests. These challenges have to be confronted over a wide spectrum of conflict with its changing dimensions and emphasis. An efficient military strategy that the Army adopts must give it the maximum options with the least expenditure of resources to achieve the desired national and military objectives. Such a strategy must be in consonance with our strategic culture, military doctrine and prowess. As a 'force driver' it should be able to harmoniously fuse existing assets with future acquisitions and structuring.

The paradoxical logic of strategy dictates that our primary adversarial challenges are addressed separately, given their unique strategic cultures, compulsions, capabilities and options. However there are certain commonalities in our approach which are a virtual sine qua non for any option. These are:-

(a) The joint nature of warfare dictates, joint not alternate strategies. A joint or combined strategy demands a deep understanding and belief in the complementarity and interdependence of the distinctive contribution of each service and their logical synchronisation towards a common goal. Strategy is about using strength against weakness to leverage success. With our maximum combat edge in the airforce, it should have been the most exploited dimension. Our reluctance to use it (62, 65, Kargil) out of fear of escalation not only denies us a 'strong suit' but more importantly surrenders the psychological dimension. Ultimate success may require control of the land, but it is not necessarily the first order of business. The present state in this regard, does not inspire the requisite confidence. Efforts need to be made to overcome the deficiencies highlighted in a RAND study40 which states that 'the Indian armed forces have yet to develop a vision of theater level warfare that is jointly prosecuted,' with the Airforce doing 'little to advance the Indian Army's battlefield objectives' and the Navy unable to 'contribute to success in the only arena that really matters the terrestrial battlefields.'

(b) The relevance of intelligence was evident even to Sun Tzu and Kautilya, but today in the information age and its dependence on the electro-magnetic spectrum, has made intelligence dominance a prerequisite for successful conduct of military operations. It includes management of perceptions, and psychological operations, i.e. to see clearly yourself and to obscure your opponents vision. Failure to move with technology in this regard is a recipe for an 'electronic Waterloo' in a future conflict.

(c) While it would be for diplomacy to prevent a two front war, the possibility cannot be ruled out and hence the need for military contingencies to cater for it. These may perforce require to invoke the 'supreme national interest' clause, for the requisite security.

(d) The two front commitments and the CBMs with China dictating a less provocative manning of borders, which are in remote mountainous regions, makes it imperative that suitable infrastructure be developed to facilitate rapid movement both inter and intra theatre.

(e) Given the likely short duration of war due to international pressure and the nuclear dimension, it is imperative to be 'proactive' and 'pre-emptive', to harness the full potential of our armed forces and the nation so as to arrive at the desired war termination objectives, in the time available.

(f) Offense remains the best form of defence, as it forces the adversary to look at his own vulnerabilities and thus the initiative is retained. A pure defensive strategy dissipates resources to protect all, as the adversary can strike at the place of his choosing. Greater still is the importance of offensive thinking, as conflict is a 'competition in risk taking, characterised not so much by test of force as by tests of nerves'.41

(g) In continuation of the paradoxical logic it is imperative that we deploy early in circumstances where the aim is to ameliorate or contain, but deployment in which it is clear that there is both a will and capacity to follow through in the application of force. This enhances the chance to obtain political objective without the actual use of force. Thus 'to delay beyond a point where preemption is possible increases the risk not reduces it'.42 One must be prepared to deploy early and deploy often if violence is to be prevented in consonance with our strategy of 'war prevention'. However, the conflict of interest between stability and crisis escalation referred to earlier, needs to be balanced.

(h) Deterrence by punishment which includes 'escalation domination' and 'discriminate deterrence' strategies, is in conformity with our war prevention doctrine, and offers flexible and usable options. They offer persuasion by 'selective destruction' against the old inflexible deterrence by 'certain destruction'. Since the preferred course for the use of force is to avoid prolonged armed conflict, the capabilities required would hinge on long range, high-technology 'surgical' strikes.

(i) A declaratory policy that effectively communicates our commitments and the costs to potential adversaries that might challenge those commitments, is a suitable mechanism to transmit will. It also helps the government and the nation to internalise those commitments, thus strengthening resolve.

