19 November 2012

Can Israel Afford the Risk of Operation Cast Lead Part 2?

Rajeev Agarwal
November 19, 2012

On 14 November, Israel launched Operation Pillar of Defense in an attempt to prevent rocket attacks from Gaza and protect its citizens in South Israel. Commencing with the targeted assassination of Ahmed Jaabari, the head of Hamas’ military wing on 14 November, and the subsequent killing of Hamas’ Central Command chief Ahmad Abu Jalal on 16 November, the operation is threatening to become a full scale Israeli ground offensive into the Gaza Strip. Jaabari is the most senior Hamas official to be killed since an Israeli invasion of Gaza four years ago and he had topped Israel's most-wanted list. Throughout the week, Israeli fighter planes and artillery have rained bombs and shells into Gaza killing up to 52 people. In fact, on 17-18 November, sea borne firing added a new dimension to the Israeli firepower brought to bear upon Gaza. While the United States stands committed to Israel, though in a much muted tone, there has been outrage in the region, particularly from neighbours such as Egypt, Turkey, Iran, Tunisia as well as the Arab League. The present crisis has thrown up a host of questions in an already turbulent region.
  • What prompted Israel to undertake this punitive action?
  • Will it be able to dictate terms as it did in December 2008?
  • How will the emerging Arab region respond to this crisis? Will it spark off an unprecedented Arab and Muslim solidarity?
  • Will Israel take the risk of launching a ground offensive?

It may be perhaps more than just a curious coincidence that Israel has undertaken the decision to launch the present military operation exactly four years after the last offensive in Gaza. A few factors need to be taken into account in this context.
  • In 2008, as well as now, Israel undertook the decision to launch operations just after US Presidential elections, this time exactly one week after the pronouncement of results.
  • Both in 2008 and now, the provocation was not a direct and immediate military or terrorist action by Hamas or any other Palestinian group, but perceived and declared threat to the lives of its citizens in South Israel. The Hamas rocket attacks into Israel were an ongoing phenomenon at a scale that was not unprecedented on both occasions.
  • On both occasions, it was the Israelis who provoked the Hamas to react offensively. On 4 November 2008, Israel launched a military strike on Hamas to destroy a tunnel on the Gaza-Israel border dug by militants to infiltrate into Israel and abduct soldiers. According to Israel, the raid was not a violation of the ceasefire, but a legitimate step to remove an immediate threat even as Israeli infantry and tanks entered the Gaza Strip. Similarly, this time, the assassination of Ahmed Jaabari was an Israeli provocation which prompted a barrage of Hamas fired rockets into Israel.
  • Both in 2008 and now, the Government in Israel stood practically dismissed and early elections announced. War rhetoric has always drawn Israelis towards the ruling dispensation and the leaders would be banking on similar support to ensure re-election.
Present Situation

Israel is on a war footing to prepare for a possible ground offensive. The Israeli Cabinet on 16 November approved Defence Minister Ehud Barak's request to call up 75,000 reservists (significantly more than the 10,000 called up during Operation Cast Lead), of which 16,000 have already been summoned. Sea borne attacks from the Mediterranean have joined the aerial attacks into Gaza. With the United States already committed to support, Israel is lobbying hard for support from the European Union as well.

Hamas, on the other hand, has vowed to retaliate. The Qassam Brigades of Hamas issued a furious communiqué in response to Jaabari's death on 14 November, saying that Israel had "opened the gates of hell on itself." Fawzi Barhum, a spokesman for the ruling Hamas, said "The occupation committed a dangerous crime and crossed all the red lines, which is considered a declaration of war."

Hamas is banking on support from the Arab World and all Muslim countries. In military might, it is no match to the Israeli war machinery. It does not have any fighter planes or artillery and has to solely rely on rocket attacks. Additionally, the success of its rockets striking targets in Israel also stands reduced in light of the Iron Dome Missile Defence System installed by the Israelis. Israel has claimed that the Iron Dome has been able to intercept and destroy most of the rockets targeted towards it.
Regional Reactions

Egypt was amongst the first to react and condemn Israeli actions. On 15 November President Morsi recalled Egypt’s ambassador to Israel in protest and ordered his prime minister to head to Gaza in a show of solidarity. “We don’t accept the continuation of this (Israeli) threat and aggression against the people of Gaza,” Morsi said in comments at a Cabinet meeting aired on state TV. “The Israelis must realize that we don’t accept this aggression and that it can only lead to instability in the region.” Morsi also said, “Egypt will not leave Gaza alone. I speak on behalf of all of the Egyptian people that Egypt today is different from Egypt yesterday, and the Arabs today are different from the Arabs of yesterday.”

Hamas has always enjoyed excellent rapport with the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest political group. Since entering office in June 2012, Morsi had hosted Hamas leaders and has repeatedly pledged support to the Palestinians. In fact, Morsi has also opened Egypt’s border crossing with Gaza for Palestinians to enter and exit. Thousands of Egyptians gathered outside mosques and in squares across the country on 16 November calling on Egypt and the Arab world to back the Palestinians in their conflict with Israel.

Turkey too has pledged support for Gaza and has condemned Israeli actions. Prime Minister Erdogan said that Israel had started striking Gaza and killing innocent people using fictional excuses ahead of elections, as had happened prior to the 2008 election. In fact, Erdogan had also recently announced that he would visit Gaza.

Iran came out in strong support of Gaza with its Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast saying "Iran considers the criminal act of Israeli military forces in killing civilians as organized terrorism and strongly condemns it." On 18 November, at Syria’s National Dialog meeting in Tehran, the Iranian foreign minister said that Arab countries and particularly the Arab League and Muslim countries should focus all their attention on the main enemy and take practical measures to help the innocent people of Gaza.

Tunisia too joined in condemning Israel. Foreign Minister Rafik Abdesslem visited the Gaza Strip and denounced Israeli attacks as unacceptable and against international law. "Israel should understand that many things have changed and that lots of water has run in the Arab river," Abdesslem said.

