Limited Wars in the Indian Context

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  1. BangersAndMash

    BangersAndMash Regular Member

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    By General Deepak Kapoor (Retd) Published: Feburary 2012





    INTRODUCTION

    Predicting future war fighting scenarios is a complex process, where normally, diverse opinions exist. However, one aspect on which there is greater unanimity is that the probability of long drawn ‘all out’ wars has diminished, especially in the regional context. Other than the factors of international scrutiny and pressure, the availability of nuclear weapons in the region, combined with the high economic cost dictate that ‘all out wars’ may be unviable to justify, prosecute or sustain, more so over prolonged periods.


    Therefore, it may be realistic to presume that any war of the future in our context is more likely to be limited in scope, and thus limited in time and space. Nonetheless, there can be no doubt in anyone’s mind that it will be marked by high tempo and lethality, and may be fought across the spectrum of conflict. High technology based C4l2SR systems are likely to be as relevant as low technology based 4th generation warfare, both of which may play a decisive role in determining the outcome of the conflict.

    Furthermore, as witnessed in the Kargil War, it will be the grit, determination and valour of our leadership and men that will finally make the crucial difference between defeat and victory.

    With that as a backdrop, a review of the threats and security concerns that India faces or is likely to face in the current and future perspective is required.

    Threats and security concerns

    India’s external security concerns primarily relate to the unresolved border problem with China, possible conflict scenarios with Pakistan over J&K, and its proxy war against India through terrorism. In addition, there are a number of internal security concerns arising out of the prevailing fault-lines, which are, at times, conceived, orchestrated and taken advantage of by external inimical forces.

    China

    China sees India as a prominent ‘competitor’ in the regional context and there is possibility of this competition resulting in confrontation at some stage, probably in the longer term perspective. China is transforming its armed forces rather rapidly, upgrading its strategic capability, missiles and space programme.

    Much of this massive modernisation of the PLA is ostensibly directed at countering the threat of US intervention in case of a war with Taiwan; however, this buildup is also a matter of serious concern for India, especially when viewed in concert with increasing strategic mobility of the PLA and building up of logistics infrastructure in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and opposite other disputed areas.

    China can mobilise and deploy a sizable force against India in high threat scenario, should it want to activate the entire border. Its latest doctrine of ‘winning local wars under conditions of informationisation’ lays stress on network centric warfare, cyber warfare, acquisition of C4l2SR systems, pre-emption, surprise and deception as also employment of Special Forces.

    In terms of Cyber War, the Chinese are known to constantly attempt hacking of information from or about Indian institutions.

    Pakistan

    Prophesying Indo-Pak relations in a long term perspective, on the other hand, may be difficult, as it could range from the current status of ‘estrangement’ to either ‘turmoil’ or ‘rapprochement’. A lot depends on the personal attitudes of top Army and ISI leaders.

    Nonetheless, the possibility of the ongoing proxy war in J&K spiralling out of control at some point into a local conflict or a larger conflagration cannot be ruled out, especially in the medium term and beyond. Pakistan has embarked on an India-centric modernisation programme to achieve its force goals by implementing broad organisational changes, making up existing voids in equipment and selectively modernising its various components. Notwithstanding these improvements, as of now, Pakistan is not in a position to confront India conventionally due to our distinct combat edge.

    Pakistan’s problem in this regard gets accentuated due to its increasing commitment on its Western borders, as well as its internal instability and contradictions.

    However, given Pakistan’ s embedded animosity towards India, howsoever illogical it may be, the possibility that a full fledged conventional war may be fought at some stage, cannot be ruled out.

    Sub-conventional threats

    The ‘proxy war’ sponsored by Pakistan, backed by terrorist infrastructure across the Line of Control, and related infiltration activity is likely to continue, albeit with a greater factor of deniability.

    The insurgencies in the North East are also likely to continue to simmer, though at low levels.

    Asymmetric threats

    In addition to the sub-conventional threats, other asymmetric warfare threats are also likely to manifest in the future, as follows:

    a.Cyber warfare targeted at our IT industry, financial networks as also the security of command and control networks.
    b.Threats to the Indian economy through physical or cyber targeting of financial institutions or by manipulation of the stock markets.
    c.Propaganda targeted at the minds of the people to undermine their faith in the political leadership and institutions.
    d.Drug trafficking aimed at eroding social structures and also as a source for funding terrorism.

    Manifestation of limited wars

    Expanding on the manifestation of limited wars, such wars may be limited in space, time, scope and employment of national resources. Significantly however, a limited war does not necessarily imply limited application of combat power or destructive potential.

    The Lebanon War of 2006 was the most recent manifestation of this form. The outcome of the war highlighted the limitations of traditional kinetic means alone to achieve national interests and objectives, while emphasising facets like the ‘boots on the ground’, ‘fourth generation warfare’, perception management and sensitivity to collateral damage.

    In the Indian context, limited wars may be triggered by the following:

    a.Intrusion by an enemy to take control of critical objectives, or testing our will to respond, like it happened during Kargil.
    b.Border skirmishes spiralling into bigger conflicts, which may remain localised.

    A limited war may also need to be initiated by India as a proactive limited response to continued proxy war or a high profile terrorist incident, which requires immediate response. It needs to be noted, however, that such responses also have the potential to balloon into larger conflicts, for which India will have to be prepared. Proactive limited operations would, therefore, need to be well thought out and calibrated.

