18 January 2018


The bedrock of all security strategies is the in-depth analysis of how the security environment of the future is fathomed, and how this analysis is translated into national security strategy, doctrines and onwards towards war fighting plans, and capabilities enhancement/creation. An article by William S Lind has been trolled in fauji social media groups, drawing equations and parallels in our armed forces. Some remarks find resonance and likeness ‘…decisions are committee-consensus, lowest common denominator, which… is usually the worst of all possible alternatives. Nothing can be changed or reformed because of the vast number of players defending their “rice bowls.” Decisions are pulled up the chain because the chain is laden with surplus officers looking for something to do. Fixing the substantive problems is harder because those fixes require changes in organizational culture.’[1] In the Indian context, this necessitates further analysis.

Good, effective strategy cannot be achieved without the underpinnings of a self-confident strategic culture, driven by the conviction that from time to time values and interests might have to be protected, and perhaps even enforced.[2] Military strategy derives itself from political formulation of national aim, vision and interests, implying dominant importance of political ends. Military strategy envisages employment of all of a nation's military capabilities at the highest of levels, including long term planning, development and procurement to assure victory or success. If not enunciated by the political establishment in peace, and if not planned, developed, trained for or force created, then inadequacies in achievement of political aims during war will rest on the peacetime imbroglio. This formulation is a complex bureaucratic-military decision-making process, relating to political goals contingencies or scenarios into military objectives. With a nearly 53 billion USD annual defence budget, nearly 13 percent of total Government expenditure, it is imperative that oversight to its expenditure and creation of capabilities is guided under an enunciated military strategy.

The conflict and tension in civil–military relations are neatly captured in a pair of rival maxims: first, ‘war is too important to be left to the generals’; and second, ‘war is too important to be left to the politicians’.[3] The making of a military strategy cannot be taken in a casual file-pushing routine exercise between the bureaucracies both at civil and military level. It is unfortunate that even after four full-fledged wars, one border war and a plethora of counter-insurgency operations, where the armed forces have distinguished themselves with their valour and sacrifices, India has been unable to evolve comprehensive strategies for optimally using the military and other components of national power.[4] In actual fact even a systemic to evolve it in infinite regularity in a dynamic world is conspicuous by its absence. Generically, ‘political leaders are so conscious of the electoral cycle that they focus their ‘strategic’ time and attention on inputs for which they can claim short-term credit, rather than taking decisions that will have longer-term benefits.’[5]The evolution methodology of a military strategy historically in India, is that the political establishment becomes deeply aware of the war fighting plans only after the water has crossed under the bridge! Thereafter, the litany of political limitations – use of air power, breadth and depth of cross border/LoC operations, limits to offensive plans, and the like, significantly affect revisions in military strategy and consequent conduct of operations, at the eleventh hour. Such late decision making affects planning processes, conduct of operations and outcomes This can be exampled from all military campaigns planned in India post-Independence.

Dynamism in Character of Future Warfare

It is argued that the status quo must not continue. In the last 20 years, the pace of change has accelerated, due in no small part to the advent of new technologies that are transforming the way conflicts are fought, as well as the operating environment in which they take place. The pace of information warfare domain and space, and the technologies like the drone-swarms, directed energy weapons, artificial intelligence, high powered microwave, autonomous systems and robotics, to name but a few, is so rapid that doctrinal and strategic changes are unable to keep pace. Though it is easier to gloss or under-rate the changes in the neighbouring basements or in the near horizon, and bask in the glory of prevailing strategies, this can be detrimental for the future. The intense focus on counter-insurgency tends to relegate the likelihood of conventional operations to clichés – short, limited, localized, intense, and the like. 

Two emerging technologies relative to fresh non-kinetic domains - cyber and autonomous systems, dictate contemplation in responding to the attack with kinetic force. Non-kinetic means act as force multipliers to target the will of the adversary through shaping the environment in our favour, and lowering enemy’s will through coercion, hedging- leading to softening through exploitation of existing fissures and faultlines. However, it must be acknowledged that non-kinetic measures by themselves are not the ultimate recipe for victory. These are force multipliers, the effect of which would vary from target-to-target, and ultimate victory may require a mix of both kinetic and non-kinetic means.[6] However, an example is the increasing blurring of distinctions between war and peace, between the different domains of conflict (land, maritime, air, space, cyber) and between kinetic and non-kinetic effect. Cyber contributes to the blurring of the distinction between peace and war by creating uncertainty as to what constitutes conflict in cyberspace.. Even the question of whether a cyber attack constitutes an ‘armed attack’ is pivotal. It may be difficult to determine what constitutes a proportionate response to a cyber attack. For fully autonomous systems, concerns revolve around whether a machine can ever have authority to take a life or start a war as an agent of state policy. The possibility of life-or-death decisions someday being taken by machines not under the direct control of humans needs to be taken seriously.[7]

