Future Wars in India
The types of threats and challenges existing currently and those that are likely to arise in the future are, by themselves, indicative of a threat-cum-capability-based force structure in which the potential adversary’s capabilities and threats can both be
M ANY VIEWS HAVE BEEN expressed on the subject of future wars. Most observations and assessments depend upon the background, expertise and bias of the individuals concerned. Martin Crevald, the Israeli military scientist, states, “War will be completely permeated by technology and governed by it.” Andrew Marshall, former Director of the Office of Net Assessments in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, states, “A revolution in military affairs (RMA) is a major change in the nature of warfare brought about by the innovative application of new technologies which combined with dramatic changes in military doctrine, operational and organisational concepts, fundamentally alters the character and conduct of military operations.” Such an RMA, he says, is occurring. Colin S. Gray in his book Strategy for
Chaos describes RMA differently. He says, “The character of war is always changing, but from time to time, the pace of change accelerates or appears to do so with the result that there is a change of state in warfare. War must still be war but it is waged in a noticeably different manner.” This is what the current information technology driven RMA has accomplished.
While the details of each evaluation and appraisal differ in their content and quality, some conclusions emerge quite clearly and these are: Future warfare will be highly uncertain. Technology will play a predominant role in designing the conduct of war. Weaker states will use “asymmetric warfare” to fight opponents that are more powerful while the more powerful states will use positive asymmetry through technological capabilities to deliver significant lethal and non-lethal effects with precision, speed and crushing power. Globalisation and interconnectedness will make wars transparent thus challenging the political utility of using armed forces. Military power is likely to be used selectively, in an integrated and synergetic manner and with increasing discrimination in choosing means as well as ends. There will invariably be an international pressure on warring parties. Two or three generations of warfare will coexist. State-to-state conflict, when both parties act on national initiative, will become a rarity. Care will have to be taken to work within the limits of international law, including its precepts on the minimum use of force and proportionality of response.
Existing Threats and Challenges
India faces three types of military threats and challenges currently. The traditional variety of threat is from Pakistan and China respectively due to the existing territorial disputes. Considering their growing collusion currently and in the past, a simultaneous two-front threat also cannot be ruled out. This is likely to be in the form of limited wars of mid/high intensity. Internal threat and the contemporary challenges are likely to take the form of low-intensity conflict (LIC) like terrorism and insurgencies emanating from traditional adversaries, international terrorist networks, non-state actors, and dissident groups of home-grown variety. The conventional conflicts are likely to be of short duration, which may vary from a few days to a few weeks, due to the inevitable international pressures.
LIC falls under the category of ‘politicomilitary confrontation’ between contending states or groups and are at a much lower scale than conventional wars but are above the routine and peaceful competition among states. LIC ranges from high-grade internal security situations to the extensive employment of Army in counter-insurgency operations. LIC is waged by a combination of means, employing political, economic, informational and military instruments. It includes terrorism but excludes purely criminal acts. Such conflicts as opposed to conventional wars may prolong indefinitely because conflict resolution has to be achieved within many conflicting influences.
In addition to the existing threats and challenges, the new threat dimensions and challenges that need to be examined, in the future, say up to the next two decades or so, are: Security of our national values and purpose, as laid down in the Constitution of India. Security of our island territories separated by large distances from the mainland. Security of our resources rich area. Security of a large and unprotected coastline and the national assets and infrastructure along the coastline. Security of sea-routes of communications which provide passage to our trade. Internal dissent and claims to autonomy and ethnic recognition by subnational entities, who may be supported from outside. Demographic shifts in the South Asian region. Non-military threats and their impact on the military (water, energy, etc). Inimical actions by powerful multinationals which may affect own vital national interests and which may be supported by other states. The beliefs of one or more powerful states, which view their security as more vital than that of the world. Overspill of ethnic conflicts in the South Asian region into India. Out of area contingencies to support friendly states in the region or evacuation of own diasporas from conflict zones. Global terrorism perpetrated by nonstate actors in our region, which may be aided or supported by other states. Cyber and space. Military aid in internal security against: Terrorist Activity Narcotics Trade Antagonistic Paramilitary groups Large-scale civil disobedience caused by a variety of reasons Disturbances caused by ideological, ethnic and religious hatred, anarchy, food shortages and absence of governance.
