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New Wars and the Fallacies of Traditional Deterrence Approaches

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1945 – the year when the whole world witnessed the catastrophe of nuclear weapon use, their indiscriminate effect and their immense destructive power, has altogether altered the course of warfare. Old warfare strategies became almost obsolete and new trends soon emerged at the limelight of global security structure. Traditionally, where the victory lied in winning a war suddenly transformed into avoiding it. As it became unthinkable to instigate an all out war in the presence of a devastating nuclear arsenal, states resorted to small scale wars and limited conflicts. Consequently prompted states to pursue there goals through means other than a total war. This changing nature of warfare led to a paradigm shift in international security domain where traditional Westphalian model of nation-state system has been seriously compromised. The shift from a state centered approach, brought to the centrestage the role of non-state actors. State’s sovereignty and it’s writ has been challenged as result of the emergence of new forms of conflicts following the cold war and the post cold war era. State vs non-state conflicts seemed to have dominated the battlefield.

Such a deviation from conventional approach has not only undermined the Westphalian notion of state system but has also incorporated new agents and structures, that paved a way for new forms of conflicts and warfare. Drifting from traditional notion of war and warfare, the battlefield in the post 1945 is dominated by cold wars, proxy wars, trade wars, psychological wars, cyber wars, informations wars and hybrid warfare. It implies that mostly such forms of warfare are characterised by an ever growing role and influence of non-state actors.

The paper is a critical analysis of deterrence theory and its marginalisation in terms of relevance in new wars. It provides a thorough understanding of evolving non-nuclear threats largely dominated by state vs. non-state conflicts, non-nuclear and hybrid warfare; and the diminishing utility of traditional deterrence approaches. Furthermore, it offers a new framework for advocating Modern Deterrence and Tailored Deterrence so as to establish a corelation between the emerging hybrid threats and deterrence. 

Theoretical Framework

The pioneer of nuclear deterrence strategy Bernard Brodie suggests traditionally the sole purpose of military establishment was winning a war, from mow on its chief purpose must be to avert them.This deterrent approach is likely to work in nuclear conflicts as the famous axiom states ‘Nuclear deters nuclear’. The said notion is quiet acceptable in nuclear context as no two-sided nuclear war has taken place and are successfully being averted. But in the context of non-nuclear threats, the said approach seemed to be irrelevant. Deterrence has failed to avert non-nuclear wars that have posed devastating challenges to the international security and stability.

The stability instability paradox substantiate this idea of limited, small scale, non-nuclear  conflicts in the presence of nuclear weapons. While analysing nuclear deterrent capabilities it infers:

nuclear weapons confer large scale stability between nuclear weapon states, as in over 60 years none have engaged in large direct warfare due primarily to nuclear weapons deterrence capabilities, but instead are forced into pursuing political aims by military means in the form of comparatively smaller scale acts of instability, such as proxy wars and minor conflicts.

Drawing upon this theoretical understanding, the omnipresence of non-nuclear conflicts seem to be inevitable. The mere presence of nuclear weapons and their immense destructive capability have prompted state as well as non-state actors to explore new avenues for the pursuit of their desired ends. But such deterrence failure at lower levels can exacerbate tensions at strategic level as even minor conflicts can spiral up into a major nuclear flashpoint given the ambiguity of intentions and rationality when non-state actors get involved.

Threshold theory also contributes to address the issues of deterrence failure in case of new wars. The major cause of such failure lies with not properly defining the red lines of non-nuclear threshold. Whilst the non-nuclear wars are waged without explicitly crossing the nuclear threshold, thereby easily bypassing the the notion of nuclear response. Even though if the states intend to lower their threshold to accommodate various  non-nuclear strategic attacks, as some have already done; it becomes highly controversial. Besides, it become a subject to rational judgment that whether or not a non-nuclear (cyber) attack should be met with a nuclear retaliation.

Existing literature on deterrence has failed to comprehend the changing nature of warfare and as a result failed to adapt with the changing trends. Thus offering a fragile base on which to construct a complex hunch of the relevance of deterrence theory in the realm of new wars.

