Strategic Analysis

Strategic Analysis:
A Monthly Journal of the IDSA

July 2000 (Vol. XXIV No. 4)


Evolution of a Joint Doctrine for Indian Armed Forces
By Vinod Anand *


“The Armed Forces must be fully joint: doctrinally, institutionally organisationally, intellectually and technically because cyber war will be to the 21st century what the blitzkrieg was to the 20th century”.

– General V.P. Malik, Chief of Army Staff. 1

Modern day wars are increasingly being affected by the fundamental changes taking place not only in the areas of technology, but also, in the geo-political environment. Political, social, economic and cultural factors are exerting an inordinate influence on the conduct of warfare. Nation states which are weak politically, economically and militarily are searching for asymmetric ways of contending with their powerful adversaries. The future structures of the world and the conflicts arising therefrom are going to be a complex phenomenon. The nation states, especially India, are facing threats to their security from both within and without. The threats being faced by our nation are very diverse. These vary from ideological threats to lack of governance, to economic and military threats. In this uncertain and dynamic world, India’s ability to protect its core values would arise from its competence to defend its integrity and interests against likely present and future threats. There is a general consensus among all the nations in the world that it is economic development, which should receive priority rather than military modernisation. Yet a nation requires war prevention capabilities and it is imperative that maximum value is obtained from the defence Rupee spent which goes into developing our war prevention capabilities.

When threatened, it is not only the Armed Forces which have to respond in a unified manner but it is the entire nation, the government and all its organs, the media and the people which have to respond in an integrated fashion. The Kargil War was one such event that unified the nation. The political and military insights gained during the prosecution of the Kargil War have a tremendous value for formulation of a National Security Doctrine. India, as an independent nation has functioned now for over fifty-two years. It has seen four wars with Pakistan and one with China. It has seen five decades of insurgency in the Northeast and is still battling with an insurgency in the Kashmir Valley that is over a decade old. It has successfully dealt with insurgency in Punjab. Yet, we have not been able to evolve a security doctrine. The production of a draft nuclear doctrine by the National Security Council (formed in November 1998) does indicate that a ‘National Security Doctrine’ and a strategic defence review may be in the pipeline.


Types of Doctrines

Two of the main buzzwords in the Indian political and military literature have been integration and jointness. The integration of three Services Headquarters was last heard of in January/February, 1999 and thereafter the discussion on this aspect for implementation of recommendations by a select group from DGDPS (Director General of Defence Planning Staff) went into limbo. It has again been resurrected by the Kargil Review Committee Report. However, this paper deals mainly with the formulation of a joint doctrine for the armed forces. The Kargil conflict revealed that jointness among the three services is a must for success in war. If we recognise the need for a joint effort in war, it naturally follows that we must also have a joint doctrine for conduct of joint operations. We need a common perspective by the armed forces that would guide their prosecution of war across the full range of military activity. The advances taking place in surveillance, intelligence and reconnaissance capabilities enjoin all the three services, Army, Navy and Air Force to prosecute a modern war jointly. A common military doctrine would in essence, have a relationship with the national security doctrine. National security doctrine in turn would have many other subsets like political or diplomatic doctrine, economic doctrine, intelligence or information warfare doctrine, nuclear doctrine, space doctrine and so on.

The political doctrine aims to secure national interests through diplomacy, foreign policy and attempts to avoid war; however if imposed it attempts to achieve the objectives through supporting the war effort. Economic doctrine includes not only long-term socio-economic development, but it also caters for long-term development and sustainment of defence forces commensurate with national security concerns. As already seen India’s draft nuclear doctrine explains how to deal with likely nuclear threats. Similarly, a military doctrine is concerned with ways of execution of war effort. It is axiomatic that our three single services, which would be involved in bi-service or tri-service operations, have to prosecute joint operations with a common reference to a joint military doctrine.