(j) With war and peace no longer clearly delineated and the spectrum of conflict increasingly being used at its lower end, strict classification of conflict is neither possible nor desirable. It is a continuum which requires a range of capabilities which must be provisioned for and applied smoothly across the gradient from peace to war-in the form of a rheostat or dimmer switch (unlike an on/off switch). The full range of enabling capabilities are essential to give the national security managers the requisite flexibility and control that is so essential for the efficient and calibrated use of forces/violence to further national objectives. However, the paradoxical logic of strategy and international affairs is such, that this flexible capability rather than increase the proclivity of its use, the converse is likely to be the case. When action is necessary the initiative must be with us so that it would be more 'akin to keyhole surgery than to more thematic forms of intervention.'43

(k) Supreme excellence lies in breaking of the enemy's resistance without fighting as Sun Tzu had stated. This requires the ability to convert capabilities into power. Thus 'armed suasion' is a suitable strategy, for in the words of Luttwak44 'armed suasion is nothing less than power, or rather that portion of the power of states that derives from their military strength-armed suasion is to deterrence (or dissuasion) what strength in general is to defensive strength'.

(l) We have parliamentary resolutions to free territory occupied by Pakistan and China. Virtually all our disputed boundaries with these countries are mountainous, (the LC, AGPL and LAC), from the Manuwar Tawi near Akhnoor to near Ledo at the tri-junction of China, Burma and India, highlighting the need for a particular capability. This is further underlined by the fact that our primary long term challenge is China, while our focus for over three decades has been our immediate threat Pakistan, which we sought to deter conventionally and built up capabilities focused on the plains (mechanised strike corps) before the nuclear dimension fully emerged. Even the limited operations in Kargil highlighted inadequate equipping patterns in the army and the lack of both equipment and training in the Airforce.

(m) Efficient exploitation of capabilities must be based on relational manoeuver with its 'goal to incapacitate by systemic disruption (e.g. command and control) avoid strength target weakness, be it physical, psychological, technical or organisational.45 It is relevant to both the mountains and the plains, with only the technique varying. Attrition warfare though a low risk approach, is prohibitively costly in all dimensions as the recent Kargil conflict reemphasised. The pain index (casualties) is not just an American or Western sensitivity-it affects any modern democratic society, as borne out by Kargil and Kandahar recently.

(n) Despite our belief in the nuclear capability being a political weapon and adopting a 'no first use' doctrine, it is imperative that we prepare for contingencies that our adversaries may impose on us. This calls for protective measures and appropriate doctrine in a nuclear environment.

(o) Technology today is all pervasive and the RMA that it has heralded needs to be harnessed (LIC and manpower intensive commitments included). This exploitation of technology requires matching organisational changes, strategies and operational concepts.

(p) Strategies have to be implemented with forces 'in being' and hence a high state of 'readiness' and 'sustainability'. 'Hollowness' due to under funding to the tune of tens of thousand crores, needs to be covered on priority to make the chosen strategies credible.


The official 'deterrence' strategy articulated with respect to Pakistan, as a means of war prevention has not succeeded. This is evident from the conflict (including low intensity) thrust upon us. Without a comprehensive national security mechanism to fashion) proactive responses and demonstrate 'will', deterrence has proved to be 'brittle' and 'passive' as TM Kane46 predicted in another context. Our formulations have neither recognised the paradoxical logic of strategy or the adversaries strategic culture and risk profile. One bland formulation cannot fit all contingencies and adapt to major changes in the conflict continuum and induction of nuclear weapons into the subcontinent. Pakistans strategy on the other hand is tailored specifically to target our weaknesses and negate/avoid our strengths. Pakistan seeks to:-

a) Counter our conventional superiority by adequate defence potential as also its alliance with China which will ensure that percentage of our forces remain committed in another theatre. Their CEO has stated that the Kargil conflict did not escalate 'because of the deterrence Pakistan the conventional field and the unconventional field'.47

b) Articulate an early use nuclear doctrine to checkmate our conventional edge (strike corps) by using the 'threat value' of nuclear weapons. Brinkmanship and crisis generation also acts as a diversion from domestic collapse.

c) Engage in a low intensity conflict in J&K to keep us off balance with heavy military commitments.

d) Internally target the multi religions, and multi cultural diversity of India with fissiparous and destabilising endeavours, thus delaying the power transition inevitable for a nation with India's attributes. This it feels is essential to retain decisional autonomy and is willing to be a pawn for big powers with a stake in neutralising India.

