Rethinking the defence doctrine

  • IASbaba
  • September 10, 2020
  • 0
UPSC Articles
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Topic: General Studies 2,3:

  • India and its neighborhood- relations 
  • Security challenges and their management in border areas 

Rethinking the defence doctrine

Context: Over four months ago, the Chinese army entered territory that India has long considered its own, and never left.

Consequences of Chinese adventurism along India’s border

  • Short Term Loss: In effect, the multiple incursions have changed the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and India has lost territory, at least for the time being
  • Reflects India’s failure of the warning-intelligence system: Either Indian intelligence services did not collect sufficient data of Chinese intentions and early moves, or they did not interpret it correctly. Wherever the fault lay, the system apparently failed.

In the light of China’s incursion, what is the criticism of Army’s prevailing doctrine?

  • Conventional Mindset: The Army’s prevailing doctrine is designed to deter and defend against major conventional invasions. This determines how the Army is organised, what equipment it operates, and where it is deployed. 
  • Past References: In this mindset, the Army expected that any Chinese bid to capture Indian territory would come as a major conventional invasion, as it did in 1962. The Indian response would accordingly involve large formations, with planning and command decisions made at the Corps headquarters or higher.
  • Miscalculation by Security Leadership: China has no interest in launching a major conventional invasion, but this is not just a typical probe either – which Security leadership could not understand at initial stages. 
  • Changed Chinese Tactics: But the Chinese army’s initial forays in April and May 2020 did not look like a guns-blazing invasion. It crossed the LAC in several places nearly simultaneously, and in larger numbers than usual. 
  • India faced with tough choices: China’s quick land grab looks increasingly permanent, like an attempt to change the status-quo at the border without triggering war. This fait accompli leaves India with two awful choices: either start a war by launching its own reprisal attack, or do nothing and accept a new situation.

What should be the way forward w.r.t Army’s Doctrinal thinking?

  • Fundamental Shift: Addressing this type of security threat requires a fundamental shift in the Army’s doctrinal thinking, from strategies revolving around punishing the adversary, to strategies that prevent its adventurism in the first place
  • A new doctrinal thinking should involve
    • Greater investment in persistent wide-area surveillance to detect and track adversary moves, 
    • Devolved command authority to respond to enemy aggression, 
    • Rehearsed procedures for an immediate local response without higher commanders’ approval.
  • Speed is of essence: In countering China’s ‘grey zone’ tactics of quick land grabs, speed is of the essence. The military must be able to detect adversary action and react quickly, even pre-emptively, to stop attempted aggression from becoming a fait accompli.
  • Recent Success: The late-August incident at Chushul demonstrates how this new strategy can and should work. Indian special forces troops took position on previously unoccupied heights south of Pangong Tso. In so doing they have complicated future Chinese moves to consolidate their position, and Chinese attempts to seize more ground have been foiled.


  • The challenge for India is to learn the right lessons and be alert to similar tactics in other regions, like the Indian Ocean. It must not rely on doctrines forged in wars half a century ago.

Connecting the dots:

  • India’s Nuclear Doctrine and No First Use Policy

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