In international affairs, no one is opposed to cooperation and peace. Even wars are fought or threats of use of force are given to achieve peace. Similarly, in military affairs, whether of other nations or in the country no one is opposed to the buzzword of cooperation, jointness, joint doctrine and unity of effort. But when it comes to hammering in the details or evolving authoritative guidelines for prosecuting joint warfare the divergent single service perspectives start becoming predominant. What then is a doctrine or for that matter, a military doctrine? A doctrine in its dictionary meaning conveys to us a belief, a principle or a set of beliefs or principles. A military doctrine would be a set of fundamental principles by which military forces or elements guide their actions in support of national objectives. It is authoritative but requires judgement in application. 2 A doctrine might give the answer to the following questions:

Military doctrine arises from the experiences gained during war. Battlefields are both the testing grounds for a doctrine as also being the fountainhead of doctrine. A comprehension of the entire process of prosecution of war allows for the understanding of doctrine. A doctrine reflects the will and philosophy of an organisation and specifies premises and convictions to sustain its endeavours. 4 It is therefore natural that a doctrine whether military or otherwise takes into account past experiences. In military terms if sufficient attention is not paid to formulation of a doctrine then a flawed doctrine may contribute to loss of human lives, and at times to even a national disaster since it might be devoid of a complete comprehension of the changing nature of warfare and likely dynamic battlefield milieu of the future. The failure and consequent withdrawal of American forces in Somalia operations was due to their complete lack of understanding of how to carry out low intensity conflict and counter-insurgency operations. They had not incorporated into their rules of engagement the doctrinal precept of ‘use of minimum force’ in such situations, even though they have coined a very catchy acronym MOOTW (military operations other than war) to describe such type of military situations. Added to this was their sensitivity to loss of 30 American soldiers whereas Somalian casualties were many times more. It was a unique situation for the American forces for which possibly they had little past experience. In contrast, Indian forces, having faced such situations since the last five decades were doctrinally more prepared and therefore comparatively more successful in Somalia.


Joint Military Doctrine: Definition and Purpose

Though the term ‘militarily doctrine’ in itself should convey a common doctrine of all the three services of Army, Air Force and Navy together yet the word ‘joint’ has been added to emphasise the importance of attaining the aim of a common military perspective to achieve national and military objectives. Americans, who have achieved a very high level of jointness, though not without hiccups, describe the purpose of joint doctrine as:

The definition of joint doctrine as given out by DOD (Department of

Defence) Dictionary for Military and Associated Terms is “fundamental principles that guide the employment of forces of two or more services in coordinated action towards a common objective. It will be promulgated by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in coordination with the Combatant Commands, Services, and Joint Staff.” In a larger sense, it is a reservoir or a pool of distilled wisdom gained from history of warfighting, lessons learnt and the factors considered which went into losing or winning of a war. It assists the military commanders in ‘how best to employ the national power.’

The ‘Doctrine and concepts of Indian Army’ published in August 1998, devotes eleven pages to the theme of jointness but disposes of joint doctrine in three lines only. It states “From military strategy and objectives must flow a joint doctrine. This helps in providing unity of effort, and enhances coordination for joint planning, cooperation and mutual trust.” 6 The ‘Doctrine of Indian Air Force’ published in October 1995, is more apprehensive about the methodology that may be adopted for development of a joint doctrine rather than the philosophy behind evolving a joint doctrine. The single Service doctrines reflect the unique capabilities of the respective Service and give primacy to their own medium for conduct of warfare. Joint doctrine envisages an amalgamation of three media of battlespace, that is, land, air and sea and stresses on how best to integrate the three distinct forms of combat force into an effective force. According to the Air Force doctrine the ‘joint doctrine can be developed as a consequence of first having enunciated single service doctrine as a basis. Joint doctrine, therefore should not place limitations or conditions on the interpretation and application of single service doctrine.” 8 However, both the doctrines do recognise the inevitability of evolving a joint doctrine.


Principles of War and Joint Doctrine

The principles of war being followed by the Indian Armed Forces are the one’s which were evolved by the British based on their experience. Major Gen. JFC Fuller had cited seven principles of war during World War I for the training of British Armed Forces. In the light of experience gained during World War II, an additional three principles of war were added. Americans also largely follow the same principles of war, except that cooperation as principle of war has been substituted by ‘Command Unity’ and simplicity. 9 These principles of war, namely, selection and maintenance of aim, concentration of force, economy of effort, offensive action, security, surprise and deception, maintenance of morale, flexibility, cooperation and administration are universal principles common to all the three fighting services for conduct of warfare. These principles naturally would form the basis for development of a joint doctrine for our armed forces. The development of new technologies may affect the application of these principles of war, yet these principles continue to be truisms. For instance the development of new weapon systems and the era of nuclear weapons has given rise to dispersion in the battlefield yet, when an offensive action has to be carried out the forces have to concentrate to overwhelm the adversary. The precision guided munitions fired from diverse platforms substitute mass for effects, thus continuing to validate the principle of concentration of force.