The fact that they have not succeeded in their larger design is of little comfort for our war prevention strategy. The failure is primarily rooted in their misconceptions both of their own capabilities and their understanding of our will, potential and resilience. Even after the latest round at Kargil, with the Pakistan economy on a 'drip' from donor nations and politically a failed state, the lessons have not been learned. Their measure of success is that in their 'jehad', for 'every rupee spent the Indian state has to spend 33'.48 Secondly their widely held belief as articulated by Lt Gen Javed Nasir (Ex DG ISI)49 that the Indian Army is tired of its counter insurgency commitments for 'like Leukaemia counter insurgency operations need blood which India no longer has in reserve-(thus) I say with all the authority and professionalism that the Indian Army is incapable of undertaking any conventional operations at present, what to a talk of enlarging conventional conflict'. Similar views were also expressed by Lt Gen FS Lodi50 based on his figures that 203 out of 365 infantry battalions are on insurgency duties and 37 per cent of the infantry is in Kashmir, "the Indian army was now further denuding its conventional capability by using mechanised and air defence units for counter insurgency duties'.

Such miscalculation and insensitivity to risks, is a trait rooted in cultural and historical factors of the Pakistani elite in general and the army in particular. Given the unsatisfactory state of the nation, General Musharraf (the latest face of this elite) is likely to follow the Pakistani stereotype that hopes to maximise the likelihood of major success than to maximise the likelihood of at least limited gains. This megalomaniacal ambition and bluster have been a recurringly demonstrated trait.

Hence our range of options have to be predicated on full spectrum superiority or dominance as under:-

(a) Despite Pakistani brinkmanship, use of irrationality, threats of early use of nuclear weapons and the advocacy of the Quaranic concept of war51 (seeking early use of terror against an adversary), Pakistan has behaved rationally in previous conflicts and refrained from expanding the conflict to economic and civilian targets. Hence the nuclear threshold is no border tripwire and can be rationally arrived at.

(b) Exploit conventional superiority to widen the 'window' between LIC and the use of nuclear weapons. Well-chosen military targets and objectives give us a spectrum/window wide enough to carry through a successful limited war. Nukes have remained holstered in Korea, Vietnam and the Sino-Soviet clashes in 1969, as there is a distinct 'fire break'52 in the escalatory ladder between nuclear and non nuclear means. The 'destructive power of thermonuclear weapons overshoots by far the culminating point of military utility'.53 It must however be remembered that objectives have to be limited, because the means of warfare have to be limited, and not the other way around.54

(c) The services strategy has to be in complete unison to achieve the requisite synergy. Any compartmentalised use of a service would be detrimental to achieving national objectives. A land centric strategy may fail to exploit our greater conventional edge in the Air Force and the Navy. In addition nuclear thresholds are more relevant to the primary determinant of state sovereignty, control of territory.

(d) Full spectrum superiority and a harmonious joint doctrine would ensure a calibrated 'punishment' option, over a wide span of the conflict continuum or spectrum. Adequate retributive pain is necessary to restabilise the peace or no war-no peace at a more favourable level.

(e) The politico-military mechanism to articulate the requisite 'will' proactively must be in place, if investments are to yield dividends.

(f) The focus of any retaliatory offensive capability must be the Pakistani centre of gravity i.e. politically Punjab and ideologically J&K. The former will to an extent deny it the oft repeated rationale of early use of nuclear weapons on its own soil.55 It would be politically inexpedient/unacceptable until its very core is threatened, when it must make the choice to threaten our counter value targets and in turn be ready for the destruction of the very assets it seeks to protect. The latter has the advantage of being perceived as disputed by the international community and hence seen as a retaliatory action for Pakistani machinations. The state itself may not stake all for a disputed area. Its flawed ideology has already seen the creation of Bangladesh.

