From election to election, year to year, we Indians have got used to living with hope, hoping for the better. Every New Year begins with lots of hope but usually ends in dismay. However, of late there has been change in this trend. We have a government in place that not only believes in flagging the issues of national importance but also walking the talk by ensuring their closure. The government has come out with epoch-making decisions bringing to end decades old issues and breaking the trend of “sleep over the problem.”
From national security point of view 2019 has been a year of immense significance. Balakot was the trendsetter. It once again proved to the world that India has the political will to use military force against terror across the borders as well. It further strengthened India’s image from being a reactive soft state to pro-active against the terrorists and their safe haven. It also once for all buried the misunderstood Kargil Doctrine that India would never cross the LoC. Incidentally, what India did is supported by the UN charter which gives nations a right to cross the international borders in ‘hot pursuit’. It also exposed Pakistan’s nuclear bluff and announced India’s resolve to not to pay heed to Pakistan’s nuclear brinkmanship.
Designation of Azhar Masood as global terrorist after China’s repeated attempts to veto the same was another significant victory for India in its war against terror. This continued with the relentless offensive against the terrorists and terror support network by the security forces led by Indian Army in J&K leading to breaking the backbone of terror operations in the region. To sum up, 2019 has been a landmark year in India’s offensive against terror.
In its pursuit to maintain conventional edge over its immediate neighbour Pakistan, modernisation of armed forces through force multiplier acquisitions like the S-400 Anti-Missile Defence System, Raffaele fighter jets, armed drones. Artillery, armour, assault rifles and precision guided ammunitions. The thrust needs to continue.
Amendment in Article 370 would prove very significant as far as putting an end to terrorism and separatist movement in Kashmir is concerned. Another fallout of the same is India’s assertion of PoJK including Gilgit-Baltistan also being integral parts of India and under the illegal occupation of Pakistan. The new map issued by India has ensured India’s assertion globally as well as it has sent significant message to China with respect to contentious China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
India has also added significantly to its strategic assets in 2019. It now has a series of spy satellites in the orbit providing 24x7 imagery of very high resolution images. The missile arsenal has enhanced significantly both in quality and quantity. However, cyber security remains a weak link which needs to be addressed. We are also making steady forays into exploiting Artificial Intelligence (AI) for defence purposes. The year ended with a very successful 2+2 meet with USA further strengthening our strategic relations with USA.
Another new year is on the horizon: 2020, and the people would expect changes that would not only make their lives better but take our nation to greater heights so that it can occupy its just place among the
comity of nations.
A secure India both at the borders and in the hinterland is the desire of maximum Indians because only a safe and secure nation can concentrate on development needed to make a quality difference in the lives of
India has embarked on the path of becoming a super power and thus needs to tread a very careful path of strategic alliances keeping in mind our national interests. We have succeeded in unifying the world to fight the menace of global jihadi terror but have yet to see a terror free world. To my mind, the fight against terror must continue in 2020 as well both at home and abroad. For us to be taken seriously worldwide, we need to convert India to a Military Power from a Military Force. We need to prepare ourselves to meet the twin threat from China and Pakistan through capability and capacity building. Terror threat in our immediate neighbourhood and home-grown militancy will continue to be our main areas of focus in the immediate future.
In order to negate Pakistan’s nuclear black mail totally, there is a need to continue the thrust to regain the conventional edge over Pakistan’s Armed Forces through modernisation of our own armed forces. Development versus Security is a dilemma faced by every developing nation but the nations which have not compromised on security have emerged stronger in the given time space. The success story of modernisation of the armed forces of Peoples Liberation Army of China (PLA) and its unparalleled economic growth is a classic example. We need to spend 2.5 to 3 percent of our GDP consecutively for a decade to modernise our armed forces and finish Pakistan once and for all if it dares to enter into an arms race.
The above is mandatory to transform India from a military force to military power. Without a strong military, no nation can claim to be a formidable power. Our military suffers from long time neglect and needs to be modernised on fast track basis. The existing deficiencies and future requirements to cater for newer conventional and non-conventional threats need to be made up. Procurement procedures need to be made efficient and accountable. We also have to be prepared to meet challenges from the neighbourhood. Any instability in the neighbourhood will have effect on India as well. We need to develop capability for regional intervention as well as for regional and maritime projection. India being an emerging power needs to cater for multiple contingencies and hence have multiple options. Adequate deterrence capabilities across all spectrum from sub-conventional to nuclear will make us a perfect military power.