    For many strategic thinkers and security experts, the concept of ‘all out war’ seems difficult to execute under the nuclear umbrella. As a corollary, it is the opinion of many that wars will have to be kept below the nuclear threshold. Hence, limited wars are increasingly being seen as the more viable and likely option in South Asia, in the foreseeable future. This is more so because of the expected international pressure to limit the conflict, due to concerns of escalation beyond the conventional realm.

    Contours of limited war

    Limited War can take many forms depending on the circumstances. Actions may be limited, at least initially, to just surgical air strikes or speedy ground based operations by specific formations or Special Forces, or a combination of these. Such operations are likely to be swift, short and intense with increasing use of the space and cyber dimensions. Fourth generation warfare means, including employment of ‘nonstate actors’ is a distinct possibility. Perception management will play a crucial role not only in moulding international opinion, but also to generate domestic support.

    Strategy to deal with limited wars

    Prosecution of limited wars will require requisite re-orientation of our concepts and possibly, even some force structures. There will be a need for a pragmatic appraisal of our adversaries and the likely scenarios that could develop.

    Centres of Gravity will need to be clearly identified and effective means of addressing or neutralising them would have to be ensured. Equally important is the need for a clearly defined and understood aim for the intended operations.

    There would be an enhanced stress on jointness in operations. Proactive surgical operations, designed to achieve objectives quickly and decisively at least cost, will be the key to win limited wars.

    Though airpower can play a major role in achieving a favourable outcome, its disproportionate use in asymmetric battlefield conditions could risk escalating the conflict to undesirable levels. Moreover, a strategy of erosion would be more appropriate than a strategy of annihilation while dealing with asymmetric threats like insurgency and militancy.

    Defensive operations, where relevant, will be aimed to overcome any initial advantage of the enemy, and seek to create early opportunities for transition to the offensive. Further, military power will need to be not seen in isolation, but in concert with other elements of our national power.

    The role of the media specially, will be very relevant in such scenarios.

    Generation of combat power

    Generation of superior combat power at the point(s) of decision, to achieve the war aims decisively and rapidly in a limited war, will be the key. Surprise and deception, as also other means for optimising our own ‘decision cycle’ and pre-empting the enemy’s ‘OODA Loop’ would pay handsome dividends.

    Capping the escalatory continuum
    .
    An essential aspect of dealing with limited wars would be the crucial need to control the escalatory continuum, so that the situation does not escalate to unforeseen or unplanned levels. This will have to be done in conjunction with the other instruments of our ‘Comprehensive Nation Power’, more specifically in the diplomatic realm.

    To conclude, it may be mentioned that in the emerging security paradigm, where future wars may be limited in scope and time, new thinking is essential.

    However, it needs no emphasis that a limited war does not imply limited capabilities; it refers to the optimum use of specific capabilities at one’s command. The need is for highly mobile, well equipped and versatile forces, capable of multi-dimensional, non-linear missions.

    There needs to be greater emphasis on exploitation of technology, operational and tactical mobility, precision fire power and network centricity at all levels. Related to this, there would be a need to map future battlefields in the Indian context so that our forces are prepared for all possible contingencies.

    The necessity for a tri-service approach in such operations has been well established and must be duly ensured.

    (The author is a former Chief of the Army Staff)


    © India Strategic

    ..:: India Strategic ::. Army: Limited Wars in the Indian Context
     
    W.G.Ewald, Mad Indian and nrj like this.
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  3. Mad Indian

    Mad Indian Proud Bigot Veteran Member Senior Member

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    For successful implementation of limited war program, we need a high level of technological advancement and a well developed infrastructure both of which we lack right now. On top of that, this stupid govt is wasting its money on useless subsidies and populist schemes. Now this stupid govt is going to but back the defence spending. I am smelling Nehruvian crap here. But atleast that bloke believed he war doing something good for the country. But now, the CONs are doing it for covering us their massive scams.

    Unless we improve our techno sophistication and infrastructure, we cant do squat issues of paramount importance to us, but sadly i dont see it happening now.
     
  4. Bhadra

    Bhadra Defence Professionals Defence Professionals Senior Member

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    you mean to say that like Pakistanies let our population eat the grass for the bomb. Never. GOI has higher responsibilities towards the people which not only includes that they are not beaten up and humiliated by the Khans but also that they get two square meals. The later is more important. Remember it.

    Notwithstanding that I appreciate your feelings.
     
  5. Bhadra

    Bhadra Defence Professionals Defence Professionals Senior Member

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    The article is very generic in nature and rightly so as the former COAS dwelling deeper would be a give away ?
     
  6. Kunal Biswas

    Kunal Biswas Member of the Year 2011 Moderator

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    Good article, things are currently developing and implementation of such ideas are on the way..
     
  7. Mad Indian

    Mad Indian Proud Bigot Veteran Member Senior Member

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    Dude really, even though its OT, remember this, if someone is responsible for all the poverty we still face, its the CONs... Even now, who do you think os responsible for the slowing growth of India-CONs and its populism


    Again, had it invested in infrastructure schemes instead of this populist schemes, then of course we could fed the people much better... Give a man a fish you feed him for a day- teach a man to fish, you feed him for the life time....


    So I am hating this UPA for destroying my country more and more.....
     

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