The Arab League called an emergency meeting of its foreign ministers in Cairo on 17 November. The meeting denounced Israeli military actions in Gaza and decided that Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi would head a delegation to Gaza in a show of solidarity.
Israel’s Strategy

It would be naïve to contend that Israel would not have expected a serious response from Hamas after the killing of its military chief and subsequent air strikes in Gaza. It is however difficult to pinpoint any specific military provocation from Hamas which led to such a severe initiation of strikes from Israel. The only reason, as discussed above, could be the political mileage that Netanyahu hopes to gain in the run-up to the elections. Here, it is important to remember that Israel, in recent times, had been largely unsuccessful in building up international rhetoric against Iran and it nuclear weapons programme. That would have left the option of a war on Palestine ‘to teach them a lesson’ as a platform to mobilise national support. The same could be gauged from the statement of Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai, who has been quoted by Israel's Haaretz newspaper as saying that the goal of the operation was "to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages. Only then will Israel be calm for 40 years". Also, on 14 November, an Israeli official said that they may try to topple Palestinian Chief Mohammed Abbas if he carries out a plan to ask the United Nations this month to upgrade the status of the Palestinian Authority which would give the Palestinians a place in the UN akin to that of the Vatican – short of full membership as a sovereign state but as close as they can get without the full recognition that Israel says can only come from a peace treaty. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in a speech on 14 November at the settlement of Ariel in the occupied West Bank that if the Palestinian upgrade request was accepted – as is widely predicted – it could force Israel to punish the Palestinians.

Israel has commenced a process which can only escalate into an irreversible security and geopolitical situation in the region. Israel has not benefited from the Arab Spring in any way and this could further increase its isolation in the region. Egypt is not the same as in 2008 and Israel cannot bank on a muted stance from it. With Sinai already burning, Israel cannot afford to open any more fronts. Israel’s falling out with Turkey will add to its strained position in the region, with the latter pledging support for Gaza. The Islamists, rejuvenated after the Arab Spring, are calling for Arab and Muslim unity which could only be bad news for Israel. Even the much-discussed potential opening for direct US-Iran nuclear negotiations could potentially be affected by the unfolding confrontation. A full scale ground offensive could build up into something messier than Israel may bargain for and the scars would set the Middle East Peace Process back by decades. Israel has to soon find ways to de-escalate the situation without losing face with its electorate.

CBRN security in India Rahul Prakash

19 November 2012

The increasing sophistication of terrorist incidents, the changing profile of terrorists (including the association of highly-qualified persons with such organisations), the access to know-how through the use of the Internet, and the globalised nature of terrorism have amplified the potential for a CBRN attack.

Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) security is a matter of grave concern for many nations today. CBRN security in India is still in its early stages. There is a need to look at it from a broader perspective of internal and regional security challenges that manifest in the form of terrorism and left-wing extremism, among others.

India is party to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction (BWC), and the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction (CWC). Despite signing these international frameworks on CBRN, India's domestic laws and rules leave some gaps.

This article briefly touches upon the major legislation that deals with CBRN materials. Some of the findings are from a larger study conducted by the Observer Research Foundation (ORF; New Delhi) and the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI; London) titled "Chemical, Biological and Radiological Materials: An Analysis of Security Risks and Terrorist Threats to India", in 2012.

The increasing sophistication of terrorist incidents, the changing profile of terrorists (including the association of highly-qualified persons with such organisations), the access to know-how through the use of Internet, and the globalised nature of terrorism have amplified the potential for a CBRN attack. The 1995 Sarin gas attack in Japan and the Anthrax attacks on the US in 2001 are disturbing instances where such methods have been effectively employed by non-state actors.

UN Security Council Resolution 1540, adopted in 2004, "affirms that the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and their means of delivery constitutes a threat to international peace and security" and calls on signatory nations "to refrain from supporting by any means non-State actors from developing, acquiring, manufacturing, possessing" such materials and delivery systems. The resolution indicates the heightened threat perception about CBRN terrorism.

In India, there is no overarching law which covers CBRN as a whole and addresses all related aspects. CBRN materials transported across India's borders are closely monitored, but this is not true for their movement within India's borders. Given that India is battling conventional threats such as terrorist attacks, bombings, insurgency and left-wing extremism on a regular basis, the CBRN threat is still considered something that is likely only in the distant future and not imminent.

There are several reasons for this position. To begin with, the security establishment in India believes that the terrorist and extremist organisations that are active in India do not possess the capability to carry out CBRN attacks. However, security agencies are likely to keep a close watch on these actors to spot any movement in this direction. Another factor which plays a key role in framing the general attitude towards CBRN threats is the absence of a large-scale incident resulting in huge losses. The Bhopal Gas tragedy where accidental leakage of a poisonous gas -- methyl isocyanate - led to large-scale casualties, changed the way industrial safety is implemented and enforced in India. The rules and regulations, and even the attitude towards industrial safety have improved since the accident in 1984.

There are several laws which deal with CBRN matters indirectly. The Weapons of Mass Destruction and Their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Act, 2005, The Factories Act, 1948 (amended 1987), Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act, 2004, Provisions under the Indian Penal Code and Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002 are some of such laws.

India is a hub for chemicals that are used across the globe due to their high quality and competitive pricing. Generic agrochemicals and pharmaceuticals constitute the major chunk of Indian chemical exports. The chemical industry in India alone contributes 7 percent of its GDP and accounts for 3 percent of global chemical industry. However, the laws relating to chemicals focus more on safety rather than security.

For instance, the Manufacture, Storage and Import of Hazardous Chemicals Rules of 1989 (amended in 2000) stipulates chemical factory owners take measures to ensure the safety of hazardous materials, but does not explicitly necessitate securing the materials. Chemicals such as ammonium nitrate (used in many bomb blasts in India and widely used in the agricultural sector) has been smuggled and traded across India by actors with malicious intent. It was only after the use of ammonium nitrate in many bomb blasts that the government stepped in and restricted access to this material.

Many such chemicals, industry experts point out, can be purchased over the counter. Recently, the government has taken note of this vulnerability and made necessary amendments. Yet the overall security of potentially destructive chemicals remains weak.

However, vulnerabilities during transportation are a problem faced by both small- and large-scale industries. The Hazardous Waste (Management, Handling and Transboundary Movement) Rules of 2008 ensures that materials are safely contained during transport, but yet again ignores the security aspect.

