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Raviteja asked: What is strategic depth? What does it mean? If possible, please give some examples.

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  • Anit Mukherjee replies: The concept of Strategic Depth emerges from the realm of military operations and it usually denotes the distance between enemy forces and the main centres of gravity of a country. These centres could be military frontlines, bases, or industrial and commercial hubs. For a military professional, the greater the distance that has to be traversed by enemy forces to reach these bases, the better are the chances of a successful defensive operation. This is primarily because it gives the defender more time and space to organise the defence and stretches the enemy’s logistical chain.

    The best examples emerge from the French and German invasions of Russia/Soviet Union. Russian strategy traded space for time and even followed a scorched earth policy. They also relocated key industries to the hinterland. In short, Russia had the luxury of space and had greater strategic depth. In more contemporary times, some in Pakistan have justified meddling in Afghanistan so that they can attain ‘strategic depth’ in case of a war with India. This, however, logically means that the Pakistani military will desert its people and the country and operate out of Afghanistan to fight India. Rightfully so then this idea has been ridiculed by many Pakistani analysts.