Emergence  of New Wars and Deterrence Calculus

The nuclear revolution of 1945 has not only transformed the nature of war but has also revolutionised the international security construct. It has divided the world into the pre and post nuclear world thereby challenging the conventional security architecture largely dominated by states in international system. The post nuclear era has witnessed the grey zones of peace and war largely due to the encroachment of myriad non-state entities in global politics and security environment.  The said developments heralded new wars and warfare domains:

State vs Non-State Conflicts

The ever growing role of non-state actors in warfare following the cold war and the post-cold war era, has fanned the flames of unpredictability and uncertainty in war. While the states are regarded as legitimate actors to wage a war, the non-state actors does not enjoy such perks of legitimacy under international law. Having said that it implies that states have an obligation to abide by the rules of international system while non-state actors are set free to do anything they desire.

The surfacing of state vs. non-state conflicts also reflect the drawbacks of deterrence theory. One of the core assumptions of nuclear deterrence theory i.e. “Deterrence works among rational actors, also seems futile in this context. Since non-state actors are regarded as irrational, hence the probable patterns of deterrence become hard to calculate. Modern wars being overwhelmed by asymmetry, ethnic conflicts, irregularity, insurgencies and terrorism; are some of the domains where traditional notion of deterrence appears trivial. 

Psychological Operations, Information and Cyber Warfare

Use of propaganda to psychologically manipulate the perceptions of adversary dates back to the ancient era. It has been successfully employed by Cyrus-The Great, Genghez Khan and German and Allied forces in WW2, to name but a few. In modern warfare psy-ops is usually executed using a more subtle and sophisticated medium i.e. information domain, either to ‘win hearts and minds’ of the population or to ‘demoralise the enemy’. Psy-ops when accompanied with information warfare not only has the potential to manipulate the information in oder to gain information superiority but rather makes a complex web of misinformation aimed at generating desired response from the targeted audience and mobilizing support for the perpetrator’s agenda.

Likewise, cyber warfare is also evolving and poses a great challenge to the national and global security. Cyber attacks are becoming more and more threatening to the critical infrastructure and the information and operational technology with high levels of sophistication. In todays information age, a fierce cyber attack can be easily mounted on an adversary with the aim of manipulating data so as to incur massive disruption and destruction to the recipient’s critical infrastructure. The most severe form of cyber attack can have a decapitating effect on the adversary; whereby its ability to respond to a threat is hampered and paralysed. The spillover effect of digital attacks can also cause physical damage as well.

In nuclear domain where threshold of nuclear use has been defined adequately, no serious effort has been made in defining the same in case of these emerging threats. There are no clear red lines and norms in cyber and information domain on which to devise a deterrence strategy in order to prevent a cyber attack. Furthermore, deterring such an adversary whom one cannot see, neither can one identify, nor can one communicate the credibility of the threat; makes a case where the very essence of deterrence strategy is expected to be challenged. 

Hybrid warfare

Hybrid warfare refers to the integration of different forms of warfare commonly referred as ‘multi-domain warfighting approach’ intended to inflict massive damage upon the opponent.

‘Hybrid warfare capabilities include the movement of conventional forces equipped with smarter technologies; nuclear force intimidation, trade wars, economic manipulation, energy coercion; propaganda and disinformation, use of proxies and insurgencies, diplomatic pressure and cyber disruption that are being employed through direct or covert means.’

The pervasiveness of hybrid threats and associated risks cannot be ignored. The notion of ‘existential deterrence’ that states ‘the mere presence of nuclear weapons capability can deter an adversary from taking aggressive actions that could possibly lead towards escalation’, also appears irrelevant since the mere presence of nuclear weapons did not prevent terrorists from attacking world trade centre on september 11, 2001. Likewise, strategic deterrence has lost its credibility in deterring hybrid attacks because the dynamics of these threats vary considerably from that of the cold war era.

Strategic Deterrence Failures

Legacies of the cold war ‘strategic nuclear deterrence’ still remain. But when viewed in line with the changing nature of new wars, it seems less flexible and hardly relevant. As a courtesy of  strategic deterrence, a nuclear war has been successfully averted but that does not seem to have a case as far as new wars are concerned. The success of deterrence in the cold war era does not imply that the same would also work in the post cold war era. That is to say ‘there is no one size fits all in deterrence. Unlike the deterrence patterns of cold war whereby primary focus was on deterring nuclear aggression from states, the current deterrence strategies are assessed with regard to the changing trends of new wars.

