India’s Offensive New Strategy

India’s new army strategy has the hallmarks of an offensive approach. Will it end up alienating its neighbours?

By Khan A. Sufyan for

Following is a guest entry from Lahore-based analyst Khan A. Sufyan.


It may have gone largely unnoticed in the mainstream Pakistani media, but the Indian Army recently undertook a massive reorganization by formalizing its Long Term Integrated Perspective Plan 2012 – 2027 (LTIPP). As was noted in The Diplomat recently, reports indicated that while it will still be prepared for a two-front war, the Indian Army is supposed to be shifting its focus from Pakistan to China.

To support this, it has been reported that a number of developments will take place, including:

·         Completion of the process of raising two new Mountain Divisions for the Eastern Command, which is deployed against China, by the middle of this year.

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·         The Tezpur-based four Corps will be responsible for the Kameng sector in western Arunachal Pradesh, with three Mountain Divisions.

·         The Rangapahar-based three Corps will be in charge of eastern Arunachal Pradesh and have three Mountain Divisions operating under them.

·         A new Mountain Strike Corps, comprising two additional mountain divisions, could be created by 2015-20.

·         A fourth Artillery Division could be introduced to support the new Mountain Strike Corps. 

·         Two additional Independent Mountain Brigades are to be raised, one each for Ladakh and Uttarakhand.

·         A new Strategic Command is to be raised that will have all the strike corps and their allied formations operating under it. This would likely be headquartered at Jaipur in place of the Southwestern Command.

The planned new raisings would add about 100,000 troops to the existing Indian Army deployments aimed at the Chinese in the northeast of the country. To justify such restructuring, the Indian Army has said it would now be capable of meeting challenges on both the western and eastern fronts as part of a new pro-active strategy.

All this marks a shift from a strategy that dates back to the early 1980s, when the Indian government issued a classified political directive to its armed forces instructing them to maintain a strategic posture of ‘dissuasive deterrence’ against Pakistan and ‘dissuasive defence’ towards China. India’s strategic philosophy at the time was that while the threat from China was seen as minimal (up until the turn of this century, at least) Pakistan should be marginalized and its capabilities reduced through political, diplomatic, military and economic means. The idea was that when the threat from China eventually emerged, India would no longer be faced with a two-front war.

The Indian Army formulated a strategy that envisaged cutting Pakistan in two by launching deep strategic strikes. However, by the 1990s, when this strategy was being revised, the new nuclear environment meant such deep strikes into Pakistan—and occupation of its territory—weren’t really seen as a viable option.

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On the other side of the country, India’s border with China, including the Line of Actual Control, is about 3,500 kilometres.  Yet India’s current deployment posture even after the new raisings is heavily biased towards the much shorter Pakistan border.

Out of the current six Army tactical area commands (each comprising two or three Corps), five are believed to be deployed against Pakistan. Meanwhile, the Eastern Command—supposedly aimed at China—is also responsible for the Bangladesh and Burma borders.

Out of 13 Corps’, 10 are defensive, while three are Strike Corps. The three Strike Corps consist of three Armoured, four Infantry, five Mechanised and three Artillery Divisions. But the only country these mechanised components (3000-plus tanks and armoured personnel carriers) could be deployed against is Pakistan, due to the mountainous nature of the terrain on the northeastern border.

The Indian Navy, for its part, is equipped with more than 140 surface ships and more than a dozen submarines, which are divided into four Naval Commands, the bulk of which are also deployed against Pakistan.

In all previous wars against Pakistan, the Indian Army has pulled out as many of its forces as possible from its Eastern Command for deployment against Pakistan. With this in mind, the raising of a new Strategic Command that could allow for the control of all strike elements from one headquarters leaves no doubt as to India’s offensive intent.

The recently formalized LTIPP 2012 has professed a change from ‘dissuasion’ to ‘active deterrence’ against both China and Pakistan. If the Indian Government really has issued a fresh directive to its armed forces to follow active deterrence then this suggests a major foreign policy shift.

And all of this begs another question—will such a shift really deter Pakistan and China, or will it bring both these countries even closer together as they seek to counter India? Indeed, it might not only be Pakistan and China who drift closer together—India’s other regional neighbours might seek increased political, economic and defence cooperation with China as a counterweight to an increasingly powerful and offensive India.

It seems that India has, by default, opened the way for an increased Chinese influence in South Asia, something that’s likely to keep it bogged down in a regional quagmire and hurt its global power aspirations in the process.

Khan A. Sufyan is a Lahore-based defence analyst.