Civil Military Fusion : An Indian Necessity By Lt Gen P R Shankar (R)



All great nations have gone through a process of Civil- Military fusion. The industrial revolution and the colonial era is a story of Civil-Military fusion in Europe. Inventiveness in science and technology focussed on how it could make colonial militaries better equipped, lethal and more efficient. Each colonial power wanted a military machine which could dominate others in order to  expand their empires. In the last century, USA went through a process of intense civil- military fusion during the second world war. At its height, USA was producing military aircraft by the hour, tanks by the day and warships by the week or even less. The entire American industry focussed on churning out military equipment which could beat the Germans and Japanese qualitatively and quantitatively. They did it successfully. The mighty military – industrial complex of USA,  which drives its economy, is all about a military- civil system, fused together seamlessly. USA did this a century ago.  Hence, civil-military fusion is not just about making militaries strong but about boosting economies to make nations great. In this century the Chinese have started this process and are seeking  their way to greatness.


In case India wants to make the transition to be a power of consequence it has to undergo a focussed Civil-Military fusion process. The road to greatness lies in shedding our image of being a soft, slow moving, big talking, status quoist nation of immense potential. The latent potential, untapped in perpetuity, must be unleashed. However, Civil-Military fusion is a complex process which needs understanding. Every nation has to adopt a fusion strategy suiting its culture and political climate. In the current international landscape, China’s fusion process is driven by its superpower ambitions and to establish a Chinese based world order. The  USA and the western world are dissecting the Chinese model to stymie it. However in this process the Chinese Civil-Military fusion model is available for India to adapt. In this context, we need to understand the Chinese Military-Civil Fusion (MCF) model first.


The Chinese MCF Model


Fundamentally, MCF is China’s national strategy to make PLA the most advanced military in the world. The stress is to eliminate barriers between China’s civilian, research, industrial, commercial, military and defence sectors. It is implementing this strategy, not just through domestic R&D, but also by acquiring cutting-edge technologies (including through theft) in order to achieve military dominance. MCF seeks accelerated military modernization through integration of new technologies with operational concepts, increased scientific research, and personnel reforms. MCF infrastructure connects the military and civilian sectors to catalyse innovation, economic development, and advance dual-use technologies, especially those suited for informatised and “intelligentized” warfare.


The MCF concept took root at the turn of the century. China studied the models of  USA and other developed nations. Initially they sought ‘military-civilian integration’ by greater collaboration between the defence and civilian sectors. However ‘integration’ did not make headway due to a lack of centralized control and organizational barriers between the party and state and their various organisations. In 2007,  China decided to replace ‘integration’ with ‘fusion’. It started breaking barriers to fusion through a ‘whole of the nation’ approach. MCF grew in scope and scale as China started viewing it as a means to bridge  economic and social development besides security development. The net effect was national development. In 2015,  MCF was elevated to a national-level strategy to build an ‘integrated national strategic system and capabilities,’ to support the goal of national rejuvenation. The overall management and implementation of the MCF is monitored and managed by the Politburo, the State Council (including the National Development and Reform Commission), and the CMC. A Central Commission for Military Civilian Fusion Development (CCMCFD) was established in 2017, headed by Xi Jinping along with Premier Li Keqiang. In effect, the most powerful people and organs of the state, own and implement MCF.  This special arrangement works to lay down directives for MCF and overcome any impediment to its implementation.


China’s MCF model fuses its economic, social, and security development with a twofold objective. To strengthen all instruments of national power and to achieve a world class military. It includes development  and acquisition of  advanced dual-use technology for military and civilian applications. It also includes reform of the national defence, science and technology industries to meld them into ONE. In outline MCF has six facets. 1. It fuses the defence and civil  technology and industrial base. 2. Science and technology innovations are integrated and leveraged across military and civilian sectors. 3. Military and civilian expertise and knowledge are blended and talent is cultivate across the board. 4. Civilian  infrastructure and construction is leveraged for military purposes by building  them to military requirements and standards. 5. Civilian  services and logistics are utilised for military purposes. 6. All aspects of society and economy are utilised for mobilization of resources and capabilities for defence of the nation. 