A possible scenario could be that on provocation a joint services blockade/encirclement of Pakistan is put in place (to the extent possible). A controlled and calibrated application of punishment is administered. The air dimension and other precision long range weapons are the tools of first choice. Escalation commensurate to the provocation or the scale necessary to influence behaviour is applied. The land offensive (if necessary) must have suitable objectives targeting the Pakistani centre of gravity. Grandiose division of provinces or cutting the North-South communications56 may only be feasible if it is concerted with the internal dynamics of Pakistan. The primary aim of deployment is to act in the psychological dimension, with a readiness to escalate till the limited conflict termination objectives are achieved.


The strategy against China is more defensive and frequently referred to as dissuasive, which has been articulated as territorial defence with a counter-offensive component.57 To remove any semantic ambiguity, it is the same as 'deterrence by denial' and needs to be referred to as such. With the Chinese focus presently on 'modernisation' and the need for a peace interlude, the same has not been adquately tested. But the vulnerabilities if any would primarily remain in implementation and demonstration of 'will' which is a vital component of deterrence, of which perception and psychological orientation are important ingredients. Thus responses akin to 'Nathula' and 'Sumdrongchu' may be more appropriate than the pussy footing attributed to not challenging some Chinese intrusions.58 The Chinese ambiguity on the LAC and straying of patrols, is a designed and calibrated exercise to test our response. Our good intentioned reactions are likely to convey the wrong signals and thus needs to be thought through in advance and disseminated as policy, to avoid soft options, which are our forte in crisis situations.

Though the Chinese challenge is presently indirect and proxy and thus its responses are primarily in the political, diplomatic domain. Our ability to counter these successfully over time, may bring in more visible military challenges, in which 'teaching lessons' and 'border war' are frequently used expressions in the Chinese lexicon of inter state relations, which need appropriate responses.

Our defence posture in 'deterrence by denial' needs to be underpinned by a strong counter offensive complement, suitably structured with the requisite wherewithal to target certain Chinese vulnerabilities, primarily in Tibet-for better dividends. At the strategic level a robust and credible deterrent is essential to strike a balance between the need to avoid excessive expenditure on conventional capabilities to match China and too little, which may expose our vulnerabilities where the strategic deterrent is not credible and lower the nuclear threshold even where it is. Conventional capabilities should be such that we do not have to shift from conventional to nuclear weapons out of weakness.

Regional Contingencies

We need to shape and influence events in the subcontinent and the northern Indian Ocean, commensurate with our leadership role and engage in a more cooperative, partnership and 'burden sharing' role over the remainder of our strategic frontiers. With military power underpinning diplomatic initiatives, it is essential to have cooperative military training arrangements with nations of the region, having common interest and sharing a similar vision.

Internal Security

The Internal Security strategy needs to be hinged on prevention, protection, prediction (intelligence) and reaction. The essence, import and proactive options lie in the first three, but since these are primarily in the government and the paramilitary forces domain and not army or military 'force drivers', it is not covered here. The Army's primary internal security commitment is agaist insurgencies which are beyond the capabilities of the para military forces and directly linked to cross border terrorism/proxy war. The army (services) strategy must focus its responses on the external sponsors (with good intelligence) so as to target the cause and not the effect. In addition only the services have the responsibility and the necessary capabilities to tackle the external dimension. It must not let its demonstrated efficiency and expertise in the tactical counter insurgency response dissipate its resources from the primary target.

The military reaction should be in conformity with the military strategy of 'deterrence' and here only 'deterrence by punishment' is relevant and credible. Some imaginative strategies are available to the government to inflict the requisite retributive pain. In the military domain, instrumentalities have to be sharp and 'surgical', to nuance the requisite options. There are no 'tolerance thresholds' (which tend to be pushed) as 'deterrence' must rest on the certainty of response, be it 'retaliatory' or 'preemptive', when mischief is imminent.

