Military Modernisation in India : An Approach
India’s security concerns are defined by a dynamic global security environment and the perception that the South Asian Region is of particular global security interest. The continuing presence of terrorist and fundamentalist forces in its neighbourhood has prompted India to maintain a high level of defence vigilance and preparedness to face any challenge to its security. Might in terms of conventional forces and their reach assumes importance as such forces are an ‘instrument’ through which nation states exercise national power, be it through coercive diplomacy, ‘outcome based demonstrations’ or a ‘viable force in being’. Undeniably military capability facilitates exercise of power on a wide canvass, in safeguarding interests of a nation state be they territorial, maintenance of internal cohesion, economic, cultural or ideological.
Notwithstanding several years of planning, modernization of the Indian Army has usually been hyphenated by alternate spells of agitated activity followed by long intermissions of virtual procrastination. The defence plans have rarely been formally approved before their commencement. Knee jerk responses and haphazard planning, this had made India a reactive rather than proactive nation in matters defence
with a large portion of budget for capital acquisitions being surrendered.
The military should define its efforts to ensure that forces have the best equipment and necessary capabilities to guarantee their success in any mission or environment. The strategy designed must fulfil its overarching goals, priorities, and objectives. To maintain decisive advantage over any enemy and to meet the challenges of a new modernization construct, the Indian Army must develop and field a versatile and affordable mix of equipment to enable soldiers and units to succeed in full-spectrum operations today and tomorrow.
Two key objectives of modernisation are:-
• Reinforcing the capabilities of military to prevail in today’s wars, while building capacities needed to deal with future threats.
• Reforming institutions and processes to deliver the ‘goods’ to the war fighter in the time he needs them.
Any contemplated Modernisation Strategy needs to support these objectives. Our modernization plans need to ensure that they address pressing capability gaps; that they have applicability in both today’s and tomorrow’s wars, so that they present affordable and feasible solutions based on sound cost benefit analysis. In the present era of strategic uncertainty, the changing nature of warfare demands a judicious mix of threat and capability based forces to operate as combined arms and services components.
We must define the structure of a ‘capability based force’ for meeting National Security Objectives of the 2020s and also to achieve the desired levels of deterrence against China and Pakistan. We must also evolve theatre centric war fighting strategies, both services specific and joint. Modernisation Strategy must therefore be conscious of these. All modernisation efforts must be directed to achieve these capabilities in the stated time periods.
Transformation vs Modernisation. A clear understanding of the distinction between Transformation and Modernisation is necessary. Transformation has close linkages to Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA), the extreme shifts in the security paradigm, threat manifestations, and the reviewed capability aspirations. Changes in concepts and doctrines will necessitate transformational endeavours both in force and equipment capabilities. Modernisation is an on-going and enduring enterprise to keep the forces suitably equipped to fight and win todays and future wars in the prevalent concept of war fighting. Modernisation is therefore, in essence, an incremental endeavour to upgrade weapons, equipment and systems in a prioritised manner-duly conscious of the current and future war fighting capability needs of the Army and dependent on budgetary support and the availability of relevant technology.
Factors Affecting Military Modernisation
Winning In Present and Future Conflicts. A clear understanding of what would constitute winning, or what would indicate achievement of National Military Strategic Objectives, is a necessary precursor to any modernisation endeavour. These end states, some quantifiable and some abstract, would be achieved through the synergised application of combat power of the three services and also other elements of National Power. Therefore to meet our end of the commitment, the Army must develop capabilities and
capacities in key strategic domains, entailing new inductions, raisings and various modernisation upgrades.
Threat Manifestation. Besides various internal security issues, the visualised external threat manifestation in the time continuum from the short term through mid, to the long term, for which the Army has to be prepared, are as under: -
• Short Term. War with Pakistan as a direct consequence of the on-going proxy war is a high probability. This would be fought against a nuclear backdrop. Possibility of collusive support by China will have to be factored in. There is a very high possibility of border skirmishes with China. Internal Security deployments are likely to increase.
