‘Know the enemy, know self’ is sound professional advice

Synopsis: India needs to up its game when it comes to Professional Military Education. We need professionals who are domain specialists having both academic and field experience.


Sun Tzu, Chinese general, military strategist, writer, and philosopher, famously said, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles… if you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

Considering the recent events in military circles, this needs examination, and certain facets of Professional Military Education (PME) in the Indian armed forces evaluated.

Must Read: Why Indian Military doctrine Should include both Sun Tzu & Kautilya?
What is the present scenario wrt PME institutions in India?

In our PME institutions most, if not all, instructors are service officers posted-in from field/staff appointments who do their two/three-year tenure and move on; there is no time to become an ‘expert’.

There are no subject-matter experts on staff doing full-time teaching.

But, things are changing in some institutions.

The Naval War College in Goa invites an eminent academic from abroad to run capsules on operational art. The college also has an adjunct faculty of tri-Service retired officers acting as mentors in specialised areas of learning.

National Defence College at Delhi set-up a President’s Chair of Excellence teneted by a retired scholar warrior; and, this is how it should be elsewhere too.

What more needs to be done?

Subject-matter experts: The Defence Services Staff College should have permanent chairs for subject-matter experts teaching military history, strategy, geo-politics. Service officers would be the links to field realities. It is a joint institution and hence the Commandant should be a reputed scholar warrior from any of the three services, and not just from the Army as has been till now.

The Army War College, College of Air Warfare, College of Defence Management, etc. should take similar action.

Implement IDU project: Indian Defence University (IDU) project (earlier INDU — Indian National Defence University) has failed to make progress after its foundation stone was laid in 2013 near Gurgaon. While the Ministry of Home Affairs has set up the Rashtriya Raksha University (RRU) in Gujarat, the Ministry of Defence should speed up implementation of IDU project.

National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) and National Security Advisory Board (NSAB): Each body must have domain specialists from important fields and when one considers the NSCS and the NSAB, the three arms of the armed forces should be represented at the senior advisory level. These apex bodies conduct long-term analyses and provide perspectives on issues of national importance to India’s political leadership. These bodies need sound academic presence and military professionals from all three services.

Source: This post is based on the article “Know the enemy, know self is sound professional advice” published in The Hindu on 16th Sep 2021.

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