Indian Army Vision 2020

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Item Code: IHL366
Author: Gurmeet Kanwal
Publisher: Harper Collins Publishers
Edition: 2008
ISBN: 9788172237325
Pages: 361
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.8 inch X 5.9 inch
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Book Description
From the Jacket

Most armies tend to prepare for the last war. The battle-hardened Indian Army has also been traditionally conservative. From the Pakistani incursions into Kashmir in October 1947 to now, the nation's territorial integrity has often been threatened by inimical neighbours. Forever in battle, the Indian Army has fulfilled its role admirably, in a spirit of valour and sacrifice, fighting several wars as also helping stem insurgency within the country. However, the changing nature of warfare, the emerging geo-strategic environment, the existential threat from India's nuclear-armed military adversaries and the danger from terrorism, require a quantum jump in the army's operational capabilities.

In order to successfully face the new challenges, the army must modernize its weapons and equipment and upgrade its combat potential by an order of magnitude. Indian Army: Vision 2020 spells out precisely how that can be done—it examines the threats and their changing nature, identifies the key operational commitments, makes a comparative analysis of how other modern armies are coping and offers a considered guide map for a modern fighting force that is light, lethal and wired to meet the operational challenges of the 21st century.

This is a scholar-warrior's view of the nation's defence preparedness, especially that of the army, born of experience and a close study of the security environment and how it is changing; As a former soldier, Brig. Gurmeet Kanwal does not present his views clouded in diplomatic niceties. The threats are stated bluntly, as are the Responses that would be required. Most of all, this book gives a practical perspective on an issue of overriding importance that has been rarely addressed in such detail. In doing so it provides an invaluable guide on a subject that concerns us all, ordinary citizen and defence expert alike.

Commissioned into the Regiment of Artillery in 1972, Bring. Gurmeet Kanwal (Retd.) commanded an infantry brigade in the high-altitude Gurez Sector on the Line of Control with Pakistan (Operation Parakram, 2001-03) and an artillery regiment in counter-insurgency operations in Kashmir Valley (Operation Rakshak, 1993-94).

A former Director, Security Studies and Senior Fellow, Observer Research Foundation; Senior Fellow, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses; Senior Fellow, Centre for Air Power Studies (all based in New Delhi); and Visiting Research Scholar at the Cooperative Monitoring Centre, Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, USA, Brigadier Kanwal has authored several books. He has contributed extensively to military journals of repute as well as leading national newspapers. He wrote a regular column for the Statesman for two years. At present he is Director, Centre for Land Warfare Studies, New Delhi.



HarperCollins Publishers India a joint venture with


New Delhi

Dedicated to

The Indian Army jawan who gives so much, gets so little and, yet, serves with a smile.



Foreword by General V.P. Malik






Custodians of Peace



Threats, Challenges and Vulnerabilities



Battlefield Milieu, Roles and Tasks



Conventional Operations under

a Nuclear Overhang



Border Management and Internal Security




Light, Lethal and Wired: Emerging Trends in Land Forces



The People's Liberation Army: Preparing for a Hi-tech War



Race to the Swift: Lessons of Gulf War II


part III: recommendations and looking ahead


Modernization Plans: Choked by Resources Crunch



Generating Firepower Asymmetries



Airpower, Attack Helicopters and Army Aviation


12. Special Forces: Changing Role and Requirements



Command and Control and Intelligence



Restructuring to Meet Emerging Challenges




About the Author



Writing a vision document for the armed forces is a challenging task, particularly in India. There are several reasons for it.

First, the Indian Army, like most armies of the world, is highly traditional and therefore very conservative in its attitude and outlook. It does not visualize and accept changes easily. I have personal experience of that. The old adage that 'armies tend to fight the last war' is not without some level of truth. Captain Liddell Hart once said, 'The only thing harder than getting a new idea into the military mind is to get an old one out.'

