- In a significant step towards restructuring its armed machinery for fighting conventional wars, the Indian Army is all set to form and raise Integrated Battle Groups (IBGs) in line with the ‘Cold Start’ doctrine.
- The Integrated Battle Groups so formed will be deployed along the Pakistan border the western front and later along Chinese border in the eastern front.
In focus: Integrated Battle Groups
- IBG is a warfare strategy of the Indian Army introduced in the aftermath of Operation Parakram launched in retaliation of the terror attack on Parliament in 2001.
- It is a novel war-fighting concept under the proactive strategy or ‘Cold Strike Doctrine’ aimed at enhancing swift and aggressive combat capabilities of the Army.
Evolution of the Concept
Up-till 1971: Infantry-centric
- Conceptually, the Indian Army was known to be a world-war 2 army uptill 1971.
- The thinking, concept, equipments and method of fighting in warfare situation were infantry-centric.
- The approach was to ‘absorb’ the enemy attack and then initiate counter-attack.
- Territorial security was the order of the day.
- In response to Pakistan’s offensive in East Pakistan, India launched a lightning campaign for the liberation of Bangladesh.
- The approach India, fluid aggressive operations, adopted in this campaign had reduced reduced the war duration to 14 days.
- This changed the warfare thinking in India towards fluid, swift and aggressive operations.
- This required modernization by way of more armour and mechanization of infantry including tanks and armoured personnel carriers.
- In 1979 a mechanized infantry regiment was raised in the Indian Army.
Late 1980s: Reorganisation of battle formation
- In the late 1980s giving preeminence to armoured and mechanized operations, Indian Army was reorganized into Holding Corps and Strike Corps.
- Strike Corps
- The Strike Corps are sword arm of Indian Army primarily based on armoured divisions comprising of mechanized infantry and other combat arms.
- As a result Strike Corps are capable of penetrating deep into enemy territory and capture it.
- 4 of the total 14 Corps of Indian Army are ‘Strike Corps’ stationed at Mathura, Ambala, Bhopal and Pannagarh.
Early 2000s: Cold Start Doctrine and IBGs
- In the aftermath of Parliament attack in 2001, India launched Operation Parakram.
- Despite presence of Strike Corps, the mobilization of troops was rather slow which gave time for Pakistan to counter-mobilise.
- Since the Strike Corps are large organizations with 40000-60000 troops per crop, mobilization becomes difficult in short time.
- In this backdrop, India for the first time conceptualized Cold Start doctrine in 2004 to avoid loss of time in warlike situations.
Cold Start Doctrine and IBGs
- The doctrine primarily entails small scale, rapid, and conclusive offensive operations in the enemy territory.
- Under the doctrine, limited war operations are launched to deter the nuclear response of the enemy and to achieve limited objectives.
- The Cold Start Doctrine called for launching of 8 Integrated Battle Groups at 8 different locations along the international border.
- IBGs are small and lethal battle formations aimed at achieving smaller, nimble, lethal and powerful objectives before a nuclear threshold is reached with the enemy.
- The IBGs are primarily aimed at fighting short, swift and intense wars for duration less than 20 days with limited objectives.
- Each IBG comprises 5000 to 8000 troops integrating different components of the Army including 4-6 infantry and armoured battalions, 2-3 artillery regiments supported by air defence, integrated signals units and a dedicated logistic team.
- The IBG formations will be commanded by an office of the rank of Major General.
Configuration of IBGs
- The IBGs conceived off by the Indian Army will have 2 configurations
- Strike Corps: Performing aggressive roles for carrying out offensive cross-border operations.
- Holding Corps: Performing defensive roles to hold back enemy attacks.
- Further the configurations are categorized on the basis of area of deployment
- Light Corps for Mountainous regions
- Larger Corps for Plains
Relevance of IBGs
- IBGs are suitable in areas where we have pin-pointed intelligence and thus accurate damage estimate.
- It is relevant at a time when Pakistan has tested its close-range ballistic missile Nasr that is nuclear capable in January 2019.
- In the era of enhanced satellite-based electronic intelligence (ELINT), IBGs are extremely relevant today to counter these tactical nuclear weapons.