Such precise and 'discriminate' options can only succeed if they are linked to the primary military strategy of deterrence and war prevention. For if the escalation ladder is denied the higher rungs (options) the strategy is not credible and paradoxically it is only the availability of these options that cap the escalatory dynamics. The fine calibration of our response would be aimless, if the termination strategy is not in our hand and an adversary would be ready to match our escalation (or even go beyond as in Kargil), given our 'inability' or 'will' to run the course. A declaratory policy not only communicates 'will', but more importantly in our context strengthens resolve.

The Line of Control (LC) strategy has to be interwoven into our LIC or cross border terrorism response. The adversary must not be allowed to compartmentalise the two. However, the LC strategy must not be reduced to aimless and counter productive tactical violence-shelling and counter shelling of fixed defences. The method in the madness must be clear for the adversary to decipher, if deterrence is to succeed. Credible escalation domination may be the key.

Force Capabilities

Military strategy is the primary 'force driver', but the relationship is by no means linear and directly derivative, it is more interactive and mutually supportive dependent. However, since strategy must incorporate all factors, hence the force structure that emerges would be a product of efficient utilisation of resources, giving us the requisite military capability to meet our objectives. Analysis of the chosen strategy indicates that the 'force drivers' and specific capabilities required, fall under three interlocking layers of force missions i.e. shaping, deterring and responding. The important capabilities flowing out of this strategy are:-

a) Full spectrum capability is required, not compartmentally, but as a seamless continuum of capabilities to fashion the requisite responses and not offer any 'windows of vulnerability' to our adversaries. Force structures will have to be tailored or versatile enough for specified roles and not have to compromise their efficiency by being structured for the last and adapted for all other contingencies.

b) Deterrence especially in our context of an on going proxy war and 'no war no peace' situation along the Line of Control and the Actual Ground Position Line, demands a high state of readiness, substainability and an appropriate force posture. Absence of these capabilities renders our responses reactive and our putative foes can nuance the violence level in a manner that denies us certain options/responses if not timely executed.

c) Enhanced emphasis on capabilities in the mountains. Two front versatility of forces would give greater pay offs.

d) Efficient intelligence, both human and technical intelligence means to achieve information domination. Information domination facilitates situational awareness and hence the ability to synchronise and mass combat power at critical times and places, faster than the adversary, thus enhancing lethality, survivability and command and control.

e) Escalation domination and discriminate deterrence strategies require long range precision strike capability by a mix of weapon systems to inflict the requisite punishment. It would include weapons like Smerch (long range multi barrel) long range missiles and aircraft. Thus the need for accurate intelligence to facilitate their use. Efficacy of the chosen strategy is dependent on the precision of this intelligence engagement.

f) In consonance with a non linear manoeuver oriented doctrine, mobility and battlefield transparency need focused investments. This is equally relevant to mountain warfare.

g) A tailored logistic infrastructure and doctrine, to provide the wherewithal to front line troops and exploit their full potential. This would require information technology and mobility backup for the requisite flexibility and responsiveness.

h) Doctrine and equipment to cope with use of nuclear weapons on the battlefield by our adversaries must be in place.

i) Integrated rapid reaction capability (tri service) within our strategic frontiers.

j) Wherewithal for peacekeeping commitments to match our responsibilities.

k) Military technology exploitation facilitates not just easy to comprehend enhanced violence means but more importantly efficient organisations, concepts and strategies, eg:-

i) New Concepts

'Hitting without holding'59 in place of the old 'holding and hitting' (hammer and anvil), possible due to superior knowledge and control of information.

ii) Information (or knowledge) becoming both a centre of gravity and the principal weapon.

l Manpower and organisational adaptation to new technology e.g.

l For strategic purposes centralised command with top sight and for tactical purposes decentralisation and networked organisation.

l Stand off precision engagements at one level and close-in low intensity conflict using networks at another. These are essential to defeat networks like terrorists, guerrillas, drug cartels and tribal gangs.

iii) Harnessing fifth wave information warfare. In our present planning horizon and context we need to focus primarily on the Operational Attack Paradigm60 (not strategic attack) e.g.:

l OODA (observe, orient, decide, act) loop warfare.