Moreover, there exists a nexus in many states of India which is responsible for the pilferage of materials during transportation. Presently, the nexus is active in sectors where the materials offer economic benefits, such as petroleum. Some industries have taken steps to address this issue. For instance, some large-scale industries are equipping their containers and trucks with GPS devices and developing foolproof quantity measurement techniques. But the fact is that it has not become a measure across the board.

Rules for the manufacture, use, import, export and storage of hazardous micro-organisms (1989), Bio-medical Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 1998, (amended in 2000), Biological Diversity Act, 2002 are some of the laws that deal with biological materials. There have not been any proven incidents of biological terrorism in India so far. Though there have been incidents of sudden outbreaks of diseases, they have never been suspected to be man-made. However, it is not impossible to imagine such a scenario in the future when such outbreaks are created deliberately, stated experts interviewed during the course of the ORF-RUSI study. None of the laws deal directly with the threat of using bio-terrorism.

India follows a policy of 'zero' tolerance when it comes to nuclear security. This covers the nuclear material in India's possession, infrastructure and other equipment involved in both peaceful and military uses. The Atomic Energy (Radiation Protection) Rules (2004) provide norms that require the user to 'ensure physical security' of such materials. It ensures that no person without a license can establish a radiation installation or handle radioactive material. Heavy security cover is provided for such sites and installations that deal with nuclear material. In most cases, the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) is responsible for providing the security, both onsite and offsite (including while transportation of materials).

Even though the security measures in place for nuclear materials appear foolproof, the same cannot be said for other radiological materials. From the data collected for the ORF-RUSI study, it is evident that there have been many instances wherein radiological materials have been misplaced or stolen. The Mayapuri incident, where radioactive Cobalt-60 was found in a scrap yard in Delhi, is only one of the few incidents which got media attention. Out of the incidents found by the study, the most prominent was theft of uranium. As radioactive substances are used in many educational and medical research institutions and industries, their role is equally important.

While vulnerabilities do exist, the government of India has taken many steps to fill in the gaps. The National Disaster Management Act (2005) is such an initiative. This act established the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) which is the nodal agency for responding to CBRN incidents. The NDMA provides guidelines for CBRN response and these are implemented by the State Disaster Management Agencies. However, these guidelines are not legally binding and thus, the effectiveness varies.

What India clearly lacks in the CBRN context is a centralised approach and strict preventive measures especially for Chemical, Biological and Radiological (CBR) materials. Nuclear materials, as discussed above remain high on the government's priority and thus incidents involving nuclear materials are less likely. This is not true for CBR security in India. Even the reporting of CBR related incidents in India is not given much importance due to the unavailability of an overarching law which covers these matters in detail. Though there are provisions under the Indian Penal Code for reporting such incidents, there is enough room for errors that could be potentially disastrous.

The Indian security agencies are monitoring the likely groups that could carry out such attacks on Indian soil and should be in a position to stop these attacks from taking place. However, given the nature of threats faced by India and increasing sophistication of operations conducted by terrorist organisations, attempts to carry out a CBRN attack in the future cannot be completely ruled out.

(Rahul Prakash is a Junior Fellow at Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi)

Courtesy: news.cbrnresourcenetwork.com

Averting a Civil War in Afghanistan

November 20, 2012
By Arif Rafiq

The challenge: Incorporating the Taliban into the future of Afghanistan without sacrificing the rights of Afghans, especially women. Can it be done?

Members of the Afghan High Peace Council (AHPC) visited Islamabad recently and met with a broad set of civil and military officials to discuss collaboration in negotiating an end to the war with the Taliban. There were no dramatic breakthroughs—the meeting was part of the painfully slow process of building trust between Islamabad and Kabul—but the Afghan delegation did not return home empty-handed. With the release of up to thirteen prisoners associated with the Afghan Taliban into the Afghan government’s custody, and frank discussions with their Pakistani counterparts, the AHPC should have a stronger level of confidence in Islamabad’s claim that it seeks peace in Afghanistan.

But that confidence needs to be built at a faster pace. The clock is ticking in Afghanistan. Afghan Presidential elections and the end of U.S. combat operations are scheduled for 2014. Already, Afghan power brokers are preparing contingencies for a post-American Afghanistan. Ismail Khan, a warlord from the eastern city of Herat, is rebuilding his militia. He’s just one of many militia leaders who are stockpiling weapons and men, preparing for a potential, though not inevitable, fight between the country’s many ethnic and political factions.

The windfall from the Western presence will soon dry up and much of the change the Western coalition has brought to Afghanistan will prove to be ephemeral. Afghanistan will be tested as to whether it has the resilience to build an economy more independent of foreign rent than today. The outlook is gloomy. Recently, President Hamid Karzai’s brother Mahmoud told the Associated Press, “Afghanistan became a game. The game is to make money and get the hell out of here. That goes for politicians. That goes for contractors.” He is certainly one to know.

As corrupt as Afghanistan’s elites are, and as much blood as is on their hands, they’re essential to the prevention of an all-out civil war—a civil war that would cause a massive loss of life in Afghanistan, potentially embolden regional and transnational jihadists in the area, and spill over into a deeply precarious Pakistan.

Afghan elites have been kept together by the Bonn Agreement, the governmental framework created by the UN-backed post-9/11 agreements that provided Afghanistan with an interim, and later transitional, system of government. In 2004, Afghanistan held its first presidential elections, followed by parliamentary polls the next year that would produce an increasingly confident body that seeks to check executive power.

As flawed as the Bonn framework has been—for example, in its early years it overrepresented the non-Pashtun anti-Taliban Northern Alliance—it allowed for a reduction of violence and the reconstruction of the Afghanistan state, economy, and society, after two decades of perpetual war.

But the system’s net positives are declining. Indeed, what we are witnessing today is the slow unraveling of the Bonn framework. Karzai is a compromised political figure. Gone are the days when he was seen as a unifying force and a moderate who symbolized the hopes of a post-Taliban Afghanistan. Now, he is knee-deep in corruption and appears intent on maintaining power directly or indirectly after his current term comes to an end.

