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Its War - And India has to fight it as such
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 05 Jan , 2016

{The following article I wrote in December 2014 after the Gurdaspur attack}

The house where Gunner Manpreet Singh was born near the border town of Gurdaspur in Punjab is called “fauzian da dera” – the abode of the soldiers. The youngest of the three soldier brothers, he died in a surprise attack in Uri sector in J&K where Indian army is fighting what has been termed as counter-insurgency (COIN). His mother, Sukhbir Kaur lending her shoulder to the casket carrying the mortal remains of the soldier (please see the news article Here – http://www.tribuneindia.com/news/pu…) went through my heart like a screeching, jarring, wrenching pain that I could not stop myself in writing the couplet in Punjabi:

Fundamentally a new doctrine has to evolve – and it should have been in place by now as India has been subjected to the transformed war since ’80s.

“Mainu hanjuan de ki load phrava, Dil mera jad samsheer hoya;

Tusse kyon ronde ho lokon, mera put taan aaj ameer hoya “

English translation:

O’ brother, why do I need tears, when my heart has become a sword?

Why do you cry O’ people, when my Son has become a rich man today? 

A nation that has Sukhbir Kaur as its mother, need to be immensely proud. Indeed.

Yet the nation demands action or counter action. The pain threshold was suppose to increase.

Is the problem only “political will”?

We have been calling the “war” in J&K as insurgency since 80’s. Further, there has been a question about political will to go ahead with the “conventional war” Indian Defence Forces are trained for. However, my assertion is that lack of political will doesn’t cut ice any more. We have been subjected to a war. This is a war that is a transformed one. Unfortunately, we are fighting it with British supplied doctrine of fighting conventional war of the old.

By now we should have developed our response as a holistic approach. That alas requires our military to recognize the transformed nature of warfare.

It’s not COIN

I have a suggestion to all journalists, commentators and defense forces. Please stop calling it “Counter Insurgency” or as the Americans coined the term “COIN”.

India needs to fight this War in new ways. We need to find them.

A war it is. Only a war that is peculiarly different.

The new shape is continuous overtly-covert war. It comes in the shape of maximizing psychological impact through small engagements. The commando type training and capabilities being given to the “insurgents” clearly indicate these attacks to be Special Forces Operations (SOF) from across the border. From my notes from late 90s, Insurgency is defined as, “Insurgency – An organization or movement whose purpose is the overthrow of a constituted government through the use of subversion and armed conflict” Military Review 67, 2 (Feb’ 87).

By the way – COIN as US strategy has been argued to be a “failure”, as can be discerned from the recent writings such as here (http://www.theamericanconservative.com/…).

It’s a new type of War

Traditional factors of war – classical armies have been trained to fight on MTTR (Mission, Terrain, Time and Resources) and Fog of War need to be factored in. Those lessons hold true when you know the enemy.

In the new type of war new factors are important

– Force “In-tactness” in “rapid dispersal” and “rapid convergence”

– Surprise (counter surprise)

While the Army learns tactical and operational lessons from the wars it fights, it sometimes struggles to recognize the broader implications of its experience and adapt at a strategic level.

– Networked Thinking – rather than hierarchical thinking (distributed independent command and control – a loosely coupled C2 with independent units of even a single soldier given authority, access and responsibility to engage)

– Swarming and Anti-swarming (We need to learn what I call “Spiral Swarming”)

– Speed interspersed with long silences

– “Combat Elasticity” has to be created, nurtured and expanded

– Rhythm (synchronization of resources)

– Combat Efficiency

Can we learn from USA’s wars failures?

The recent Rand report gives a detailed account of lessons of the wars that USA has been fighting. One can access the report here (http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_r…). The report is titled “Improving Strategic Competence”. It provides 7 lessons of war. However, it describes the following two trends since WW II,

• Land warfare has evolved away from conventional combat against state actors and their standing forces to an increasing incidence of irregular warfare fought by joint forces against non-state actors. This has led to an increasing U.S. reliance on special operations forces.