The common politico-diplomatic and military aim is to deter war. But should the deterrence fail, the armed forces have to prosecute war with a common aim and perspective. Almost all principles of war outlined above would be required to be applied jointly. The principle of economy of effort is not only closely inter-related with the unity of effort, but is also associated with concentrated application of force. This, logically, brings in inter-service cooperation, another principle of war, since diverse media and weapon systems would be used for achieving massed effects at the target end. Inter-service cooperation would encompass coordination of all military activities to achieve maximum synergetic effects against the adversary. Inter-Service cooperation is absolutely essential both during the planning and training process in peacetime and it is absolutely inescapable during a conflict. All these principles of war can be inter-woven and enmeshed together into a broad fabric of joint military doctrine that would provide a common direction and guidance to Indian armed forces.


Levels of Joint Doctrine

The levels of a military doctrine are related to the levels of warfare that is strategic, operational and tactical levels of war. There is still a higher level of doctrine that is referred to as fundamental doctrine. This level of doctrine defines the nature of war, the purpose of military forces, the relationship of military force to other instruments of power. 10 The Clausewitzian dictums that ‘War is continuation of policy by other means and war is an instrument of policy’, would fall into tenets, beliefs and principles of fundamental doctrine. Largely, such tenets may be insensitive to political ideologies or technological changes.

The three levels of war are doctrinal perspectives that clarify the links between strategic objectives and tactical action. There may not be distinct boundaries or rigid classifications between the three levels. The levels would usually be defined based on their effect or contribution to achieving strategic, operational or tactical objectives.

At the national level, endeavours to promote peace and deter aggression would be the hallmarks of the doctrine and in the event of failure of such attempts the military forces would fight and win. At the national level conflict termination has to be properly conceptualised so that the military victories achieved do endure and appropriate political benefits are derived from it.

The strategic level of joint military doctrine would be principally concerned with common and joint planning processes, a joint vision, joint organisations for coordination and control, joint training, education and publications besides development of joint force structures and logistics to support them.

At the operational level joint military doctrine would deal with harmonising the capabilities of all the components of a joint force to exploit optimally the unique strength, role and mission of the single service components. It would include all doctrinal precepts to synchronise the action of land, air, maritime and Special Forces to achieve desired objectives. The goal of the doctrine would be to increase the total effectiveness of the joint force.

At tactical level, the doctrine would boil down to evolving joint techniques, joint standard operating procedures for guiding the military operations at the tactical level. An example of this could be the procedure of calling for air support to ground operations or calling for naval gunfire support to sustain an amphibious task force.

In the absence of a joint military doctrine, as the Kargil aggression revealed, the deployed forces would always find ways and means to overcome immediate obstacles to make things work. But this does not mean that parochial interests in the system have not been at work to preclude the development of a joint doctrinal guidance. In fact the recent Kargil experience reinforces the need for development of joint doctrine.


Joint Doctrinal Interfaces

The single service doctrines of Army and Air Force would require to be interfaced to remove any dissonance and divergence on prosecution of war at various levels. Similarly, the maritime doctrine, which is also in an advanced stage of development, though not written down as a publication would also require to be interfaced and dovetailed with Army and Air Force doctrines for evolution of a joint services doctrine for the Indian Armed forces. However, due to different perspectives and differing service legacies, the single service doctrines reflect the respective service prejudices on strategy, operations and tactics. These at times, hinder the application of total force in a synergised manner. The absence of a well-articulated national security strategy and objectives further compound the problem.

Land force’s view is generally constrained by what is happening in their immediate vicinity and is guided by the restricted reach of their surveillance and weapon systems. Although modern battlefield has extended depth to cover deep and rear battles yet it is constrained by terrain, natural and man-made obstacles and the type of mobility possessed by ground forces. The army men, therefore, become more concerned with all the military activities that have immediate impact on ground operations. This, perhaps is one of the major reasons for an unending debate on the merits of close air support and counter air operations.

The naval forces are not, generally, constrained by terrain factors though hydrography does have an impact on their mobility. The forces have to seek out and find the enemy fleet and engage it. Their problems may not be as immediate as that of land forces. The naval forces dominance of important choke points and control of sea lines of communications has its importance in relationship with geo-economics. The Kargil War showed that employment of naval forces does have an indirect impact on ongoing operations even if they are not involved directly in combat operations.

