Imperative for Military Doctrine

Sub Title : A sound military doctrine forms the very basis of perpective military planning

Issues Details : Vol 18 Issue 2 May – Jun 2024

Author : Ashwani Sharma Editor-in-Chief

Page No. : 14

Category : Military Affairs

: June 5, 2024

As warfare enters a new era shaped by rapid technological change, the formulation of a dynamic, responsive military doctrine is not just necessary but critical for national security. Such a doctrine must be a living document, continuously updated and informed by the latest in technological advancements and strategic thought.

“We will fight with What we Have”- such a statement may be acceptable during crises or in the absence of alternatives, it appears misplaced for an army enriched by extensive operational experience and the one which has trained rigorously for high-stakes situations.

It may serve the purpose of rallying troops to fight on regardless for the love of their motherland and duty, but it does little to inspire confidence. This also prompts a few questions – what kind of planning has been gone into in the corridors dealing with national security; what kind of contingency plans exist; what has caught the entire establishment of guard? More crucially, what measures have been put in place to prevent recurrence of such desperate situations? If the same military finds itself in a similar state/situation a few years down the line then there is reason to suspect underlying systemic flaws. Outdated tactical thinking, technological stagnation and lack of adequate resources are pointers towards systemic ills which demand correction

Over recent months, in my essays, I have frequently referenced the sound military doctrine of Ben Gurion, which enabled the IDF to triumph in its initial conflicts, despite being outnumbered and caught off guard. This doctrine capitalized on the intellect of the Israeli Officer Corps, seizing the battle into enemy territory with superior mechanised forces and leveraging terrain advantages. The October 23 setback was a direct consequence of sacrificing human excellence and tactical acumen for an overreliance on technology, leaving the IDF to ‘fight with what they have’ ever since! Similar doctrinal failures underpinned Russia’s tactical setbacks and failure to achieve success within 7 days as claimed by President Putin before the Ukraine war.

No modern military should be guilty of not having its own warfighting doctrine in place. The absence of a solid doctrinal foundation speaks poorly of the leadership if it cannot grasp ground realities and fails to assess threats, how they translate into tactical scenarios, acquire and update capability, provide guidelines for training, and constantly identify and exploit own strengths, countering that of the adversary.  Absence of a doctrine will invariably lead to the (in)famous Indian Jugaad and lead to statements like ‘fight with what we have’! Resolute actions, determination, motivation and training are some of the factors which may help the military finally turn the situation around and achieve its objectives, but always at a considerable cost. Need is to harness this talent and stay ahead of the curve in order to get the better of the adversaries.

In a diverse country like India, one size does not fit all. The velocity with which technology is changing and causing a shift in tactical approach on the battlefield is hard to comprehend thus necessitating a solid doctrinal foundation for operations in different theatres. Remember one size will not fit all – in a subcontinent as diverse as ours, there is a dire need to build and acquire capabilities as per our own doctrinal approach and Not as per what is available or what is being produced!!

In the Indian military, just like the IT sector, there is no dearth of talent or intellect. We must be able to synergise this intellectual pool to keep the military plans ahead and outpace the adversaries. Dynamic warfighting doctrine thus is the answer. Inability to do so will almost certainly result in surprises on the battlefield, something that a professional military must avoid.

In conclusion, in an era characterized by rapid technological advancements, the nature of warfare is undergoing a profound transformation. Traditional military doctrines, which once provided structured frameworks for combat engagement, must now evolve to accommodate the pace and unpredictability of technological change. A modern warfighting doctrine must be dynamic and responsive, capable of integrating emerging technologies and addressing the challenges they pose. This approach will ensure that military operations remain effective, ethical, and adaptable to the challenges of 21st-century warfare.