Second, this task has become more difficult in the current geo-political and strategic environment. A distinctive feature of the post-cold war strategic and security-related environment has been the unprecedented and sheer dynamics of change in the concepts, paradigms and complexities of national, regional and global security. There are several reasons for these changes: (a) the rapid advances being made in science and technology, particularly in the field of information technology (b) globalization, multilateralism, and regionalism are replacing bilateral international relations and a straitjacketed concept of sovereignty, and (c) greater focus on peace, development and cooperative security; most people would like to see stability at the national, regional and global levels to continue. There is a new salience and awareness of the comprehensive nature of security. This includes in its ambit the traditional defence-related threats as well as challenges in the societal, political, economic, technological and environmental dimensions.

Third, we are currently in a unipolar world which is vigorously and continuously challenged by new emerging powers, including one that is our immediate neighbour. Many of us consider India too to be part of that list.

Fourth, new developments in weapons, equipment and other capabilities give rise to new tactics and strategies. Due to faster technological progress, military doctrinal revisions are now needed more frequently—every 5-7 years, instead of 25-30 years, as was the case earlier. There is much greater emphasis on the versatility of the combat forces. The military has to be more innovative, and receptive to new ideas and changes.

Yet another reason is that India suffers from a weak strategic culture. Historically, our vast diversity has made us culturally a strong soft power with a global philosophy of Vasudaiva Kutumbakam—the world is one large family. Most of our political leaders grew up conjuring the idea of a morally superior India; professing peace and harmony in a world where nations indulge in cut-throat competition. Value-based politics is morally superior. But as we all know, that does not reflect the international realism. The ability to generate hard power, and the will and the ability to make use of that, is not our strong point. We tend to remain internalized, fixing each other rather than fixing outsiders. There is too much of political infighting and too little consensus. The hullabaloo over the India-US civil nuclear deal is the most recent example. I am not counting several weak and short-sighted grand strategy decisions that were taken in the past even after we had won the wars thrust on us. The fact is that even after 60 years of independence, knowledge and experience of defence and military issues is lacking in most of our political leaders and civilian bureaucrats. The lack of white papers, vision documents, or periodic reviews on the subject of national security is an indication that they remain shy of committing themselves to the necessary political guidance. Perhaps, that is also the reason for the government's obsession with security and continuation with an antiquated Official Secrets Act which hinder public debate and discussions on important security-related issues.

An army vision requires analysing the probability and the nature of future threats and conflicts or wars, in a spectrum that is much wider today than ever before. For India, the spectrum stretches from terror threats, insurgencies, asymmetric war, and limited or intense large-scale conventional war under nuclear threshold to the remote but un-ignorable nuclear, chemical and biological war. It is patient consideration of past experience and probabilities. It involves some war-planning assumptions which may not be easily digestible to the inexperienced civil mind but are essential for such an exercise.

One such assumption, described by Admiral J.C. Wylie in his paper 'Military Strategy: A General Theory of Power', is 'Despite whatever effort there may be to prevent it, there may be a war.' This assumption is neither being provocative nor a justification for the existence of the armed forces in peace time. Military history tells us that nations who neglect this historical determinism make themselves vulnerable to military surprise, defeat, and ignominy. This assumption, therefore, is a reminder to the strategists to visualize security threats, the possibility and nature of conflict (or war, when political negotiations no longer serve the purpose) and to always remain prepared for such an eventuality. To those who may find this assumption irritating or doubtful, I would like to remind them of the Kargil war that broke out within two months of the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan signing the Lahore Declaration with much fanfare.

Another basic assumption for war planning is that we cannot predict with certainty the pattern of war for. which we prepare ourselves. It has seldom been possible to forecast the time, the place, the scope, the intensity, and the general tenor of a conflict. (India's conflicts with Pakistan and China, and military involvement in Sri Lanka's ethnic conflict in 1987, and the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are an example!) This, I believe, is particularly true in the current and future strategic scenario wherein the war potentials are more transparent and the intentions more inscrutable. This assumption implies that our security plans should cater for the complete spectrum of conflict, a spectrum that will embrace any conflict situation that may conceivably arise. Our military strategies and doctrines, therefore, must be flexible and non-committal, capable of application in any unforeseen circumstances. As military history very often tells us, planning for uncertainty is less dangerous than planning for certitude!

