The Indian Integrated Defence Staff (IDS), one of the world’s largest military forces, stands as a formidable institution with a rich history and a vital role in safeguarding the nation’s sovereignty. With its diverse and skilled personnel, the army is equipped to operate in various terrains, from the harsh mountains of the Himalayas to the arid deserts of the Thar. Over the years, it has adapted to contemporary challenges, modernising its equipment, and fostering strategic partnerships. The Indian Army’s commitment to the nation, discipline, and valour is a source of pride for the country, and it continues to play a crucial role in preserving Bharat’s security and contributing to global peacekeeping efforts. Bharat’s military doctrine and operational readiness has seen significant development in recent years under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, driven by the changing geopolitical landscape, evolving security threats, and the need to ensure the nation’s security and stability. It is pertinent to assess the transformations in Bharat’s military doctrine, focusing on its response to the two-front threat and the modernisation of its armed forces, with a view to look towards the future.
In this, invariably, we have the growing stature of Bharat’s military diplomacy that has enhanced international defence cooperation and the integration of technology to bolster our security posture. In 2017, Bharat unveiled its latest Joint Armed Forces Doctrine, which brought about several noteworthy changes in the country’s strategic posture. One significant shift was the explicit inclusion of “surgical strikes” as a formal part of Bharat’s response to “terror provocations.” The doctrine also marked the transition from “credible minimum deterrence” (CMD) to “credible deterrence” (CD), indicating a shift in the language used to describe Bharat’s nuclear posture. Of particular interest was a sentence in the doctrine that emphasised resolving conflicts through a combination of credible deterrence, coercive diplomacy, and, notably, “punitive destruction, disruption, and constraint in a nuclear environment across the Spectrum of Conflict.” The term “disruption” was further defined in the document as a strategy to impair an adversary’s military cohesion, potentially by targeting critical elements like command-and-control systems. The doctrine also underscored Bharat’s increasing focus on expeditionary and overseas operations, emphasising the need for full interoperability with countries both large and small, indicating a growing interest in collaboration with a wide range of nations, including the United States, Japan, Australia, and Southeast Asian partners.
In recent years, Bharat’s military doctrine has undergone a series of changes in response to emerging threats, especially the two-front challenge posed by China and Pakistan. Previously, most of its forces were oriented towards the western front facing Pakistan, with only a few divisions facing China. However, the situation became precarious in Eastern Ladakh, where just one division was responsible for defending the 1,140 km-km border. To address this imbalance, the Indian Army undertook a comprehensive approach involving relocation, redeployment, and reorientation. Some armoured regiments, initially earmarked for the western front, were sent to Ladakh. In addition, the Counter Insurgency Force-Uniform (CIF-U) and its associated sectors were relocated to Eastern Ladakh. These moves allowed for the creation of a more robust defence against potential Chinese incursions. One of the major achievements of the army has been the establishment of dual tasked formations (DTFs) capable of addressing threats on both fronts.
As part of this strategic realignment, one of the Strike Corps underwent a significant shift in its primary role. It transitioned from its western focus to a primary orientation towards the northern front, all without changing its geographical location. This corps was officially incorporated into the Order of Battle (ORBAT) of the Northern Command. In this new dual-tasked capacity, it allocated two divisions, one infantry, and one mountain division, to serve as a reserve force for the critical northern Ladakh region. Additionally, its armoured division, the 33rd division, has been designated as a reserve force under the direct command of the army headquarters. This reorganisation represents a shift from the previous Mountain Strike Corps, which had to oversee the entire northern front while coordinating with three distinct command headquarters. Now, the Mountain Strike Corps is exclusively aligned with the Eastern Command, having received reinforcements in the form of an additional division and a reserve artillery brigade. These strategic maneuvers have consolidated two strike corps to directly face the China border, contrasting with the previous situation where 17 mountain strike corps were only partially raised. In the central sector, which was formerly managed by independent brigades reporting directly to the command headquarters, an added division, the 14 RAPID Division, has been deployed to bolster security. This division, originally intended for operations against Pakistan, is currently being transformed into a mountain division to effectively respond to potential Chinese aggression in the middle sector. Top of Form
To enhance command and control, there are plans to establish intermediary corps headquarters in key sectors. These intermediary structures will streamline decision-making processes and improve the army’s readiness to respond effectively to threats.
Bharat has made notable strides in improving internal security, particularly in the Northeast. Many militant groups have either suspended operations or signed ceasefire agreements with the government. This allowed for a planned drawdown of forces engaged in counterinsurgency and counterterrorism (CI/CT) operations, enabling them to focus exclusively on their primary role of conventional operations on the northern front. These forces remain readily available for CI/CT operations if the need arises. As part of the transformation of the Indian Army, there is a shift toward creating Integrated Battle Groups (IBGs) by amalgamating brigades and divisions. IBGs are leaner, more agile formations tailored to specific terrains, tasks, and threats. They are equipped with comprehensive capabilities, capable of quick mobilisation in developing situations.
