Monday, April 27, 2015

Military approaches of India, Philippines and Switzerland

In the 21st century, it is inevitable for states to make a diplomatic and strategic decision without being  influenced by defence capabilities of their enemies and friends. Post World War II the approach adopted by India, the Philippines and Switzerland are defensive in nature. The Swiss National Redoubt and Indian Sundarji  were developed within these states while the Philippines strategy was based on foreign military dependency. For all these three countries, their approach is greatly influenced by geography, economy, their  history of existence (culture) and aggressive neighbours. Since the art of war is changing significantly, these states are finding themselves in a vulnerable position in a nuclear warheads era;  hence the leadership of these states is trying to change  their static defence approach. These changes in approach are forcing them to transform and modernise military capabilities to include a high degree of mobility for armed forces as one of the goals of the changes.  This article examines the  similarities and differences in defence approach among these three nations. Starting sections of this essay present  an overview of geography, capability along with history of approach for each country followed by arguments about why these similarities or differences present in their approach.
The Indian military consists of four branches; Army, Navy (includes naval air arm), Air Force, Coast Guard (2011) served by more than 1,325,000 active volunteer men and women and having 2,143,000 reserved military personnel.  They protect 14,103 km of international border and 7000 km of coastlines (GFP Staff 2014). Of these  international borders, China shares 2,659 km and  Pakistan shares 3,190 km. Both of these neighbours infiltrated the Indian territory in the past and had a continuous conflict over international borders with India.  India spends more than 2.5% of its annual GDP on defence budget. As per Global Fire Power (GFP) ranking India was ranked fourth among hundred and six countries (GFP Staff 2014), but almost two third of their expenditure goes to counter the activities of Pakistan’s against which India historically fought four wars.  As recorded by  former defence minister George Fernandez,  India has a  “non aggressive, non provocative defence policy based on the philosophy of defensive defence” (Ahmed 2014). The Indian army was operating under Sundarji doctrine between 1981 and 2004.  Under this doctrine the seven defensive “holding corps” were deployed against the Pakistan border to respond to enemy penetration. While India’s offensive powers were with three “Strike Corps” which were located in central India, quite far away from international borders. ( Mathura I Corps, Ambala II Corps, and Bhopal XXI Corps) (Ladwig 2008a).  In a war situation, the holding corps should deter and halt an attack, which would then enable the strike corps to  counter attack and penetrate deep into the attacking territory to destroy the Pakistani  Army’s own two strike corps through deep sledgehammer blows in a high-intensity battle of attrition (Ladwig 2008b). The Indian Air Force was supposed to provide protection to the strike corps and then provide close air support for ground operations.
Indian military history  dates back to around 1500 BC,  but it was organised, well during the Mauryan Empire to counter the Alexander Infiltration in 4th century BC. Thereafter, Indian defence faced several foreign infiltrations.  The modern Indian army was established by the British in India  and had a proven track record as a performer in wars like the World War I, World War II, Gallipoli and many more under the British monarchy. Post-independence Indian military lacked a strategy to counter the infiltration from its neighbours as it had a limited resources and huge international borders to protect. Partition divided its offensive power, while it also increased the international borders to protect. The situation worsened  after the formation of the Republic of India  as the chances of insurgency increased from the domestic princely states like Bhopal, Hyderabad and Avadh. The Indian government got a great setback after a humiliating defeat from China and a surprise attack by Pakistan in 1965, both of  which forced them to understand what was the root cause of such defeats and adopt a robust doctrine. To minimise the defence  expenses while still being able to maintain the powers across such a long border;  a decision was made to keep the offensive power in strategic locations so that it could manoeuvre easily to any part of India for controlling internal insurgent states or towards an international border. This strategy is known as Sundarji doctrine named after Gen. Krishnaswamy Sundarrajan. This doctrine worked well during the 1971 war when India was fighting battles  against Pakistan on two fronts: North and East Pakistan (Now Bangladesh). The Sundarji doctrine was proven a failed doctrine in 2002 when the operation “Prakaram” (meaning  “bravery”) failed to manoeuvre such a large army in a short time frame. It took 27 days to deploy the offensive power near the border against Pakistan due to which a new doctrine was passed known as operation Cold Start to equip the holding forces with offensive power. This change was carried out to counter Pakistan’s changed the military approach of utilizing  insurgency and guerrilla warfare. Now India thinks that  its  victory strategy is not enough, while they should change their strategy to punish rather than just defending the infiltration.
The case of the Philippines is even more interesting. Philippines is a group of  islands having no shared borders while they do have extremely large coastlines 36,289 km and have had territorial disputes in the south China sea.  The country is served by 220,000 active and 430,000 reserved Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). The Philippines military comprise of  volunteer men and women. Consist of three divisions, Army, Navy including  Marine Corps, Air Force established in 2013.  The Philippines has also adopted a defensive philosophy where military power was used to defend the state against the foreign invasion. 0.9% of their GDP is spent on military. Their offensive capabilities and strength come from the United States of America and for 6 decades United States had a military base in the Philippines.