• While the Army learns tactical and operational lessons from the wars it fights, it sometimes struggles to recognize the broader implications of its experience and adapt at a strategic level.

The above is true for Indian Forces as well. Our lessons of the war have been very limited to reactions operating in the overall scheme of classical warfare. Further, the opponents are riding on the trends above to camouflage their “war” as irregular warfare by non-state actors.

The new war is fought by cunning jackals and they need to be responded to in a manner befitting their ways.

The lesson that Indian defense forces (all police, para-military, military and special operation forces) should learn is that this war has to be fought across the organizational boundaries. The adaptation and evolution (potential disruptive change) is needed at the strategic and operational level to counter this new type of warfare.

The war games – whether emulated or simulated have to be redone completely. Indian forces need to factor in new parameters and new characteristics of the transformed war. Time and patience is running out.

Our mothers can transform their hearts into swords, in the hope that we will be able to respond to the cunning enemy that has designed the new war with counters that will require a comprehensive revamp and inventiveness of a chameleon-fox, rather than the roar and courage of the lions. The new war is fought by cunning jackals and they need to be responded to in a manner befitting their ways.

Sukhbir Kaur’s heart and Manpreet singh’s courage has to be molded into poisoned daggers that slice the perpetrators of the new war in such a manner that they get caught in their own web.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Navneet Bhushan

worked as a Defence Scientist from 1990-2000. He is the founder director of CRAFITTI CONSULTING (www.crafitti.com) – an Innovation and Intellectual Property Consulting firm focused on co-crafting Innovation in global enterprises. He is the winner of Indira India Innovation award for Entrepreneurship and Innovation Leadership for 2012. He is the principal author of Strategic Decision Making- Applying the Analytic Hierarchy Process published by Springer-Verlag, UK, as part of the Decision Engineering Series. Navneet Blogs at http://innovationcrafting.blogspot.com. He can be contacted at Navneet.bhushan@crafitti.com. He is currently working on his next book titled Crafting New Choices.

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4 thoughts on “Its War – And India has to fight it as such

  1. You seem to be ill-informed on almost all counts. The army operating in J&K is well aware of the ways to achieve success. And it is wrong to say that we are facing war, not insurgency. The level of armed conflict in J&K today is not even worthy of being called full fledged insurgency. In any case, definitions don’t mean a thing. What is worrying is your assertion that lack of political will does not matter. From the actions (or, rather, non-actions) of the M&M gang( Modi and Mehbooba), this government believes you. And that is the real danger.

    • Thank you for your inputs. It may be of substantial learning for us if you can read the article and understand my assertion on a new kind of war.
      This overtly covert war is gping on since 1980s and we have not evolved a doctrine to fight counter and control this war. This has to be a comprehensive politico military socio economic doctrine. Also we must understand this new transformed war and learn from others mistakes and our mistakes.

      Without being open we will continue to suffer

  2. I found your article interesting from a certain point of view. I served in the Army and found it an excellent experience.

    Of the concepts you have mentioned, the one that ascribes to thinking, is crucial. Leadership has been modelled on a US system, when you consider selection and promotion. Whereas the rest of the functioning is colonial. It produces ‘yes’ men who obey orders and do not challenge the paradigm.

    The ability to provide a counter thought is necessary in military leadership. Our adversaries have developed this through running a country and overthrowing the civilian governments. This gives military leadership an authority with a weakened morality. In our case we perhaps have morality on our side, but need to develop ways of intuitive leadership. In the OECD world, because of societal norms and equality an idea of leadership and initiative prevails, guided by a strong sense of cause and dedication to the profession with codes of conduct.

    Ours becomes a more fatalistc approach guided by a sense of a job and circumstances.

    The colonialists had made use of our patriotism to our community, in instilling pride. This is not the case now, and therefore we need to evolve a method that suits us.

    I suppose accepting that a change is needed, in thinking, would be the first step.

    Nice read.

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