The air forces do not have inhibitions and limitations characteristic of the surface forces. The range, reach and capabilities of the air force are limited only by its equipment, its weapon systems and the level of technology. A modern air force equipped with long range aircraft and precision guided munitions possesses a wide-ranging inherent flexibility. By virtue of this characteristic it can carry out strategic, operational and tactical tasks, almost simultaneously and apply massed effects at short notice with decisive blows to the adversary’s centres of gravity.

However, even in a joint service environment (more so in single-service environment) an air force’s principal objective is to fight the opponent’s air force; similarly, naval force would also like to seek out and destroy the opponent’s naval forces. The land forces in any case have to get on with the task of capturing and defending territory, requiring contribution from, at times, all the Services. It is widely accepted amongst our military planners and strategists that unless at the apex level there is a joint and integrated approach, the desired joint doctrine and synergy in planning and execution would not come about.

Joint Army-Air Force Doctrine Interface

“If we lose the war in the air we lose the war and we lose it quickly”

– Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery

It was in July 1943 at the beginning of the North African campaign that the British and Americans re-examined their air-land warfare doctrine. Field Marshall Bernard L. Montgomery’s ‘Notes on High command’ inspired the Americans to publish FM-100-20, which established an air-land warfare doctrine. The underlying principle of the doctrine was that the air forces and ground forces are two interdependent and coequal systems. 11 (And this was at a time when the US Air Force was still part of the US Army. The separation of two services occurred only in 1947.) Montgomery had moved towards solving the air/ground coordination and cooperation problems by emphasising that all that is required is that two staffs should work together at the same Headquarters in complete harmony, and with complete mutual understanding and confidence. The FM-100-20 had institutionalised the use of air power and its principles and beliefs largely hold true in the present context also. The priorities for use of air power were:

In the Indian subcontinent, the British had assigned only restricted and tactical supporting roles for the Army to the squadrons of IAF whereas strategic roles and missions were assigned for RAF squadrons in India. Jaswant Singh in his book Defending India outlines the following differing perceptions of the Army and Air Force.

"The Army has not fully grasped the value and appropriate employment of air power primarily because the Air Force itself has been ambivalent in its doctrines. The Air Force, internally not clear about its own role and priorities, tends to accommodate the Army’s perception’s which in turn, treat combat air power as aerial artillery rather than as component of that military triad of land, air, sea power.” 13

(And this view has been articulated well after publishing of the Doctrine of the Indian Air Force in October, 1995.)

Both the Air Force and Army doctrines recognise the synergies to be gained by joint application of air and land power. However, generally, it is perceived that the Air doctrine tends to emphasise on the strategic role of the Air Force: importance of counter air operations (CAO) over offensive air support (OAS) and greater desirability of battlefield air-interdiction (BAI) as compared to close air support (CAS). Even in the US armed forces, their air doctrine tends to emphasise the wide-ranging flexibility of power deliverable from air-based platforms as the key ingredient for successful prosecution of war. Land warfare doctrine, on the other hand, usually assumes the ultimate need to exert some degree of control over the ground and tends to see air power as an useful, and at times even necessary supporting force in the performance of this ultimate mission. In the Gulf War of 1991, Col. John Warden III of the US Air Force, who is considered to be the architect of air plan (code named ‘Instant Thunder'–reminiscent of and conceptually distinct from air operation ‘Rolling’ Thunder of Vietnam days), had designed the air war in classic sense that is, going after the enemy’s centres of gravity from the Air Force’s point of view. The initial plan did not include the engagement of enemy’s fielded forces like destruction of Iraq’s elite force, Republican Guards. Little attention was paid to operations after the first seventy-two hours of the combat, and none to the support of eventual ground operations. Ground forces target other than those associated with command and control were not addressed. 14 The enemy’s fielded forces were added for targeting in the air plan only after review and intervention by the joint staff and C-in-C, Gen. Schwarzkopf.

In subcontinental battlefield scenario of the present and future the army doctrine does stress on CAO by stating that “Air power is very potent but scarce resource, which needs to be utilised judiciously. Counter air operations for gaining favourable air situation over the battle area are to be considered as part of the air land battle and need to be closely dovetailed with it.”1 15 CAO contribute greatly to the control of air and they have to be undertaken in a selective and coordinated manner with overall strategic objectives in mind. CAO and major offensive operations on land must be coordinated both at the Service Headquarters levels and at the levels of Command Headquarters. Offensive air support operations are an important ingredient of air-land battle. The apportionment of air effort between CAO and OAS would need to be jointly planned based on visualised operational scenarios and situations. Battlefield air interdiction and surface operations have to be planned in a manner that they complement and reinforce each other. Interdiction is an effective means of immobilising and causing attrition to the enemy’s forces and greatly contributes to furtherance of operations of the surface forces.