• Mid to Long Term. In the mid to the long-term China would be the main threat. We may be forced to fight a ‘two front war’. Peace-making commitments in the Region are likely to increase. There would also be increased security commitments in the Region for the IA for protection of its vital resource and other interests.
Concepts and Doctrines. From the evolved war fighting strategies must emerge concepts and doctrines to wage and win the nations wars. This must be an ongoing endeavour, keeping the constantly evolving battlefield milieu and the emerging and available technologies, in mind. The key drivers for this are the experiences of the field armies and the lessons and ‘best practices’, gleaned from contemporary wars and
conflicts, worldwide. This is the quintessence of a professional army. Clearly articulated concepts and doctrines, in synchrony with our war fighting strategies would give the necessary focus to our modernisation endeavours. Military doctrine which is the driver of military modernization and transformation for countering the myriad threats growing around the South Asian Region requires the military to meet under mentioned responsibilities which includes: -
• Defending the homeland against hybrid nature of threats.
• To deter and defeat near to middle term threats generated by Pakistan and China.
• Maintaining long-term combat effectiveness for securing national interest and core values.
Changes if any to the present basic war fighting concepts need to be ascertained from the Field Armies – (not to be confused with Doctrine and theatre Strategies). We must question whether current concepts are adequate for fighting and winning today’s and future wars since it has great relevance and bearing to prioritised weapons and equipment acquisitions and upgrades.
Impact of the National Military Strategy on Modernisation of the Army. Capabilities developed through due processes of modernisation must be synchronous with meeting the ends of our National Security Objectives, and therefore must be closely linked to a National Military Strategy .The broad constructs of a National Military Strategy that have a bearing on the Army modernisation are: -
• Evolve from Threat based forces to Threat cum Capability based forces to achieve national security objectives.
• Develop capabilities to win against all present and future adversaries across the full spectrum of warfare, if wars are forced upon us.
• Achieve appropriate levels of deterrence that would lead to prevention of war including proxy wars, through strong conventional and nuclear forces.
• Ensure sanctity of the borders.
• Effectively deal with proxy wars and enhance our capabilities to fight Counter Insurgency (CI)/Counter Terrorist (CT) Operations.
• Develop capabilities to fight and win ‘Short Wars’.
• Create capability to fight and win a two front war, if forced upon by Pakistan and China.
• Enhance capability to rapidly switch forces from East to West and vice versa.
• Achieve Network Centric Warfare capability and technological edge over adversaries.
• Maintain an effective nuclear deterrence and create a viable nuclear triad.
• Increase our capability to ‘Fight Dirty’ in a nuclear environment.
• Develop an out of area capability.
• Improve and enhance our Peace Keeping Capability.
• Create Post Conflict Management Capacities and Capability.
• Create capabilities to conduct joint operations by the Army, Navy and Air Force across full spectrum of warfare.
• Create desired degree of influence in the Indian Ocean Region.
• Develop strong maritime capability to ensure security of Island territories.
• Develop and create suitable air and space based capability to ensure air dominance over sovereign territory including island territories.
• Build adequate capacities for contingencies in Military Operations Other Than War (MOOTW) and Internal Security functions.
• Create synergies with other organs of state.
• Ensure reasonable share of the GDP for defence (3%) to ensure that the required impetus to modernisation is provided.
Inadequacies in the Present Approach to Modernisation
• Whilst the needs of modernisation is acknowledged and understood, there seems to be no overarching and unambiguous policy paper on the same, based on strong fundamentals (a National Military Strategy).
• There is inadequate articulation of the generation of capability required in the various strategic domains. Some element of desired capability is factored in, but the process however, is handicapped due to the non-availability of a comprehensive outlook regarding capabilities in diverse
• Modernisation endeavours predominantly driven by acquisition of affordable state-of-the-art weapons, equipment and military technology.
• Dependent to a great deal on threat perceptions –albeitwith insufficient Net Assessment of likely future scenarios & capabilities of present & potential adversaries.
