On 06 March 2021 the Indian Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi delivered the valedictory address to the Combined Commanders’ Conference at Kevadia in Gujarat. He stressed the “importance of enhancing indigenisation in the national security system, not just in sourcing equipment and weapons but also in the doctrines, procedures and customs practiced in the armed forces”

By Brig (Dr) Ashok Pathak

PM’s Observation that Created the Ripple Effect

Those who have watched the PM’s vision in action would agree that when he says something, big changes are underway. He is not a status quo leader. No challenge is big enough to deter him from taking action head on. For details see ‘Modi Government and Evaluation’. Thus we need to ponder why did he say so? What is so important about a doctrine that it invited Prime Minister’s observation? As per Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) a doctrine is defined by ‘who we are, what we do and how we do’. As per the Israeli Chief of Staff Lt Gen Gadi Eisenkot who wrote the IDF doctrine ‘formulating the doctrine is not the supreme test, the proof lies in the implementation of the task in the Routine, Emergency and War (REW). Both these descriptions of a military doctrine indicate that indigenous thoughts are essential before we adapt foreign ideas.

The Western Influence

We look at our select doctrines and reform oriented military writings in the recent past. A series of IW doctrines in 2004, 2005 and 2010 were written in the wake of First Gulf War. The Indian Army Doctrine came up in 2005. The Joint Doctrine of Indian Armed Forces 2017 (JDIAF) is the first tri service doctrine. The IDSA also published a book on Defence Reforms. Land warfare Doctrine 20189 is the most recent one emerging from the JDIAF. Let us look at these doctrines and important writings.

The IW Doctrine 2010: Our thought process on Information Warfare (IW) started after the first Gulf War 1991. Our first IW doctrine came up in 2004 followed by a tri service IW doctrine in 2005 that got revised in 2010. It is good to see such fast pace of adaption. These doctrines pave the way for an excellent exploitation of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). However, we need to take note that the Americans stopped mentioning IW in their military writings since 2005 after some bitter lessons in Kosovo (1999) and in the Second Gulf War 2003. Also we need to cut down on import of weapons very drastically since in IW environment imported weapons (with heavy embedded content) increase our vulnerability.

Indian Army Doctrine 2005: The doctrine was signed in 2004 and perhaps promulgated in 2005. It is a very comprehensive document and covers all the essential aspects. It would have gelled much better with own officers and men if more quotes were taken from the Indian military commanders and leaders. Bulk of the quotes in the doctrine are from foreigners- Vegetius, De Re Militari, Maurice de Saxe, Benjamin Franklin- 1773, George J Stein, Jomini, Precis de l’, and so on-14 out of 21 quotes were from foreign leaders. This doctrine visualized certain levels of technological development in the next five to ten years. Unfortunately, till as late as 2017 the commensurate technological growth remained a distant goal. Even the envisaged structural changes had not taken place after ten years of this doctrine coming in the public domain.

The Tri Service Doctrine 2017 and Land Warfare Doctrine 2018: This is the first time that an Indian military doctrine propagated synergy in nation building and national security. It links the national policy objectives with the military doctrine. References to economy, well-being of poor population and indigenisation underline this link. Second, it widens the ambit of stakeholders where the doctrine recommends that the policy makers, bureaucrats, technocrats, diplomats, defence industry in public and private sectors, academia, fourth and fifth estates and the citizens must consider the doctrine as a reference point. Third, for the first time military power is considered as a deterrent. This indicates proactive approach. Here the doctrine goes on to add coercive diplomacy, surgical strikes and punitive destruction. Fourthly, security of internal environment is considered as an important role. Fifthly, the doctrine formally states constructive engagement with other nations. Finally it laid emphasis on joint operations and tri service synergy. Here again bulk of the references are from the Western writings, though the quotes are primarily from Indian leaders and military commanders. The Land Warfare Doctrine is an excellent and concise document where we have quoted from Chanakya and a number of Indian leaders and military commanders. That is a welcome change. The envisaged improvements in terms of technologies, structure and culture should be visible in next five to ten years. However, it can be said with good amount of optimism that a number of actions have already been completed during the last two years to make the envisioned future in this doctrine a distinct reality.

Our own Rich Heritage in this Domain

Kautilya had written in the Arthashastra more than two millennia back what the Americans sensed in 1991. Hee did not name it IW because information does not make you any more powerful or prone to win war. Who is acquiring that information, what they do with the information and how fast the actions are taken; are the keys to victory. Even the Americans have started realizing this (since 2003)10. At the macro level Kautilya enunciates three important approaches to security of state. These include power (military strength), enthusiasm (quality of leadership and soldiers) and intrigue (foreign policy, espionage, spying, deception, psychological warfare, assassinations, alliances etc.). Intrigue he said is the most preferred but most complex mode11. It is beyond the scope of this article to go into the details of Arthashastra in the context of modern wars. None of tour IW doctrines refer to Arthashastra in their text even remotely. Incidentally Manohar Parrikar Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis has conducted a series of seminars and studies on Arthashstra.

