Transforming by Rightsizing
As a corollary is there a case for reducing an Infantry Section strength by one/two soldiers each and that of a platoon strength by one/two soldiers in lieu or so instead? For instance, a reduction of four soldiers per platoon would mean a cumulative reduction of 48xsoldiers per battalion. The Army has 400 battalions i.e. strength of 19200/40,000x soldiers’ reduction could be offset by recycling saved budget for better weaponry or may be side step in raising new structures like the Mountain Strike Corps etc. It is reiterated again that in spite of this reduction, if the EBO of a Platoon is same, then the analogy is true that there is a case for reduction of manpower in the existing organizations and that the savings be re-cycled towards modernization followed by transformation progressively correspondingly. A similar look is required in other arms and services as well. Even the Assam Rifles need a relook for rightsizing and releasing troops due to better weaponry and surveillance equipment. This analogy may be applied selectively for units in operational roles/ troops deployed in counter-Insurgency and counter-terrorism role. For such areas, reduction can be caused by a different yardstick. This can be worked out. Broadly, 75000-90,000 of troops can be restructured to create better teeth (This is necessary against the PLA).This translates to creating additional three strike corps equivalent or so, which in turn can transit India’s dissuasive deterrence stance to an upgraded strategic deterrence military strategy.
Creating Strategic Deterrence Capability
This trained manpower can be reorganized also into a Special Force Strike Division for expeditionary tasks or as a counter-offensive Formation across the LAC/China. In addition about two similar strike Brigades are also recreated by recycling the above strength. This small little miniscule reorganization will have gigantic impact on India’s military strategy from existing ‘Passive Defense’ to an ‘Active Defense’ posturing. This also should be in consonance with the right sizing of the other two services.
The above-mentioned downsizing can therefore can be converted into more specialist offensive formations. These newly reorganized Formations can work in tandem with the already created Strike Mountain Corps (hopefully, it is completed immediately).
Remember, China can be only managed by creating more counter-offensive Formations rather than trying to hold in defensive role, not all across the LAC.Chinese are not ready to accept any penetration in their area, more as an ego rather than any military strategy. These additional offensive Formations as discussed can be nominated as Central Reserves of the Nation. These, not only have the capability of counter-penetration along the border but also can strike/interdict the Chinese-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and could even be structured as Airborne assault Formations. In addition, recent reports have indicated PLA build up in depth areas. This signifies Chinese intention of consolidating adjacent to the LAC before the winter’s sets in and shows Chinese aims of furthering operations in the next season beyond the Khunjerab pass astride the CPEC and attempt to expand towards Ladakh.
Budgeting and Phasing
Because the reality is that, no country can afford in today’s time the large conventional type standing armies (based on the number theory rather than being Effect Based) with shrinking budgets. Last year we just got about 1.7% of GDP and this year even lesser, whereas the requirement has always been 3% of GDP with existing strength and responsibilities. Can we therefore embrace new technologies and whilst doing that, cause appropriate reductions in a very measured way across the army? This fine balance is the need of the hour. Thus it needs to have a long term plan for the necessary transition.
The Long Term Integrated Perspective Plan (LTIPP) as practised entails five stages. The first stage comprises of articulation of a National Security Strategy. The CCS assisted by the National Security Adviser (NSA) would conceptualize this. The second stage would be formulation of Defence Planning Guidelines visualised by the MOD and these would state the contingencies the services would be expected to respond in the next 15 years, the third stage would be formulation of a Defence Capability Strategy. The ‘LTIPP’ would be the extension of the Defence Capability Plan and would contain the programmes and projects required to be undertaken to reach the targets of the Defence Capability Plan.