Close air support is generally considered the least efficient application of air power; however, at times it is most crucial in ensuring success and survival of the surface forces. Indian Air Force support for Battle of Longewalla in 1971, was one such example. The extensive air support given during Kargil operations contributed greatly in ensuring success of the land forces. The IAF is rightly, apprehensive of exposing costly multi-role aircrafts to the cheap hand held surface to air missiles, dense hostile air defence environment, and problems of acquisition and identification of targets by very fast moving aircrafts.

However, acquisition of precision guided munitions, laser guided designators, weapon systems with stand-off capabilities and better command, control and communication systems with in-built interoperability would, largely be able to overcome some of these problems. Perhaps, a suitable and cheaper aircraft for ground attack instead of a multi-role aircraft would give a better combat effectiveness value in the likely battlefield of future in the subcontinent. Close air support should be positively used to create and exploit opportunities in the battlefield since it can be most effective at the decisive points of the battlefield.

The IAF doctrine does accommodate to a large extent, the army’s viewpoint. The differing precepts are more in form rather than in substance. The air doctrine concludes that “In the doctrine of IAF the fight for control of the air or Air superiority gets first priority in every case without implying that it is for its own sake or that it alone would defeat the enemy. The air superiority battle is not done at the expense of support to surface forces since it is the achievement of requisite degree of control of air that makes roles like interdiction, Battlefield Air Interdiction and Close Air Support even more effective. It is, in fact not the attempt to achieve air superiority that causes dispersion of effort away from surface support, but the failure to do so.” 16

A joint doctrine will coalesce, synthesise and harmonise the tenets, beliefs and principles of the different services into one common, officially enunciated and accepted guideline for carrying out joint operations.

Air Force-Naval Doctrinal Interface

The naval doctrine though not enunciated in a separate publication as such does exist in some form or the other. Even the United States Navy does not have a separate doctrinal publication but its naval doctrine and precepts are reflected in a number of other naval publications.

Till the late sixties the development of the Indian Navy was influenced by the British. Lack of the political leadership’s assertiveness and difficulties in acquisition of naval systems also contributed to complexities in evolving a coherent Indian naval doctrine. There has been a continuous debate on what kind of maritime role would be desirable for the naval forces. This is indeed intimately connected with the national security doctrine and objectives. In the absence of a clear articulation of the overall doctrine the issues regarding the utility and non-utility of aircraft carriers for the Indian navy comes up. What kind of power projection capability is required commensurate with resources available or likely to be made available, has to be jointly planned and decided. In the absence of adequate resources, the priorities would have to be allotted for acquisition of joint warfare capabilities based on a common vision of the future nature of warfare and common perspective to achieve the war fighting objectives.

It is quite evident that IAF would be employed in close cooperation with Indian Naval forces to achieve optimum combat utility. Joint maritime air operations would exploit the natural synergies between air and naval forces. Though, the reach of shore-based air power would be restricted by its radii of operations yet this limitation can be overcome by aerial refueling capabilities. The tenets of gaining air superiority and carrying out counter air strikes are equally applicable while supporting naval forces. The IAF roles of anti-shipping strikes and maritime strikes are overlapping roles between the Navy and IAF. Even though, in the Indian context, detection and identification of maritime targets are the responsibility of the Navy, in a joint environment the IAF could supplement this effort. The application of air power for maritime strikes, that is against enemy naval forces which are not in contact and enemy naval facilities on shore including naval platforms in harbour, would have to be jointly planned and coordinated. These maritime strikes would have to be planned with a view to not only further the naval operations but also for the furtherence of the overall objectives of a joint campaign.

Long-range maritime reconnaissance is the exclusive preserve of the Indian Navy but in certain contingencies it would be possible to employ resources available with the IAF for similar tasks. But this would require prior thought, that is, unified thinking, planning and coordination and this would go a long way in reinforcing and complementing joint efforts to attain military objectives. Further, if AWACS/AEW aircrafts become available the effectiveness and complementarity of joint maritime air operations would be greatly enhanced.

Tri-Service Doctrinal Interface

Amphibious operations are the acid test of jointness. It is the most complex operation of war requiring close cooperation and coordination among the participating forces of all the three services. The precepts of flexibility, mobility, and concentration of forces at the most advantageous point and at the most opportune moment become the essential considerations for successful conclusion of amphibious operations.