Besides the excellent work of Kautilya there have been a very large number of events and treatise relevant to India that can help us in formulating our own vision and doctrines for national security. Our epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata (including Bhagwat Gita) are the earliest writings that cover statecraft and warfare besides many issues in the spiritual domain. The Mauryan Dynasty, the Ahom of Assam, the battles fought by Sivaji and Maharana Pratap, Maharaja Ranjeet Singh and a very large number of military leaders in the ancient and medieval India could have served us well in formulating a doctrine.

What is wrong in Learning from Others?

Nothing- in fact knowledge has no boundaries. But at the same time we can adapt the Western knowledge much better if we know ‘who we are’, ‘what we want’ and ‘how best we can achieve this’. These three questions lead us to our deep indigenous roots. The historical truth is that ancient India was endowed with far superior wisdom. In many fields, including statecraft and matters military we were world leaders for more than a millennium.

A Suggested Approach to Making Indigenous Doctrine

Military is but one of the many components of national power. Hence military doctrine should flow from the national vision, goals and objectives. Kautilya covered the military doctrine as part of Arthashastra (study of economy). In fact most part of Arthashastra covers statecraft, qualities and duties of the king (leadership), social norms, international relations, intrigue as discussed earlier, internal security, duties of citizens and the king, roles of citizens in various professions in the country and so on. If this be so, formulation of military doctrine needs to be a joint effort- involving all the major stake holders as already envisaged in the Tri Service doctrine of 2017. This is necessary to make the stake holders aware of their duties in securing India. Academicians and technocrats including students will realize the role knowledge and skills will play in national security. A study of relevant Indian literature would give us some key issues that we can include in the military doctrine:

‘Dharma’ in the Indian context is rule of law without any reference to religion. Two of our most popular epics very clearly highlight this issue. Thus fighting for the rule of law- with in as also with the external enemy must come naturally to us.

Every single life matters. At the same time no sacrifice is big enough when it comes to safeguarding the freedom and honour of the nation.

Peaceful coexistence within the boundaries of Dharma has been our unique culture. That is how so many diverse groups and religions prospered here. Again the teachings of Bhagwat Gita and Ramayana are very relevant.
Very high quality of leadership, human capital and economic strength are the key elements of national security. Technologies and weapons are just the means. The will to fight and win act as catalyst for best use of technology and weapons. This comes from Arthashastra.

In war and battles numbers do not matter so much as leadership, tenacity of purpose, intellectual brilliance in innovative use of terrain and own resources. Knowing the enemy and exploiting his weakness while capitalizing on own strengths are the ways to victory. Maharana Pratap, Sivaji, Maharaja Ranjit Singh and thousands of Indian military commanders made ample use of these dictums.

Kautilya advised that avoid war as far as possible and achieve national objectives by ‘intrigue’ (mix of foreign policy and covert actions). He also emphasized the need for thorough preparation in case the nation has to go for war. There is a difference between foolhardiness and aggressiveness. A king as per Kautilya must not be foolhardy.
Victory over the adversary with minimal destruction to even the enemy forces was advocated by Kautilya.

A few Nations Who chose to be Original and Indigenous.

Israel made their military doctrine public in 2015. It was written in Hebrew. The Belfer Centre for Science and International Affairs, Kennedy School Harvard University translated it in 2016. Israel depends on ‘quality of commanders’ decisions and initiatives; fighting spirit of commanders and troops in battle on manoeuvre, fire and deep attack. They do not talk much about technological edge but their share of global market of export of major weapons in 2019 as also the net arms transfer value in 2018 is much higher than many developed nations. Their performance in 1948, 1967, 1973 wars and conflicts with Hamas in 2016 and 2021 amply justify what they enunciated in their doctrine. Israel ranks at 40 among 163 nations affected by terrorism. Better than the US at number 22 and India at 7th rank.

The Air Land Battle Doctrine of the US originated from their own experience- demoralizing defeat in Vietnam. They started on this doctrine in 1973 spear headed by Dr James Schlesinger the US Secretary of State for defence, prepared the first draft in 1982. The doctrine was finalized in 1986. The entire range of new technologies and weapon systems came into place at the commencement of Iraq war. As the war in Iraq came to an end the Air Land Battle doctrine Field Manual 100-5 became IW Doctrine FM 100-6. Thereafter the US regained its position as undisputed leader of NATO, gained 35 percent share of global market for export of major weapons.

The People Liberation Army (PLA) made their first doctrine in 1956 by 2015 this doctrine underwent six revisions every time in synch with their national growth and transformations. It is only the last two doctrines that they have adapted to the US doctrine on IW. The entire political leadership of the Chinese Communist Party is actively involved in formulating and operationalizing the doctrine. The tenets of propaganda, psychological operations and legal warfare in their latest doctrine are taken from Sun Tzu’s, ‘winning the war without fighting’.


Indigenous doctrine as suggested by the PM at Kevadia does not mean that we should not study foreign military literature and if required adapt it. But we should also remember that we have extremely rich heritage that we need to internalize before we look for adapting from others. Nations who became independent/ came into being/ emerged after devastating defeat around 1945-1949 and grew at an exponential rate had one thing in common. Their feet were rooted to their own heritage as they adapted from others. It is in this context that we need to pay heed to what the PM said at Kevadia.

This article first appeared in www.vifindia.org and it belongs to them.