Each facet has redundancy and overlap with others. All facets have domestic and international dimensions. Implementation is from the highest national-level establishments and organisations and go down to provincial and city level units. There are financial structures and regulatory mechanisms to incentivize civilian and military stakeholders. These include  local governments, academia, research institutions, private investors, and military organizations. It is a whole of the government approach. The focus is naturally on  disruptive dual-use technologies and systems. An overview of activities under various facets are enumerated in point form below.  

Improve efficiency, capacity, and flexibility of defence and civilian industrial and manufacturing processes. Increase competitiveness within defence industrial base by breaking monopolies of SOEs which dominate an entire sector.


Advance self-reliance in manufacturing key industrial technologies, equipment, and materials to reduce its dependence on imports, including those with dual-uses.


Strengthening and promoting civilian and military R&D in advanced dual-use technologies and cross- pollinating military and civilian basic research.


Promoting the sharing of scientific resources, expanding the institutions involved in defence research, and fostering greater collaboration across defence and civilian research communities. 


Foster  ‘new-type’ research institutions with mixed funding sources and lean management structures that are more dynamic, efficient, and effective than wholly state-owned research bodies.


Factoring military requirements and dual-use purposes into building civilian private and public transportation infrastructure such as airports, port facilities, railways, roads, and communications networks. It includes infrastructure projects in dual-use domains such as space and undersea as well as mobile communications networks and topographical and meteorological systems.

Blend and cultivate military and civilian S&T expertise through education programs, personnel exchanges, and knowledge sharing. Cultivate talent through extensive talent recruitment plans, and improve human capital, build a highly skilled workforce.


Recruit foreign experts to provide access to know-how, expertise, and foreign technology. 


Reform military academies, national universities, and research institutes and tap into the nationwide ‘patriotic education’ programs. 


Harness civilian public and private sector resources to improve the PLA’s basic services and support functions—ranging from food, housing, and healthcare services. Gain efficiencies in costs and personnel by outsourcing non-military services previously performed by the PLA. 


Construct a military logistics system that is able to support and sustain the PLA in joint operations and for overseas operations. Provide the PLA with modern transportation and distribution, warehousing, information sharing, and other types of support in peacetime and wartime. Provide the PLA with a logistics system that is more efficient, higher capacity, higher quality, and global in reach. 

Mobilise  military, economic, and social resources to defend or advance China’s sovereignty, security and development interests. 


Integrate  state emergency management systems  into the national defence mobilization system in order to achieve a coordinated military-civilian response during a crisis. Leverage the economy and society to support China’s strategic needs for international competition. 


The MCF system entails extensive linkages between various organizations and government entities. At the apex level there are linkages between ministries (Defence, Foreign Affairs, Education, Science and Technology, Industry and Information Technology et al) and their subordinate establishments. All military organisations are linked on the MCF platform. Provincial and  local governments are also factored in. State-sponsored educational institutions, research centres, and key laboratories are part of MCF. Students studying abroad specially in disruptive technologies are also part of the MCF program. Major defence SOEs , other SOEs and quasi-private companies like COSCO, China National Offshore Oil Company, and major construction companies that have roles in BRI projects and also in building artificial islands in the South China Sea are keyed into MCF.  Private  companies that specialize in unmanned systems, robotics, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, and big data have been co-opted into MCF. These include Huawei and ZTE.  MCF efforts involve partnerships between central, provincial, or city government entities with military district departments, PLA departments, academia, research entities, and companies. Provincial  and local governments have MCF industrial plans and have established 35 national-level MCF industrial zones. MCF-linked investment funds have been created by central and local governments and private investors. 