Meanwhile, critical non-Pashtun power brokers are raising significant challenges to the governance framework in Afghanistan. The two Jamiat-e Islami splinter groups—the National Front of Afghanistan (NFA) led by Ahmed Zia Massoud and Amrullah Saleh, and the National Coalition of Afghanistan (NCA), led by Dr. Abdullah—both oppose Karzai. The NFA now even calls for a federalist system that weakens the power of president.

Amid this debate between relative moderates on how Afghanistan should be governed and by whom, there is also the challenge of reconciling the Taliban’s demands. It remains to be seen how all this can be done at once given the fact that NCA and NFA don’t appear to be talking. But that dialogue must begin now.

The Taliban has been vague about the governance system it envisions for Afghanistan. During its reign, the Taliban implemented a swift and crude variant of Islamic criminal law. Its shadow governments behave similarly today. There is little indication of behavioral or attitudinal change.

The Taliban contends that it seeks the implementation of Islamic law. But what changes to the country’s present-day system does it demand? Officially, Afghanistan is an Islamic republic. Much, but not all, of its legislation comes from the Islamic legal tradition. The country’s constitution states that “no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions” of Islam. But its laws are a mix of Islamic and non-Islamic in origin and the boundaries between these two are often ambiguous.

The Taliban’s prescription for a legal and governance system for Afghanistan also lacks clarity. Can the Taliban come to terms with some form of a republican system of government? Or is it insistent on having a hardline Islamic emirate akin to the one that existed in the 1990s? Does the Taliban view representative government as permissible or even legitimate? Can a parliament exist? What should its powers be? Can it have the capacity to legislate? Can women exercise the right to vote, let alone serve in the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government? And what will Mullah Omar’s status be? Can the so-called commander of the faithful play second fiddle to an elected president or prime minister?

The Taliban has stated that it has a national reconciliation plan ready for Afghanistan. But up to this point, there is no indication that it has conducted an internal dialogue and achieved consensus. It’s not even clear whether it has the capacity and competency to produce such a coherent vision for the country. If and once direct talks with its Afghan counterparts begin, they will need to know the Taliban’s 'red lines' and its demands for changes to the present constitution, even if they are untenable.

An important forum in which these issues can be aired out indirectly is the conference of religious scholars proposed by the AHPC and Pakistani government in their joint statement. Neither the Taliban nor the participating religious scholars should have veto power over the future of Afghanistan. But this forum, should it take place, provides an opportunity to press the Taliban—and give its leadership the necessary cover—to make the necessary compromises on representative government and women’s rights.

The Taliban cannot be the sole definer of Afghanistan’s future. But as part of a political settlement—which is so crucial for peace and stability in the country and region—the Taliban would undoubtedly have some say in how Afghanistan would be governed. To dilute the Taliban’s conservative influence, intra-Afghan peace talks must be broad-based with ample weight given to relatively progressive forces within the country, including women. And Afghan women—whether they’re part of civil society or parliament—must coalesce as a bloc and press for their fundamental rights.

Afghanistan’s greatest challenge is to avert a civil war by producing an amended governance framework that incorporates the Taliban but does not sacrifice the fundamental rights of Afghans, especially Afghan women. It is difficult to be optimistic about the prospects for a negotiated settlement with the Taliban. And any optimism that one may have will certainly dwindle in the months ahead if no progress is made while 2014 nears.

Arif Rafiq is an adjunct scholar at the Middle East Institute and president of Vizier Consulting, LLC, which provides strategic guidance on Middle East and South Asian political and security issues. He tweets at @ArifCRafiq.

A New Turn in the Great Game

Obama's re-election ensures that fighting terrorism will remain the top priority for US

BRUCE RIEDEL | Washington, D.C., November 9, 2012

Barack Obama (left) greets Manmohan Singh at the Seoul nuclear security summit on March 26, 2012.

President Barack Hussein Obama's re-election ensures that fighting terrorism will remain the top priority of American foreign policy. Obama will continue the drone wars in Pakistan and Yemen, and perhaps take on new battlefields in North Africa. Pakistan will remain the most difficult bilateral relationship Obama must manage; he will probably move more toward containment. US-India relations will become closer with greater cooperation on Afghanistan.

Obama has made counter terrorism the top priority of his foreign policy since his election in 2008. He has relentlessly attacked the global jihad even as he banned torture and tried to close Guantanamo. I chaired his review of policy toward Afghanistan, Pakistan and al Qaeda in early 2009 and we made the goal of American policy to "dismantle, disrupt and defeat" al Qaeda in Pakistan and prevent its return to Afghanistan. Although much progress has been made to achieving that end state, the job is far from finished.

America's relationship with Pakistan is tortured and complex. On the one hand, Washington has been very generous to Pakistan this century. Since 9/11, the US has disbursed over $25 billion in military and economic aid to Islamabad. The military aid includes 18 F16 jet fighters, 500 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM), six C130 transport aircraft, 20 Cobra attack helicopters and a Perry class frigate. According to the Congressional Research Service, about half the aid was delivered during George Bush's presidency and about half by Obama. No other country except Israel has received so much American aid since 2001.

Barack Obama (left) greets Manmohan Singh at the Seoul nuclear security summmit on March 26, 2012.On the other hand, Pakistan and America are adversaries in Afghanistan. In many ways, we are fighting a proxy war in Afghanistan. The US, the United Nations, NATO and troops from over 40 countries back the legitimately elected Kabul government led by Hamid Karzai. So does India. Pakistan pays lip service to the Karzai government but provides key assistance to its enemy, the Afghan Taliban. The ISI shelters the Taliban leadership in Quetta, Karachi and Waziristan, trains its fighters and helps it plan attacks on Afghan government and NATO targets. Interrogations of thousands of captured Taliban fighters by NATO show that Pakistan's support is essential to the success of the insurgency.

America is also fighting a drone war against terrorist targets from al Qaeda and associated movement inside Pakistani territory despite the explicit request of the Pakistani parliament and foreign ministry that they cease flying. Every day, American drones monitor potential targets inside Pakistan. From 2004 to September 30, 2012, the drones carried out 346 attacks in Pakistan, almost 300 on Obama's watch. The drones have decimated al Qaeda's leadership but have become an anti-American rallying cry for Lashkar-e-Toiba and Pakistani politicians including Imran Khan.

