An Assessment of India’s Land Warfare Doctrine

 By D S Murugan Yadav

“Doctrine is a fundamental unit of understanding for military planners and strategists”

   – Carl Von Clausewitz

What is a Doctrine?[i]

The word “doctrine” is believed to have originated from the Latin words ‘Docere’, which means teach and its later version ‘Doctrina’, which means teaching and learning[ii]. According to the Premier on Military Doctrine, “Doctrine is a set of proven and existing concepts, capabilities, capacities and structures related to use of the military during war and peace.”[iii]

Carl Von Clausewitz, the father of Modern Warfare, firmly believes that the doctrine is the “fundamental unit of understanding for military planners and strategists”. According to the Joint Doctrine Indian Armed Forces (JDIAF), “Doctrines are generic and basic documents without going too much into specifics. It is a set of proven concepts and principles. Doctrine is not a set of fixed rules or dogma. Doctrine should have developed by the Services to suggest a uniform and time tested the application of resources. It is neither operations nor tactics.”[iv]

Indian Army’s Land Warfare Doctrine 

On 19th December 2018, the Indian Army unveiled the Land Warfare Doctrine (LWD), a compilation of 13-page document. This doctrine is the latest version after the Joint Indian Armed Forces (JDIAF) doctrine released in 2017 by the Indian Army. Before this, the Cold Start doctrine was in practice. In a nutshell, the LWD provides broad tenets for the armed forces. It primarily focuses on force modernization, resource optimization and innovative conceptual processes leading to winning strategies for future wars.[v] It also stresses the need for reformation for the enhancement of various capabilities. The Indian Armed forces consider these doctrines as orthodox offensive doctrine and have been practised in several successive conflicts, institutionalized through organizational reforms and professional military education, and codified in official publications, including this latest Land Warfare Doctrine.[vi]

Reading Between the Lines 

The LWD is a well thought out document for which implications will emerge with time. The crucial determinants that have shaped the doctrine are the geostrategic environment, external & internal threats, possible responses and a way forward to develop capabilities for the future. The structure of this doctrine consists of four parts namely geostrategic environment, spectrum of conflict and force application, capability development and its focus areas. It mentions hybrid warfare & collusive threat, the dynamics of no war, no peace situation.

One of the best parts of the doctrine is its balanced vision on all the subjects within the security spectrum. The doctrine discusses the possible solutions for the problem of state-sponsored proxy war & terrorism. The doctrine iterates the effectiveness of the force’s response in today’s conventional and hybrid wars, through the integration of all combat operations as Integrated Battle Groups (IBGs) under the command of combined arms operational headquarters.

The LWD stresses the strategic importance of Island territories. It further expounds that the forces primary responsibility in the Western border is to destroy the centre of gravity of the adversary and secure spatial gains. However, the geopolitical location i.e., the treacherous terrain and climatic condition of the border makes it more difficult & eventually affects the possibility of this response.

Areas of focus 

The doctrine brings out the challenge of frequent transgressions in the borders faced by the forces. Hence, a reformation is required to the existing border management strategy. The LWD clearly shows the lack of framework/strategy to address a collusive threat or with its implication. It might be due to the unclear fact as mentioned in the doctrine that ‘In any event of a collusive threat, the military forces will identify, rehearse and equip for such contingencies’. In future, addressing the collusive threat and its associated contingencies in the security spectrum needs a well-established framework.

It focuses on Enhancing Domestic Defence Capability, which eventually led to the ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat in Defence’ in helping the force to achieve self-sufficiency & self-reliance. However, this affects the area of sophisticated weapon technologies. For instance, even though India is sophisticated and capable of R&D innovations such as, Multiple Independently Targetable Re-entry Vehicles (MIRVs), Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs), BRAHMOS cruise missiles, Sukhoi fighter jets. It still lacks self-reliance in certain weapons & weapon systems. However, Atmanirbhar Bharat in Defence eventually led the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to limit the import of 101 defence items.[vii] This negative list entails sophisticated weapons ranging from snipers to electronic warfare systems and types of equipment like assault rifles, transport aircraft, simulators.

The doctrine discusses other areas such as the force projection capability, the capability of the special forces, operational readiness. Although, a high focus should be on the capability of the special forces in the future. It includes equipping the special forces with the best equipment profiling to address the instructed task in both conventional and unconventional domains. The existing force projection capability and operational readiness are best as per the threat perception. The creation of integrated battle groups (IBGs) or a rapid reaction force with strategic lift and amphibious capabilities to face the perceived threat is the best example to support this statement.

The other facets of the doctrine are on Military Operations Other Than War (MOOTW) like aid to civil authorities, Humanitarian Assistance & Disaster Relief (HADR) Operations, UN Peacekeeping missions. The MOOTW are as vital as the war itself. The armed forces will play a prominent role in it. For instance, the contribution of the armed forces to the medical field & its assistance to the medical infrastructure enhancement capabilities in recent time, during the COVID-19 pandemic is the best example of MOOTW.

The securitization of space is vital to support & maintain Command, Control, Communication and Computers (C4) systems, space-based Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance (ISR), Navigation and remote sensing.[viii] A credible space warfare capability ensures the security of the space. India tested its space warfare capability by conducting ‘Mission Shakthi’[ix]. There is an acute need for further enhancement in space warfare capabilities. It includes the development of Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD), Anti-Satellite (ASAT) systems & space weapons to deter space threats & challenges from our adversaries. Hence, space capabilities have to be both defensive & offensive.


The LWD will lay the foundation for the formulation of strategies for the Northern & Western fronts and operational directives. It iterates on the need to prepare for the multi-faceted security challenges that lie ahead. Overall, the LWD will have an impact in enhancing the efficiency and robustness of the Armed force and should adopt a holistic approach involving civil-military relations and synergizing human resources and critical assets with optimum budget utilization to further the operational efficiency and the capability of the force to counter the emanating threats & challenges across the security spectrum. [x]


[i] The analysis in this article is purely based on the questionnaire submitted to the CLAWS.

[ii] Jyoti M Pathania, Has Pakistan’s Military Doctrine Transformed?, CLAWS Journal, pp 167, Available Online at URL:

[iii] Understanding Military Strategy a primer, Integrated Defence Staff. Available online at URL:

[iv] Joint Doctrine Indian Armed Forces, Integrated Defence Staff, Available online at URL:

[v] Indian Army Land Warfare Doctrine, Available online at URL:

[vi] Arzan Tarapore, The Army in Indian Military Strategy: Rethink Doctrine or Risk Irrelevance, Carnegie, Available online at URL:

[vii] IMPORT EMBARGO LIST OF DEFENCE WEAPONS/PLATFORMS, Ministry of Defence, Press Information Bureau, Available online at URL:

[viii] Chandrashekar, Space, war and security – A strategy for India, Report, NIAS. Available online at URL:

[ix] Mission Shakti was an anti – satellite missile test conducted with ballistic missiles defence  by India’s Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) to demonstrate the space warfare capability of India. Available online at URL:

[x] Link to the Questionnaire: