Colombo, May, 5: India’s defense doctrine, as stated in an official document dated April 18, 2017, very clearly states that India will not be the first to use a nuclear weapon in a war and that its nuclear arsenal will be under tight civilian control with the ultimate decision on its use or non-use resting only with the Prime Minister.
“The defining issues for nuclear C2 (command and control) is to; maintain a credible deterrence; no first use; civilian authorization; and a dispersed arsenal structure to ensure that the option to retaliate is available,” the document says.
“The broad framework of India’s nuclear doctrine drafted by the National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) has laid out our robust C2 structure to ensure our credibility in nuclear deterrence. The framework emphasizes that nuclear weapons shall be tightly controlled and released for use at the highest political level.”
“An effective and survivable C2 with requisite flexibility and responsiveness is in place. The overall C2 structure ensures maximum restraint in employment with an effective interface between civilian and military leaders.”
“The National Command Authority (NCA) is a two layered structure – the Political Council (PC) assisted by an Executive Council (EC). The NCA is responsible for the deployment, control and safety of nuclear assets. Chaired by the Prime Minister, the PC is the only body empowered to take a decision on nuclear issues while the ultimate decision to authorize the use of nuclear weapons rests solely with the PM.”
“The Executive Council (EC) which advices the PC and is chaired by the National Security Advisor (NSA), provides the necessary inputs for effective decision making by the PC and is responsible for executing directives received from the PC. The Service Chiefs are members of the EC.”
“The Strategic Forces Command (SFC) manages the nuclear command. The SFC manages the nuclear arsenal and comprises representatives of the three services besides civilian staff, experts from the Indian Atomic Energy Commission and missile experts from the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO).”
“The tri-service SFC is the NCA’s operational arm, having its own Commander-in-Chief. He reports to the Chief of Staff Committee (COSC) as well as National Security Advisor (NSA), and controls all of India’s nuclear warheads and delivery systems.”
“Alternative chains of command for retaliatory strikes exist for all eventualities,” the document adds.
Conventional Warfare Doctrine
At the core of the new defense doctrine as applied to conventional warfare are two basic premises:
Firstly, as a nation aspiring for a greater role in the new world order, India cannot stand detached from global developments. It has to be prepared to influence the world using its geographical location and multifaceted national power.
Secondly, the size of India and its strategic location at the “head and heart of the Indian Ocean” gives it tremendous leverage to ensure regional security.
In other words, the Indian armed forces will not only have to defend the territorial integrity and sovereignty of India, but take on security duties in the immediate neighborhood and strategically relevant areas beyond it.
That call for cooperation and inter-operability of goals, services, techniques, command structures and logistics not only among the three Indian services, but also between the militaries of India and other countries.
Therefore, the Indian military will have to be co-opted by the Ministry of External Affairs and the presence of the military in Indian diplomatic missions abroad must be enhanced, the document says.
While conflicts and wars for territory are diminishing around the globe, such conflicts exist in the Indian sub-continent, and that in a significant way. There are border disputes with Pakistan and China which had led to wars earlier. So, there is a pressing requirement to safeguard India’s territorial integrity.
Strategic interests along India’s northern, western and eastern borders and along the Line of Control (LoC) and Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Kashmir have to be protected with effective deterrence.
India’s security environment is also impacted by a number of global and regional issues and challenges. These manifest as “geo-political re-balancing,” the document says. The reference here is presumably to efforts by India’s South Asian neighbors to move closer to China to defend themselves from a perceived Indian encroachment on their sovereignty.
There is an indirect reference to China in the document which talks of “increasing assertiveness by emerging powers” as a threat. India is also concerned about the presence and role of “external powers” (read China) in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), as global geo-politics shifts from the Atlantic Ocean to the Asia-Pacific.
Regional instabilities are mentioned among the threats and the reference here is presumably to the volatile conditions in Nepal and the Maldives. Then there is a mention of the danger from the “spread of radicalism” (from Pakistan and Bangladesh).
There is thus a need to address the consequences of instability and volatility in parts of India’s extended and immediate neighborhood, the document says.
However, the immediate threat to India emanates from the disputed land borders with Pakistan and China. Therefore, maintaining territorial integrity remains the major strategic challenge for India.
The intensifying competition for natural resources adds an overlay of volatility to existing fault lines and poses challenges that have the potential to germinate conflict. The reference here could be to Pakistan and Bangladesh which have a water sharing dispute with India.
