Planet Earth seems to be spinning faster on its axis, or is it that events with serious ramifications on global geo-political dynamics are emanating around the world with uncontrolled ferocity? Are potentially destabilising situations being wilfully ignored because political will is wanting? Are a rag-tag band of hastily trained non-state actors challenging the fundamentals of nationhood, governance and security? Are the vastly expensive equipment heavy monolithic military forces turning to relics only to be propped up by antiquated political and military mindsets? Have the nation-states lost the space between ruthless dictators and more radicalised ruthless fundamentalists?
They pose a serious security threat for the nations around the inner and outer periphery of this geographic swathe where the writ of the non-state actors runs brutally large.
The Arab Springs uprisings, the revolutions of all hues, the Boko Haram brutalities, Hamas instigating war and manipulating world opinion against Israel, ISIS rampaging unopposed, the Afghan Taliban and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s virtually unbridled autonomy, and the renewed threat issued by the Al-Qaeda targeting South Asia – all ominous signs of a looming humanitarian crisis of massive proportions in the making. They also pose a serious security threat for the nations around the inner and outer periphery of this geographic swathe where the writ of the non-state actors runs brutally large.
Nations will have differing threshold levels of tolerance for absorbing the fallout of adversarial actions of such non-state actors – assertive versus soft state. That notwithstanding, there are some nations that find innocuous reasons to stand aside and expect other nations to take the initiative and tackle the threat. Invariably, a US-led NATO grouping comes forward to take on this responsibility. Even when the United Nations (UN) intervenes at the instance of a UNSC Resolution, it is generally the Western nations which get involved. Do the so-called ‘powers’ like Russia, China, Japan, Brazil, South Africa and India not feel morally bound to stem such catastrophes in the making? The non-state actors, in fact, draw strength from this dissonance.
If one were to strip down the threat posed by these non-state actors to its bare bones, it can be fractionalised into four fundamental factors. First, is the massing the manpower to make up the fighting cadres. The second factor relates to the provisioning of weapons, munitions and other warlike stores and replenishing the losses. The third factor pertains to effectively harnessing technology related to communication both audio and visual. Finally, the fourth factor is the access to seemingly unrestricted finances.
Internationally this issue is not tackled with the seriousness it deserves; probably the clout of the arms manufacturers dampens any urge to deal with the matter.
The first factor is recruiting fighters for the wars. Manpower is sourced from the Muslim population of the entire world through aggressive propaganda aimed at arousing the religious sentiments of the Muslims and instilling hatred towards the non-Muslims. It is often the religious cleric or ‘maulvi’ who are instrumental in motivating the youth from their areas of influence. With emphasis on purity and morality and having exclusive access to the truth generates attitudes of superiority. More often than not, a ‘maulvi’ is accreted for his rabble rousing abilities and his fiery fundamentalist views, than a call for peace and harmony. As a result, the meek majority of the community stand silently as helpless onlookers. Their silent acquiesce, in fact, make them partners in the crimes committed by these brutal non-state actors.
As regards the second factor, the onus lies on countries manufacturing weapons and warlike stores. The relative ease with which these groups pick up weapons and munitions and, thereafter, maintain a steady supply of the same is testimony to the blind eye turned to this practice. If the UN maintains an arms register for weapons of conventional armies, why not for non-state actors? Internationally this issue is not tackled with the seriousness it deserves; probably the clout of the arms manufacturers dampens any urge to deal with the matter.
Barbaric non-state actors are forces of the Medieval Ages but they are exploiting communication technologies of the modern era. Concerted effort needs to be made to find ways to block communications from their emitters at will. Using drones over specific areas all emitters should be blanked out as either a continuous process or on as required basis. The internet too must be intercepted or made inaccessible for geographic zones as necessitated for operations against these brigands. There will be opposition from ‘freedom of speech’ groups but the stakes are too high for a nation to succumb to any such pressures. Such actions of making them unable to neither communicate with each other nor air their barbaric deeds will have a more telling effect on their ability to pose a major security threat than only inflicting physical casualties.
While there are numerous ‘think-tanks’ in India, the Government looks at these with a tinge of suspicion as they maybe promoting an agenda suiting them.
The Middle East is flush with surplus money generated by the revenue from oil. The funds were initially invested in establishing ‘madarsas’ in expanding concentric circles centered in the Middle East. These ‘madarsas’ became the indoctrinating centres for fundamental ideology. The Islamist movement gave the disgruntled youth an alternative universal model of social identity where their disillusionment was exchanged for dignity and gave a sense of righteousness for their actions as taken to be sanctioned by religion. Military action against those wilfully seeking death actually changes the notion of military victory. The only course available to the ‘civilised’ world to restrict funds is to seriously pursue alternate sources of energy. For whatever reasons, this has not been pursued with the vigour and commitment that it warrants.