Most people in our country assume that the military aim of going to war is to defeat the enemy. In other words, a war can terminate only in a military victory or defeat. Such an assumption is a misinterpretation of Clausewitz's famous statement 'War is nothing but a continuation of political intercourse with an admixture of other means.' It also ignores the changes in the geo-political and strategic environment. Can we say that the US armed forces and their coalition partners achieved military victory in either the war against Iraq, or in Afghanistan? The aim of a war actually is some measure of control over the adversary whereby it agrees to work or functions in line with the desired postwar polity. In the changed geo-political environment, it would be unnecessary, perhaps undesirable, to stretch a military conflict beyond a point where the adversary is agreeable to working as per desired postwar polity. This in fact was the main reason why India agreed to terminate the Kargil war on 26 July 1999. By doing so, it earned international support and respect for being a mature and responsible democratic nation.

Let me now turn to the current security environment.

Trends and statistics of the last 50 years have shown that the armed conflicts around the world have been gradually moving down the paradigm scale of intensity as well as inclusivity. Potential nuclear war has given way to restrained nuclear deterrence. Total war, even a conventional war, has yielded to 'limited war', 'restricted war', and several types of 'low-intensity conflicts'. The empirical evidence points towards a significantly lowered probability of a regular high-intensity war leave alone a regional protracted war. There are several reasons for this trend:

• The attention of international relations and national attention has shifted markedly towards developmental economics, commerce and trade issues. Global and regional trade and economics of international finance have made more and more nations interdependent in a free market and export-oriented world. High-speed long-range communications have shrunk the world. Even the insular and inward-looking nations have no option but to join 'internationalization' and 'engagement', thus reducing the chances of open or intense conflicts. The trend is to focus on peace and development and most people would like to see this stability continue.

• The challenges of human development, including international efforts to enlarge peacekeeping and peace enforcement. It includes issues like human rights, international laws of war, protocols on nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and efforts to prevent collateral damage. There is close monitoring of conflicts and conflict situation by the media and it ensures greater public accountability of governments.

• High cost of maintaining standing armed forces and costly new weapon systems and equipment. There is likelihood of heavy civil and military casualties on account of greater lethality and reach of sophisticated conventional and non-conventional weapons.

• Destruction of enemy's military potential and occupation of large foreign territories: these are not easily attainable military objectives even when an armed conflict is between unequal enemies, as we have seen in Palestine and Iraq.

However, this does not mean that any nation is prepared to compromise on its security, or give up its endeavours to become powerful. With the paradigm shift in the nature of security (military and non-military), the military has a tougher job today to be prepared for this elongated spectrum of conflict ranging from Aid to Civil Authority, counter-terrorism, different levels of conventional war, to a war involving Weapons of Mass Destruction.

In the field of technology, which is changing faster than ever before, the industrial character of armed conflict capabilities is shifting to a new form, one based on knowledge and information. This revolution in military affairs (RMA) has three basic constituents:

• Integration of new technology into existing weapons systems and integrated C4ISR (command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance);

• Review of tactics and strategy which enables effective use of new weapons and equipment in the given terrain and operational circumstances.

• Institutional changes for better defence management and synergy.

It is the synergy among these three constituents that can bring about the RMA. It enables continuous surveillance and precise surgical strikes on command and control nodes, strategic facilities, combat reserves, and combat support facilities in depth. It also enables getting at the adversary's nerve centers; with precision attacks or through electronic warfare and cyber attacks, as happened in the Gulf War, Iraq War, and in Afghanistan. The net centric warfare (NCW) concepts rest on the premise that the power of force grows proportionate to the extent of networking among the weapons, sensors and the command and control elements. NCW not only enhances awareness, it reduces the time for decision-making at higher levels of command.

In the last few years, the desire among many serving and retired army officers for changes in doctrines and organization of the Indian Army due to the changed geo-political and strategic environment has been quite noticeable. Although some doctrines and organizations have been tinkered with, it has not been possible to make any radical changes primarily due to excessive importance given to the arms and services, vested interests, and equity disputes on their share of the overall strength and higher ranks. This is unfortunate. It has to be appreciated that the changes in the security environment, grand strategy and military strategy dictate doctrines, shape and size of organizations. The size and equity requirement of arms and services must not influence changes required in the arms and services organizations to meet new security challenges, strategies and operational planning.