The capability and intent to use an amphibian force also serves as a threat in being in the overall context of theatre level joint operations. What should be our capability, is inexorably linked with our national security doctrine and objectives. Besides the defence of our own island territories the question is what kind of out of area or power projection capabilities do we need to have to protect our national interests?

The Gulf War of 1991 is often cited as an example of application of joint doctrine developed by the US Armed Forces consequent to coming into force of Goldwater Nichols Act of 1986; a legislative mandate imposed upon the different Services to enforce jointness. However, there were different interpretations of the Gulf War by different Services and there were doctrinal differentials and disparities. Cooperation does not imply that all Services would have identical views on every issue, nor that they should be combined. Each service optimises its unique strengths. National security depends upon distinct war-fighting capabilities on land, at sea and in the air. “Learning to fight jointly is a tough business”, 17 say the Chiefs of Staff of US Army and US Air Force in an article written jointly by them (a rare occurrence in military circles). They contend that the relations between the Army and Airforce became strained as each tried to incorporate lessons learnt during the Gulf War from their own perspectives.

The increasingly complex nature of warfare and induction of new technologies compels the Indian armed forces to fine-tune their doctrinal precepts in management of weapon systems and role that may be common to all or the two services. The air defence weapon systems and air space management would require a detailed coordination and common perspective. The single service proclivities start making an appearance when overlapping areas of responsibility or similar weapon platforms are possessed by or bid for by two or more services. For instance, induction of Prithvi missiles into the Army and Air Force is viewed differently by each Service. With the likelihood of induction of long range rocket systems like SMERCH into the Army and combined with the existing Prithvi missiles, there would be overlapping in interdiction roles. Needless to say that the emphasis has to be on joint planning, joint targeting and developing of common doctrine for shaping the battlefield. The air space over a modern battlefield with fast tempo and simultaneity would be very dense with flying objects like artillery fire, anti-aircraft fire, movement of own and enemy’s air and weapon platforms, various types of missiles and munitions. Thus management of air space would be an inter-services coordinated effort for smooth prosecution of war and for avoidance of fratricide.

The intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) combined with command, control, communications, computers and interoperability (C4I) have become the key ingredients for ushering in a revolution in military affairs (RMA). RMA would depend not only on the new information and precision technologies but would also be dependent upon doctrinal innovation. A Second World War example of doctrinal innovation was the method of combining tanks, motorised infantry, radio communication and aircrafts, called Blitzkrieg which gained many victories for the Germans. Germany during World War II presented the best example of integration between the services. The German Army and Air Force had developed in relative harmony with each other, and cooperated well on the battlefield. However, the same could not be said of cooperation between the Luftwaffe and the Navy. 18 Even modern Israel, to a great extent, adopted the elements of this doctrine with considerable success in 1956 and 1967 and with more limited success in 1973.

In a post-industrial battlefield, it would be an astute combination of the ISR assets of all the three services which would provide a transparent, real time and a shared picture of the battlefield. In fact each single aspect, that is, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance lends itself for best exploitation jointly with common doctrinal guidance.

What would be the fundamental objectives of the C4I and ISR systems? What should be guidelines for such systems? The deficiencies in lack of inter-operability between IAF and Army communications were visible during the Kargil War. The following considerations for exmployment of such systems would compel the evolution of joint doctrinal precepts:

In the era of knowledge-age, information-based warfare, the single service doctrines are more likely to compound the ever-present Clausewitzian elements of battlefield ‘friction, fog and uncertainity’. The development of joint doctrine for the armed forces would be an attempt to attenuate the impact of these elements both during peace and war.

The use of scarce space based assets is another area which needs to be exploited jointly not only by the three services but also by civil agencies. Some planning and coordination appears to have been already done by nominating Army as the nodal agency for development of communications, Navy for space-based navigation and Air Force for carrying out surveillance with space-based assets. However, the optimal utilisation of space-based assets would be best executed by evolving joint tri-service doctrinal precepts.


