Col Ashwani Sharma (Retd)

Geopolitics is a dynamic process; the challenges, threats and opportunities that accompany evolve as the scenario changes. For militaries, the challenge is to keep up with emerging scenarios and remain ever-ready to achieve military objectives set by the nation’s security strategy. The military transformation thus is an essential periodic exercise which the security establishment must perform with agility as and when required. The Indian military is currently undergoing a fundamental transformation. The process started in all earnest with the creation of the post of a Chief of Defence Staff and Department of Military Affairs which he heads as its Secretary. Armed with a mandate to create joint theatre commands, the CDS is at the forefront of a structural and intellectual transformation. Successive military crises with belligerent neighbours especially China have added a sense of urgency and realism to this effort. Credit must be given to Prime Minister Modi who, during his second term, is implementing the long-promised defence reforms.

The world’s second-largest military has a tradition of being under civilian control which is perfectly acceptable in a progressive democracy. But its form has not been well suited for the military’s growth and operational preparedness. For one, the Ministry of Defence came to be staffed entirely by civilians with limited or little expertise in matters military. While the overall control became overwhelming, individual services remained autonomous resulting in a characteristic single-service approach to modernisation, operations and training.  One of the architects of India’s higher defence organisation, Lord Mountbatten, had strongly recommended a Joint Chief of Staff which was opposed for fear of loss of civilian control. When the DMA was created to address the military’s needs, 23 sections of the MoD were transferred to this office thus empowering the CDS on issues about promotions, defence planning, and inter-services prioritisation, among others. This mandate of the DMA reduces the Defence Secretary’s powers, whose only responsibility of note now pertains to capital procurements. The first transformational exercise puts a heavy responsibility on the CDS’s (and the military’s) shoulders. Other transformational moves include jointness and theaterisation, emphasis on building domestic industry (Aatmanirbhar Bharat), Agnipath scheme and increasing military diplomacy.

In the last 100 years, we have moved from Positional warfare to blitzkrieg, counter blitz, Rapid Action Force, Extended defences to AirLand battle and now NCW made possible by the digital revolution. Warfare continues to evolve and is now moving towards sixth gen knowledge-based ops, while technology facilitates remotely controlled, autonomous long-range vectors with increasing lethality. Now the Militaries need to decide where to invest to deter and defeat the adversary. The starting point for improving operational preparedness is a sound Military Doctrine which must dictate all military matters as per the warfighting philosophy. In this issue, the cover story dwells upon the doctrinal aspects of military transformation. In subsequent issues, we shall cover military structure, training and education, R&D and industry.

Let 2023 be the year of transformation. And with that, we wish you all a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous 2023.