Finally, there is the shadow of Abbottabad. How did Osama bin Laden, high value target number one, hide for five-plus years less than 800 yards from Pakistan's premier military academy? One senior Pakistani official told me it was just a "freak coincidence" but is that credible? A Pakistani journalist wrote days after the seal raid that killed the al Qaeda leader that "of course the generals knew and they knew they could get away with it". It was either ISI incompetence or complicity and neither is comforting.

The coming transition in Afghanistan from NATO to Afghan leadership in the war in 2014 will be a major challenge for American-Pakistani relations with big implications for India. Obama is committed to a long-term strategic partnership with Afghanistan including keeping a residual force of perhaps 20,000 troops and advisers behind to protect drone bases and help the Afghan Army. If Pakistan encourages the Taliban to step up the pressure on the Kabul government and they recover territory hard won by NATO forces in Helmand and Kandahar provinces, it will be a sign that Pakistan is determined to push America out of South Asia. Many Americans will blame Pakistan for any American defeat in Afghanistan and they will have good reason to do so.

India is likely to be drawn deeper into the Afghan conflict. Already it is a major supporter of Kabul having disbursed over $2 billion in aid since 2001. India is likely to become the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance's major regional ally. An American-Pakistan proxy war could become an Indo-American-Pakistan proxy war as well. Obama was reluctant in his first term to ask for Indian help in Afghanistan. That will probably change in the second term.

There is a better alternative. Pakistan could unambiguously use its influence with the Taliban to encourage them to engage in a serious political process with Kabul while breaking definitively with al Qaeda. The choice is Pakistan's.

If not, then America and India will need to work more closely on how to engage Pakistan and contain its army's excesses.There are signs the two are already engaging more on Afghanistan's future. The last Indo-US strategic dialogue session spent considerable time on the future of Afghanistan judging by the joint statement. Expect more from Obama Two.

The Incredible, Shrinking Modern Military

Magnus Nordenman | November 19, 2012 

While military forces have grown ever more sophisticated, their size and density have been on the decline for decades. In 1939, before the outbreak of World War II, the French navy boasted seven battleships, one aircraft carrier, seven heavy cruisers, 12 light cruisers, 78 destroyers, and 81 submarines. Today, France, with the world's fourth-largest defense budget, has a core fighting fleet consisting of one aircraft carrier, four amphibious ships, 12 frigates, and six attack submarines.

In 1842, Britain fielded 14,000 soldiers for the Battle of Kabul, while at the same time having enough reserve manpower to police an empire on which the sun never set. In 2012, with the U.K. still having the fifth-largest defense budget and not much of an empire, senior British military leaders have repeatedly told the British public, the political leadership in London, and anyone else who cares to listen that the deployment of a mere 8,000 British soldiers to Afghanistan on a sustained basis is almost breaking the force.

In the 1950s, the United States built over 9,000 F-86 Sabres, a key fighter aircraft in the US and allied inventories during the early Cold War period. About half as many F-16s were built in the 1970s. Today, the F-35 is touted to be the next front-line fighter for the United States, as well as for America's friends and allies across the world. It is likely that no more than 3,000 will ever be built, a two-thirds reduction in comparison to the F-86.

One reason for the shrinkage of the modern military is cost. Fielding fully-capable state of the art armed forces is expensive. Ever more exquisite and sophisticated weapons, systems, and platforms demand a growing share of a country's defense budget, crowding out other priorities and reducing the number of systems and platforms a government can buy. But the explanation isn't limited to the defense-industrial sector. The manpower required to man, maintain, service, arm, and upgrade these expensive machines is also an expensive outlay. Across the developed world, conscripted forces have gone by the wayside in favor of volunteer professionals who, unlike their historical predecessors, are required to be able to understand, operate, and maintain a dazzling array of technology.

A well-equipped Western soldier of today is not only required to be able to operate his basic weapon and other bits of traditional soldiering gear. He also is expected to be able to be proficient in the use of advanced weapon sights, GPS devices, handheld computers, and night-vision goggles. Platoon leaders in Western militaries (usually people in their early 20s not long out of college) are responsible for weapons, equipment, and vehicles worth tens of millions of dollars.

The numbers behind these trends are stark. According to the U.S. Department of Defense, it cost roughly $2,600 in today's dollars to equip a rifleman during World War II. Today, the number is close to $20,000. Infantry equipment currently under development for the near-future force will inflate the price tag to close to $60,000 per rifleman.

In order to attract and retain enlisted soldiers and officers capable of handling the demands placed on them by the ever-increasing sophistication of their weapons, machines, vehicles, and systems, the militaries of the West are forced to offer competitive wages and benefits. Indeed, even a very quick glance at the U.S. military's pay chart reveals that, based on education and experience levels, modern soldiering is far from a low-paying job. The benefits offered to U.S. service members (such as housing allowance, medical, child care, retirement, etc.) would be considered generous indeed in the civilian workforce. As a result, the health care and retirement benefits of the Department of Defense are projected to skyrocket in the coming decades.The point here is not that the members of the military are overpaid, just that attracting and retaining the manpower required to operate the ever more sophisticated equipment and platforms of the military comes with an increasingly high price tag.

The result of the ever-increasing costs for military systems and for the compensation, training, and education of military personnel is that the number of both people and machines have been drastically reduced. But here's the rub: Even though modern military systems and units can outperform their predecessors by wide margins, they need a certain mass or density of systems or units in order to be able to respond to multiple contingencies, react to surprise, have a reserve at the ready, sustain deployments over time, or to achieve decisive results on the battlefield.

Many smaller nations are now getting close to having militaries of such low density that they cannot make meaningful contributions. Norway, for example, lost one of its four C-130s in a crash earlier this year, wiping out a quarter of the Norwegian air force's fixed-wing lift capacity in one fell swoop and calling into question whether Norway could deliver the lift capacity it had committed to the NATO operation in Afghanistan. This sudden shortfall was only solved by the United States diverting the delivery of a C-130 to the U.S. Air Force in order to sell it to Norway instead. Senior European military leaders will admit, if pressed, that they have capabilities that are now so limited that they are below the level of full operability. And leaders have an incentive not to use the few assets they have because of the risk of loss or damage.