Thus the foundation of deterrence theory based on cold war security construct is deemed to fail when applied to the new forms of warfare that are non-nuclear in nature. The deterrence 3C’s approach i.e. Capability, Credibility and communication shall be utilized to assess its relevance in current era.

 Capability

New wars have witnessed the enhanced role of non-state actors inflicting major damage to the state’s security and infrastructure by the employment of various non-conventional methodologies. These actors have so little to loose as compared to the benefits they reap from such adventures. The relative power of these actors is less than that of a state but their behavior is not constrained by the international system, whereby they can threaten even the superpowers. Thus the capability to deter such an aggression remains questionable as the states have not yet been able to deny such acts of aggression by these actors. The primary reason might be the states’s reluctance to carry out punitive actions against an adversary who is irrational and also due to the threat of escalation. Thus the capability of even a nuclear state is essentially been compromised in the face of new threats. Deterrence cannot work unless the opponent is psychologically motivated that his actions would be met with dire consequences and in case where the adversary is not a rational actor and is ready to risk everything, the notion of deterring such an adversary seems futile. Likewise, the unbeatable nuclear and conventional deterrent capabilities that state’s now a days possess had done no good in averting these challenges.

  Credibility

State’s credibility of deterrence has also been challenged. The inability of state to respond effectively to the emerging threats merely due to the difficulty in locating a non-state adversary, or due to the threat of escalation or as a rational choice, undermines the deterrence in the eyes of the perpetrator. It further conforms to the opponents belief that the state is unwilling to take retaliatory actions thereby prompting them to take risks and undermine the state’s credibility. Furthermore, the state’s failure in following up on the threats also attract these actors to continuously inflict damage and challenge deterrence credibility. Perception of the adversary regarding the credibility of threat of retaliation is a dominant factor in determining the deterrence success or failure.

Communication

The communication of the threat to the adversary forms the basis of deterrence. The capability and the credibility of any state become effective only when they are being conveyed to the opponent. In the context of new wars the inability of states to effectively communicate their deterrence capabilities and credibility to the opponents, constitutes the major part of the problem. The traditional notion of threat communication became almost obsolete as the world today has numerous entities other than states that can act as potential aggressor. Thus, explicitly communicating deterrent threat among those entities presents a grave challenge for the states. 

Rethinking the Traditional Deterrence Approaches

As the famous proverb goes ‘modern problems requires modern solutions’, the emergence of hybrid threats and new wars also requires modern deterrence approaches. The referent object of traditional deterrent approaches must be replaced i.e. a shift from state-centric nuclear deterrence to non-state centric non-nuclear deterrence.

Punishment vs denial deterrence

The two fundamental approaches of deterrence theory can provide a framework for understanding the contours of non-nuclear conflicts. Although their utility so far in deterring such conflicts has been questionable, they still can serve as the basis for the modern deterrence theory.

Deterrence by denial strategies seek to deter an action by making it infeasible or unlikely to succeed, thus denying a potential aggressor confidence in attaining its objectives. Deterrence by punishment, on the other hand, threatens severe penalties, such as nuclear escalation or severe economic sanctions, if an attack occurs.  The focus of deterrence by punishment is not the direct defense of the contested commitment but rather threats of wider punishment that would raise the cost of an attack.’

The aforementioned approaches need to be customized according to the requirement of the emerging threats. The primary focus of these deterrence approaches was to avert a nuclear conflict, but in the current era of non-nuclear conflicts these approaches can be moulded so as to ensure the same in non-nuclear domain as well.

Modern deterrence

Modern deterrence theory just like that of nuclear deterrence aims at ‘dissuading the adversary from taking aggressive actions by persuading that actor that the costs would outweigh potential gains.’ As nuclear deterrence failed to deter non-nuclear or hybrid wars, in order to prevent the aggressor from initiating a non-nuclear attack, several deterrence strategies have been proposed by Centre for Strategic and International Studies which specify:

  1. Establishing norms of behavior
  2. Tailoring deterrence threats to individual actors
  3. Adopting an all of government and society response
  4. Building credibility with adversaries, such as by always following through on threats

The modern deterrence project has been initiated by RUSI focusing on ‘blending of traditional deterrence and societal resilience against emerging forms of warfare.’ The project is aimed at integrating military, government, the civil society and the business community so as to build a resilient deterrence against the hybrid threats. The initiatives like these can contribute a lot in framing effective  modern deterrence theories.