Pakistan with its failing economy and China being cautious of its international image are increasingly going to resort to Hybrid Warfare, which emphasizes tactical level and grey-zone conflicts, which incorporates a long term strategic dimension in international disputes. Such type of operations occasionally pass the threshold of war. The response to this type of warfare is not purely military but a collective one including political and economic. Thus, there is a need to prepare across different spectrum and different spheres to meet this growing challenge. Hybrid warfare and grey-zone conflicts are usually misunderstood as synonymous but they are not. On one end of the spectrum, India has to ward off China’s “Unrestricted Warfare” threat particularly in our north-east and in our neighbourhood to weaken our good relations with our neighbours, and the other end we face hybrid threat based on unconventional means and employment of non-state actors particularly in our northern and western borders. While the former closely approximates the grey-zone conflict with strategic intent the later resembles the Hybrid warfare based on tactical and operational level acts basically aimed at fragmenting India. Thus, in 2020, the government must concentrate on formulate protocols and procedures to meet the challenges posed by this twin threat. The threat posed by use of light drones to foster cross border terrorism needs to be tackled on priority.
A beginning has been made with much anticipated appointment of Chief of Defence Staff in the New Year. Not only the appointment but even the concept of CDS is nascent and would need time to stabilise. “Purplisation” of Indian Armed Forces would not be that easy but the government needs to be complimented for taking the bold decision and setting the process in motion. Jointness for India is far more important now than in the past if she has to fulfil the cherished dream of becoming a world power.
Much awaited and much needed reforms in the Defence Ministry to curb the widening gulf between the bureaucrat led ministry and the armed forces whose professional advice is generally overruled by the generalist bureaucrats is the next bold step the government needs to take and 2020 may be the year for the same. A perfect harmony and professional respect will be needed between the three service heads and the CDS for the idea of “first among the equals” to succeed. Also a clear line would have to be drawn between the charters of CDS and National Security Advisor. The idea to succeed would need unbridled support of the political hierarchy which so far needs to be more inclined towards the bureaucracy.
To stake our claim as a formidable power we have to ensure that we have enough means militarily and otherwise to ensure protection of our vital national interests and national security objectives. There is a need to identify weaknesses and gaps in our security structure and take measures to plug them. For this the need to formulate a National security Doctrine is long overdue. In absence of the Doctrine, the various organs of the government and other stake holders are unable to prepare a coordinated response to meet threats and challenges to our national security. From the Doctrine will flow the National Security Strategy which will enable different stake holders in the government to carry out an “ends versus means” analysis and prepare the perspective plans for their respective ministries. 2020 is the year when the much awaited National security doctrine may see the light of the day.
Internal security situation in the country appears to be moving towards normalcy. Left Wing Extremism is in its last leg and needs the final kill. The nexus between the urban Naxals and the extremists needs to be broken. Hopefully, it doesn’t fall prey to narrow politics undermining the national interest. Certain peripheral militant groups are trying to raise their ugly head to undermine the peace, tranquillity and communal harmony. Popular Front of India is developing into a potent threat and its political wing Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) has a significant following in the Southern states and is spreading its wings in the Eastern states. Growing links between the PFI and various illegal immigrant organisations is another cause of concern. PFI also has a big hand in growing radicalisation in South India. The dubious role played by PFI in the widespread protests after the promulgation of Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 needs a thorough probe and the organisation should be banned, before it becomes a major threat to national security.
As far as J&K is concerned, Pakistan will continue to be an irritant till it is forced to give up the policy of state sponsored terrorism. Rajnath Singh, Raksha Mantri while addressing the passing out parade of Gentlemen Cadets at Indian Military Academy, Dehradun comprehensively summed up the Deep State of Pakistan, “besides following terrorism as State policy, several non-state actors have become much powerful in that country that State actors have been reduced to mere puppets.” While Pakistan would continue to foment trouble, the Over Ground Workers (OGW) network which is deep rooted in the state will have to be brought under control in order to rid the state of terrorism/militancy. The entire ecosystem in Kashmir is very badly subverted. OGWs are a major part of this system but very difficult to identify and segregate. They have infiltrated every organ of the State. Most of them have a dual face. They are hard core nationalists when in a gathering that demands so and are diehard sympathisers of jihadists when away from that environment. They are the master of the art of “biting the hand that feeds them.” The present relative calm prevailing in Kashmir cannot be taken on its face value. A crack down on the OGWs in 2020 is mandatory for lasting peace, the ultimate aim for which Article 370 has been amended.
(The writer is a Jammu based veteran, political commentator, political analyst, security and strategic analyst)