l Precision attrition.

l Coherent Operations using cognition and coordination to eliminate fog of war.

l) As mobility represents a means of energy multiplication, it is essential to exploit it both at the strategic and operational levels. Offensive mechanised forces may have lost some deep strike objectives with nuclearisation of the subcontinent, but their efficiency can be exploited in a number of ingenious ways, exploiting attributes of firepower and mobility.

m) Desired full spectrum, capability dictates efficient utilisation of scarce resources. It is thus imperative to measure opportunity costs and priorities capabilities based on indices which are a function of their probability of use (versatility would enhance probability), and criticality of purpose, eg:-

l The three strike corps may account for a quarter of the operational manpower and a third of the capital resources with low indices as per the above criteria.

l Focused investments in battlefield transparency or small arms may yield more favourable force ratios or net threat assessment vis--vis big ticket investments. Synergetic investment far outweighs linear additions.

The broad 'force drivers' are adequate to follow the logic and direction at the macro level. However decomposing these into building blocks which can then be examined for cost effectiveness by comparing the various options to achieve each goal needs rigorous scholarly endeavour before decision-making. For example, the need to conduct an early counter offensive can be decomposed as shown in Figure 1 below.61 Each decomposed segment has more than one option to achieve its goals. These can be compared using decision support systems like the RAND developed 'Dyna Rank'.62 It is simple to run on Microsoft Excel and it uses a hierarchical scorecard to rank options by cost effectiveness.


Military strategy as we have seen is a vital determinant for force structure planning, it incorporates all relevant inputs like aim (national objectives) challenges, resources constraints and military doctrine and prowess. Its paradoxical logic and adaptation to a changing environment, ensures its dynamic nature. However, its real efficacy like most other human endeavour, lies not in the tools (force structure) it helps fashion, but in its efficient and faithful implementation. The most profound recent change has been the nuclearisation of the subcontinent, which must now recognise Liddel Hart's assessment that "the nuclear factor has rendered absurd the method of 'total war' and 'victory' as a war aim." So while past wars in the subcontinent have been limited by choice, future wars will be limited as an imperative, Humphrey Hawksley not withstanding.



1. George K. Tanham, "Indian Strategy in Flux", in Securing India: Strategic Thought and Practice ed. Kanti Bajpai and Amitab Matoo (New Delhi: Mansarover Publications, 1996) p. 135.

2. Bharat Karnad, Making Do with Less: Reordering Priorities, US National Security Seminar 1996, p. 23.

3. Terry L. Deibel, International Military and Defence Encyclopedia, ed., TN Dupuy (USA: Brassey's 1993), pp. 2577-2578.

4. Liddell Hart Strategy the Indirect Approach (London: Faber & Faber Ltd., Mc mxli), p. 335.

5. Ibid., p. 331.

6. Edward N. Luttwak, Strategy, The Logic of War and Peace, (US: Harvard University Press), p. 243.

7. Andre Beaufre, Introduction a la Strategic 1763, p. 16 cited ibid.

8. Liddell Hart, n. 5, p. 339.

9. Lidell Hart, n. 5, p. 338.

10. Gwyn Prins Strategy, Force Planning and Diplomatic/Military Operations, The Royal Institute and International Affairs, (London: Chameleon Press 1998), p. 13.

11. John S. Stoessinger, Why Nations Go to War (London: St. Martin's Press Inc. 1998) pp. 208-215.

12. Richard E. Simpkin, Race to the Swift (London: Brassey's Defence Publisher, 1987) pp. 276-278.

13. H.P.S. Klair, Force Structure for the Army and Higher Decision Making, Strategic Analysis, July 2000, pp. 707-731.

14. Quest for Excellence-Presidents Blue Ribbon Commission on Defence Management, (USA, 1986) p. 901.

15. Carl H. Builder, The Masks of War (John Hopkins University Press, 1989) p. 60.

16. Ibid., p. 188. In context to the US Army.

17. Ibid.

18. Jasjit Singh, Defensive Strategies, in UNIDIR compiled, Non-offensive Defence: A Global Perspective (New York: Taylor and Francis, 1990) p. 23.