Tailored deterrence

The concept been proposed by Dr. Barry Schnieder suggests that new threats requires tailored deterrence and that the traditional concepts of cold war deterrence might not work for modern challenges. According to his theory,

         ‘Deterrence must be tailored to

  1.  specific adversary leaders,
  2.  in specific scenarios,
  3.  utilizing a range of verbal and non-verbal communications, and
  4. cognizant of the balance of military, economic and political power between the parties.

Fundamentally, it proposes the investigation into opponents decision making process, leadership profiles, willingness to take risks and the susceptibility towards the deterrent threats. Although this theoretical approach is state-centric, it is flexible enough to accommodate non-state threats of twenty-first century.

Conclusion

The post-nuclear era has witnessed the dawn of non-nuclear conflicts largely dominated by hybrid and non-state threats which has added uncertainty and unpredictability to an already complex nature of warfare. The asymmetric nature of new wars and the hybrid tactics they employ has raised serious concerns about the relevance of the existing discourse of deterrence. The credibility of deterrent capabilities has been vaining since the rise of new actors in the arena of global politics. Unlike nuclear deterrence which was aimed at few nuclear weapons states with known capabilities and intentions, the contemporary enemy is the one that is not visible with hidden capabilities and intentions. Thus making it even more difficult to exercise deterrence.  

The traditional model of strategic deterrence needs reevaluation and adaptation to cope up with the emerging non-traditional challenges of the twenty-first century. The expansion of the narrow conception of deterrence is required so as to broaden the realm in order to integrate non-nuclear factors. 

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Why the “Coronavirus Ceasefire” Never Happened

Dr. Andrey KORTUNOV

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Six months ago, when COVID-19 had just moved beyond the borders of China and embarked upon its triumphant march across Europe and North America, politicians and foreign affairs experts started discussing what will happen after the virus is vanquished. The debate that ensued balanced the fears and concerns of pessimists with the hopes and expectations of optimists, with the latter believing that the pandemic and the global recession that followed would inevitably force humankind to put its differences aside and finally unite in the face of common challenges.

Six months later, we can say without any doubt that, unfortunately, the optimists were wrong. The pandemic did not bring about the changes in world politics they had been hoping for, even with the ensuing recession making things worse. And we are unlikely to see any such changes in the near future. Sadly, COVID-19 did not turn out to be a cure-all for regional conflicts, arms races, the geopolitical competition and the countless ailments of humankind today.

These persisting ailments are more than evident in relations between Russia and the West. No positive steps have been made in the past six months in any of the areas where the positions of the two sides differ significantly, be it the conflict in Eastern Ukraine, the unrest in Syria, the political instability in Venezuela or the war in Libya. The fate of the New START and the nuclear nonproliferation regime remains unclear. Moscow continues to be the target of new economic and political sanctions. Russia and the West are locked in an intense information war. There are no signs of a “coronavirus ceasefire,” let alone a full-fledged peace agreement, on the horizon.

Of course, Moscow has placed the blame for the lack of progress squarely on the shoulders of its western partners. While this may indeed be true in many respects, we must admit that the Kremlin has hardly been overflowing with ideas and proposals over the past six months. Even if Moscow did want to reverse the current negative trends in global politics, it has not taken any steps on its own to do so. Nor has it proposed any large-scale international projects, or even tried to temper its usual foreign policy rhetoric and propaganda.

On the contrary, the various troubles that have befallen Russia in the “coronavirus era” – from the public unrest in Belarus to the unfortunate poisoning of Alexei Navalny – are explained away as the malicious intrigues of Russia’s geopolitical opponents. For all intents and purposes, the Kremlin is in the same position now, in September 2020, that it was in back in March. The chances of another “reset” or at least a “timeout” in relations have disappeared completely, if they ever existed in the first place.

So, why did the “coronavirus ceasefire” never happen? Without absolving the West of its share of responsibility, let us try to outline the obstacles that Russia has put in the way of progress.