During the 16th century, the Philippines was a Spanish colony and ceded to the USA in 1898. In 1935 the Philippines became a self governing commonwealth country (Lieutennant Colonel Robert C Pollard 1992). Their armed forces were incorporated as U.S. Army Forces Far East (USAFFE) during world war II, Although this unit was not able to stop Japanese invasion, escaped armed forces personnel formed guerrilla units. Following the defeat of Japan in World War II,   the Philippines received their second independence in 1946 and Armed forces of the Philippines was revived with the substantial American naval and air force base considering it as a strategic location for the American fleet in Asia.  In the Philippines its  beneficial proposition considering its historical American influence and other rising aggressive  powers of the region.  Even if the Philippines military is capable of fighting a war, economically it’s not a viable solution for the Philippines to be a part of the arms race against  surrounding aggressive powers like North Korea and China. It’s a very appropriate approach to use one hegemonic power against another threatening rising hegemonic powers, in place of draining the state finances in an armed race which cannot be won.  However, now, after gaining  economic strength and losing a strategic role to  play in the United States’ Asia policy, the Philippines are trying to modernise its own military forces and trying to create other diverse allies in the zone to support its defence strategy.
In case of Switzerland,  the Swiss Armed Forces (Land Forces, Swiss Air Force) are served by 135,000 active and 77,000 reserved personnel (GFP Staff 2014). The armed forces are comprised of  males compulsory military service and volunteer females,  out of which only 800 are professional. Because of the mandatory military service requirement every Swiss home contains on an average three weapons. The Swiss air force started as an ad-hoc establishment in 1914 and by 1936 it was established as an autonomous military service. They have 1852 km of  shared borders out of which  Italian border of 740 km and German border of 334 km were considered as a threat. Switzerland also had a defensive military strategy which was based on two scenarios. A) Deter a war by the principle of dissuasion B) If deterrence fails to then defend. The Swiss Army is organised in  four corps and each army corps controls three divisions. They are divided in to terrain function known as  Field army corps and Mountain army corps. Mobility of Swiss army is so good that they can field 600,000 men within 48 hours and 85% of its civilian population have bunker shelters. 1% of their GDP was spent on the military.
Swiss military strength closely relates back to its history. Switzerland got independence in 1499 from the Holy Roman Empire and since 1815 it is a peaceful nation.  Even during World War I and World War II, Switzerland was able to maintain its neutrality. Historically Swiss combatants are considered as brave and  honest  and that’s a reason why Swiss mercenaries have served various armies,  including those of France, Spain, Netherlands and Britain. The Swiss Guard is still employed  to provide protection to Vatican city and Pope. The Swiss were famous mercenaries for hundreds of years and were considered the most powerful troops of the 15th century (Maur 2011). At the beginning of 1880, the Swiss government developed a defensive plan known as the Swiss National Redoubt to respond to the foreign invasion. A national redoubt is a universal term employed  for an area to which forces of a nation can be withdrawn and Switzerland’s  geography plays a pivotal role  in adopting this approach. By the end of Word War 1,  Switzerland lost interest in further fortification. Switzerland re-examined it’s need for fixed defence in 1930 which was followed by construction work in 1937. This time a design was created with ready to explode architecture with three thousand demolition points to collapse the tunnels and roads.  More than four thousand  permanent obstacles and barriers were placed to erode foreign invaders strength. Swiss National Redoubt resumed its importance in 1940 when Switzerland was surrounded by the Axis powers. During World War II Redoubt was protected by three mountain brigades and eight infantry divisions. The beauty of these tunnels was that they were not only limited to collapsible nature while medical and food supply is also stored in tunnels of 100Kms to revive Swiss Army. This was designed to deter foreign invasion and make it tiresome and expensive for foreign invaders. In spite of such a peaceful and impressive static defence system. Switzerland changed their strategy as this defence system is no longer feasible because these arrangements could be an inviting target for new nuclear weapons. They realised that only quick mobility would permit the necessary dispersion of troops in case of such attack. Furthermore, Switzerland could battle directly to enemy bases  using its own tactical nuclear weapons if necessary.
Military approaches directly relate back to economy of states,  the relationship is quite complex because  some time military expenditure is decided by economic growth of states and  some time military expenditure encourages economic growth of those states (fine et al. 1984) . This cause effect analysis is studied by academicians as a  “peace dividend”. This term is going to be used frequently in remaining of the article to explain the effect of economy on military approach. Being a country of highly intellectual individuals like Einstein, Switzerland realised quite early that the their growth dependent of “peace dividend” but to maintain the neutrality and avoid confrontation with threats, spending in the arms race is more like inviting a trouble and attention. Hence, they decided to adopt defensive approach while still continuously strengthens their defence system. Harvesting the geographical advantage Swiss National Redoubt is very wise and appropriate decision  of that era. However India joined the wagon later, after a couple of humiliating defeats in the war probably in the late sixties. These defeats did hampered their economic growth too (Alexander and Alexander 2013). Initially leadership of India decided to pursue nonalignment as an international strategy, hoping to avoid Indian entrapment in great power rivalries and enable India to focus on internal development (Tanham 1992).  Considering the length and breadth of threats across the national borders and poor economic growth,  investment in defence infrastructure like fortification and fencing was not a viable solution for them. In case of Philippines  peace dividend was quite low as they received an Independence from United State of America while this independence was gifted to them with 99 years of a defence agreement with the USA. In spite of knowing the importance of peace dividend they were not able to invest in defence system because their threats are rising  Hegemon like USA, Japan and China. Increasing the military capability during that era means creating a challenge for USA against which they received an independence with lots of bilateral agreements. But after World War II, USA realised that Philippines is no more a strategic interest for them and hence relaxed excessive governance in the Philippines.