Arrival at the point when a military force becomes so exquisite, sophisticated, expensive, and small that it no longer can fulfill a meaningful purpose may perhaps be delayed by cost-cutting, specialization, multinational pooling and sharing resources, or by mixing high- and low-end assets (such as F-16s and F-35s). Some nations have even chosen to completely remove capabilities in order to be able to spend more elsewhere. This was the case when Denmark ended its submarine force, and, more recently, the Netherlands decided to do away with its main battle tanks. The United States has so far avoided this loss of density by using the brute fiscal force of ever increasing defense budgets, but that may not last much longer as America seeks to get its fiscal house in order. None of these measures will allow the militaries of the West to escape the fundamental logic at work here. Instead, warfare needs to be rebooted.

Perhaps cyberspace will become the new decisive realm of warfare, where nations can relatively cheaply thrust and parry, and attack, defend, and hold assets at risk in order to coerce or deter an adversary. Maybe unmanned systems will not go down the road of ever increasing costs as most legacy systems have, and drones will become the preferred mode of combat in the future. In any case, the nation that can reboot warfare and escape the logic of the modern, incredible, shrinking military will be well positioned to dominate the military landscape of the 21st century. It's just a matter of who reaches for the ctrl+alt+delete keys first.

Magnus Nordenman is a deputy director of the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security. This piece was first published on the Atlantic.

India’s Military Modernization: Plans and Strategic Underpinnings

By Gurmeet Kanwal
September 24, 2012
Download a printer-friendly PDF:India’s Military Modernization: Plans and Strategic Underpinnings

As a key player in Asia and a large democracy with which the United States shares common interests, India is emerging as an important U.S. strategic partner. There is a broad national consensus in India on the contours of this emerging relationship with Washington, particularly with respect to enhanced defense and civil nuclear energy cooperation. During his visit to New Delhi in June 2012, U.S. defense secretary Leon Panetta identified India as a “linchpin” in Washington’s emerging “rebalancing” strategy in the Asia-Pacific region. While there was no reaction from the Indian government, it is clear that these two large democracies need to work together militarily in order to maintain freedom of the seas in the Indian Ocean region and to ensure peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific more generally. Should China experience political instability or behave irresponsibly in asserting its territorial rights—as it has shown a tendency to do in the South China Sea—both India and the United States will need strong strategic partners to face worst-case scenarios effectively.

In order to meet future threats and challenges and achieve interoperability with U.S. and other friendly armed forces for joint operations in India’s area of strategic interest, the Indian military needs to modernize and create force structures that are capable of undertaking network-centric warfare on land, at sea, and in the air. Gradually, but perceptibly, the Indian armed forces are upgrading their capabilities, enhancing their kinetic effectiveness and command and control, and improving interoperability. This brief analyzes the threats and challenges that India must address, the measures being adopted to modernize the country’s armed forces, and the strategic underpinnings behind this slow but steady modernization effort.

Preparing for a Two-Front War

South Asia is among the world’s most unstable regions due to the ongoing war against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. In addition, growing fundamentalist terrorism; creeping “Talibanization” in Pakistan; political instability in Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal, and Sri Lanka; unrest in Tibet and Xinjiang; narcotics trafficking; and the proliferation of small arms and light weapons are also destabilizing factors. Unresolved territorial and boundary disputes with China and Pakistan, over which India has fought four wars; internal security challenges in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and the northeastern states; and the rising tide of the Maoist insurgency in the heartland further vitiate India’s strategic environment. Further, many Indian security analysts worry that China is engaged in the strategic encirclement of India through its nuclear and missile nexus with Pakistan; the sale of military hardware to Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka; and a “string of pearls” strategy to surround India with naval bases in the northern Indian Ocean region.

India-China relations are stable at the strategic level. Resolution of the territorial dispute is being discussed by India’s national security adviser and China’s vice foreign minister, military confidence-building measures are holding up, bilateral trade has increased to $60 billion, and both countries are cooperating in international forums like the World Trade Organization and the UN Climate Change Conference. However, the relationship is more contentious at the tactical level. For example, China refuses to issue proper visas to Indian citizens of Arunachal Pradesh, Beijing denied the commander-in-chief of India’s Northern Command a visa for an official visit because it believes that J&K is a disputed territory, and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has been making frequent forays across the Line of Actual Control into Indian territory simply to push Chinese territorial claims. China has also rapidly developed military infrastructure in Tibet to allow for quicker induction of troops and their sustenance over a longer period of time. Another destabilizing factor is the large Chinese presence in the Gilgit-Baltistan area of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. These developments do not augur well for long-term peace and stability.

The prevailing strategic environment has forced India’s armed forces to prepare for the possibility of a “two front” war, while the army and other security forces are engaged in fighting an ongoing “half front” internal security war. Even though the probability of conventional conflict remains low due to steadily improving relations and military confidence-building measures with China and Pakistan, this possibility cannot be completely ruled out. Nuclear deterrence also plays a positive role in conflict avoidance, but the prevailing wisdom in India is that there is space for conventional conflict below the nuclear threshold. There is now increasing realization that unless India takes immediate measures to accelerate the pace of its military modernization, the gap with China, which is only a quantitative gap at present, will soon become a qualitative gap, given the rapid rate of PLA modernization. Likewise, the slender edge that the Indian armed forces now enjoy over the Pakistani armed forces in conventional conflict is being eroded as Pakistan is spending considerable sums of money on its military modernization under the garb of fighting radical extremism. [1]

Although the Indian armed forces have drawn up elaborate plans for modernizing and qualitatively upgrading their capabilities for future combat, including the ability to secure the sea lanes of communication and project power in India’s area of strategic interest, the pace of modernization has been slow due to the lack of adequate funding, delayed decision-making, and a low-tech defense industrial base. India’s defense budget is pegged at less than 2% of its GDP at present, and the bulk of the expenditure is on the revenue account—that is, pay and allowances, rations, fuel, oil and lubricants, ammunition, and vehicles. [2] Very little remains in the capital account to be spent on modernization. In the case of the army, spending on modernization is as little as 20% to 25% of total capital expenditure in 2012–13. [3] According to Indian defense minister A.K. Antony, “New procurements have commenced...but we are still lagging by 15 years.” [4] Nonetheless, an inadequate defense industrial base—imports constitute 70% of defense acquisitions—and bureaucratic inefficiency, rather than lack of funds, are the main causes of the slow pace of modernization. India is expected to procure defense equipment worth $100 billion, most of it imported, over the next two five-year plans. Simultaneously, however, efforts are being stepped up to enhance indigenous capabilities and thereby reduce India’s dependence on imports by an order of magnitude. The following three sections will survey India’s modernization of its army, navy, and air force.