First, in an environment of unprecedented shocks and cataclysms, there is always the hope that your opponent will eventually suffer more as a result than you will. Many in Russia see the 2020 crisis as the final damning indictment of the West and even an inglorious end to the market economy and political liberalism in general.

The recent statement by Aide to the President of the Russian Federation Maxim Oreshkin that Russia is poised to become one of the top five economies in the world this year is particularly noteworthy. Not because the country is experiencing rapid economic growth, but because the German economy is set to fall further than the Russian economy. If you are certain that time is on your side and that you will emerge from the crisis in better shape than your opponents, then the incentives to work towards some kind of agreement hic et nunc are, of course, reduced.

Second, the current Russian leadership is convinced that any unilateral steps on its part, any shifts in Moscow’s foreign policy, will be perceived in the West as a sign of weakness. And this will open the door for increased pressure on Moscow. Not that this logic is entirely unfounded, as history has shown. But it is precisely this logic that prevents Russian leaders from admitting their past foreign policy mistakes and miscalculations, no matter how obvious they may have been. This, in turn, makes it extremely difficult to change the current foreign policy and develop alternative routes for the future. In fact, what we are seeing is a game to preserve the status quo, in the hope that history will ultimately be on Moscow’s side, rather than that of its opponents (see the first point).

Third, six and a half years after the crisis in Ukraine broke out, we are essentially left with a frozen conflict. Turning the large and unwieldy state machine around, rewiring the somewhat heavy-handed state propaganda machine, and changing the policies that determine the everyday actions of the army of “deep state” officials is tantamount to changing the trajectory of a supertanker carrying a load of hundreds of thousands of tonnes. It is perhaps even more difficult, however, to change the opinion that has taken shape in Russian society in recent years about the modern world and Russia’s place in it. Just because the Russian people are tired of foreign politics, this does not mean that they will enthusiastically support an updated version of Mikhail Gorbachev’s “new thinking” of the second half of the 1980s or the ideological principles of Boris Yeltsin and Andrei Kozyrev’s foreign policy of the early 1990s.

Fourth, the balance of power between the agencies involved in the development and practical implementation of Russia’s foreign policy has changed significantly in recent years. The role of the security forces has been growing in all its aspects since at least the beginning of 2014. Conversely, the role of diplomats, as well as that of the technocrats in the economic structures of the Russian government, has been dwindling with each passing year. It is the security forces that are the main “stakeholders” in Donbass, Syria, Libya and even Belarus today. It would be fair to say that they have had a controlling interest in Russia’s foreign policy. The oft-quoted words of Emperor Alexander III that Russia has only two allies, its army and its navy, perfectly reflect the shift that has taken place in the balance of powers between these agencies. We should add that this shift was largely welcomed and even supported by a significant part of Russian society (see the third point). Of course, the siloviki are, due to the specifics of their work, less inclined to compromise, concessions and basic human empathy than diplomats, economists and technocrats.

All these factors preventing the conceptual renewal of Russia’s foreign policy can equally be applied to its geopolitical opponents. Politicians in the West are also hoping that time is on their side, that Moscow will emerge from the crisis weaker and more vulnerable, and thus more malleable than it was before. They also believe that any unilateral steps, any demonstration of flexibility in relations with the Kremlin, will be met with an even tougher and more aggressive policy. Negative ideas about Russia have also taken root in the minds of people in the West, and foreign policy is being “militarized” there just as much as it is in Russia.

Thus, neither the coronavirus nor the economic recession will automatically lead to a détente, let alone a reset in relations between Russia and the West. We are, in fact, moving in the opposite direction, once again running the risk of an uncontrolled confrontation. However, this unfortunate situation is no reason to give up on the possibility of signing new agreements, even if COVID-19 will no longer be in our corner moving forward.

From our partner RIAC

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India’s strategies short of war against a hostile China

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Since India’s independence several peace and border cooperation agreements were signed between the India and China. Prominent among them was the Panchsheel Agreement signed in 1954. A majority of the agreements were signed between 1993 and 2013. Recently genuine efforts were made by PM Narendra Modi by engaging Xi Jinping at the Wuhan and Chennai summits. But China is nowhere near to settling the border dispute despite various agreements and talks at the military and civilian levels.