Future Force Structure
The types of threats and challenges existing currently and those that are likely to arise in the future are, by themselves, indicative of a threat-cum-capability-based force structure in which the potential adversary’s capabilities and threats can both be countered by acquiring a full spectrum capability but without overstretching the country’s resources. This can be achieved by utilising national resources i.e. through synergising the resources at national level and not confining the capabilities to the armed forces alone because wars are national undertakings and not the domain of the military alone. Thus we need a joint war fighting doctrine which combines the use of armed forces and other national resources together with modern technology and operational art, evolved contextually into an Indian way of warfighting.
Doctrines and Concepts of Land Warfare
Three Generations of Land Warfare Land warfare has witnessed three watersheds in which the change has been qualitative. The first generation of warfare consisted of the tactics of the era of the smooth bore muskets and the linear battle of lines and columns. The second generation warfare was a response to the rifled musket, breechloaders, barbed wire, machine-gun and indirect fire. Tactics were based on fire and movement and they remained essentially linear. The third generation warfare was also a response to the increase in battlefield firepower. In World War I, the Germans were aware of their strategic weakness because of their weaker industrial base; and hence they developed radically new tactics, which were based on manoeuvre
rather than attrition. The basic concepts of third generation tactics were in place by the end of 1918. The advent of the aircraft and tanks brought about a major shift at the operational level in World War II. This operation was named ‘Blitzkrieg’ by the Germans in which emphasis was placed on manoeuvre, speed and tempo, to carry out wide outflanking movements avoiding enemy’s defences, in the front, to strike at his rear areas in order to lead to psychological collapse.
The Americans picked up the ideas of ‘manoeuvre warfare’ from the Germans and the Russians, of simultaneous engagement of operational components of the enemy’s defensive system, to cause ‘operational shock’ by development of an operational momentum far exceeding the relative reaction capability of the opponent. PostVietnam doctrinal reform in the US Army led to adoption of the doctrine of “Active Defense” in the early 1970s. This was followed by a sharp revolution in doctrinal thinking, which led to the second stage of post-Vietnam doctrinal reform and the evolution of the doctrine of AirLand Battle. The tenets of depth, agility, initiative and synchronisation, became the heart of the Airland Battle doctrine. The basic idea, applicable to offence and defence, was to throw the enemy off balance with an offensive from an unexpected direction, to seize and retain the initiative and defeat the enemy. Other significant concepts introduced were of the German Army principle of Auftragstaktik (decentralised decision-making and directive style of command) and the operational level of war. AirLand Battle was expanded in 1986, clarifying the concept of operational level of war, and highlighted the synchronisation of the close, deep and rear battles. The AirLand Battle provided the conceptual basis for the US Army to adopt an initiative oriented readiness posture. The concept developed along with the principle of directing the main strike into the opponent’s principal operational weakness. The doctrinal reform was the symbol and basis of modernisation of the US Army in the 1970s and 1980s.
Fourth Generation of Warfare
Military analysts in USA have deliberated on a fourth generation of warfare in which the target is the whole of enemy’s society (ideology, culture, political, infrastructure and civil society). This generation of warfare will be characterised by dispersion, increased importance of actions by small groups of combatants, decreasing dependence of centralised logistics, high tempo of operation and more emphasis on manoeuvre. Concentration of men, materiel or firepower may become a disadvantage, as it will be easy to target. Small, highly manoeuvrable, agile forces will tend to dominate. The aim would be to cause enemy to collapse internally rather than physically destroying him. There will be little distinction between war and peace. It will be non-linear, possibly to the point of having no definable battlefields or fronts. Major military and civil facilities will become targets. Success will depend heavily on joint operations. If we combine these general characteristics with new technology we see one possible outline of the new generation.