Army Modernization: Enhancing Capabilities without Reducing Manpower

With personnel strength of 1.1 million soldiers (6 regional commands, a training command, 13 corps, and 38 divisions), the Indian Army has kept the nation together through various crises, including four wars since independence, Pakistan’s “proxy war” in J&K since 1989–90, and insurgencies in many of the northeastern states. [5] Given its large-scale operational commitments on border management and counterinsurgency, the army cannot afford to reduce its manpower numbers until these challenges are overcome. Many of its weapons and equipment are bordering on obsolescence and need to be replaced. The next step would be to move gradually toward acquiring network-centric capabilities for effects-based operations so as to optimize the army’s full combat potential for defensive and offensive operations. The army is also preparing to join the navy and the air force in launching intervention operations in India’s area of strategic interest when called on to do so in the future.

Lieutenant General J.P. Singh (retired), former deputy chief of the army staff (planning and systems), stated in an interview with the CLAWS Journal that “the critical capabilities that are being enhanced to meet challenges across the spectrum include battlefield transparency, battlefield management systems, night-fighting capability, enhanced firepower, including terminally guided munitions, integrated maneuver capability to include self-propelled artillery, quick reaction surface-to-air missiles, the latest assault engineer equipment, tactical control systems, integral combat aviation support and network centricity.” [6] The army’s mechanized forces are still mostly “night blind.” Its artillery lacks towed and self-propelled 155-mm howitzers for the plains and the mountains and has little capability by way of multi-barrel rocket launchers and surface-to-surface missiles. Infantry battalions urgently need to acquire modern weapons and equipment for counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations to increase operational effectiveness and lower casualties.

Main battle tanks (MBT) and infantry combat vehicles (ICV) are the driving forces of India’s conventional deterrence in the plains. This fleet is being modernized gradually by inducting two regiments of the indigenously developed Arjun MBT and importing 310 T-90S MBTs from Russia. A contract has also been signed for 347 additional T-90S tanks to be assembled in India. The BMP-1 and BMP-2 Russian ICVs, which have long been the mainstay of the mechanized infantry battalions, need to be replaced as well. The new ICVs must be capable of performing internal security duties and counterinsurgency operations in addition to their primary role in conventional conflicts.

Artillery modernization plans include the acquisition of towed, wheeled, and self-propelled 155-mm guns and howitzers for the plains and the mountains through import as well as indigenous development. The Corps of Army Air Defence is also faced with problems of obsolescence. The vintage L-70 40-mm air defense (AD) gun system, the four-barreled ZSU-23-4 Schilka (SP) AD gun system, the SAM-6 (Kvadrat), and the SAM-8 OSA-AK, among others, need to be replaced by more responsive modern AD systems that are capable of defeating current and future threats.

The modernization of India’s infantry battalions is moving forward but at a similarly slow pace. This initiative is aimed at enhancing the battalions’ capability for surveillance and target acquisition at night and boosting their firepower for precise retaliation against infiltrating columns and terrorists hiding in built-up areas. These plans include the acquisition of shoulder-fired missiles, hand-held battlefield surveillance radars, and hand-held thermal imaging devices for observation at night. A system called F-INSAS (future infantry soldier as a system) is also under development. One infantry division has been designated as a rapid reaction force for employment on land or in intervention operations and will have one amphibious brigade and two air assault brigades.

Similarly, the Indian Army proposes to substantially enhance the operational capabilities of army aviation, engineers, signal communications, reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition branches in order to improve the army’s overall combat potential by an order of magnitude. Modern strategic and tactical level command and control systems need to be acquired on priority for better synergies during conventional and sub-conventional conflict. Plans for the acquisition of a mobile corps-to-battalion tactical communications system and a battalion-level battlefield management system likewise need to be hastened. Despite being the largest user of space, the army does not yet have a dedicated military satellite for its space surveillance needs. Cyberwarfare capabilities are also at a nascent stage. The emphasis thus far has been on developing protective capabilities to safeguard Indian networks and C4I2SR (command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, information, surveillance, and reconnaissance) from cyberattack. Offensive capabilities have yet to be adequately developed. All these capabilities will make it easier for the army to undertake joint operations with multinational forces when the need arises and the government approves such a policy option.

Naval Modernization: Major Fleet Expansion

  • The Indian Navy’s ambitious Maritime Capabilities Perspective Plan seeks to dominate the Indian Ocean region by acquiring blue water operational capability while effectively countering current and emerging threats closer to the coastline. There is a perceptible shift in emphasis from an increase in the number of platforms to the enhancement of capabilities. According to a report tabled in the Indian Parliament in the last week of April 2012 by the Standing Committee on Defence, the navy’s modernization plan seeks to achieve the following objectives:
  • Augment airborne maritime surveillance, strike, anti-submarine warfare [ASW] and air defence capability through induction of shore-based aircraft, integral helos, carrier based aircraft, space based [assets] and UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles], along with suitable weapons and sensors.
  • Develop ASW capability through induction of suitable platforms, weapons and sensors.
  • Build adequate stand off capability for sea lift and expeditionary operations to achieve desired power projection force levels, influence events ashore and undertake military operations other than war.
  • Induct assets and develop suitable infrastructure to augment forces available for low intensity maritime operations (LIMO), protection of off-shore assets and [for] coastal security.
  • Induct force multipliers like satellite based global communications, reconnaissance and network enabled platforms to achieve battle-space dominance capability and perform network centric operations.
  • Induct state-of-the-art equipment and specialized platforms for special forces to enhance niche capabilities to conduct maritime intervention operations and other envisaged roles.
  • Develop support infrastructure in island territories to support the planned force levels as well as support infrastructure for ships/submarines/aircrafts at ports and airbases. [7]
  • According to Admiral Arun Prakash (retired), former chief of naval staff, India’s naval modernization plans are designed to meet the following aims:[8]
  • Acquiring a capability for maritime domain awareness in the area of responsibility, including space-based surveillance, maritime reconnaissance, airborne early warning and control (AEW&C), and UAVs
  • Developing the capability for expeditionary and joint warfare, supported by special operations
  • Acquiring reach and sustainability through long endurance, tankers, turnaround facilities in friendly foreign ports, and longer intervals between maintenance cycles
  • Acquiring modern capabilities in fields of tactical aviation, ASW, anti-air/anti-missile, land-attack, mine countermeasures, and electronic warfare
  • Networking ships, submarines, and airborne platforms via satellite
  • Committing to self-reliance and indigenization, with the objective of harnessing national strengths in shipbuilding, engineering, electronics, and IT