In addition, USA, Russia and China are moving towards future wars with extreme lethality. Loitering munitions, also known as lethal miniature aerial munitions (LMAMs), are a form of unmanned aircraft system that incorporate a warhead and can be thought of functionally as an unmanned kamikaze plane. Given their plane-like attributes, LMAMs are able to stay aloft for extended periods – thus “loitering” over a target area.[8] North Korea’s intercontinental ballistic missiles are capable of reaching the United States territory with harsh realities of nuclear proliferation. The ambit of information warfare and artificial intelligence is ever expanding with digital storage, computation, and transmission of data bits combined with miniaturization of land, air, surface, and subsurface platforms of ever-increasing mobility and endurance. The increased importance of precision guided munitions, space warfare, stealth fighters, strategic missiles and rockets are all indications of much increased lethality in warfare. China's new microwave weapon can disable missiles and paralyze tanks by shutting down electronic systems (even those with traditional shielding against EMP) by bombarding the target with energy pulses between 300 and 300,000 megahertz. This amount of directed energy interferes with and overloads electronic circuits, causing them to shut down. China has also tested a completely new weapon, a WU-14 boost glide hypersonic weapon system, one capable of blistering speeds.

Researchers and analysts worldwide are proclaiming that future warfare will be different. The breadth of hybridism of hybrid warfare is limited only by imagination of the employer. The concept when postulated referred to ‘tailored mix of conventional weapons, irregular tactics, terrorism and criminal behaviour’[9] soon got redefined to include, ‘full range of military intelligence capabilities, non-conventional weapons, armaments, support units, and combat equipment, support units and combat equipment available for instant employment…of regular forces or irregular insurgents, terrorists, or other non-state actors…’[10] It is apparent hence that kinetic or non-kinetic (the latter will include cyber, social media operations, disruption of critical network infrastructure, dissension, subversion, criminal activities, currency manipulation, environmental warfare), can be disaggregated or aggregated when need be! In study of warfare of the last decade, major shifts in war fighting had been evident worldwide. Russia used only cyber attacks to compel Estonia in 2007, military force and cyber warfare in Georgia in 2008 and ‘Little Green Men’, ‘Night Wolves Motorcycle Club’ and cyber attacks in Crimea in 2014. The Second Lebanon War in 2006 was a classic case of a military engagement between Israel and Hezbollah – the latter as a non state actor used ‘hit and hide’ tactics. The Middle East imbroglio – Iraq, Syria and Yemen, are other examples of the hybrid nature of war.

India sits in the throes of immense security concerns, between its Northern and Western neighbours, and the enlarged ambit of maritime competition. With collusion between them evident, India needs to prepare itself with focused determination. To be ready for the next war India must effectively innovate and adapt concepts. The future battlefield will be one where jointness is a prerequisite for victory. India must establish a clear path to prepare the force for the fight tomorrow and in the future. 

Multi-Domain Battle

The Clausewitzian relationship of politics and warfare stands till date. In India, in the absence of political direction in the form of enunciated national security strategy, the military will have to perforce anticipate the political directions, in preparing for the next conflict. And once a conventional war is imminent or ensues, the political aims articulated will then need to be translated into victory in war. Indeed, the polity will remain concerned of allowing, in their appreciation, the nuclear threshold to be reached – to disallow any possibility of escalation to total nuclear war. Traditional precepts of victory – capture of large tracts of territory across International Borders (even in desolate countryside), taking in large number of prisoners of war or decimation of adversary’s war-waging potential may seem null or unattainable.

The concept of wars is growing ever more complicated, from pervasive information warfare, to applying multi-functional and multi-domain military capabilities below the threshold of armed conflict or the coupling of economic power with militia and irregular forces. Indeed, ‘…the very rules of war have changed. The role of non-military means of achieving political and strategic goals has grown, and in many cases they have exceeded the power of force of weapons and their effectiveness.’[11] This implies that wars may in future remain unannounced in non-kinetic format and may even be successful in achieving political goals without transcending to force-on-force wars– like a typology of no contact wars. Use of kinetic means, however, in stand-off forms such as precision guided munitions, missiles and rockets or space warfare, can supplement to achieve the political aims in short timeframe. The force-on-force battles henceforth, even in sub-continental context require a reappraisal. This highlights the hybridity in which many forms of belligerence are usable disaggregated or aggregated in tandem, as per political aims and military end state sought.

