The Combined Commanders’ Conference will be held in Karwar in March 2023, with Chief of Defence Staff General Anil Chauhan in attendance. During this summit, it is anticipated that the Indian military leadership will take substantial moves toward establishing the long-awaited military theatre commands. Three services will likely submit their written opinions on the plan to the government.
The three service chiefs agree on establishing theatre commands, but it is yet to be known if turf protection or other factors are causing the excessive delay in the implementation.
Regardless of the cause, any longer delay would give India’s sworn rival China an unfair advantage. Once India begins implementing the changes, however, major integration issues will arise.
Every Reform Has Growing Pains
Russia adopted combined strategic commands in 2014, and China adopted concepts for theatre command in 2016. Russian forces’ lack of joint manship stands out amid their other flaws in the Russia-Ukraine conflict if one attempts to identify their shortcomings. If China engages in a battle, the conditions of its armed forces won’t be any different.
This explains why China was so eager to test its forces against the Indian, American, and Japanese forces daily. Unfortunately, India has yet to embark on this course of action to determine the challenges it would encounter in managing the joint commands.
While India has procrastinated for decades, China is busy studying U.S. military principles. One such initiative is their latest concept of Multi-Domain Precision Warfare (MDPW), which aims to synchronise their forces from cyberspace to outer space. They are frantic to fight the Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) project of the U.S. Department of Defense.
According to the annual “China Military Power Report” published by the U.S. Department of Defense, the primary objective of MDPW is to interconnect command and control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR) to coordinate firepower and quickly expose foreign weaknesses.
Once the MDPW idea is implemented, it will assist the Chinese forces in identifying the operating system’s primary vulnerabilities. In a conflict, based on this, Chinese forces might undertake kinetic or non-kinetic precise strikes against Indian vulnerabilities. The PLA has designated the destruction of the adversary’s operational system, networks, and infrastructure through MDPW as the next method of warfare.
The command information systems may offer units and commanders a better grasp of the current situation. This would help them make better decisions and make merging their operations and responsibilities more manageable.
The Department of Public Works relies extensively on artificial intelligence, big data analytics, and advanced computing. The American chip restriction policy has a short-term negative impact on the MDPW concept. Once China improves its chip-making capacity through research and development or theft, the MDPW concept will return to haunt India.
Consequently, just as the Indian Navy has a short window of advantage in the Indian Ocean, the chip embargo gives India a unique but limited window to initiate reforms and train the armed forces to fight a modern war in the coming years.
The Growing Chinese Danger
According to a recent news report, China aims to boost its 400 nuclear warheads to 1,500 by 2035. China is in a rush to obtain developing technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), autonomous systems, semiconductors, quantum technologies, and sophisticated materials, which would have catastrophic military repercussions for nations such as India.
According to a recent assessment by the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, China has surpassed the United States as the leading high-tech manufacturer in the world. China has become a formidable rival in foundational technologies such as artificial intelligence, 5G, semiconductors, quantum technology, biotechnology, and green energy, according to the research. In many sectors, China has already surpassed the United States, according to the report.
Look within for Answers
Once the joint theatre command reforms are implemented, India will better comprehend a modern army’s requirements. Then, it would be simple for the Indian military leadership to include the core technologies mentioned above with a coherent plan.
The following are some of the issues faced by modern Indian armed forces:
- Need for a uniform system standard for information technology
- Integrating AI capabilities into ISR, autonomous vehicles, information warfare, electronic warfare, simulation, training, predictive maintenance, and target recognition
- Cyberattack reconnaissance, surveillance, and prediction aided by artificial intelligence
- Communication from space and analysis of earth observation datasets
- Overreliance on technology could exacerbate the centralisation of decision-making that already plagues the Chinese military.
- The overestimation of current AI capabilities and overreliance on them
- Lack of a National Defense University that teaches joint principles; even though the Indian Defence University (IDU) was thought of in 1967, the foundation stone was set in 2013, and a draught law was posted online in August 2016, cabinet permission has not yet been granted.
- Both troops and senior commanders need to gain knowledge of the specifics of contemporary warfare.
Technological complexity and half-hearted efforts
While there is no doubting the significance of technology, an overreliance on unproven concepts and technologies could be highly costly to a force. This is precisely the situation with the PLA. An obscure PLA officer coined the concept of “intelligentization”, and the entire Chinese leadership is enthusiastic about it. The vast majority of Chinese military officials have limited or no comprehension of the notion. Seniors are embarrassed to demonstrate their ignorance, and juniors are scared to question seniors’ wisdom.
Other areas of concern include half-hearted attempts such as the five-year-old Joint Doctrine and the Indian Armed Forces. The 2017 publication does not include a comprehensive analysis of Indian joint manship. Over the past five years, a great deal has transpired, and it is now time to revise the joint doctrine with a sharper focus and a more expansive vision. The United States and China have taken similar actions. Such requirements underline the significance of the establishment of the Indian Defence University.
Delays Would Halt India’s Development
It is evident from the foregoing that future wars would incorporate both technological and conventional combat principles. Technology should serve humanity, not the other way around. Modern warfare would be guided by economic growth and technology, and China appears to be moving in that direction, if slower than it would want.
China boasts 30,000 international firms and more than 100 million Chinese visit abroad annually. China is preparing to defend them through the growth of its conventional military strength. China launched more warships between 2014 and 2018 than the combined strength of the British, Indian, German, Taiwanese, and Spanish Navy. This type of preparation has an underlying message.
India is one of the world’s fastest-growing major economies. Even if India does not intend to wage wars in distant regions, it would still need to secure its ever-expanding enterprises and the diaspora in a world that is becoming progressively more unpredictable.
In other words, while Indian peacekeepers currently patrol the world’s contentious regions for the United Nations, in the future, the same forces will be participating in power projection and conflict settlement for the country’s benefit. And that day is approaching. The Indian military must comprehend this and prepare for battle.
There is an urgent need to define where India intends to be 50 yrs hence and then break it down to 5 yr time periods. The Constitution talks about Comprehensive National Development (CND). Without a goal orientation nothing can be achieved. The military’s aim would be to allow CND and protection of SLOCs. If that is the aim we need to define a Joint Military Doctrine to achieve it, from which the Army, Navy and IAF. Integration of all three is a must during war, complimenting the culture, ethos, leadership styles etc., of these separate entities. Theatre Commands is not the ideal solution.