The Indian armed forces are neither integrated nor do they possess these capabilities, regardless of some “stand-alone” capabilities existing within each service
Case for Discriminate Force
Another viewpoint of the new generation of warfare is the Case for Discriminate Force put forward by Professor Ariel Levite and Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall. According to them, Western democracies are facing increasing constraints on the use of their overwhelming military power because the logic of use of force to safeguard national interests is becoming less applicable. State and non-state adversaries who threaten important values and vital interests are no longer deterred by the Western military might. At the same time, globalisation and the growing transparency of the battlefield and changing western value systems are compelling civilian and military leaders to wield military power selectively and to use fine judgement in the choice of the method adopted to achieve the political and military aims. It seems that even in the postCold War era, preventive diplomacy has to be backed by credible threat of use of force and it is acknowledged that classic deterrence is less reliable against asymmetric challenges such as terrorism and insurgencies. It is also seen that non-military means of coercion often fail to change the behaviour of adversaries while military responses have not changed fundamentally despite the new realities and constraints. The authors state that unless the military changes its structures and methods to adapt to the changing nature of war, it will be weakened in three respects. First, it will not be able to repel attack on its territory or its interests abroad. Second, it would not be able to coerce or compel the adversary to cease hostile action and third, it would be weakened as a viable warfighting tool, if diplomacy and deterrence fails. Selective and discriminate use of force will reinforce the three areas mentioned and increase the effectiveness of military action and this can come about through doctrinal and technological innovation. Discriminate force demands a combination of intensity, precision and effect that is versatile and dynamic. It requires fine-tuning of military actions with political objectives and constraints and hence requires a close politico- military interaction throughout the campaign against the adversary who in the face of conventional superiority will make use of asymmetric means to primarily attack civilian targets as well as interests abroad.
In view of the above rationale, apart from acquiring nuanced means, the three doctrinal imperatives advocated for making a successful transition to a discriminate force strategy in order to delicately balance the requirement of resolve and restraint include “pre-emption, image wars” (influencing images and public perceptions in determining the outcome of contemporary military engagements) and “modifying the concept of victory”. The authors recommend that the goal of war has to be redefined as success rather than victory where success is measured as much in avoiding excessive civilian causalities, suffering and destruction as in furthering political goals underlying the military operations.
Use of Integrated Military Capability
With the changing nature of war, the logic, legitimacy and effectiveness of employing force to safeguard national interests is becoming more intricate and sophisticated due to a large number of pressures on both political and military leaders. It is accepted that classical deterrence is not reliable against asymmetric challenges such as insurgencies and terrorism. Moreover, future wars will mandate use of higher technology, seek a quick end to war, demand expertise in conventional, unconventional and hybrid forms of conflict, require use of smaller and “tailored” bi/tri-service task forces for integrated operations and characterise “combat power” as a product of smaller, highly lethal, agile and better educated forces. All point towards greater utilisation of an integrated military capability which may be smaller in size but more lethal and capable of inflicting very heavy punishment when required.
Use of Special Forces for Special Operations
Analysis of future wars mandates a larger quantum of Special Forces for Special Operations which can be re-engineered out of our present capability. The Special Forces, more skilled, better trained, organised and equipped to face various types of operational challenges possess special characteristics such as “rapid response, reach, versatility, precision, discretion and audacity”. These characteristics endow the Special Forces with the ability to conduct special operations as well as out of area and contingency missions. They will invariably constitute an important part of the tri-service power projection capability when it is assembled. India should structure a Special Operations Command to effectively utilise the Special Forces of the three services and to train and equip these forces for future contingencies.
