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India's Defence Doctrine

  • 11th September, 2020

Syllabus : Prelims GS Paper I : Current Events of National and International Importance.

Mains GS Paper II : Role of External State and Non-state Actors in creating challenges to Internal Security; Security Challenges and their Management in Border Areas - Linkages of Organized Crime with Terrorism.


Facing two-front challenge on her western and on northern borders, India needs to rethink on military strategic doctrine.


China’s premeditated aggression and intrusions on the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Eastern Ladakh, is a manifestation of its geopolitical intent to constrain, intimidate and dominate India. China has employed force levels unmatched since 1962 against India, which it regards as a future strategic rival. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) transgressions in Ladakh have also brought about greater physical proximity between and increased prospects of strategic and operational collusion between the militaries of China and Pakistan.

Such developments should leave no doubt in the minds of Indian strategic planners and defence policymakers that India faces a two-front challenge. And it requires a major doctrinal and capability rethink for such future adventures.

India has pursued some economic retaliation, banning 59 Chinese apps on data-security grounds. It is likely soon to bar Chinese companies from other lucrative opportunities in its vast market.

In Detail

In the ongoing battle of supremacy amidst the corona crisis between USA and China, the latter let loose its wolf warriors signifying China’s new, more robust diplomatic riposte against those countries critical of China. China all of a sudden was faced with a hostile global narrative blaming it for the corona pandemic, demanding an international enquiry and some countries even seeking demurrage from China. China denied it vehemently but the global onslaught led by USA grew stronger by the day and Chinese media went to the extent of terming it malicious slander against its national honour.

Wolf-warrior diplomacy, named after two Chinese movies, describes offensives by Chinese diplomats to defend China’s national interests, often in confrontational ways. It is an example of soaring nationalism among the Chinese.“We will strongly hit back against malicious slanders and firmly defend national honour and dignity. We will lay out the truth to counter the gratuitous smears and to firmly uphold justice and conscience,” said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi while backing the wolf warriors.

Wolf-warrior diplomacy is evidenced not only in combative words but aggressive actions. China displayed its aggressiveness in South China Sea by sinking a Vietnamese fishing trawler near the Paracel Islands in early April. In mid-April, the Chinese Ministry of Natural Resources and Ministry of Civil Affairs jointly announced the naming of 80 islands, reefs, seamounts, shoals, and ridges in the South China Sea, triggering angry protests from other claimants.

The Chinese actions in South China Sea were checkmated by US intervention. India, however, continued to pursue its strategy of balance. But was the Chinese belligerence in South China Sea a warning to India which she failed to read.

India’s change in FDI rules to stem Chinese predatory trade practices didn’t go well with China. Neither was China happy with India joining the comity of nations backing a draft resolution at WHO nor was it happy with likely shift of global companies from China to India, a much talked about re-location from China. The international community has realised that it is difficult to combat the dragon individually but jointly the dragon can be tamed.

The final icing on the cake which China couldn’t digest was the Chairmanship of the Executive Board of World Health Assembly by way of which India could take to task both China and WHO. Domestic hardliners want India to support its ‘strategic allies’ on Taiwan and a global coronavirus review. China for once felt threatened by India though India has made it clear that she wants to avoid power politics.

It soon made India also the target of its “wolf warrior-diplomacy”, first in the usual way of press statements, harsh articles in its mouthpiece Global Times, and warning India of unfair trade practices. Then it decided to shift the scene to the disputed but almost settled Sino-Indian Border. Two of the three incursion points chosen had traditionally been undisputed in the past.

As part of its War Zone Campaign (WZC) doctrine, China has rapidly developed infrastructure right up to the forward posts to create military asymmetry to gain advantage over the adversary in a short or localised conflict. However, it objects strongly and reacts with force to India’s attempt to do the same on its side of the LAC. In the current scenario also the bone of contention is the newly constructed Leh-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) Highway which has not only removed the asymmetry but placed Indian troops in advantage position.

Essential Steps for Stringent Military Doctrine

India's current military posture, which despite technological changes remains manpower intensive and attrition oriented, merits an urgent review.

Both former Army officers have gone on to propose an optimal, India specific, blend of manpower-cum-high technology-centric restructuring of the Indian Army’s war fighting doctrine and capabilities.

In evolving a contemporary doctrine for India’s defence in the continental domain, it is recognize that the changed realities of preparedness for short and swift multiple domain operations. And talk about the need to blend kinetic and the non-kinetic battle, the redundancy of the concept of capturing territory in depth for subsequent negotiations and the necessity of optimizing manpower resources to the extent possible in an India-specific environment.

The importance of deploying suitably constituted Integrated Battle Groups and also exploiting the Army’s core competence in high-altitude combat, will empowers to change the game of rule.

India should adopt a strategy of Strong Positional Defence Augmented with Technology and Firepower along the Line of Control with Pakistan, simultaneously should follow the doctrine of Positional Defence by tailor-made Integrated Battle Groups which are supported by Specialized Mobile Reserves, for developing effective capability along the LAC with China.

The effective deterrence against Pakistan and China can only be achieved by integrating operations in conventional and strategic domains, an aspect that has not yet been explored, also India’s endeavours to achieve dissuasive deterrence in the short-to-medium term must include conventional capability enhancement, and also the development of full-spectrum deterrence. This may require a review of India’s nuclear posture.


China once again dared India but knew very well that it was not the same India of 1962. It was trying its usual technique of messaging and signaling to coerce India least realising that India had learnt its lessons well at Doklam. China’s recent provocations on the LAC have strategic messaging rather than tactical. These are not usual summer time intrusions. Point to note is that intrusions are almost simultaneous.

However, India needs to take some hard measures, such as greater investment in persistent wide-area surveillance to detect and track adversary moves, devolved command authority to respond to enemy aggression, and rehearsed procedures for an immediate local response without higher commanders’ approval. In peacetime, local commanders must have the authority and gumption to take anticipatory action and go on the offensive or fill forward defensive positions.

The late-August incident at Chushul demonstrates how this can and should work. Indian special forces troops took position on previously unoccupied heights south of Pangong Tso.

Connecting the Article

Question for Prelims

With reference to the World Health Organization, consider the following statements:

1. It is a specialized agency of the United Nations.
2. All members of the United Nations are its members.
Which of the statements given above is/ are correct ?

(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Question for Mains

The QUAD foundation has been laid for a more substantive strategic shift for India’s Military Doctrine in countering China. Discuss.

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