Purple Reigns

The Indian Army and the art of joint-ness

Pravin Sawhney and Ghazala Wahab

India started military reforms with the creation of the Integrated Defence Headquarters (IDH) headed by the Chief of Integrated Staff to Chairman (CISC), chiefs of staff committee in September 2001. Sixteen years later, the progress remains slow. Not because the military leadership has done less; but because the political leadership, which does not appreciate the criticality of military reforms in modern warfare, has done little.

The Indian Army and the art of joint-ness

Ironically, the Modi government, which professes overwhelming importance to national security, has harmed it the most. The ultimate purpose of military reforms is joint-ness in combat in order to build a credible offensive posture to deter, dissuade, fight and win modern wars. Joint-ness comprises synergising all battlefields of war: land, sea, air, electronic, cyber and space. Besides, focus should be on Special Forces and coast guard.

The Modi government’s unambiguous directive, on the other hand, is to maintain territorial integrity through strategic defensive posture: the strengthening of the fence on the Line of Control (LC) and undue role for counter-terror operations inside Jammu and Kashmir. Against China, the strategic defensive posture is maintained by policing rather than guarding (which involves use of violence against breach) by the Indian Army. The unsaid assumption is that since India, despite grave provocations, will not go to war, Pakistan and China will have little reason to do so.

The outcome of this self-defeating defensive posture is evident all over. Instead of joint-ness, the services worry about their domain responsibilities; the indigenous defence industry lies in shambles since preparation for modern war is not a priority; and instead of developing cutting-edge technology (involving lots of time, finances, and concentrated research) which no country would give, middling technology is procured from abroad.

Amidst all this, the IDH, which is an administrative headquarters, is left holding the joint-ness baby. There are two more added constraints: the military is not a part of national security policymaking, and, according to the Constitution, the defence secretary (bureaucrat) is responsible for India’s defence. Given these, initiatives by military leadership are viewed with deep suspicion by the powerful bureaucracy.

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