I have watched Brig. Gurmeet Kanwal develop professionally ever since he was a Director in the Military Operations Directorate, Army Headquarters, New Delhi. If it was not for some minor medical reason, he would have continued with and gone up many places in the Army. A thorough professional, he has always been an active participant in the professional discussions for doctrinal reviews and modernization of the Army. His articulation, prolific writing, diligence and painstaking research are additional assets. At a time when the Indian Army is transiting from a traditional, less educated and low technology force to a cerebral, high technology 21st century force, his military experience and interactions with a large spectrum of strategic and professional academics has placed him at an advantageous position to write this book. In this book, he has first looked into and analysed wars and peacetime engagements of the Army and then done a perceptive review of the challenges, threats, battlefield milieu and likely future missions. In doing so, he has also pointed out some important transformations going on in other countries, particularly in China. His many perceptions and recommendations are not only thought provoking but eminently worthy of implementation or further discussion.

I take this opportunity to compliment Brigadier Kanwal for this book, which would definitely make a very useful contribution to our quest for better defence preparedness.

General V.P. Malik

(Former Chief of Army Staff) President, Institute of Security Studies, Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi


Vision: imaginative insight; statesmanlike foresight; sagacity in planning.

—The Concise Oxford Dictionary

When I decided to seek voluntary retirement from the Indian Army in July 2003 to devote myself to strategic analysis and national security issues, General V.P. Malik (former COAS), President, Institute of Security Studies, at the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), New Delhi, very kindly invited me to join ORF as a Senior Fellow and I joined on 1 January 2004. My research project at ORF was to review the Indian Army's current and future threats and operational challenges with a view to making suitable recommendations for a future-ready army. Indian Army: Vision 2020 is the end product of that project.

There is widespread agreement among the Indian Army's senior leadership, members of the strategic community, scholars and academics that the army needs to hasten the process of modernization so that it can catch up with the ongoing revolution in military affairs, if it is to prepare well for the threats and challenges that it will face in the 2015-20 time frame. However, qualitative upgradation involves large capital outlays and can be undertaken only if the defence budget can be increased substantially from the present 2.5 per cent of India's annual GDP to at least 3.00 per cent with a corresponding increase in the army's budget. However, this is unlikely to happen as the defence budget is already finding it increasingly difficult to sustain a force that is over a million strong. The only other method would be to effect quantitative reduction in force levels following qualitative upgradation of capabilities and utilize the saved funds for modernization. The real dilemma facing the Indian Army is that it is not only deployed along a long border with China and along the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan on a near-permanent basis but also engaged extensively in manpower-intensive internal security and counter-insurgency operations and, hence, finds it difficult to reduce its manpower. This book makes an attempt to figure a way out of this Catch-22 dilemma.

Unlike an academic in a university, who normally enjoys the luxury of taking his own time to work on a subject of his choice, a research analyst in a public policy think tank must work within the constraints imposed by tight deadlines so that policy-relevant research can be disseminated in a reasonable time frame. Hence, quite obviously, this book could not have gone into details of the origin, history, professional ethos, customs and traditions of the Indian Army. It has been written for an informed reader and it has been presumed that the reader is familiar with these background issues. It is also for this reason that no attempt has been made to distil India's Grand Strategy and National Security Strategy from the nuggets of information that the Government of India discloses from time to time in Parliament, by way of ministerial pronouncements and through the annual reports of the Ministries of Defence, Home and External Affairs. It would, of course, have helped the analysis considerably if policy documents or white papers on these issues were available in the public domain.