Additionally, the restructuring of combat and logistics support elements has occurred, with these units permanently put on the order of battle (ORBAT) of brigades. This optimisation leads to operational efficiency and significant savings in personnel and resources. To reduce the “tooth-to-tail” ratio, Bharat is leveraging modern technology and reducing personnel-intensive tasks. For example, the introduction of drones and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) has led to the reconsideration of animal transport (AT) units. Automation and the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are becoming essential for improving operational efficiency. But most important are the meta-mechanics of the empirical deployment. In recent years, Bharat has witnessed significant developments in its military doctrines and reform-oriented military literature. These documents and writings play a crucial role in shaping the country’s defence strategies, even at the forefront of modern military strategies. For instance, Tri-Service Doctrine (2017) and Land Warfare Doctrine (2018) marked a significant shift in Indian military doctrine. They emphasised the integration of national policy objectives with military strategy, highlighting the critical linkage between national security and nation-building. These doctrines introduced military power as a deterrent, reflecting a proactive approach and advocating for coercive diplomacy, surgical strikes, and punitive actions when necessary. Moreover, they recognised the significance of ensuring the security of the internal environment and promoting constructive engagement with other nations. Additionally, they highlighted the importance of joint operations and tri-service synergy.
Military diplomacy plays a crucial role in Bharat’s broader security architecture. Bharat actively engages with various countries to expand international defense cooperation. The Indian Navy and Air Force are at the forefront of these efforts due to their broader reach and commonality of platforms. Through bilateral and multilateral exercises, Bharat is building capabilities for interoperability and strengthening relationships. Examples include the Malabar naval exercise with the US and Japan and the Veer Guardian 2023 exercise between the Indian and Japanese air forces. These exercises focus on building relationships without forming military alliances. Bharat’s strategic posture, embodied in the concept of “security and growth for all in the region” (SAGAR), seeks peace and prosperity in the region. By adjusting its military doctrine, Bharat aims to lower force levels on the western front to promote diplomatic dialogue and assure Pakistan of its peaceful intentions.
Simultaneously, Bharat’s enhanced military capabilities on the northern front serve as a deterrent to any adventurism and encourage discussions on resolving long-standing border disputes with China. Going forward, it is imperative for Bharat to formulate a comprehensive doctrine that encompasses the three distinct phases of multidomain operations: competition, crisis, and armed conflict. This doctrine should effectively address the complex challenge posed by peer competitors who employ layered capabilities from a standoff range to deter adversaries. This approach necessitates that Bharat, along with its partners and allies, possess redundant land-based capabilities capable of neutralising or disrupting threat-networked intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and long-range fires. Countries such as China, the United States, and Russia have the potential to achieve their objectives without direct military engagement, primarily by influencing the narrative and controlling facts on the ground. In response, the Indian Army must establish a narrative to counteract this strategy during both the competition and crisis phases of operations. Advanced integration of these aspects is pivotal. In this, perception management, which is all about relations and information activities used to influence the attitudes, opinions, and behaviour of various target audiences, is highly important.
The primary objective of PsyOps is to shape the perceptions of these audiences by conveying accurate and credible information that fosters confidence in one’s own military forces and operations. Real-time projection of activities and the presentation of truthful narratives are key aspects of successful Psy Ops. In addition to these operational aspects, it is crucial to leverage various media channels, including 24×7 news coverage and the production of documentaries by respected filmmakers, to continuously showcase the positive and supportive role played by the armed forces. This helps in building trust and a sense of unity among the population.
Warfare operates within a realm of extremes, one of which is the ceaseless quest for information. The planning process initiates a reciprocal interaction between planners and intelligence personnel. Planners perpetually thirst for more information, while their intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance resources endeavour to provide what they can, though never to the planner’s contentment. This insatiable demand for information fuels the development of novel systems and technologies to bridge the gap. These innovations engender an information-rich environment, creating a new standard for the minimum informational requirements for military operations. However, the two constraints of uncertainty and unpredictability obstruct the realisation of absolute knowledge. Uncertainty arises from an imperfect understanding of the operating environment, while unpredictability stems from the inability to predict action outcomes. These limiting factors keep military operations situated in a state of partial comprehension. By recognising the structure of uncertainty and unpredictability, military forces can harness them as planning factors rather than mere sources of friction. Viewing states as complex adaptive systems allows for a more comprehensive understanding of the modern nature of war, where relationships between actors shape system performance, leading to qualitatively similar emergent behaviour.
