Clearly, treading in an unexplored and a touchy territory we do need a disclaimer, few clarifications and a definition, and we can proceed.

The disclaimer is that I know virtually nothing about our existing Defense Strategy and our Military doctrine.  I have attempted to  read about these, but have yet to ascertain as to how these  have been effected in times past and present in our  Armed forces, especially so in our air-land forces.  For, unlike so many well researched pundits, I do not air in public on matters about which I can know little or nothing.  Novel concept I know – but it avoids adding more confusion to the babble-on so characteristically taken up by those in search of headlines and ridicule.

It is axiomatic that our foreign policy has a direct influence on our Defense Strategy. Divisive partisanship is that prevents the finding of a settled and generally accepted foreign policy and is a grave threat to the nation.” For when a people is divided within itself about the conduct of its foreign relations, it is unable to agree on the determination of its true interest. It is unable to prepare adequately for war or to safeguard successfully its peace,” Walter Lipmann wrote on US foreign policy in 1943. In the absence of a coherent national grand strategy, India is in the danger of loosing its ability to safeguard its long-term peace and prosperity. We do claim to have strategic relations and understandings with our neighbors and others globally; did we learn from our past to frame the present and future policy? Barring those whose ideology conflicts with national security are we sailing together as a nation in the pursuance of our nation interest, safe guard and security? Can unambiguous Defense Strategy evolve from the clear and sound pronunciations policy promulgated and practiced by the Government of the day?

An attempt to reshape our defense forces, to seek greater global influence is welcome. But unfortunately this is happening in an intellectual vacuum; the micro issues dominate the foreign policy discourse in the absence of an overarching and cohesive framework. As foreign policy issues do not tend to win votes, political parties devote peripheral attention to them and the result is an ad hoc response to various crises as they emerge. How many understand or care to reflect on  the Strategic ties with USA, on India’s role in the Middle East and the Afghan crisis, on India’s engagements with Russia and China in the form of the so-called “Strategic Triangle,” on India’s energy policy; these are all important issues seeking attention and unanimity. Give the strategic defense planners guiding threads, when the focus of Indian foreign policy is on India emerging on the international system as a rising power on way to a possible great power status. A major power’s foreign policy cannot be effective in the absence of a guiding framework of underlying principles that is a function of both the nation’s geopolitical requirements and its values. India today, more than any other time in its history, needs a view of its role in the world, quite removed from the confusion of the past.

Doctrine can succinctly be summed up as, what is written and what is taught. It is set in principle in authoritative instructions or directives, taught in schools and educational institutions.  It is found in several venues; there is religious doctrine, military doctrine, political doctrine, organizational doctrine, and other doctrine. Military doctrine, which we consider here, provides the basis for establishment of performance requirements for equipment (weapons systems in particular), for structure and organization (size and shape of forces), for training of soldiers and units, and for the training and education of leaders (non commissioned and commissioned). Relevant doctrine describes what is to be done, how and with what resources and organization it might best be accomplished. But without carefully thought out, clear, coherent doctrine it is dangerous to proceed further, lest it be leading to a misdirected direction, non-relevant outcomes, and at great expense. In the military context several fundamentals drive doctrine development: national security strategy emanating into national military strategy; what resources the nation is willing to spend on its’ armed forces; threat or threats to vital national interests which might require employment of military force to achieve political aims; appropriate countermeasures, or technical opportunities which, appropriately fielded would provide performance data over an expected threat.

Doctrines do change. Armies do transform over the years. The US Army underwent major doctrine changes as it fought its wars over the years and is yet evolving. Presently the advent of thermo-nuclear war has characterized the improbability of total war. It raises the ultimate question – what does it mean to win, absent nuclear weapons and total war. Doctrine, equipment requirements, structure and organizational design, training for soldiers and training and education for non commissioned and commissioned officers.  After seventeen years of directing and steering the process and progress of change, the US Army demonstrated its’ impressive capabilities in a strikingly successful field trial in the Gulf War of 1991.  It succeeded!  Some of it better than hoped, some not quite so well, but it all worked, largely because it was in the hands of well trained soldiers and units, led by well trained leaders, non commissioned and commissioned.  How was that accomplished? Designing everything to meet the needs of the next, not the last war.

Our Army is second to none ; well trained, disciplined, highly motivated and so on. Is that enough? Do the commissioned officers dwell beyond their professional blinkers to widen their vision and horizon on issues of which they have had ample expertise and experiences? Do they have the time and inclination? Are they encouraged? I claim guilty on all counts. I served in an era witnessing my Corps Commander in the late night hours training a rifle Company in an attack to stay in the assault formation from the SL to the objective in a Corps Exercise!