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An Assessment of Organisational Change in the Indian Army

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  • May 08, 2015
    Fellows' Seminar
    1030 to 1300 hrs

    Chairperson: Lt. Gen. Satish Nambiar (Retd.)
    External Discussants: Brig. Gurmeet Kanwal (Retd.), Brig. Rahul Bhonsle (Retd.)
    Internal Discussants: Gp. Capt. Ajey Lele (Retd.), Col. Vijai Singh Rana

    The paper analysed military change in the context of the Indian Army, with specific focus on organisational innovation and change. It specifically looked at two case studies – the restructuring of the army after the Sino-Indian war of 1962 and the drive towards mechanisation based on the 1975 expert committee recommendations. The paper then assessed the drivers for organisational change in the Indian Army, with the further aim of deriving policy recommendations which could be apt in light of the ongoing transformation of the Indian Army.

    The paper identified operational environment and technology as the principle drivers for change. It stated that successful change required supportive political leadership, professional and visionary military leadership, long-term strategic assessment, strong institutional structures and follow up action. The author used the two case studies in relation to conventional threats. The first related to changes post 1962, which led to an increase in the size of the army by almost 33 per cent. It also saw the raising of divisions which were tailored to the needs of mountain warfare.

    The second case study assesses the 1975 committee recommendations which were successful in aiding the army’s drive towards mechanisation. Not only was the organisational structure transformed, the resultant innovations had a lasting impact on the strategic thought of the army, which continued to guide subsequent adaptations thereafter. The author also pointed to pertinent aspects related to organisational change after the 1999 Kargil conflict and Operation Parakram in 2001, besides noting changes related to the ongoing transformation.

    Major Points of Discussion and Suggestions to the Author

    • It was pointed out that political support for carrying out military change was very crucial. Top level political intervention was important to achieve unity of thought and unity of purpose. This was particularly relevant in the Indian context where turf war was a glaring feature of the armed forces and the absence of the Chief of Defence Staff affected unity of thought and action. It was noted that political leadership in India has been more than encouraging in this regard. Though lacking an institutional mechanism of interface between top political leadership and the armed forces, many chiefs have successfully won over political support for bringing about organisational change.
    • The aim of military change should be to have a capability-based force and threat-based force existing simultaneously to deal with the challenges being posed in an era of strategic uncertainty.
      Apart from operational environment and technology being drivers of change, it was noted that post-1962, changes were largely driven by doctrinal shift in thinking.
    • A crucial area of military change related to professional military education and training. The aim of military education and training should be to train for certainty and educate for uncertainty to deal with broad military challenges and threats.
    • The absence of a national security strategy has led to the rise of service-specific doctrines, which are linear in approach and lack a broad national outlook.
    • The sense of the house was that the Indian army fought bravely in the 1962 war. If not for some strategic miscalculations and a degree of misfortune, Indian army would have turned the tables on the Chinese despite facing all odds. Moreover, the engagement of Air Force would have significantly altered the course of the war. Most importantly, the war did not shatter the morale of the Indian Army, contrary to the common perception because our soldiers fought fearlessly and ferociously. It was largely the failure of top level military/political leadership. The Indian army would do well to look inward for its failures as this will pave the way for course correction.
    • It was suggested that the paper should look into the aspect of organisational change pertaining to staff. The teeth-to-tail ratio, recruitment policy and restructuring of the organisation merited the attention of the author.
    • The nature of change should be analysed in order to understand whether change is reactive in nature or whether it was shaping the battlefield favourably.
    • The Kargil review committee was the first attempt at evolving a comprehensive national security system engaging all three services. The Krishna Rao report primarily dealt with the army. In an era of jointness, efforts to bring about change in the army must find a resonance among the other services. A tri-service approach looking at change would bring far greater dividends than a service-specific approach. In this context, post-Kargil reform process needed to be better analysed.
    • The Indian army aimed to achieve the capacity of network-enabled to network-centric warfare capability but has not been able to do so. It should be explored as to what are the reasons behind our inability to achieve this capability. Similarly, the aspect of cyber warfare should be included in the paper to understand the phenomenon of change in its entirety.

    Report prepared by Amit Kumar, Research Assistant, IDSA.

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