11th Asian Security Conference on "The Changing Face of Conflict and Strategy in Asia"

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  • Rapporteur Report on Session III

    February 03, 2009
    Military Modernisation and Asian Security
    Prepared by Arvind Datta and Raviprasad Narayanan

    This session comprised three papers – “Patterns of Doctrine in the Chinese People’s Liberation Army: From Threats to Contingencies to Capabilities” by Paul Godwin; The Indian Navy: Oceanic and Coastal Security Imperatives” by Rahul Roy-Chaudhury; and, “The U.S. Air Force and the Changing Face of Air Power” by Benjamin Lambeth.

    In the absence of Rahul Roy-Chaudhury and Paul Godwin, their papers were read out by Capt. Alok Bansal and Dr. Raviprasad Narayanan.

    Paul Godwin’s paper traced the doctrinal transformations of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) since the time of Deng Xiaoping and was centered around the query: ‘What drives PLA doctrinal change?’ The four critical influences inducing doctrinal change on the PLA are changes in ‘Beijing’s assessments of China’s security environment; advances in military technology; progress in the overall modernization; and, the lasting legacy of Mao Zedong’s approach to the conduct of war and military operations.’ The PLA is treading difficult path, and has stayed the course by learning and adapting with the objective ‘to create an armed forces competent in deterrence, the conduct of war, and military operations other than war in the security contexts China confronts.’

    Rahul Roy-Chaudhury’s paper titled “The Indian Navy: Oceanic and Coastal Security Imperatives” identified some salient points that require serious attention bearing in mind the Mumbai terror attacks of 26th November 2008. The perpetrators of the Mumbai terror attacks came by sea highlighting the grave threat posed by maritime terrorism and the need for India to take remedial measures. The Indian Navy’s ambitions complement that of the Indian state and coastal security will emerge as a key priority for policy makers. The importance of coastal security, continued naval patrols are to ensure security to India’s Exclusive Economic Zone and to facilitate the conduct of unhindered maritime trade. The initiative the Indian Navy has undertaken – post Tsunami relief and rehabilitation in Sri Lanka and Maldives; international interactions with several navies; multilateral exercises with the navies of Southeast Asia and the Quadrilateral; and lately counter piracy missions along the Gulf of Aden are endeavours in the right direction. The challenges facing the Indian Navy primarily come from Pakistan and China. The proposed Coastal Command and the newly created post of Naval Maritime Security Advisor are developments that will have a bearing on overall national security.

    Benjamin Lambeth’s paper titled “The U.S. Air Force and the Changing Face of Air Power” detailed the fundamental transformation of the U.S. Air Force since the Vietnam War and the constant development of new technologies and their synchronization into training and refining air tactics that have made the U.S. Air Force the pre-eminent air force today. The transformations achieved have been possible due to the willingness to experiment with ‘jointness’ and placing emphasis on technologies that not only ensure air superiority but also prevent the adversary from launching any counter moves. Lambeth also spelt out new realms of responsibility for the U.S. Air Force and that includes cyberspace – ‘the proverbial ether within and through which all electromagnetic radiation is propagated.’

    The discussant Col. Arvind Dutta described the three papers as being insightful and reflecting high quality and content. Col. Dutta found four issues with Paul Godwin’s paper – doctrinal changes within the PLA being of interest to India; the pursuance of costly RMA by China being handicapped by a dependency on acquiring foreign technologies; the lack of any reference to ‘warzone campaign doctrine’ of the PLA and the want of elaboration on ‘active defense.’ On Rahul Roy-Chaudhury’s paper, Col. Dutta had two issues to flag – the emergence of maritime terrorism since the USS Cole attack and the prospect of peninsular India being exposed to such attacks. An observation made was that the paper did not have much to say on ‘jointness.’ Discussing Benjamin Lambeth’s paper, Col. Dutta pointed out the central truth of the uniqueness of the U.S. Air Force. He also wondered whether there was the need for such a large air force and queried Benjamin Lambeth about the incident involving the unauthorized flying of nuclear armed B-52 in the recent past.

    The session generated some lively questions from the floor that ranged from India’s facing a procurement challenge as most of the vendors are foreign; the day the U.S. Air Force might do away with manned platforms as also to the future of air warfare.

    In his concluding remarks the Chair for the session, Air Commodore (Ret’d) Jasjit Singh, stated that China’s doctrinal changes began much earlier than Deng Xiaoping’s time and go back to the early 1960s and the 1969 limited war they fought with the Soviet Union – the first instance of two nuclear powers indulging in saber rattling. He cited the 2004 White Paper on China’s Defence that stated that command of the air, sea and second artillery will determine future conflicts. He concluded the session by saying that there are changes taking place which we need to look at very carefully and thanked the paper presenters, the audience and the Director General of IDSA, Shri N.S. Sisodia for organizing the 11th Asian Security Conference.