The entire strategy of enimical forces has been to weaken the Indian nation and to prevent it from achieving its true potential
Lt Gen (retd) Syed
On the face of it, it is simple to approach the subject with an idea that territorial challenges can be met by just ensuring that we have a strong set of armed forces that will secure our borders and prevent any ingress. That is the old world way of looking at security. The modern world views it very differently. It looks at the entire spectrum of conflict and examines every domain of it to ensure the identification of all potential threats and measures to counter them.
We need to reiterate that India exists in a complex security environment with turbulence on our west, north and east and the waters of the Indian Ocean in the south getting equally turbulent. The entire West Asia is in turmoil with a churning within Islam and the effects of that have already had an impact on our security.
Pakistan has been our traditional adversary because of the dispute over J&K but that enmity has transformed into something bigger and existential in nature. It has attempted to overcome conventional asymmetry through its nuclear program. It is, however, in such an unstable state that its nuclear assets remain under threat of another paradigm of modern conflict, the 4th generation warriors. Pakistan however uses them as strategic assets to weaken India internally.
Afghanistan too remains on the boil and further north the expanding arc of China’s influence is resulting in a New Great Game in Central Asia. China has problems with India in terms of territory and would like India to remain weak so that its potential to defend its territorial interests is always questionable. It
wishes to dominate the Indian Ocean to secure her energy routes and deny us our strategic space which now in conjunction with other big and middle powers extends into the Indo Pacific zone. .
The threats to our borders/territory and coastline no doubt come from these directions. It is not as if our adversaries will threaten only our borders to achieve their territorial ambitions. The entire strategy is to weaken the Indian nation to prevent it from achieving its true
potential. Their intent is to ensure that the Armed Forces, CAPFs and PMFs who are responsible for territorial
security cannot be maintained at the optimum levels of operational efficiency.
How India’s territories can be protected against the multiple threats that we face?
First, there is need for recognition and understanding that we cannot be lone rangers in this networked and globalised world. We need strategic partners with whom we will have mutual support diplomatically, economically and
technologically. Military cooperation is a byword these days and many a time on the back of military diplomacy rides political diplomacy. While we maintain our strategic autonomy the advancement we make with defense cooperation has no limits. It boosts the confidence of the armed forces and gives them a
professional orientation to best practices the world over.
Technology has always formed the core and probably the most significant part of transformation. It is not just about evolving of concepts in the technical domain but the whole gamut of fast track acquisition of technology and its absorption. It is necessary to create a technological culture and scientific temper to ensure that ;
l The Indian Navy’s decision to technicalise its entire officer cadre and the decision to induct technically qualified officers into the Fighting Arms of the army has been a correct one. Progressively we will need more of this.
l The securing of national territories, a physical need, cannot be done by the armed forces alone. The entire Government is responsible for this. It is enabled if there is a conscious effort to enhance the strategic
culture of the nation. I do not wish to discuss the definition of strategic culture but suffice to say that if the populace, the educated one, perceives the role of the people in the defense of India the commitment will be far larger and the orientation far more correct. It is quite pathetic to see how poorly even the most educated are oriented towards this role. Fortunately the media is live and there is a growing interest in the corporate and academic world. This must multiply faster if people are to be made conscious of the role played by different entities in the defense of the territories of India.
l Human resources, apart from the paradigm of scientific and technological orientation, needs to be of a robust, motivated and
patriotic variety. Witness how an entire state and its people are today held to ransom due to the
sociological problem of narcotics and drugs in Punjab.
l Soldiers, sailors and airmen
alongside personnel from the CAPFs need to feel motivated and committed to the nation. Unfortunately, the vulnerability of the youth and our inability to
prevent its exploitation has led to the current problem.
l The training of those in uniform needs to be world class. This domain is one of our great
weaknesses. Referring only to the officer cadre I daresay we need a new generation of people who are analysts, innovators and thinkers even at a young age. The Kargil War was won by the sheer grit of the new generation which has the potential of delivering intellectually provided we allow them to do so.
l Before I even think of equipment (not technology) I find that infrastructure takes primacy. Most of our border areas are remote, rugged and lack resources. In yester years we did not have the means to develop state of the art
infrastructure leaving both, the border people and the Army to improvise as best as they could. The modernisation of infrastructure involving roads, operational tracks, airfields, helipads and habitat has now been given priority but unless we have much more resources the need to delivery gap will not be realised.