The BJP’s seventh regular budget on February 1, 2020, earmarked Rs. 4, 71,378 Crore (US$ 66.9 billion) for the Ministry of Defence (MoD). Of the MoD’s total allocations, Rs. 3,23,053 crore ($45.8 billion) has been provided under the Defence Services Estimates (DSE), an annual publication of the finance wing of the MoD that primarily deals with the expenses of the three armed forces and the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), and is popularly considered as India’s defence budget. The balance allocation is distributed between defence pensions (Rs. 1, 33,825 Crore or $19.0 billion) and MoD (Civil) (Rs. 14,500 crore or $2.1 billion). This pension bill is paid under the Defence budget. The reform, which is required, is to merge the Defence Pension Head with the Central Government Pension Head, thus delinking the defence budget from being underfunded due to rising pensions. This change of sub-head is permissible under Article 150 of the constitution as deemed necessary by appropriate authorities.
A portion of the budget should cater for ‘Research and Development’(R&D).The ‘LTIPP’Documents be promulgated in the form of Technology Perspective Capability Road Map (TPCRM) to enable the DRDO, Defence Public Sector Unit and the private industry to plan their research and development road map.
Army Transformation Campaign
Army transformation campaign-should aim to shape a future Force (Can be called as a ‘Lakshaya Force XXX’ and abbreviated as “LFXXX”) in 10-15 years from now. This force should be compact, responsive, deployable, agile, versatile, survivable, and sustainable. The ‘LFXXX’ should be able to leverage western-technological superiority and industrial might of allies by an extended Multi-National –Military Industrial Complex (MN-MIC).The goal should be to field the LFXXX in telescoped Phases: Phase1 By 2023; Phase 2 by 2027; Phase 3 by 2030 or so as to offset the new emerging threat levels in the neighborhood including the IOR.Time lines are corresponding to China’s latest declaration of having their Military comparable to the U.S. by 2027.This would necessitate separate budgeting for next 10 years in a telescoped time frame.(How this can be done is covered in a separate article as Version 2.0 for transformation).
The transformation campaign should plan for reaching the goal with a three-pronged approach:
(a) Build the Strategic Tools-NSS-NMS-Joint Legislation and Doctrines. (Like the US-Goldwater Act). The RM can initiate this landmark initiative during his stint.
(b) Plan the limited modernization and recapitalization of existing forces and weapons systems or the legacy force. This will retain current capabilities to conduct possible major theater war or selected small-scale contingencies to bridge the gap between the legacy and Lakshaya force.
(c) The third and critical path- use emerging science and technology to reshape units, doctrine, and infrastructure to ensure the Lakshaya force is a capability based i.e. full spectrum dominance over the enemy.
Avoid Tinkering with Existing Unit Traditions/facilities
Indian Army like all great armies stands on its history and ethos. Soldiers die for their units first and then nation. The root and bedrock of the Indian army has been the institution of the ‘Commanding Officer” (CO) of the unit. The buck stops at the ‘CO Sahib’ level, whom the infantry troops consider as God, even in the modern times of social media and Whatsapp.We have to strengthen the hands of the ‘CO’ for micromanagement of his unit. The unit CSD canteen for instance gives him just enough finances to give direct help on unit affairs. An outside Chartered Account audits the accounts. He therefore need not burden the government for such petty and urgent expenses. Similarly, the band is important for the morale of the units. Persons from a medical platoon of an infantry battalion operate the bands. Two persons who are Low medical Category (LMC) operate the CSD. There have also been unnecessary aspersions made on the traditional Buddy system, who is a companion in war to the officer. Such like unit traditions and micro management should not be interfered by any body, as the present system has created a very strong Indian army or in fact the best army in the world.
Finally, the ongoing effort to transform the current force structures in the army by formulating Brigade sized combat bricks is the right approach. In addition, many other transformational changes are being implemented organizationally, which is a positive sign. The creation of the Theatre Commands is a work at hand and may take a few years. In addition, the aspects as discussed above needs to be deliberated and implemented to make the Army leaner but with more agility. The creation of more counter-offensive Formations, which can be deployed at short notice, would become the key issue to raise India’s strategic deterrence against China and thus prevent a war.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.