Col AK Sharma (Retd)


On the eve of Vijay Divas, Prime Minister Modi in his address to the nation, renewed his pledge to modernize Indian Defence Forces to keep India safe and secure. Ironically, the emphasis in his address was on ‘joint operations’ and ‘integration of the three services’. He singled out Cyber and Space as new frontiers where future threats emanate from. This resonates well with the Indian Army’s recent initiative to raise Integrated Battle Groups to provide greater synergy to all arms concept. But with rapidly evolving Disruptive Technologies, proliferation of Information Technology and new trends in Information Warfare, these corrective measures are inadequate to keep pace with emerging threats. In fact, the likely factors that will cause conflicts in future are also acquiring an increasingly different form. Demographic changes, Shortage of potable water, depleting resources and Climatic changes may cause local, regional and/or global conflicts a few years from now. It is difficult to predict how these conflicts may pan out, but there is no doubting their destructive capability and effect.

Predicting future wars, in the absence of a full-scale military conflict in recent decades is difficult. But there are enough indicators which point towards the fact that warfare hereinafter will largely be a combination of conventional and hybrid. Frontal encounters between large force groupings at the strategic and operational levels are likely to recede into the past gradually. Electromagnetic Spectrum and Cyber will enjoy a pre-eminent position and will dictate the pace and effect in every other domain viz, land, sea, air and space. Information warfare has already obliterated the dividing line between war and peace and will become increasingly dominant in future.

Yet budgets are unlikely to increase substantially thus calling for fiscal prudence. It is imperative that we reevaluate our priorities and invest every single rupee with short, near and long term goals in mind. Procurement procedures, bureaucracy and the government should act as facilitators, while the users should feel free to revisit their own plans periodically. Indian industry must be presented with a viable business case to build infrastructure, while the foreign OEMs must get the due cooperation they deserve in exchange for the high-end technologies that they bring to India. Finally, the government of the day, strong as it happens to be, must work towards removing the procedural delays and the sense of fear that dogs the decision makers, as most defence deals are (unfortunately) viewed with suspicion.