Civil Military Fusion for India – Pointers


Obviously the Chinese model is too autocratic for our messy democracy. However the necessity of Civil Military Fusion for India is undisputed. The question at hand is can such a concept be adopted in India? For Civil Military Fusion to even take off , we need strong political will and inclination to do so. India must learn to walk the talk. The desire is evident and well-articulated in the ‘Atmanirbharta’ program and its predecessor ‘Make in India’. However this desire must be driven by an unitary political leadership backed by a bipartisan consensus. Civil Military Fusion needs a whole of the nation approach and the ability to stay the course for over a decade at least, so that the entire process becomes self-driven and irreversible as did our economic reforms of the 90s. This demands resolute leadership of the doing kind as against the talking kind.


The normal understanding is that Civil Military Fusion is all about dual use. If one analyses the concept carefully, the most important factor in Civil Military Fusion is breaking of barriers and establishing linkages with multiple channels of communication.  Elimination of barriers to achieve fusion and not mere integration has to be the focus. In our siloed and disaggregated structure, everyone believes in one upmanship and working to his concept of national interest. In India, Inter Service, Inter Department, Inter Ministry, Inter State, Inter Party and myriad other Inter Se barriers are calcified to the Nth degree. Accordingly, Civil Military Fusion needs an empowered structure and a well-defined hierarchy to break these walls with a hammer.  The structure has to be spearheaded by a clearheaded political leadership, an unshackled military and a bureaucracy which is prepared to shed its non performing lassitude. It has to be a top down approach. In fact the first step is Politico-Military- Bureaucratic fusion. If this can be achieved even partially, we will be on our way. 


Realistically, in our country, it will well neigh be impossible to create and sustain a mega model across the board like it happens in China. In India, Civil Military Fusion has to be a clustered approach and incrementally achieved. The first cluster could be of successful and key sectors of national importance. This cluster invariably should be of Defence, Space, Atomic Energy, Energy, and Communications. The second cluster should be based on disruptive and modern technologies like AI, Cyber, robotics, unmanned Systems, new materials and so on. The third cluster should be infrastructure and logistical in nature to include rail, roads, airports, ports, ware housing, freight services, transportation, housing, buildings and so on. The fourth cluster should be financial fusion. The fifth cluster should be related to conventional ‘bread and butter’ technology, goods and manufacturing where dual use can be exploited.  The span in each cluster should include concerned ministries, military departments, academia, PSUs, public sector industry, DRDO, CSIR labs, Science and Technological institutes of repute, Industry icons and more. Focus must be on key technologies, key products and key personnel. Talent capture and retention will be a major challenge in our system. We must pay adequate attention to this aspect. 


In conclusion it can be said that the time for MCF has arrived in India. If India is to be great, there is no alternative to Civil Military Fusion. The cost that the nation has to pay for not getting into this game is that the gap with China will keep widening till such time our sovereignty starts eroding. Further, Atmanirbharta will remain a chimera. It is a difficult route. I do not think we have a choice to avoid difficult choices.


PS:-  There is very little authentic documentation about Civil Military Fusion as it is happening in China. A well laid out, logical and easy to understand explanation is in the Annual Report to the Congress by the US DOD. I have based this article mostly on that report to the extent of plagiarising it in parts.


3 responses to “Civil Military Fusion : An Indian Necessity By Lt Gen P R Shankar (R)”

  1. Sir, how can there be civil military fusion in entirety in either China or in India? Is everyone inclined in China to look at their various activities as belonging to a civil military fusion? To what extent can an activity be both civil and military at the same time? Can any administration be equally adept at considering a process to be both civil and military at the same time?

  2. Shankar well articulated as usual. However certain very relevant issues. like you mentioned ours is a messy democracy. Political situation changes frequently so does the focus, hence to have a long term sustainable MCF is wishful thinking. Defence though very significant certainly does not get the importance it deserves. Till such time this does happen, MCF in India is a distant dream

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