What Ails India’s Military

In the realm of modern warfare, it’s not enough to merely tout the might of shiny weaponry. Military power is forged in the crucible of practical preparedness. India needs to address the critical gaps in its defence apparatus, spanning small arms woes, leadership challenges, logistical shortcomings, and a pressing need for adaptability, among many other factors

By Aryan Vats

Opinion

The military might of a nation rests not only in its arsenal of cutting-edge hardware but also in the preparedness and resilience of its soldiers on the ground. India’s armed forces can bolster their capabilities by undertaking a wide range of activities from reimagining small arms procurement to enhancing troop comfort, refining training methods, and adapting tactics to embrace technological innovations. Here is quick look at the woes and their potential solutions:

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Small Arms Procurement

India’s quest for a modern small arms system has been marred by bureaucratic hurdles and outdated procurement processes. According to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), India’s defence procurement procedures have often resulted in delays and inefficiencies. To remedy this, a shift toward a user-centric approach, akin to the successful model of the Next Generation Squad Weapon (NGSW) in the United States, is of crucial significance. This involves extensive soldier engagement, technical subtests, and data-driven selection processes. Open-ended General Staff Qualitative Requirements (GSQRs) should be encouraged to foster innovation among manufacturers and yield better-suited small arms for our troops.

For instance, the NGSW team conducted 18 soldier touch points and more than 100 technical subtests. Over 500 soldiers, marines, and special operations soldiers contributed, accumulating 20,000 hours of user feedback. In India’s case too, a selection process shaped by data and user feedback will ensure that, ultimately, the end-user benefits.

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Reforming Hierarchy

In the Russo-Ukraine War, Russia faced severe setbacks, mainly due to the targeted killing of formation commanders like colonels, brigadiers, and generals. A report by the Institute for the Study of War highlights how this leadership vacuum can cripple a military’s effectiveness. The primary reason for this is the absence of a more effective junior leadership and a lack of delegation to non-commissioned officer (NCO) and warrant officers (WOs)

We have all seen that in the Russo-Ukraine War, Russia faced severe setbacks, mainly due to the targeted killing of formation commanders like colonels, brigadiers, and generals. A report by the Institute for the Study of War highlights how this leadership vacuum can cripple a military’s effectiveness. The primary reason for this is the absence of a more effective junior leadership and a lack of delegation to non-commissioned officer (NCO) and warrant officers (WOs). This was also seen in India during the Kargil War, as India had an extremely high casualty rate of officers (captains, lieutenants, majors, and colonels). By no way, this write-up is questioning the capability of our NCOs and Junior Commissioned Officers (JCOs); however, effective delegation and appropriate distribution of responsibility would have made a difference in the Kargil conflict.

Introducing additional enlisted ranks, rather than direct promotion to JCOs/WOs, can be an effective solution when combined with the already implemented approach of direct recruitment for JCOs, allowing them to attain officer status later in their careers. Elaborating on the issue of more ranks for enlisted personnel is also necessary because of the following reasons:-

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1.) Lack of growth opportunities
2.) Delayed promotions
3.) Compensating for Lack of officers
4.) Periodic salary revision means greater job satisfaction
5.) Ensuring a steep pyramid, thus reducing pension, salary, and other related current expenditures.

Diversifying Specialisations

Regularly reviewing and updating the array of trades and specialisations within the Indian Army is essential. Providing greater clarity on career options and enabling individuals to select specialisations based on aptitude and physical fitness can enhance morale and career satisfaction among servicemen and women.

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Troop Comfort and Supplies

A lack of user-centric selection procedures and limited research and development initiatives has hindered the armymen’s ability to sustain in harsh and unforgiving environments. A study by the RAND Corporation titled “Enhancing Soldier Comfort and Performance” emphasises the importance of investing in soldier comfort and performance. We must prioritise innovation in essential supplies, such as Meal Ready to Eat (MRE) and advanced rain gear, to align with global standards.

The absence of a proper MRE system, with troops still reliant on a Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) stove to prepare pre-prepped meals, stands in stark contrast to the advanced MREs accessible to other armies globally, such as those within the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).

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The Indian Army suffers from overreliance on foreign manufacturers for shoes, sleeping bags, tents and specialised medical equipment to treat combat injuries. It must be understood that it is not only the weapon that gives a decisive edge in engagements; the ability to effectively and efficiently sustain troops through innovations is also crucial.

Elevating Training Standards

While the Army Training Command (ARTRAC), abbreviated as ARTRAC, endeavours to modernise training, gaps still exist. Addressing these gaps involves:

Scientific Physical Training: Implementing evidence-based physical training structures, involving professionals like physiotherapists and coaches, to prevent injuries and enhance performance.

The absence of a proper MRE system, with troops still reliant on a Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) stove to prepare pre-prepped meals, stands in stark contrast to the advanced MREs accessible to other armies globally, such as those within the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).

Interrogation and Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Training: To the best of the author’s knowledge, there are no proper training systems for protection against CBRN attacks and resistance to interrogation for the average infantryman. Moreover, there may also need to be a proper Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for conducting interrogation.

Optimised Nutrition: There needs to be a proper, scientifically designed research and regimen to provide optimal nutrition to recruits as per their formation, deployment and job roles, which can rule out  under-nutrition, sickness and sub-optimal performance.

Simulations: This is highly under-utilised in the army; many options are available, varying from simulations like ARMA, for teaching combat tactics and strategy to recruits, to airsoft (for squad-level engagements).

Reinventing Tactics for the Future

In a rapidly changing world, the Indian Army must adapt its tactics to incorporate technological innovations. Embracing disruptive technologies such as 3D printing for spare parts, ammunition, and camouflage patterns can provide a strategic advantage.

For example, small portable 3D printers can be used for various purposes, from creating spare parts and ammunition to printing camo patterns per environmental scans. The possibilities are endless!

Final Takeaways

In reinvigorating India’s military capabilities, it is imperative to address the often-neglected facets of soldier readiness, from small arms procurement to troop comfort, training standards, and tactical adaptation. By fostering innovation, enhancing leadership structures, and modernising training methods, India can ensure that its soldiers remain the heart and soul of a formidable defence force. The path forward lies in recognising that military strength is not solely defined by high-profile hardware but by the preparedness and resilience of those who stand on the front lines to defend our nation.

The writer is studying master of business administration with a keen interest to stay updated on business, political, geopolitical, defence and strategic affairs. The views expressed are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of Raksha Anirveda