Status of Development: Joint Doctrine

The formulation and process of evolving a military doctrine leave alone a joint military doctrine and introducing any innovation is riddled with many inherent inhibitors and obstacles. Military organisations, as a rule, are reluctant to change. They are used to structured and standard scenarios and standard operating procedures. It is a truism to state that ‘it is difficult to get a new idea into a military mind rather than get an old idea out’. The politico-military culture has pronounced proclivities for maintaining the status quo. As the Kargil Review Committee Report points out, we are most comfortable with the status quo and further states, “An objective assessment of the last 52 years will show that the country is lucky to have escaped through various national security threats without too much damage, except in 1962. Civilian bureaucrats perceive any move of integration of Services Headquarters with Ministry of Defence as a threat. And status quo is often mistakenly defended as civilian ascendancy over the armed forces, which is not the real issue.“ 19 Similarly, extending the same analogy to the armed forces, the efforts towards achieving jointness or moving towards jointness and departing from status quo are viewed as a possible threat to each service’s own parochial interests.

In pluralistic and democratic nation states, it has normally been a difficult task to forge a joint doctrine among the armed forces. In either a military dictatorship or a totalitarian regime such a problem may be resolved without much difficulty. Germany, under Hitler had been able to impart a common perspective to all the three services due to his undisputed authority. Many see Nazi Germany’s armed forces, the Wehrmacht, as early pioneers of ‘jointness’. The Wehrmacht did understand the value of synchronising its land, sea and airforces and Wehrmacht’s efforts in this direction produced the desired result of improved combat effectiveness.

Even in the US Armed Forces, evolving a joint doctrine has not been an easy process. Before the Goldwater Nichols Act of 1986 was thrust on the armed forces, there had been official agreements between the different services to resolve common issues of concern to them. In November 1984, the Joint Attack of the Second Echelon (J-SAK) Joint Service Agreement was signed by the Air Force and Army Chiefs of Staff, and in December 1984, the J-SAK Procedures Manual was published. 20 These documents put across an early vision of how air and land forces would jointly conduct modern warfare.

The Indian Armed Forces modest attempts for evolving a joint doctrine started in mid-nineties with the establishment of Army Training Command on the lines of a similar organisation established by the US. Even after a number of years of debate, it is not clear as to which agency should be made responsible for writing such a joint doctrine. Though, the appropriate authority for issuing a direction for evolving a joint doctrine would wrest with the Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC), the obvious choice for writing and coordinating such a doctrine would be Joint Planning Committee (JPC). However, JPC is inadequately staffed. The other choices of agencies for writing such a doctrine are Director General Defence Planning Staff (DGDPS) and Army Training Command (ARTRAC). Both Air Force and Navy have officers of the rank of Air Commodore and Commodore posted at ARTRAC and ARTRAC could be earmarked as a nodal agency for development of joint doctrine.

There have been a number of seminars held between the Army and Air Force to resolve issues of concern to the respective services. And there has been considerable convergence on issues of joint planning, joint targeting and tasking. The guiding principles of this convergence are that the Army would not find itself deficient of air power for conduct of its operations. After Kargil, the media has been very active in reporting joint training exercises being carried out by the armed forces. All these exercises are aimed at honing joint skills. The Indian Navy conducted exercise ’springex’ in the Arabian Sea alongwith specific formations of Air Force, Army and Coast Guard in February this year. 21 The exercise involved elements of both Western and Eastern Naval Fleets and was planned to culminate in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands with a tri-services operation. In the final phase, an amphibious landing was carried out by the Army. The experience gained during such exercises would be useful in evolving a joint doctrine.

Another exercise conducted during February this year was a joint Army-Air Force exercise ‘Vijay-Chakra’. 22 The scope of this exercise encompassed planning of an offensive of an integrated task force against the backdrop of the prevailing security situation in the subcontinent. Its aim was to integrate air power with ground forces for delivering a decisive punch. The aim of such exercises is not only to test the combat elements of each service, but such exercises become facilities for evolving a common perspective of the battlefield.

Finally, where does the joint doctrinal developmental process stand today? It is believed that such issues are to be tackled as an aftermath of exercise ‘Brahmastra’ held in the first week of May this year and reported extensively in the media. 23 It was attended by the top brass of all the three Services. The main purpose of this effort was to evolve doctrinal precepts to meet the battlefield requirements of the 21st century. The stress was on interservice operations, theme of jointness and efforts to achieve greater cohesion in all facets of functioning of the three Services. As an outcome of the deliberations held during the tri-service exercises (some papers have referred to it as a conference) a number of studies on joint planning processes may be ordered. And one such study could be for evolving a joint doctrine for the Indian Armed Forces.