The economic strength and geography of any state plays a pivotal role in any country's defence strategy, another factor which influences the strategy is definitely a strength of potential threats. India has more than 14,000 km of shared borders, Switzerland need protection of only 1852 km of the shared borders, which is all surrounded by the Alps, however, being an  Island country Philippines does not have any shared border with equal or greater strength enemies. Fortification was a good defence system in Switzerland to utilise the mountainous terrains of the Alps as it was economically viable for Switzerland being a developed state in place of confronting arm race, but it’s not a viable strategy for India to use Himalayas fortification as a barrier for foreign invasions due to a growing economy and poor distribution of wealth.  Indian shared borders also include the deserts  of Gujarat and Rajasthan between India and Pakistan. These deserts pose altogether different challenges for India and cannot be witnessed in the case of Switzerland as it is more of green country. On the other side Philippines is a tropical oceanic bordered nation.  A second key differentiator of the strategy are their military mobility. In case of Switzerland,  the country is well connected with its border using mountain tunnels and bridges and they are able to field an army of 600,000 men within 48 hours.  On the other hand India and Philippines transport infrastructure is not efficient to move the armed forces across the country quickly and easily.
Coming to the coastline protection approach where Switzerland is a landlocked state so they don’t have any threats from its coastal line. India has 7000 km of coastline and the huge Indian Ocean, which is used by  lots of other nations for transportation.  Historically, India had a very good naval base during Mauryan and Chola dynasty.  It depleted during the Moghul empire due to ignorance and opportunity was harvested by European colonizers. Until 1960 the Royal Navy was providing the support and protection of the Indian Ocean. After withdrawal of  the Royal Navy fleets by the British Government in 1967 a vacuum was recognised by the state. To protect the sovereignty of the state from sea routes,  the strong Naval base becomes a necessity in India.  Secondly the biggest threats for India is coming from Arabian sea and Bay of Bengal due to which India is continuously improving its Naval fleets. Out of the three services, the Indian Navy is the only service that’s investing in future capabilities more than its spending on running expenditure (Srinivas 2006). These Naval fleets helps India to maintain the diplomatic relationship with countries like Myanmar, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Although  Indian ocean is considered relatively peaceful territory still strong naval base is required as  India does commerce and trade primarily via sea routes. Reason for using sea routes for trade is,  on one side Himalayan ranges are obstacles for transportation and on the other side relationship with  Pakistan is not cordial at all. Hence Naval defence is essential to maintain the economic growth. To protect the non-military assets  and stop smuggling of good from the overseas Indian Coast guard was established in 1974. Considering the case of the Philippines, they have 36,286 km of coastline which is relatively huge as compared to Indian coastlines. Not only the length and breadth is huge,  they also have multiple conflicts on sea resources which are claimed by China and Japan. Because the Philippines is historically and culturally relied on America. In between 1935  and 1945 the Philippines were  heavily dependent on naval protection provided by the United State Asiatic Fleet. Second factor which greatly influenced Philippines leadership is to reduce their expenditures on the military to fuel economic growth of the state. After withdrawal of the United State Asiatic Fleet during World War II following the attack on Pearl Harbour by Imperial Japan, Philippines realised the need of its own Naval fleet. During 1960’s the Philippines Navy was one of the best equipped navies in Southeast Asia. Now, due to rise of Naval power of North Korea and China and withdrawal of United Stated bases, Philippines were virtually forced to rely on its own resources which they are trying to revive and build.
            The military approach adopted by all the above three countries are unique and defensive. Facts and arguments presented in the article are not differentiating which strategy is best, while the information gathered throughout the essay explains that all three approached worked well in these states for a certain period of time. Since change is inevitable in nature, changes in military approach are also ubiquitous. After understanding the dynamics and need of change, what change is required is basically driven by the economic strength of the state, geography to support, historical & cultural values of nations and definitely power proposition of oppositions. These are clearly reflected in the old approaches adopted by  India, Switzerland and Philippines. Now only time is going to evaluate whether the new aggressive approaches adopted by these states are going to be advantageous  for them of not.
1.        Srinivas, V.N. (2006) “Trends in Defence Expenditure,” Air Power Journal, Vol. 3, No. 1, (Spring 2006), 64-73

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