Further, there are trans-national threats posed by the activities of State and Non-State sponsored terrorist organizations which exacerbate Intra-State and Inter-State conflicts. The activities of terrorist groups in Kashmir create tensions with Pakistan as well as within groups in India. Such conflicts may invite the participation of groups and states outside the region too, the document warns.
The challenges posed by non-traditional security threats range from the proxy war waged by Pakistan in Kashmir to “ethnic conflicts” within India, the doctrine notes, but without elaborating on the latter.
Other non-traditional threats are illegal financial flows; small arms transfers; drugs/human trafficking; climate change; and environmental disasters and seizure of national assets by outsiders.
“These challenges are exacerbated by several countries vying to acquire Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and by the competition for natural resources. Their effects on regional stability and the geo-strategic environment are areas of immediate concern,” the document says, without elaborating or identifying the countries trying to acquire WMD.
Protection of Indian Diaspora
Protection of the Indian Diaspora and their possessions abroad is mentioned as a concern and responsibility of the Indian armed forces. And the hot spots mentioned in this regard are countries in the Middle East and North Africa, which are home to millions of Indians, but where India’s conflict with Pakistan could have spill over.
The Indian armed forces are worried about internal threats too. There is the on-going “proxy war” in Kashmir; insurgencies in some states; and also organized crime, the document says.
Left wing extremism remains an important challenge that is sapping India’s national resources, while also impacting the pace of economic development of the affected regions, it adds.
Illegal cross border migration of people due to poor socio-economic conditions and/or law and order situations in their home countries is another challenge.
Pakistan’s “proxy war” in Kashmir gives rise to the possibility of its being a conduit for an eastward spread of fundamentalist Islamic and radical ideologies, the document warns. Manifestations of this includes an engineered radical tilt towards such ideologies amongst India’s youth.
“Mitigating this requires a multi-faceted approach facilitated by a robust intelligence network. The easy access to high end technology has increased the threat, making it multi-dimensional,” the document says.
The radicalization of Indian youth in some states by social media platforms is the latest challenge to national security ,according to the document.
The management of the digital environment, which has the ability to spur and conduct conflicts through social media, merits high priority in India’s national security calculus, the doctrine says.
On the crucial issue of politico-military relations, the doctrine says that a “symbiotic” relationship between the two and parliamentary control over the military are mandated by the Indian constitution.
“A robust and firm political control and a strong military serve the national Interests best. However, to address national security imperatives, it is necessary that institutional and structural mechanisms that facilitate free flowing communication between the two exist, thereby enabling critical and timely decision making. The functionaries in the Ministry of Defense ought to be enablers of this relationship,” the document states
Importance of Deterrence and Prevention
Strategists throughout history have sought to prevent war and settle disputes through peaceful means. Hence the dictum “prevention is better than cure”, or “war should be the last resort.” This calls for attention to the root causes of conflicts ,the document suggests.
However, apart from other measures, wars can be prevented through show of force and mutual confidence building. Countries are normally restrained by a fear of each other’s war-waging potential. War-waging potential is therefore, a credible deterrent. The policy of deterrence aims to present to the potential belligerent an unacceptable degree of damage in comparison with his political gains.
“A credible deterrence capability strengthens a nation’s diplomatic leverage and is a major factor in the test of wills between countries,” the document says.
Coercive diplomacy is an option for maintaining peace through a show of force. A threat of military force in support of diplomatic, economic and other pressures, may force a belligerent to comply with conditions, thereby preventing war, it adds.
Wars today are “hybrid” in as much as they include generating and supporting chaos; psychological and media warfare, cyber warfare, economic warfare and so on.
Today’s “Fifth Generation War” is characterized by a blurring of the lines between war and politics, combatants and civilians. Simply put, it is a war in which one of the major participants is not a state but rather a violent non-state actor or non-state actors sponsored by a state.
Technology has been a major driver to the evolution of war. Today’s stand-off precision munitions with satellite control systems have altered the physical component of conflicts. The character of future wars is likely to be ambiguous, uncertain, short, swift, lethal, intense, precise, non-linear, unrestricted, unpredictable and hybrid, the document states.
Given the global and multi-dimensional nature of the modern war, achieving India’s political goals requires collaboration with other nations and international organizations and agencies.
“Success at this level requires foresight, patience, endurance, tenacity and the ability to adapt to changing circumstances,” the document says.
(An Indian missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead on parade on Republic Day in New Delhi)