• Desire for max indigenisation exerts considerable influence on all modernisation processes. There is a lack of a pragmatic balance between the compulsions of indigenisation and the dire modernisation needs to meet the desired capability of the military. This is all the more compounded by our inadequate indigenous capability for military hardware in the Country.
• A distinct lack of accountability exists, especially in meeting deadlines of modernisation.
• There is low decision making resolve at different levels due to various factors.
• At times modernisation becomes a process of reverse engineering –doctrines and force employment philosophies are modified to suit weapons and equipment procured.
• Modernisation initiatives are greatly influenced by perceptions of likely budget allocations – “cut the coat according to the cloth available”. Customary Budget allocation fixation severely retards modernisation aspirations and plans.
• We have in place a tedious, and in some cases repetitive acquisition and procurement processes.
• In the absence of an over arching philosophy for equipment procurement, on-going efforts at modernisation of the military are not synchronised amongst various stake holders (user, DRDO, OFB, DPSU, Pvt Sect etc).
Contours of a Recommended Modernisation Strategy
The IA envisions, ‘being a highly motivated, optimally equipped and modernised, operationally ready force, capable of functioning in a synergised joint service environment, across the spectrum of conflict’. In sync with this Vision, the IAhas made elaborate modernisation plans for developing war prevention and full spectrum capabilities. Our primary objective for such an upgrade must be to stay competitive and
technologically reliable while remaining cost efficient.
A concept led, capability based, modernization, which is threat related and resource conscious is only feasible if we can identify capabilities needed to accomplish operational and tactical requirements of our field force. Like any military, India too, faces difficult choices in establishing its budget priorities for modernizing the armed forces to meet both near-term and future threats. With a growing inventory of weapons and equipment nearing obsolescence and the urgent need to upgrade or replace them, the present allocation of defence budget, which is pegged at less than 2% of India’s GDP, is grossly inadequate to support genuine modernisation needs.
Another modernisation dilemma that the military faces is that it can carry out substantive modernisation only by simultaneously undertaking large-scale downsizing, due to budget constraints. However, it cannot afford to radically downsize as its operational commitments on border management and internal security duties require a large number of manpower-heavy infantry battalions.
Capabilities take several decades to create. Therefore their identification, prioritisation and developmental road map need careful calibration so that it is available in the visualised operational time frame.
Strategic Guidance and Actions at Macro Level
All modernisation endeavours must meet the ends of the Vision Statement of the armed forces. The military modernisation must respond to a technologically and strategically challenging security environment and must secure for us a competitive advantage over our potential adversaries. The AMS must also be symbiotic with the Transformational Goals of the IA. The AMS should define our efforts to ensure that soldiers have the best equipment and necessary capabilities to guarantee their success in any mission or environment today and tomorrow.
We must develop and field a versatile and affordable mix of weapons and equipment. Balanced development of all arms and services must be undertaken to ensure combat effectiveness of the field formations. Each theatre has its own operational dynamics, which need to be addressed in detail to achieve distinct advantage; therefore the planners must develop theatre specific capability within the ambit of modernisation.
The Modernisation strategy must also be dynamically responsive to the demands of the Field forces in helping them to win wars today and tomorrow. We must strengthen and simplify processes involved with Fast Track Procurement (FTP).
The military must emphasise with the government the critical need of service predominant modernisation first, with focus on war fighting, and developing joint capabilities later. The modernisation strategy must focus on resources first in making up existing voids and hollowness in the service, and thereafter in eliminating capability voids in the desired levels of deterrence against our adversaries.
We must also refine and streamline our acquisition processes so as to shorten the periods from identification of the need to its actual fruition in the Field Army. We must consider the full life cycle costs of all systems being contemplated for new induction. We must also make informed decisions on modernisation upgrades, refits and disposal in keeping with our 30:40:30 principle (state of the art: contemporary: legacy) of equipment holding.
We must have a long-term vision of merging a modernized Army into a Transformed Joint Force by balancing and accommodating of requirements for the sake of jointness. However, this will not be at the expense of mid to long term requirements.
The military must create an apex body to monitor and facilitate modernisation.