After the 1962 war peace was largely maintained on the Indo China border. During the Mao and Deng era consensus building was the norm in the communist party. XiJinping appointed himself as chairman of the communist party for life. Today power is centralized with XiJinping and his cabal. Through Doklam and Galwan incidents Xi Jinpinghas disowned the peaceful principles laid down by his predecessors. China’s strategy is to keep India engaged in South Asia as it doesn’t want India to emerge as a super power. After solving a crisis on the border China will create another crisis. Beijing has declining interest in the niceties of diplomacy. Under Xi Jinping China has become more hostile.

China has been infringing on India’s sovereignty through salami tactics by changing the status quo and attempting to own the border territory. At Galwan on Xi Jinping’s birthday the PLA demonstrated hooliganism by assaulting Indian border positions. China violated the 1996 and 2005 bilateral agreements which states that both armies should not carry weapons within 1.24 miles on either side of the border. India’s Foreign Minister S Jaishankar mentioned that the standoff situation with China in Galwan Valley of eastern Ladakh is “surely the most serious situation after 1962.”China is constructing infrastructure, increasing forces and deploying weapon systems on the border.

Options for India

India led by PM Narendra Modi has implemented a realist foreign policy and a muscular military policy.India ended the age of strategic restraint by launching special operations and air strikes in Pakistan. Since the Galwan incident India has increased the military, diplomatic and economic deterrence against China. India is constructing military infrastructure and deploying weapon systems like SU 30 MKI and T 90 tanks in Ladakh. India banned a total of 224 Chinese apps, barred Chinese companies from government contracts and is on the verge of banning Huawei. Other measures include excluding Chinese companies from private Indian telecommunications networks. Chinese mobile manufacturers can be banned from selling goods in India.

India should offer a grand strategy to China. India has a plethora of options short of war. Future talks should involve an integrated strategy to solve all the bilateral issues and not just an isolated resolution of a localized border incident. All instruments of military and economic power and coercive diplomacy should be on the table.

Foreign Policy

China expects other nations to follow bilateral agreements and international treaties while it conveniently violates them. India should abrogate the Panscheel agreement given China’s intransigence and hostility. China claims 35,000 square miles of territory in India’s northeast, including the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. China occupies 15,000 square miles of India’s territory in the Aksai Chin Plateau in the Himalayas. India’s primary objective is to take back territories like Aksai Chin. While the secondary issue is the resolution of the border issue and China’s support to Pakistan. India can leverage the contemporary geopolitical climate to settle all issues. India can target China’s soft underbelly characterized by issues like Taiwan, Xinjiang and the economy. China raises the Kashmir issue at international organizations. As a countervailing measure India can raise Xinjiang at international organizations and conferences.

China has been militarily and diplomatically supporting Pakistan against India. Pakistan is a rentier and a broken state that sponsors terrorism. India can establish bilateral relations with Taiwan thus superseding China’s reunification sensitivities. China has territorial disputes with 18 countries including Taiwan and Japan. India can hedge against China by establishing strategic partnerships with US, Australia, Japanand Vietnam.

Military policy

An overwhelming military is a deterrence for China’s belligerent foreign and military policy. The 1990Gulf War demonstrated the capabilities of high technology weapon systems. As compared to China’s rudimentary weapons systems India has inducted 4th and 5th generation weapons like the SU 30 MKI, AH 64 Apache and T 90 tanks. The deterrence capacity of fighter aircrafts is reduced as they cannot target China’s coastlines due to their restricted range. Full deterrence can be achieved by ICBMs and nuclear powered submarines. With these weapons India can target centers of gravity like Shanghai and Shenzhen.

China is not a signatory to arms limitations treaties like Start I and Start II. China continues to expand its nuclear weapons stockpile and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) like DF 21 and DF-26B which are banned by the INF Treaty. India is a law abiding stable democracy in an unstable region with two hostile nations on its flanks. US and Russia can relax the arms control mechanism considering India’s’ impeccable record on peace and non proliferation. This will allow India to buy Russian weapon systems like Zircon and Kinzhal hypersonic missiles, Topol and Bulava ICBMs and Yasen and Borey class SSBN submarines. While US can sell SSBN submarines and C4ISR gathering platforms like RC 135 and RQ 4 Global Hawk.

