COVID-19 Warrants Long Overdue Doctrinal Shifts in Military Planning
Issue: Sep-Oct 2020
The economic shock of COVID-19 makes the current method of defence budgeting redundant. When the GDP itself is set to reduce, defence expenditure demands as a percentage of GDP is less feasible. On the other hand, the situation on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh has demonstrated again that managing China, not just Pakistan, should be the focus of India’s military planning. To overcome these two challenges, a few incremental budget cuts, postponing of capital acquisition plans, and forgoing of salaries for a day would be insufficient. This paper proposes major doctrinal shifts in military planning. It identifies the mismatches between India’s political objectives and the kind of force structure put in place to meet those objectives. Derived from these mismatches, six doctrinal shifts — a paradigm of employable power, a structure for integrated theatre commands, conversion of manpower to human capital investment, organisational changes to build firepower, and a shift in focus to the seas and new domains — are discussed. The paper ends with a discussion on the civil-military pieces that need to fall in place in order to execute these shifts.