The establishment of the National Security Council in November 1998 had given an indication that a strategic defence review would be carried out and perhaps a national security doctrine would be formulated in an earlier time frame. The Kargil Review Committee Report has pointed out flaws in the national security decision-making process and the desirability of achieving integration of the Services Headquarters and the Ministry of Defence. However, whatever be the outcome of recommendations of the Kargil Report, there is considerable scope amongst the three Services of the Indian Armed Forces to achieve jointness and integration and as a consequence gain synergies in the defence of the realm.

One such essential element of jointness is evolution of a joint doctrine for the armed forces. The battlefields of the future are becoming increasingly complex. A joint doctrine will glue the joint forces together in the battlespace of the future. Single service doctrines have unique proclivities in practice of warfare. At the beginning, the attempts to move towards a common perspective may appear to be difficult to achieve or the inter-service problems may seem intractable. However, such problems are not insurmountable.

Joint doctrine is intimately connected with principles of war commonly accepted by all the three Services. Unity of effort, economy of effort, common objectives and goals at all levels of war compel them to evolve a common doctrine for warfighting. The uniqueness, strengths, capabilities and limitations of each service have to be appreciated by all members of a joint team. Proficiency in own service is basic to jointness and everything else flows out from this fundamental requirement.

The publication of doctrines of the Army and IAF have laid the foundation for evolving a joint doctrine. There are a number of areas in which these doctrinal publications accommodate other Service’s point of view. And there are other areas where a convergence is required. The new mantra of RMA which has its central theme of achieving capabilities in the spheres of ISR and C4I, dictates the convergence of differing perceptions sooner rather than later. In highly intense, limited war environment joint precepts evolved and practiced during peacetime would pay more dividends. Evolving ad hoc solutions and guidelines for carrying out joint operations during war would be disastrous.

While there are numerous inhibitors for development of a joint doctrine yet there are adequate facilitators for evolving such a doctrine. One can only hope that a national disaster should not become a facilitator for such a purpose. With a number of joint planning and training exercises having been held in the aftermath of Kargil and experience of past wars it is time to put our beliefs, experiences and tenets of warfighting into writing. All the three services have one common aim, that is, to deter war and should the deterrence fail, to fight and win.



Note *: Senior Fellow, IDSA.  Back.

Note 1: General V.P. Malik’s address at Defence Services Staff College, Wellington during a seminar on the theme of jointness. See, The Tribune, March 31, 2000.  Back.

Note 2: See Fundamentals, Doctrine and Concept of Indian Army, (Shimla: HQ, ARTRAC, Shimla, August 1998), p. 4.  Back.

Note 3: Ibid.  Back.

Note 4: Ibid. Also see Doctrine of the Indian Air Force (New Delhi: Air HQ, October 1995), p. 20.  Back.

Note 5: See US Armed Forces document, Joint Vision 2010, Internet address, <>  Back.

Note 6: See US Armed Forces, Joint Publication, JPI-02, p. 39, available on Internet, address <>  Back.

Note 7: n. 2, p. 131.  Back.

Note 8: n. 4, p. 21.  Back.

Note 9: See Barry R. Schneider, ‘Principles of War for the Battlefield of the Future’ on the Internet, Air University.  Back.

Note 10: n. 8.  Back.

Note 11: Lieutenant Colonel Stephen. T. Rippe, USA, “An Army and Air Force Issue: Principles and Procedures for Airland Warfare”. An article on the Internet, address <>  Back.

Note 12: Ibid.  Back.

Note 13: Jaswant Singh, Defending India, (Bangalore: Macmillan India Ltd. 1999), p. 136.  Back.

Note 14: James A. Winnefeld and Dana J. Johnson, Joint Air Operations, (Santa Monica: Rand research study, 1991), pp. 97-140.  Back.

Note 15: n. 2, p. 133.  Back.

Note 16: n. 4, Doctrine of Indian Air Force, pp. 147-148.  Back.

Note 17: General Dennis J. Reimmer, USA and General Ronald R. Fogleman, USAF, the Chiefs of Staff of their respective services, “Joint Warfare and the Army–Air Force Team”, Joint Force Quarterly, Spring 1996, pp. 11-16.  Back.

Note 18: Barry R. Posen, The Sources of Military Doctrine, (Ithaca and London: Cornell University, 1984), pp. 14 and 227.  Back.

Note 19: Lt. Col. Rippe, See n. 11.  Back.

Note 20: The Times of India, February 23, 2000.  Back.

Note 21: Indian Express, February 15, 2000.  Back.

Note 22: The Tribune, May 2, 2000.  Back.