China remains a security threat for Asia. As China foments instability the APAC region from South Asia to South China Sea remains volatile. The Quad can be expanded to include Taiwan, Vietnam, Philippines, South Korea and Indonesia and multinational naval exercises can conducted in the South China Sea.

The enemy of my enemy is my friend. China fought small wars with India, Vietnam and Soviet Union. Vietnam defeated the PLA at Lang Son in 1979 with advanced weapon systems and guerilla warfare. India can increase militarily cooperation with Vietnam. China attacked the Soviet Union on the Ussuri river leading to heavy PLA casualties. Historically relations between Russia and India have been close. As a result of the Indo Soviet Friendship Treaty China did not support Pakistan during the 1971 war. India can enhance its military and diplomatic ties with Russia to the next level.

Strategic partnership with US

Its time for a partnership between the world’s largest and the world’s biggest democracies. India and the US have a common objective to preserve peace, maintain stability and enhance security in Asia. India’s reiteration at leaders’ level and international forums that both countries see each other as allies for stability in the APAC region is not enough. India has to go beyond the clichés of the need for closer ties.

Due to the China threat the US is shifting its military from Europe and Middle East to the APAC region.US and India can establish an Asian equivalent of NATO as China’s destructive policy frameworks and threatening postures remain a strategic threat. India should enhance and deepen cooperation with the US intelligence community in the fields of MASINT, SIGINT, GEOINT, TECHINT and CYBINT. Both countries can form an alliance of democracies. If China militarily or economically targets one of the member country then the alliance can retaliate under a framework similar to Article 5 of NATO. Thus power will be distributed in the APAC region instead of being concentrated with China. A scorpion strategy will ensure that China does not harass its neighbors. The strategy involves a military pincer movement by India from the west and US from the East against a hostile China. India can conduct joint military exercises with the US in Ladakh. China cannot challenge Japan and Taiwan due to the US security agreements with these countries.

Conclusion

The world has entered the age of instability and uncertainty. The 21st century is characterized by hybrid warfare through military and coercive diplomacy. South Asia is not a friendly neighborhood where peaceful overtures lead to harmonious relations. China is a threat to India even in the context of a friendly relationship. Diplomatic niceties have no place in India’s relations with China. India can impose costs on China which can be more than the benefits offered by normalizing relations. The application of measures short of war without engaging the PLA will reap benefits. India can fulfill its national security requirements and global responsibilities through a grand strategy.

A policy of engagement and deterrence is crucial against an antagonistic China. While India attempts to develop cooperative ties with China it will need to continue to enhance and implement its military and coercive diplomatic strategies. China does not represent a direct military threat to India but at the same time one cannot deny that challenges remain.

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COVID-19 and Challenges to the Indian Defence Establishment

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The COVID-19 pandemic has created an uncertain situation all over the world. It is defined as the greatest challenge faced by the world since World War II. At a certain point, the pandemic had forced world governments to announce lockdowns in their respective countries that led to more than half of the human population being home quarantined. Since then, social distancing, travel bans, and cancellation of international summits have become a routine exercise. Most sectors such as agriculture, health, education, economy, manufacturing have been severely hit across the globe. One such sector which is vital to national security that has been impacted due to the pandemic is defence.

The effect of influenza and pneumonia during WWI on the US military was huge. The necessity to mobilise troops across the Atlantic made it even ideal for the diseases to spread rapidly among the defence personnel and civilians. Between mid-1917 and 1919, the fatalities were more so due to the disease than getting killed in action. Due to COVID-19, there have been many implications within the defence sector. Amid the ongoing transgressions in Ladakh, it becomes imperative to analyse the preparedness of the Indian defence establishment to tackle the challenges at hand.

Disrupting the Status Quo

Many personnel in the Indian armed forces have been tested positive for COVID-19. This puts the operational capabilities at risk. In one isolated incident, 26 personnel of the Navy had been placed in quarantine after being tested positive for COVID-19. The French and the Americans had a great challenge ahead of them as hundreds of soldiers were getting infected onboard their Naval vessels. Furthermore, the Army saw some cases being tested positive as well. In one such incident, the headquarters of the Indian Army had to be temporarily shut down because of a soldier contracting the virus. These uncalled disruptions are very dangerous for our armed forces. These disruptions challenge the recruitment process and training exercises.