Characteristics of complex adaptive systems, including non-linearity, sensitive dependence on initial conditions, catastrophe theory, and lateral relationships, contribute to the unpredictability intrinsic to modern warfare. To thrive in such an unpredictable environment, military leaders must emphasise adaptability and responsiveness over information dominance, fostering a culture that encourages challenging assumptions. While adaptability is crucial for change, it should not lead to unwarranted fluctuations in campaign planning, which may become counterproductive. By approaching the inherent unpredictability of warfare with an open mindset and a model that accounts for this unpredictability, the military can leverage adaptability and responsiveness to succeed in an ever-changing landscape of conflict. A practical approach involves a sincere effort to analyse and navigate future challenges, cutting through the complexities of uncertainty. This analysis aims to transform the unknown unknowns into known unknowns, essentially converting uncertainty into a manageable level of risk.
A parallel can be drawn to the financial world, where market uncertainty is addressed through hedging. Hedging diversifies options, ensuring that a potential loss in one sector can be balanced by a potential gain in another. It involves expanding the range of options, considering diverse perspectives, and accommodating counter viewpoints. Scenario building, a technique commonly employed in diplomacy, management, and certain military planning aspects, is a way of hedging bets against uncertainty. Another emerging approach in these uncertain times is “red teaming” in decision-making. Red teams, comprised of qualified personnel, are tasked with continuously evaluating organisational decisions from the viewpoint of adversaries or competitors, identifying vulnerabilities and deficiencies in the decisions. Red teams have proven effective in simulating the nuances of real-world uncertainty.
At the operational level, Bharat is closely following technological advancements, including quantum technologies, blockchain, AI, and machine learning, to incorporate them into its warfighting capabilities. Collaborations with academic institutions and industry partners have yielded technological innovations, such as an integrated mobile camouflage system. Bharat has embarked on a journey to modernise its military by incorporating AI technologies to adapt to evolving security challenges. This shift was initiated in 2018 when a multistakeholder task force was formed, aiming to develop an AI strategy and framework for national security and defence needs. The Defence Artificial Intelligence Council (DAIC) and Defence AI Project Agency (DAIPA) were subsequently established to promote AI research, development, and deployment in the defence sector. In recent years, Bharat has introduced various AI-based defence products and technologies, including AI-powered drones, cognitive radars, uncrewed vehicles, and more. These advancements showcase Bharat’s commitment to leverage AI in bolstering its defence capabilities. To ensure responsible AI integration, Bharat should conduct comprehensive Type 3 (user trials) and Type 4 (operational environment-specific evaluation) testing of military AI systems. These evaluations should include considerations of ethical and accountable AI usage and ensure that AI systems perform ethically in different battlefield scenarios. In the previous year, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) made an official announcement regarding the Indian Army’s commencement of the procurement process for Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) systems. This was initiated through the issuance of a commercial Request for Proposal (RFP), with plans for subsequent deployment.
To drive advancements in quantum research and innovation, the Indian Army, in collaboration with the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS), has established the Quantum Lab at the Military College of Telecommunication Engineering, located in Mhow (MCTE). Furthermore, the utilisation of quantum technology is not confined to the Indian Army alone. The Indian Navy is actively exploring the potential applications of this technology. In a noteworthy development, the Raman Research Institute (RRI), an autonomous institution under the Department of Science and Technology (DST), has entered a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Indian Navy’s Research and Development unit, known as Weapons and Electronics Systems Engineering Establishment (WESEE). This collaboration aims to lead research efforts directed at the development of Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) techniques that could be harnessed by the Indian Navy to enhance the security of free space communications within the nation. The Indian Army has taken the lead in contracting four Innovation for Defence Excellence (iDEX) projects worth approximately Rs 70 crores. Additionally, it is overseeing two of the three contracted Make II projects, totaling around Rs 180 crores. In the latest round, 49 schemes, with a total value of Rs 7600 crores, have been initiated, covering a wide range of areas, such as mobility and energy solutions, communication frameworks, drones, protective gear, armaments, drones and latest simulators.
The emphasis is on specialised technologies such as UAV-launched Precision Guided missiles, Loiter Munitions and more. To achieve self-sufficiency through indigenisation, the Army Design Bureau (ADB) is playing a pivotal role, by engineering fully indigenous solutions with collaboration with central and state industrial bodies, MSMEs, startups, and more. The innovative Light Tank is designed for high-altitude engagements in hilly and mountainous regions, while the Terminal End Secrecy Device focuses on secure communication during operations. An impressive list of 45 Make II projects with a total value of Rs 30,000 crores is in progress, with contracts already signed for projects like Upgraded Assault Track Way. These projects span various technologies, including Counter-Drone Systems, Armoured Fighting Vehicle Protection, Multirole Precision Kill System, Terminal Guidance Munitions and Directed Energy Weapon.
Bharat’s evolving military doctrine is a response to the changing security environment and the need to maintain peace and stability in the region. By addressing the two-front threat, improving internal security, embracing technology, and engaging in military diplomacy, Bharat strives to bolster its defence capabilities while promoting diplomatic solutions to longstanding regional conflicts. In a rapidly changing world, Bharat’s military doctrine and diplomacy are crucial components of its national security strategy.
Bharat stands strong. Jai Hind.