Network-centric warfare, also known as information-based warfare, is the product of convergence of certain key technologies such as computers, communications, sensors and precision fires and their exploitation to bring to bear maximum combat power at the right time and the right place. NCW uses information for the benefit of the warfighters in peace and in war. The military calls it “situational awareness” which implies awareness regarding terrain, including objectives/targets, enemy, and own forces. This information is passed from the sensors deployed on the ground, at sea, in the air and in the space (satellites, unmanned aerial vehicles, aircraft, radars, etc) through broadband digital communication networks to frontline units and the decision-makers in the rear in real/ near real time frame, thus making the battlefield transparent and reducing the response time. Network-centric operations (NCO) is an umbrella term which encompasses the concepts of network-centric warfare. Networkcentric operations have also been described as high tempo, precise, agile style of manoeuvre warfare focused on effects based operations (EBO) that derive their power from robust networking of geographically separated entities, while EBO themselves are coordinated sets of actions directed at shaping the behaviour of friends, foes and neutrals in peace, crises and war. This implies timely, appropriate and skilful use of all or selected element(s) of national power which include political/diplomatic, economic, technological, social, psychological, information/media and military among others. The final aim is to achieve strategic (political) objectives of war with the least amount of tactical effort which incidentally is also the essence of “operational art”.
The Indian armed forces are neither integrated nor do they possess these capabilities, regardless of some “stand-alone” capabilities existing within each service. The military instrument of network-centric warfare will have to be forged on suitably integrated organisations, new technologies, joint concepts and doctrines, and joint training.
This capability has been defined by the US Government security expert Richard A. Clarke, in his book Cyber War (May 2010), as “actions by a nation-state to penetrate another nation’s computers or networks for the purposes of causing damage or disruption.” The Economist describes cyber warfare as “the fifth domain of warfare,” and in the US armed forces, the Pentagon has formally recognised cyberspace as a new domain in warfare which has become just as critical to military operations as land, sea, air and space. As we automate our systems and connect them through digital communication networks, we will become more and more vulnerable to cyber attacks. In the recent times, we have already seen media reports of Chinese cyber attacks on many Indian establishments. India as a nation and the Indian armed forces as an entity will have to acquire this capability for the future wars.
Fifth Generation Warfare
Currently, no commonly accepted definition exists for fifth generation (unrestricted) warfare (5GW). However, given the rate at which change in warfare is accelerating, it is reasonable to accept that fifth generation (unrestricted) warfare is already making its appearance.
Fifth generation (unrestricted) warfare includes the appearance of super-empowered individuals and groups with access to modern knowledge, technology, and means to conduct asymmetric attacks in furtherance of their individual and group interests. Arguably, its first identifiable manifestations occurred in the United States during the anthrax attacks of 2001 and the Ricin attacks of 2004. Both sets of attacks required specialised knowledge, included attacks upon federal government offices and facilities, succeeded in disrupting governmental processes, and created widespread fear in the public. Till date, no individual or group has claimed responsibility for either attack, and neither attack has been solved. The attacks were quite successful in disrupting government processes and creating public fear but so far, their motivation remains unknown.
Today’s computer hackers, capable of disrupting governments and corporations on a global scale by attacking the Internet with malicious computer programmes, may also be forerunners of super-empowered individuals and groups. They have already demonstrated that they are capable of single-handedly waging technological campaigns with overtones of fifth generation (unrestricted) warfare
The potential power of fifth generation (unrestricted) warfare was also demonstrated in the Madrid bombings of 2004. On this occasion, a series of mass transit bombings conducted by a networked terrorist group in a single day, on the eve of national elections, resulted in a new Spanish Government being voted into office, and the immediate withdrawal of Spanish military support to ongoing coalition operations against the insurgency in Iraq.
The “realm of uncertainty” is the nature of wars as stated long time ago by none other than Clausewitz himself. Hence let us ensure that the transformation we are seeking will produce a military capability which is able to face all types of situations which policy will throw its way. This rationale points to the conclusions which are both negative and positive in their content. These are: The approach to wars and warfare must not be divorced from its political, social and strategic context. Defence planners usually produce impressive solutions to problems they prefer to solve but not the problems that wily and intelligent foes might pose. Trend analysis and strategic futurology is not very helpful in predicting the future which is guided more by the consequences of the trends that we see today rather than the trends themselves. We must always be prepared for surprises irrespective of how confident we feel about the future. Based on India’s security parameters, we need to prepare for a broad spectrum of threats and challenges that may be thrust upon us and our genius should reside in utilising the available budget in building a superior military capability through tri-service synergy and not through exclusive, single service focus. A Parliamentary Directive to enforce inter-services integration is in fact long overdue.