Since the Indian Army has been involved in quarantining tasks, this exposes the personnel to the virus. As a result of this, the first soldier was tested positive on March 20 in Leh. Among them, those who work as medical personnel are even more exposed to the virus. In order to enforce damage control to the operational capabilities, the Army made sure that the non-essential training, travel, and attending conferences remained cancelled. They called off any foreign assignments and postings for the time being. The Army also made it a point to extend leaves for that personnel who were already on absence. This was a major preventive measure adopted to prevent further infection.

As a result of the lockdown that had been imposed nationwide, the defence services were forced to temporarily stall all the activities that relate to soldiering during peacetime. These activities include training, pursuing professional qualification, fitness tests and regimes, equipment maintenance such as unit assets and stores, up-gradation of the cadres among others. Since the Indian Army boasts of a force that has signed up voluntarily to guard the borders, most of the troops are away from their families, which makes it even more difficult during the times of crises. The mega biennial naval exercises scheduled to be held in Vizag were cancelled due to COVID-19. A total of 41 navies were planned to be a part of the joint exercises called MILAN. The Service Selection Board (SSB) training and the recruitment process have been put to a halt as well. This will severely impact the intake process for this year.

Handling Biohazards

The Army’s capable of operating in a Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) environment and has sufficient equipment like infantry vehicles, helicopters and tanks which can operate without any hassles. Since instances of chemical warfare have been witnessed in West Asia and other regions in the last two decades, the focus of the Army has been on that and not on biological warfare. Most Armies believe that bio-weaponry is still fictional and won’t come into play any time soon. Naturally, due to this mindset, most Armies are not capable of handling biohazards. This is a major setback in the time of COVID-19 and has to be addressed.

Riding Down the Slope

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the Indian economy has been nose-diving day by day. This is some bad news for the defence sector since the military spending will possibly be reduced as a result of the slowdown. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), India’s GDP will grow at 1.9 per cent. This is one of the lowest in the history of post-independent India. Allocations and spendings will naturally take a hit and will take a long time to revive again. Defence manufacturing will also face a setback and discourage indigenous players who are looking at getting involved in the manufacturing and innovation sector. MoD has already received the Ministry of Finance’s circular that called for the defence spending to be limited to 15-20 per cent of the total amount allocated. This will ensure that the defence budget is not the priority for the finance ministry. A gap of Rs. 1,03,000 crore has been highlighted between the requirement and the allocated money. More than 60 per cent of this allocated amount anyway goes towards paying salaries and pensions. This means that the modernisation efforts will face a major slowdown in the next two years. Defence procurement is already difficult due to the bureaucratic hurdles, now the monetary crunch only adds more woes.

Moreover, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had announced earlier that more than 9,000 posts belonging to the Military Engineering Services (MES) will be abolished in the said industrial division. The reason cited was that this would bring about a balance to the expenditure. Due to the lockdown, the military development has taken a hit and has seen a decline in the production of freights. As of now, there is no manufacturing that is ongoing as far as fighter planes or aircraft, in general, is concerned. Some of the signed defence deals and contracts are said to be reviewed due to the financial crunch. India’s defence budget is expected to see some cuts due to the economy slowing down. The pandemic has worsened this even further. There is already an existing order to cap the spending for the first quarter of this fiscal year. Most of the payments that are being disbursed is largely that of paying for the existing contracts. This will diminish any scope for procurement of newer defence equipment that helps in modernising the armed forces in the long run. According to a report, it says that the Ministry of Defence is looking at a savings of anywhere between Rs. 400 and 800 billion in the 2020-21 financial year. To quote Yuval Noah Harari from his recent article in the Financial Times would seem relevant in this case, “Many short-term emergency measures will become a fixture of life. That is the nature of emergencies. They fast-forward historical processes. Decisions that in normal times could take years of deliberation are passed in a matter of hours.”  India has displayed the significant political will to make impactful decisions during the pandemic. The question is, how far and how soon can we push ourselves to be prepared on all fronts?

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