19. Report of Standing Committee on Defence (95-96), 11th Lok Sabha, p. 4.

20. Estimated Committee (1992-93) Nineteenth Report (10th Lok Sabha) p. 27.

21. Tanham, n. 1, p. 135.

22. Tanham, n. 1, p. 112.

23. Luttwak, n. 7.

24. n. 20, p. 2.

25. Jasjit Singh, Dynamics of Limited War, Paper Presented at the National Seminar on the Challenges of Limited War, New Delhi, January 2000.

26. President Ronald Reagan, Speech on Defence Spending and Defensive Technologies, March 23, 1983 cited by Laurence Freedom, Adelphi Paper 224, (International Institute for Strategic Studies 1987) p. 10.

27. Ibid.

28. Kargil Review Committee Report, Executive Summary, p. 5.

29. Tanham, n. 1, p. 123.

30. George Fernandes in his Inaugural Address at the National Seminar on The Challenge of Limited War, January 5, 2000.

31. K. Subramanyam, Times of India, May 9, 1995.

32. K.P.S. Gill, "The Dangers Within: Internal Security Threats" in Bharat Karnad (ed.) Future Imperilled: India's Security in the 1990s and Beyond (New Delhi, India: Viking-Penguin, 1994).

33. Gen. V.P. Malik, Hindustan Times, July 29, 2000.

34. Luttwak, n. 7, p. 194.

35. Singh, n. 19, p. 27.

36. Albrecht Von Muller, Conventional Stability and Defence Dominance.

37. T.M. Kane 'Sins of Omission: The Quadrenual Defence Review as Grand Strategy; Comparative Strategy, UK, July-September 1998.

38. Luttwak, n. 7, p. 194.

39. Luttwak, n. 7, p. 190.

40. Ashley J. Tellis, Stability in South Asia, RAND, 1996, p. 25.

41 Thomas Schelling, Arms and Influence (Yale: New Haven, 1996) p. 94.

42. Kane, n. 38.

43. Prins, n. 11, p. 42.

44. Luttwak, n. 7, 190.

45. Clausewitz, Carl Von, On War (1833, 3 vols.) Ed & trans Michael Howar and Peter Paret (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1976) p. 94.

46. Kane, n. 38.

47. Mubashir Zaidi, Hindustan Times, August 20, 2000.

48. Lt. Gen. Chibber cited by Tara Kartha in "Wars and Civil Society: The Rising Threat from Small Arms," PSIS Occasional Paper Number 2/1988, p. 17.

49. Lt. Gen. Javed Nasir, Defence Journal, February/March 99, Karachi, p. 25.

50. Lt. Gen. F.S. Lodi, Defence Journal, November 1999, Karachi, p. 50.

51 Brig. S.K. Malik, Quranic Concept of War (New Delhi: Himalayan Books, 1986).

52. For Firebreak Theory see Bernard Brodie, Escalation and the Nuclear Option (Princeton: Princeton University Press) p. 102-111.

53. Luttwak, n. 7, p. 60.

54. Bernard Brodie, RAND paper p. 12222 (June 10, 1958) cited by Merc Trachtenberg, History and Strategy (Princeton: Princeton University Press 1991) p. 9.

55. Brig. Anand, Tribune, September 11, 1999.

56. Tellis, n. 41, p. 17.

57. n. 21.

58. Brahma Chellany, Hindustan Times, January 31, 2000.

59. John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt, Cyber War is Coming, RAND/RP-223, Reprinted in Comparative Strategy, vol. 12, 1993 (Taylor and Francis) p. 157.

60. Michael L. Brown, "The Revolution in Military Affairs: The Information Dimension," in Cyberwar: Security, Strategy and Conflict in the Information Age: ed Allan D. Campen, Douglas H. Dearth, R. Thomas Goodderso (New Delhi: Book Mark Publishers) pp. 39-40.

61. Paul D. Davis, David C. Gompert and Stuart Johnson, RAND, IP-179 (1998).

62. For details of Dyna Rank J. Hillestad, Paul K. Davis, RAND, MR-996 (1998).