Former Indian Army Chief M.M. Naravane’s recent insights into the need for continuous heavy troop deployment on India’s borders offer a profound perspective on the nation’s national security strategy. In his opinion piece, Naravane underscores the concept of “strategic depth” as a crucial determinant of a country’s security strategy, highlighting its importance in India’s context.
Strategic depth refers to the distance between the front lines, known as the Tactical Battle Area (TBA), and the base from which the military draws its strength in terms of manpower, resources, and material. The space between these two points, comprising roads, railroads, and lines of communication, is called the Communications Zone (Comn Z).
For countries lacking the luxury of strategic depth or friendly neighbors, creating this depth often entails occupying territories beyond their borders. Israel’s occupation of the Sinai Peninsula serves as a historical example of how such strategic depth can be crucial in deterring surprise offensives by adversaries.
Naravane rightly points out that India is blessed with a vast landmass, yet it faces challenges due to its proximity to potential adversaries, China to the north and Pakistan to the west. The vulnerability arises from lucrative targets located within or close to the TBA, where they could be overrun in the early stages of an enemy offensive.
Naravane emphasizes the importance of defending major population centers, particularly those with religious and political significance, such as Amritsar. Its proximity to the international border and susceptibility to long-range artillery makes its defense a paramount concern. The fall of such centers would not only damage India’s reputation but also have profound domestic and international implications.
In light of the Galwan clash in 2020, both the People’s Liberation Army and the Indian Army have fortified their positions on the Chinese front. These deployments reflect the seriousness of both sides in maintaining their positions.
Naravane highlights the defense imperatives in sectors bordering Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, and Tawang, where religious centers hold great importance. These regions require strong defenses from the outset due to their strategic and religious significance.
Despite its vast landmass, India faces unique challenges that limit the practical value of its strategic depth. Overriding domestic compulsions further complicate the strategic calculus.
Naravane makes a thought-provoking statement that emphasizes the importance of adequate troop deployments on India’s northern fronts. He argues that, despite technological advances, troops on the ground remain essential.
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