The domain of military strategy hence needs to be taken as a systemic approach, without anchoring future war fighting in a single thematic concept of force-on-force as a common and an only denominator. In effect conventional operations of the force-on-force variety become part and parcel of the larger bouquet of options that amalgamate into multi-domain warfare. ‘Multi-domain’ is distinguishable beyond cyberspace, whereas “cross-domain” is a legacy term with its origins in information assurance techniques. Domains may work in concert simultaneously to achieve goals, instead of only operating in or between two domains. Multi-domain means creating an effect in one domain that produces an effect in other. Multi domain-specific capabilities can be leveraged to defeat a capable foe in another domain, or the ‘force-on-force’ operations would supplement the creative ways. The armed forces are at crossroads. Reliance on attrition, firepower and mechanized warfare had led to our past successes, but they alone cannot win tomorrow’s wars. Our adversaries are analysing and testing our capabilities in multi-domains, and would adopt and adapt their doctrines, strategies and capabilities to take benefit from our vulnerabilities. Evolution of multi-domain warfare from concept to functional doctrines for each of the domains, and then an overarching grand strategy requires the understanding and creativity based upon emerging technologies. To arrive at the future, prepared and ready to dominate the fight, we need a concept to guide convergence and integration of capabilities across air, land, sea, space, cyber, and electro-magnetic spectrum.

Contextually, territory will remain the clearest expression of India’s sovereignty, and the forces are the main guarantors for securing territory. Ground forces will remain the dominant asset to assure this guarantee. There will be a conceptual gap between India and the adversaries on the nature of victory and success in the next war. However, the warfare is not going to be mutually exclusive to ground forces, or that victory can be assured independently by ground forces. In such a scenario, national power is utilizable over multi domains in a conjoined manner. Over 10 lakh personnel serve in seven paramilitary, namely - Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), Assam Rifles (AR), Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), National Security Guards (NSG) and Border Security Forces (BSF). Indeed, in war fighting plans optimal utilisation of a portion of this additional reasonably well-trained and experienced part remains wanting. It may be prudent to utilize this national resource, in defensive positional plans, to relieve the army. Doctrinally, hence, the armed forces can present offensive offense or defensive offense as new belief systemic, thereby reconfiguring strategies as guarantors for securing territory. That will be a cultural change in the army’s obsessive defensive plans. Similarly, an amalgam of defensive and offensive information warfare capabilities in the governmental and private sector realm can be crystallized as multi-domain war fighting specialties. Cumulated with this are the asymmetric warfare capabilities available in substantial quantity, though disaggregated and cosmpartmentalized.

The landscape of multi domain warfare (one that spans two or more military domains -land, maritime, air, cyber, space, etc) to create new and innovative ways against adversaries, is the future of warfare. And a joint multi-domain specialised force indicates success in future warfare – kinetic or non-kinetic, and the responsibility on the shoulders of today’s military leaders.


[1] William S Lind, An Officer Corps That Can’t Score: How military
careerism breeds habits of defeat accessed at

[2] Paul Cornish and Kingsley Donaldson, 2020 World of War, Hodder & Stoughton Ltd, London 2017, p278

[3] Colin S Gray, War, Peace and International Relations, An Introduction to Strategic History, Rutledge, Oxon, 2007, p7

[4] Vijay Oberoi, Indian Defence Review, Issue Vol. 30.1 Jan-Mar 2015 | Date : 02 Mar , 2015

[5] Paul Cornish and Kingsley Donaldson, 2020 World of War, Hodder & Stoughton Ltd, London 2017, p279

[6] Prakash Katoch, Countering Pakistan’s Belligerence: Non-Kinetic Measures, Scholar Warrior SPRING 2017, p11

[7] Colonel (PhD) Gjert Lage Dynda and other, l Autonomous military drones: no longer science fiction 28 July 2017,
accessed at https://www.nato.int/docu/Review/2017/Also-in-2017/autonomous-military-drones-no-longer-science-fiction/EN/index.htm

[8] J Noel Williams, Killing Sanctuary: The Coming Era of Small, Smart, Pervasive Lethality, War on the Rocks,

d-4918-b62c-aab6c6dee9ea on 29 Sep 2017

[9] Frank Hoffman, Conflict in the 21st century: The Rise of Hybrid Wars, Arlington, VA, Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, 2007.
ax Boot, Hybrid War: A New Paradigm for Stability Operations in Failing States, Carlisle Barracks,

Carlisle, PA, US Army War College, 2007.

[11] Valery Gerasimov, The Value of Science Is in the Foresight, Military-Industrial Kurier, February 2013

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