l No set of armed forces can thrive unlessa progressive and ongoing modernisation continues all the time. Modernisation has many domains but here I refer to the field of equipment. The Make in India campaign was a crying need and its spirit and energy are most needed for long term equipment and maintenance needs. The enthusiasm with which it commenced has to continue without losing steam. Teething problems will occur but staying the course is more important.
l One of the most important domains is to ensure that no adversary considers it prudent to target our borders or any other part of our territory. We must therefore possess the ability to project power, capability and intent. For this it is the information domain which comes into prominence. The nature of war today is hybrid which essentially means that it combines many sub domains. Information is one of those sub domains. We need to ensure that the world learns of our National Will to secure ourselves. Unfortunately Pakistan perceives that it is getting the better of India in the state of J&K and staying the course, keeping stamina intact and causing alienation through triggers will place India on the back foot.
l We may like to remember that for the security of our territories while we have the three armed forces we also have the backup of the CAPFs. In the world of comprehensive security internal and external securities have virtually merged, with intermingling of responsibility. We are fortunate that we have a strong set of police forces which look at border security and internal security. The best examples of interdependency are J&K and the North East. What is important is the emergence of a common security culture through more intermingling at institutions.
l Although there are various other domains in the geopolitical field but from a military angle the above appear to be adequate for the near future. One re-emphasis may be necessary. We cannot be seen to be a defensive nation, benign in outlook. These are days of robust security outlook. Demonstrating our will to secure ourselves is important and therefore it is equally important to understand and ascertain how this must be done. There is obviously a very urgent need to ensure thenintegration of diplomacy, military power and technology along with the right political messaging from time to time.
l Threats of Islamic radicalism and violent extremism and what needs to be done about them is an area of national security which will
necessarily have to draw much focus through 2017. As already mentioned a churning within Islam is sending ripples far and wide. The current manifestations of the turbulence in West Asia is having it effect mostly within West Asia itself and very largely in Europe. Although unlikely to be vanquished, yet there is scope that ISIS (Daesh) will be sufficiently weakened through 2017-18. The next nesting ground bears importance for our security. If it happens in the vicinity of South Asia, in Afghanistan and Central Asia then the ripple effect towards India could be stronger. That happened after 1989 as the resistance against the former Soviet Union was deconstructed; transnational mujahideen turned towards J&K. However, this is currently unlikely. What we need to be wary of is the ideological influence which in today’s world can reach a target population rapidly and en masse. In various parts of India, Kerala to Maharashtra to Uttar Pradesh and J&K there are segments of population which are vulnerable. It is always possible to protect this population through prophylactic social media campaigns which must never be ham handed but professional. The problem is who is to undertake this; surely not the intelligence agencies and not the I&B Ministry either. The overall responsibility must rest in a constitutional body formed for the purpose of identifying vulnerable populations and undertaking communication with them through social, print and electronic media. This is a huge challenge to which we as a nation have to respond.
The second threat from radical global and regional Islamic terror organisations is kinetic. The threat will remain through 2017 and beyond but may get slightly dissipated with J&K bearing the major brunt, followed by North Punjab. The possibility of
targeting UP and Central India which have been dormant for some time will remain live and intelligence agencies will need to remain focused on these. West Bengal with its political tensions brewing is also a potential area. There is no shortcut to countering the terror threat through better intelligence and response mechanism. However, the
pre-emptive arrests of Muslim youth, and especially immediately in the wake of terror activities, militate against the concept of fair play; authorities are inevitably in dilemma over this. It is best to carry such arrests with full
transparency and cooperation of communities especially elders and parents. The volatile effect on youth acts as a trigger which inimical elements exploit for recruitment. This spiral of activity is the inevitable cause of more dissent and needs sensitive handling without compromising on the issues of security.
The focal center for terror activity will remain Pakistan which allows its territory to be exploited for this purpose to further its long term plans against India. If Afghanistan gets less turbulent than what it was in 2016 and if the
internal security situation is under
control, India must brace for a round of violence after May 2017, both in J&K and elsewhere. That is why it is
necessary to exploit the window the winter offers with the effects of demonetisation still in place. Networks will in due course attempt to find their way around the firewalls everywhere.
(The writer is a former GOC of the Srinagar-based 15 Corps. Now a senior analyst at Vivekanand International Foundation and Institute of Peace & Conflict Studies)