War is a necessary evil for the existence of nations. The three levels of war in today’s scenario are top level war (nuclear war), middle level war (conventional war) and low level war (sub-conventional war). Nuclear war is the least likely option available to any nation due to the threat of destruction associated with it, and at best nuclear weapons act as deterrent. In the Indian scenario, despite the fact that there has been no full-fledged conventional war after 1971, the possibility of a conventional war cannot be ruled out totally. However, it has to be realised that most wars in future are going to be either in the form of limited wars or sub-conventional wars. With the improvement in armament, communication and information technology, the pace of war is going to assume new dimensions. Compression of time has become a reality for all future wars. But in our context, there is very little correlation between the size of forces and technology. This is because of India’s vast borders and adversaries who have continuously been building up their conventional forces. Even with improvements in technology and an enhanced degree of technology exploitation in future wars, there is hardly any scope for reducing the size of combat forces. This makes it necessary to maintain credible deterrence and thus prevent any possible conventional misadventures by our adversaries. While technology is critically important for winning a war, the equation between mobility and firepower still remains unchanged.
Future wars could be fought against either regular forces or irregular forces. However, it is quite clear that future wars likely to be fought against regular forces will be limited in nature, both in time and geographical coverage, though of high intensity. The wars likely to be fought against irregular forces supported by external powers are going to be sub-conventional in nature and may continue for a prolonged duration though these conflicts will be of low intensity. However, the employment of the right forces with the right tactics in such warfare assumes greater significance. Exploitation of technology has to be done intelligently for achieving force-multiplier effect to win a war.
Wise people learn from others’ experience. It will be worth deriving benefits from lessons learnt by nations that have fought wars recently. However, it has to be understood that all experiences and lessons learnt by other nations while fighting their respective adversaries cannot be taken as a template for own environment. Such lessons have to be analysed for efficacy in our environment and applied only if found suitable. However, actions taken by the Sri Lankan government to eliminate the LTTE leadership and thus bring an end to the insurgency is a lesson to be learnt for tackling the naxalite problem.
Timely decision making by the political leadership and bureaucracy (civil as well as military) plays a very important role in winning a war. This aspect requires thorough analysis for future threat perceptions, nature of security threat, duration of likely future conflicts, requirements of resources for conflict resolution, catering for war requirements, placing threat handling assets at appropriate locations to facilitate quick response, and dealing with threats by security forces. Therefore, it is essential that a serious study be carried out by the government to clearly identify likely threats to be faced by the country in the next 20 to 30 years and the actions required to be initiated with laid down time-lines. Efforts put in and results obtained towards achieving readiness to address likely future threats must be reviewed annually, and necessary corrections applied to ensure desired outcomes at the crucial time. This should become a regular phenomenon and must be monitored at the highest level.
In order to win a war, the security forces have to be suitably equipped and trained. Training has to be imparted with a view to achieving optimum performance in conventional as well as sub-conventional operations based on the accepted future threat perception. It is essential to have an army which is capable of responding to conventional as well as sub-conventional warfare requirements with bare minimum turbulence while switching roles from one form of warfare to another. It implies that training of officers and men in conventional and sub-conventional warfare tactics demands a balanced focus. This can be fulfilled only if deliberate actions are taken from recruitment to basic, advance and refresher training of officers and men at training centres and academies and formation level schools apart from refresher training in respective units. The human resource of the army needs to be trained in sub-conventional warfare techniques at par with conventional warfare. This would ensure a fully prepared army that can respond effectively to all operational requirements at all times. Keeping the reality of future wars and conflicts in mind, the human resource of the army has to be prepared accordingly. But this has to be done with due caution to prevent confusion in the minds of soldiers. A holistic look has to be given to recruitment and training to utilise and sustain an army capable of achieving national security objectives.
From the army’s perspective, sub-conventional warfare differs from conventional warfare with respect to the application of fire power. Many more restraints are imposed on the sub-conventional battlefield because of political ramifications that could result from indiscriminate application of force. Thus, it demands restraint and judiciousness to ensure that only the required minimum amount of force is applied. The rules of engagement may differ significantly since sub-conventional war is not a declared war between two warring countries but rather an internal unrest, and hence a certain degree of restraint must be exercised. Indiscriminate violence on the part of security forces against indigenous population will contribute little to winning hearts and minds. Army personnel have to be trained on this issue right from day one in a deliberate manner since heavy fire power and large-unit involvement are irrelevant, not cost effective and thus counterproductive.
Historically, the fundamental problem confronting the conventional soldier on the sub-conventional battlefield is that he finds himself a slave to the conventional principles of war, which do not apply in sub-conventional conflicts. Every organisation inculcates in its members a coherent set of constructs and categories through which they are expected to interpret their professional world, and the army is no different in this respect. Thus, to ensure the desired performance of an army in sub-conventional operations at par with performance in conventional operations, it is essential to develop its members simultaneously.
Another important issue which deserves consideration is provisioning of continuous and sound logistics support to the fighting formations and units. This being an important command function, commanders are clear about deficiencies and weaknesses in the existing logistics support system. All existing weaknesses of logistics support system must be overcome before confirming readiness for war.
Command and control mechanisms have to be reworked and practiced with a view to achieve optimum outcomes at the end of operations in the sub-conventional warfare environment. In sub-conventional operations, it must be remembered that the role of security forces is to control violence to a level at which insurgents are compelled to come forward for negotiations. Once this state is achieved, it becomes the responsibility of the political leadership and the civil administration to resolve the issue through negotiations and development in affected areas. For finding a long-lasting solution to an insurgency, undesirable nexus between illegal miners or land mafia or insurgents and political system as well as government functionaries will have to be tackled first since it is the big money which aids continuance of any insurgency.