The Schieffelin Plan: Can India Draw any Lessons from it?
The Shieffelin Plan is a document of great value. Its author was Field Marshal Von Schieffelin, who was the chief of the German army. During the 18-19-20th century, Germany was obsessed with a two-front war against both Russia and France. This was a perpetual danger to the political leadership and the German General Staff. Germany always felt endangered if both France and Russia attacked Germany. It would mean fighting a two front war.German army would have to face the Russian attack from the East and on the western border, France was a source of great trouble.
The German general Staff was thus always plagued by such a scenario. Right from the time of the Napoleonic wars to the First World War this scenario haunted Germany. Field Marshal Von Schieffelin a remarkable soldier formulated a plan for such an eventuality. This was called the " Schieffelin Plan" and is a document that is studied in the war College.
Basically, the plan called for the destruction of France first, by an invasion of France through the low countries namely Holland and Belgium. Schieffelin envisaged the defeat of France inside 40 days. After the defeat of France, Schieffelin proposed the en-masse transfer of German armed forces to attack Russia.This transfer of troops would be done expeditiously due to the excellent rail system of Germany. The key point of the plan was to breach the French defences by attacking through the low countries.
It must be mentioned that Hitler studied the writings of Von Schieffelin and put the plan into effect by an invasion of France through the low countries. The German army brushed the channel and breached the formidable Maginot Line( French defenses to thwart an invasion from Germany). France was defeated inside 40 days. After the French surrender, Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa:The invasion of Russia on 22nd June 1941.
Threat to India
The purpose of this article is not to discuss the Schiffelin Plan but see how it can be made applicable to India. During the 20th and 21st century India also like Germany faces a twin threat. India has China on the North and Eastern border and with this nation, there have already been 3 encounters with India. There is the 1962 war which resulted in a Chinese victory and the 1967 artillery duel at Nathu Law. In the artillery duel, the Indian armed forces covered themselves with honor and forced the Chinese to withdraw in Sikkim.There was also a face off in 1987. On the western border, India faces Pakistan, a sworn enemy of India. India and Pakistan have already fought 4 wars and all have ended in a stalemate on the western front.
India like Germany faces the danger of a two-front war. This is a reality as China could attack all along the North and Eastern Himalayan border while Pakistan mounts an attack from the West through Punjab and Kashmir. The old concept of Jawaharlal Nehru that the Himalayas were India natural protectors was an extremely silly concept. Modern armies easily cross tall mountains and these are no longer a ' natural barrier'. These comments are found in his " History of India"and to say the least led to to the Indian debacle in 1962.
The danger of a two-front war has now been taken seriously by the Indian General Staff. Accordingly plans have been worked out and many war games on this subject are held at the Staff College. While undergoing the 41st staff course at Wellington, the undersigned took part in these war gaming exercises.
Likely Indian Plan
The Indian general Staff must take a leaf out of the plan of Schiffelin and adapt it with minor modifications to the likely two-front war with Pakistan and China. What would the Indian plan be ?
The Indian Plan will be to annihilate Pakistan inside 14 days. This is the maximum time that can be allowed and would involve a thrust across the Rajasthan border into Sind. The purpose would be to divide the province of Punjab from Sind and Baluchistan, as both these states are inimical to Muslim Punjabi rule. During this period, the Indian army must hold the Chinese attacks on the Himalayan border.
Once the situation in the west has stabilized, the Indian general Staff must mount a concentrated thrust into Tibet. The Indian strike corps must advance by the shortest route to Lhasa through Sikkim. There is no point in going on an offensive in Pakistan occupied Kashmir or in Ladakh. The Indian aim should be to reach Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. Here, the Indians are at a great advantage as the entire Tibetan poulation is pro- India and this will work to the Indian advantage.
The war cannot last for more than 3-4 weeks and speed will be the essence. The Indian army will have the advantage as both in the West ( Sind and Baluchistan) and Tibet in the north the people will welcome Indian arms. With a friendly population, 30% of the battle is won and it will be the job of the Indian leadership to exploit this opportunity.
There are many variables in this scenario and the battle will be long and hard. There will have to be flexibility and a build up of the Indian armed forces. Just as Hitler disregarded the neutrality of the low countries so India will also have to disregard the neutrality( in reality Pro China attitude) of Nepal. A thrust by a strike corps from Kathmandu along the road to Lhasa would be another option. the factor going in India's favor is that the Chinese army will be in hostile lands as the local population is yearning for Indian intervention.
A two front war with both China and Pakistan is a real possibility and in case the Indian think tank disregards it, I am afraid it will be at their own peril.The old saying " If you want peace , be prepared for war" is never as true as today when China and Pakistan are ringing India. Their aim is simple: to destroy the unity and integrity of India. One hopes the Indian political leadership is alive to this problem. Brushing it aside would be a great disservice to the Indian people.
The main ingredients of the Scheffelin plan, namely disregarding the neutrality of a nation and finising of the weaker enemy hold true in a future two front war.
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