As the book focusses narrowly on operational challenges and looks for ways and means to resolve them, it does not address softer issues such as organizational reforms, personnel management, training for the future, logistics and the procurement of weapons, ammunition and equipment. While this book focusses primarily on the army, an underlying assumption that runs throughout is this: on the hi-tech battlefields and in the seamlessly integrated battle space of tomorrow, the army can fulfil its mission only in a synergistic partnership with the navy and the air force. Only tri-Service 'joint' operations—jointly conceived, jointly planned and jointly executed—will succeed in achieving mission objectives in conventional as well as sub-conventional conflict during war and peace. The army will also need to operate in complete harmony with the police and paramilitary forces of the central and state governments while providing support to the civil administration for maintaining internal security. Joint doctrine and joint operations are vast subjects that require independent study and are not dealt with in this book except in passing.

General J.J. Singh, the former COAS, and Lt. Gen. S. Pattabhiraman, the former VCOAS, gave me personal interviews despite their busy schedules. I owe a debt of gratitude to a large number of senior army officers, serving and retired, colleagues and those that I served under as well as younger officers whom I sounded out on my visits to various army stations for lectures and seminars, for giving me freely of their time. The long discussions that we had, often heated but always illuminating, helped me to crystallize my thoughts and smoothen many rough edges. The librarians at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) and the United Service Institute (USI) who suffered many anxious queries from me and who often let me stay even as the lights were being put off one by one at closing down time, too deserve my gratitude. My initial findings and tentative recommendations were discussed at a conference organized at the Observer Research Foundation and I received frank views and suggestions. I sent out a long research questionnaire to members of the strategic community to gauge the views of experienced analysts. My sincere thanks are due to all the respondents to my questionnaire, for their time and for taking my badgering sportingly till they coughed up their considered views. Lt. Gen. V.K. Kapoor (Retd.) and Maj. Gen. Ashok Mehta (Retd.) reviewed the first draft of the book. They both made very valuable suggestions and the book has definitely been enriched by their contribution. Individual chapters were reviewed by serving friends and former army colleagues who must remain anonymous.

I am grateful to Mr R.K. Mishra, Chairman, ORF, for accepting this project and reposing faith in me to bring it to successful conclusion and to General V.P. Malik for guiding the project through two long and eventful years and for giving me the opportunity to sound out members of the strategic community at ORF round-tables and seminars. My colleagues at the ORF Institute of Security Studies helped immensely with research and by taking care of many little things that tend to bog one down in intractable routine and my grateful thanks to them. Special thanks also go to HarperCollins, the publishers and Mr Krishan Chopra, who edited this book so diligently.

Books like this one are seldom completed during office hours; the real writing gets done mostly at night and over weekends. Without the patience and understanding shown by my wife, Neelu, and our sons, Rahul and Manav, and their love and support, this book may have floundered between a short and a long monograph!

Finally, despite all the help that I received, this book undoubtedly has numerous shortcomings and failings. I accept full responsibility for all of them.

' . . . India suffers from a weak strategic culture . . . Most of our political leaders grew tip conjuring the idea of a morally superior India, professing peace and harmony in a world where nations indulge in cut-throat competition. Value-based politics is morally superior. Hut as we all know, that does not reflect the international realism;

From the Foreword by Gen. V. P. Malik (Retd.)

responses that would be required. Most of all, this book gives a practical perspective on an issue of overriding importance that has been rarely addressed in such detail. In doing so it provides an invaluable guide on a subject that concerns us all, ordinary citizen and defence expert alike.


Commissioned into the Regiment of Artillery in 1972, Brig. Gurmeet Kanwal (Retd.) commanded an infantry brigade in the high-altitude Gurez Sector on the Line of Control with Pakistan (Operation Parakram, 2001-03) and an artillery regiment in counter-insurgency operations in Kashmir Valley (Operation Rakshak, 1993-94).

A former Director, Security Studies and Senior Fellow, Observer Research Foundation; Senior Fellow, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses; Senior Fellow, Centre for Air Power Studies (all based in New Delhi); and Visiting Research Scholar at the Cooperative Monitoring Centre, Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, USA, Brigadier Kanwal has authored several books. He has contributed extensively to military journals of repute as well as leading national newspapers. He wrote a regular column for the Statesman for two years. At present he is Director, Centre for Land Warfare Studies, New Delhi.

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