We must energise and empower the Army Technology Board to include and execute modernisation through influx of new/cutting edge technologies.
Modification committee at Army HQ level must be strengthened to allow proliferation of equipment modified by field forces and found operationally suitable.
Equipment portfolios will need periodic capability reviews to assess operational relevance and cost effectiveness. There must be a clearly formulated portfolio strategy of all weapons and equipment modernisation based on priorities and budgetary support. Protocol issues need to be addressed by ensuring systems approach to induction of equipment, rather than stand alone development and proliferation thereby leading to incompatibility issues.
The Modernisation Strategy
The modernisation strategy must be centred around the following:-
• Ends. The objective of modernisation strategy is to ensure that the military has a modern and affordable mix of the best weapons and equipment available that will allow it to fight and win today’s and tomorrow’s wars across the spectrum of conflict.
• Ways. The above Ends would be accomplished by the following Ways: -
• Modernisation Through Acquisition of New Equipment. The existing voids and hollowness in the field armies need to be met through large-scale upgrades and considerable infusion of new equipment to ensure that the military is capable of fighting and winning today’s wars. Modernisation through acquisition of new equipment also entails development and acquiring new equipment or improving, upgrading or adapting existing equipment to give capability to fight and win future wars too. This entails:-
• Modernising the current generation of weapons.
• Investing in next generation technologies.
• Revolutionary technologies or the generation after next weapons.
• Fielding of new capabilities by exploiting and developing spinoffs of new technology or backcasting.
• Sustaining Existing Equipment. Close capability gaps by extending the useful life of existing equipment by life extensions, upgrades and overhaul since replacement of all equipment is neither feasible nor desirable. However, we must not lose focus of the equipment in service: -
• Modernising equipment to meet current and future capability needs through procurement of upgraded capabilities and recapitalisation.
• Product improvement through indigenous research and development(R&D).
• Leverage innovative designs and capability demonstrators emerging from the field armies and formalise the fast track production and induction of operationally viable projects.
• Capitalize on the Army Science and Technology Board to convert ideas into capabilities.
• Mitigating Shortcomings. Due to critical capability and security considerations, certain equipment needs to be procured on an emergent basis. Outright purchase of overdue equipment gestating with Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) or other indigenous manufacturers. These are basically to make up critical shortcomings in capabilities and cannot wait for the procurement and sustainment time lines discussed above. These will have to follow ‘fast track’ acquisition processes if not already in the pipeline for delivery within 12 to 24 months. In general terms, the equipment proposed should more or less be in the approved Annual Acquisition Plan (AAP), with some balances and variations.
• Fielding Equipment. Provide the appropriate quantity and type of equipment at the proper time, in accordance with the military operational priorities.
• Disposal of Equipment. The concept of disposal needs to be included in the planning process to fix timelines for discard of obsolete equipment/technology and also to plough back max revenue into acquisition through disposal.
• Means. Adequate fiscal support (budget allocation), a streamlined acquisition process, unambiguous capability articulation, revamped R&D and indigenisation strategies, a strong local industrial base and focused leadership are the Means to ensure that the military’s modernisation efforts bear fruition. Last but not the least is the need for full government support and strategic direction. This can only come about through strategic communication, a skill that needs to be urgently refined by the military.
To be effective and timely, all modernisation endeavours need to be supported by efficient and responsive supportive measures, especially in the planning and acquisition of equipment. Considerable streamlining and fine tuning of the planning and acquisition process is required at every level.
Equipping the military with capable and modern equipment to win today’s wars while setting the conditions for continuing success in future full spectrum operations entails trade-offs and risks, involving multiple competing objectives that must be balanced against constrained resources and uncertainty.
Capabilities take several decades to create. Therefore their identification, prioritisation and developmental road map need careful caliberation so that it is available in the visualised operational time frame.
The strategic imperative to sustain, prepare and transform for the future are the strategic ways, ends and means to build a balanced military for the 21st Century – an affordable versatile mix of tailor-able and networked organisations operating for current commitments and to hedge against unexpected contingencies at a tempo that is predictable and sustainable.