India is already facing trailers of future wars and it is being witnessed in information battlefield, cyberspace and unsettled and active borders, said Indian Army chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane on Thursday pointing out challenges from China and Pakistan.
Speaking at Pragyan Conclave at the Centre for Land Warfare Studies in Delhi about future wars, Gen Naravne said, ‘We are already witnessing ‘trailers’ of future conflicts. They are being enacted daily on the information battlefield, in the networks and in cyberspace. They are also being played along, our yet unsettled and active borders.’
He said that It is for us to ‘visualise’, the battlefield contours of tomorrow, based on these ‘trailers’.
‘If you look around, you will realise that the ‘sci-fi’ of yesterday, is the ‘reality’ of today,’ said General Naravane adding, ‘We too have to ‘leap-frog’ to the future, skipping many stages, to an entirely new configuration.’
He said the paradigm shift in warfare is well acknowledged. ‘We are witnessing conflicts increasingly transcending, time, space and force dimensions, and enveloping new frontiers,’ General Naravane said.
These wars blur the distinction, between combatants and non-combatants, front and rear, often avoid direct military engagements, and resort to extensive use of proxy actors.
There are ongoing hostilities between States, in the Cyber, Information, Sub-conventional and Hybrid domains, without a formal pronouncement of War.
He points out that there is no ‘M’ Day or ‘D’ Day, as has been the case earlier.
These, along with Diplomatic, Informational, and Economic coercive activities, are already being prosecuted in the Grey Zone.
The aim remains to incapacitate the adversary, disintegrate his sources of power, and render the command and control systems ineffective, so as to make physical forces redundant.
He pointed out that India has also observed, some Nations challenging the globally accepted norms, and the Rules-Based Order. ‘This challenge has manifested in various forms of, creeping aggression and opportunist actions, to alter the status quo, keeping the threshold below all-out war,’ he said.
Talking about developments in Afghanistan, General Naravane said the situation in Afghanistan has again brought to focus, the use of proxies and Non-State actors to decisive effects.
‘These actors thrive on local conditions, innovatively exploit low-cost options, to devastating impact and create conditions, that limit the full use of sophisticated capabilities, available to the State,’ he stated.
The concept of sequential, and often graduated application of force, has also undergone significant changes.
‘I have said this in the past, and I wish to reiterate, that in future conflicts, the troops, on the forward-most locations, ready and in a high state of alertness, may not be the ones to face the first wave of aggression,’ he stated.
He stresses that military doctrines and concepts have struggled to keep pace with this change and stay relevant.AA
‘The military lexicon has expanded, and traditional definitions have undergone a review. The concept of Victory itself has changed, as enduring success, especially against Non-State actors, has remained elusive for most,’ Indian Army chief said.
‘However, if we go back in time, we would realise that even though there have been transformative changes, in the way wars have been fought over time, the nature of war in terms of force and violence, blood and gore, has not changed.’
‘Why do I mention this? Because sometimes in our zeal to look at the future, we forget the lessons that the past brings to us. These defining constituents, force and violence, have only manifested in newer forms.’
He reasons that Hard Power has always been relevant, and will continue to play an important part in the future, albeit in new ways, adapting to the changing strategic context.
‘This is also one of the reasons, why our ancient Indian wisdom on State Craft, and application of force, propounded many centuries ago, remains timeless and pertinent even today,’ General Naravane said.
In the present context, he said the ceasefire on the Line of Control continues to hold because India has negotiated from a position of strength.
Talking about the situation at the border with China, General Naravane said, ‘The developments on our Northern Borders, have also adequately underscored, the requirement of ready and capable forces, with an optimal component of Boots on Ground, backed by modern technology, to preserve our Sovereignty and Integrity.’
He says any discussion on Future Contours of War, will have an overbearing tilt towards modern technologies. This is obvious because almost all modern technology tools have the potential for military application and disruptive impact on modern-day warfare.
‘This change is already making traditional core competencies irrelevant, and creating the necessity of acquiring new proficiencies,’ he said.
The Indian Army Chief cited Israel and Hamas and UAE and Yemen conflicts.
General Naravane said, ‘The Israel-Hamas conflict last year, has firmly underscored the power of Artificial Intelligence.’
He pointed out that the more recent strikes last month, on the UAE by Yemen’s Houthi rebels, using armed drones and missiles, reflect the rapid proliferation of, these disruptive technologies to a wide range of actors. ‘The mid-air interception of incoming missiles, by the UAE & US forces stationed there, is equally defining,’ he pointed out.
He said that improved situational awareness, a fusion of sensors, faster decision making, use of autonomous weapons, and integration of Artificial Intelligence, into every facet of warfare, will necessitate changes to warfighting doctrines, our organizations and structures, and not to forget our training methodology and leadership.
‘For militaries across the world as well as for us, this remains an ongoing challenge, and a work in progress,’ General Naravane said.
From the Indian perspective, we face unique, substantial and multi-domain challenges. Disputed borders with nuclear neighbours, coupled with State-sponsored Proxy War, stretches our security apparatus and resources.
‘Our adversaries shall continue with their efforts, to achieve their strategic aims, short of conflict, by use of Grey Zone activities, in the political, military and economic domains, and do so in a collusive manner,’ he said.
He pointed out the events in 2020 that have been testimony, to the diversity of security threats in all domains, and this has brought the spotlight towards, non-contact and grey-zone warfare.
General Naravane stressed that there is a need to identify the main drivers of, military technology in the Digital Era Warfare, to improve effectiveness, augmenting our capabilities, in both the non-contact and contact modes of warfare.
And for that the Indian Army has already initiated, adequate modernisation steps to acquire these technologies, he said.