In India, the changing scenarios are often debated but not translated into any tangible form by transformation of either organisations or techniques. As a result, requirement for related technologies is not generated for future development. The strategic mosaic remains diffused. While there are numerous ‘think-tanks’ in the country, the Government looks at these with a tinge of suspicion as they maybe promoting an agenda suiting them. That notwithstanding, future geo-strategic and geo-political scenario building, net assessment and country studies are imperatives for a country the size, geographic location and power as India. In such circumstances, the Government and the military should have its own ‘embedded think-tanks’ to undertake the task. These ‘embedded think-tanks’ should maintain regular interaction with the existing ones. This will ensure that there is a broader perspective taken into account. A ‘frog-in-the-well’ comfort zone, that these ‘embedded think tanks’ will be tempted to seek, will also be avoided.
The National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) and National Security Advisor (NSA) are suitable structures on which this think-tank could be built. Similarly, in the Army, the Perspective Planning Directorate (PP Dte) can be augmented to cover related issues in a realistic future security scenario. The Directorate could have a cell looking at future war fighting techniques and identify technologies that will enhance the capabilities relevant to such future war fighting. Another cell could look at the organisations and command structures that will be necessitated for such war fighting. A third cell can focus on logistic and infrastructure requirement for these future scenarios based of threats perceived.
Technology should be driven by the doctrine that the military adopts. Only indigenous R&D can make this happen. Currently weapons and available technology dictate the nuance of the doctrine. That has been India’s bane.
The Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) could synergise the requirements of the three Services and focus on Cyber Security, Electronic Warfare, round the clock surveillance, strategic targeting, strategic airlift, amphibious operations and joint logistics. A systematic all round gradual change must be implemented. Sudden massive infusion of doctrine or technology may shock the forces into a state of systemic paralysis. But change is essential for holistic modernisation. Mere replacement of existing weapons and equipment by inducting new generation weapon systems and equipment available in the world arms bazaars is not modernisation.
Technology should be driven by the doctrine that the military adopts. Only indigenous R&D can make this happen. Currently weapons and available technology dictate the nuance of the doctrine. That has been India’s bane. The dynamic changes that technology enables are not being exploited. A case in point being that with the availability of Precision Guided Munitions, increased lethality of these munitions, more accurate target detection and identification, and a larger quantum of steel being delivered in the first salvo on the target should envision a review in the existing organisation of units equipped with such weapon systems and should be based on effect generated. No such change has been ushered in for many decades.
A similar review of the scales of ammunition authorised at each echelon of supply would be a natural corollary to such a review. However, that is not the case at present. Any resulting reorganisation and reauthorisation of quantity of ammunition in the tiered echelons would allow for induction of more numbers of weapons without straining the replenishment through the supply chain. There are numerous such aspects that need to be looked into to build capacities and enhance capabilities.
To prepare for future internal and external threats of the type that the country is likely to face in the future, there needs to be a transformation in the way the Government responds to any contingency. In these times, no Government whether, Central or State, can close ‘shop’ at five in the evening and remain oblivious to the happenings for the next seventeen hours till ten o’clock the next morning. A fully functional Operations Room manned 24×7, 365 days is an unconditional requirement. These have to have a clear mandate for the dissemination of information and intelligence.
The government machinery has to gear up to respond swiftly and effectively to these challenges. Every threat executed is a setback to the process of national development.
The chain of command to seek immediate decisions has to be clearly and unambiguously specified. The Operations Room will issue executive orders and instructions to commanders of earmarked response forces. Ideally, such a structure can be functioning under the Cabinet Secretary or the NSA. It would have to have representatives from the Ministries dealing with Defence, External and Home Affairs. In addition, there will be a need to have persons of the National Intelligence Agency, Research and Analysis Wing, National Technical Research Organisation and Intelligence Bureau.
The three Services have their respective operations rooms manned by the operations and intelligence directorates. Without such a structure in place, the country will be faced by criminally delayed responses. The response of the National Security Guard (NSG) on the night of November 26, 2008, against the terrorist attack in Mumbai, was delayed due to the non-availability of helicopters with night flying capability at the NSG base at Manesar, and later at Mumbai airport. There was also the delay in positioning of a suitable aircraft at Delhi airport to transport the force to Mumbai. It is evident that no realistic gaming of contingencies was deliberated on, resources were not identified and the process for such a contingency not rehearsed to the last detail. This is, unfortunately, the adverse fallout of the non-specialist bureaucracy that handles all affairs of the government.
Similarly, the pusillanimous actions of the Ministry of Home Affairs on December 24, 1999, allowed the hijacked flight IA-814 to fly out of Amritsar airport. The adverse fallout of that one failure is still reverberating though the country. Incidents entailing serious security threats are likely to be directed at India in the future. The government machinery has to gear up to respond swiftly and effectively to these challenges. Every threat executed is a setback to the process of national development. The tag of being a “soft state” has to be erased once and for all.