The Indian Navy has two operational fleets—the Eastern Naval Command and Western Naval Command—and has proposed to center both fleets around an aircraft carrier. Eventually the navy plans to graduate to three carrier battle groups. The INS Chakra, a nuclear-powered submarine leased from Russia, will join the fleet later in 2012, while the INS Arihant, the first of three to four indigenously designed and developed nuclear-armed submarines, is expected to become fully operational by late 2014. India has also begun to induct Russian Nerpa-class submarines, which will give the navy a much needed fillip to the submarine fleet and considerably enhance sea-denial capabilities. Three stealth frigates have only recently been added to the fleet.

The Indian Navy’s modernization plans, though much delayed, have thus finally begun to pick up steam. Pointing out the navy’s role as a key facilitator in promoting peace and stability in the Indian Ocean region, Defence Minister Antony observed while commissioning a stealth frigate in July 2012 that the present operating environment of the Indian Navy “dictates that we balance our resources with a strategy that is responsive across the full range of blue and brown water operations....The maintenance of a strong and credible navy and strengthening cooperation and friendship with other countries to promote regional and global stability is the need of the hour.” [9]

The navy plans to expand to a fleet of 150 ships in the next ten to fifteen years, with 50 warships now under construction and 100 new vessels in the acquisition pipeline. The navy is also engaged in setting up operational turnaround bases, forward-operating bases, and naval air enclaves with a view to enhancing India’s surveillance efforts in the Indian Ocean region. Plans for accretions to the naval aviation fleet are likewise progressing smoothly: Boeing 737 P-8I maritime reconnaissance aircraft have begun to be inducted, and 5 additional Kamov Ka-31 AEW helicopters will be added to the existing fleet of 11 helicopters. Further, the navy’s amphibious landing capability has been enhanced considerably by the acquisition of the INS Jalashwa (ex–USS Trenton) and other landing ships, and additional capabilities for amphibious warfare are being rapidly developed. As a result of these efforts, the Indian Navy is on the cusp of acquiring the capabilities necessary to join key strategic partners such as the U.S. Navy in safeguarding the sea lanes of communication in the northern Indian Ocean and ensuring unfettered freedom of the seas for trade and commerce.

Air Force Modernization: Air Dominance and Force Projection

Until recently, India’s traditional strategic sphere lay between the Gulf of Aden and the Strait of Malacca; but with India’s global footprint expanding, the Indian Air Force should be ready to serve wherever the country’s future strategic interests lie. The air force is gearing up to provide the strategic outreach that India needs as a growing regional power and to project power where necessary in order to defend vital national interests. According to Kapil Kak, a retired air vice marshal and senior defense analyst, although there is a gap between vision and capability with regard to shaping India’s strategic neighborhood, forward movement is now visible. In his view, the modernization plans of the air force are aimed at achieving the following objectives: [10]

  • Air dominance and control of the air
  • Deterrence, by both denial and punishment
  • Long-range offensive reach—penetration, precision, persistence, and parallelity—in simultaneous operations at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels
  • Strategic air-lift capability for power projection through both hard and soft power, such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations and diaspora evacuation
  • Build-up of capability for coercion
  • Acquisition of force enablers and multipliers and related combat-support systems, including networking for tri-service command and control
  • Capability of conducting cyberspace and information operations
  • Indigenization of future capabilities for design and development

From a sanctioned strength of 39 squadrons, the Indian Air Force is down to 34 squadrons at present, due to decades of neglect, but hopes to enhance its strength to 42 squadrons by 2022. Yet plans to acquire 126 multi-mission, medium-range combat aircraft—in order to maintain an edge over the regional air forces—are stuck in the procurement quagmire. Tejas, the indigenously designed light combat aircraft, which is expected to replace the obsolescent Mig-21, is still a few years away from becoming fully operational. India is also developing a fifth-generation fighter jointly with Russia and aims to fly it in 2015. New fighter bombers include a fleet of 272 Sukhoi-30 MKIs, half of which have already been built. AEW aircraft are being acquired from Israel as well as being developed indigenously. India has also acquired 6 C-130J Super Hercules aircraft for its special forces and will likely order 6 more from the United States. C-17 Globemaster heavy-lift aircraft are also likely to be acquired shortly, which will take India’s defense cooperation with the United States to a new level. Although a contract has been signed with a Swiss firm for 75 Pilatus PC-7 basic trainer aircraft, India’s fleet of jet trainers continues to be deficient. In the rotary-wing category, the indigenously manufactured Dhruv utility helicopter has entered service. The air force is also in the process of acquiring medium-lift transport helicopters and attack helicopters.

In keeping with developments in the region, India’s strategic forces are also modernizing at a steady pace. The Agni-I and Agni-II missiles are now fully operational. Immediate requirements include the Agni-V intermediate-range ballistic missile, which has a 5,000-km range, and nuclear-powered submarines with suitable ballistic missiles to provide genuine second-strike capability. As noted above, the INS Arihant, India’s first indigenously built nuclear submarine, will likely become fully operational by late 2014. While India’s emphasis is on mobile missile launchers, a small number of hardened silos are also being constructed. The armed forces do not currently have a truly integrated tri-service C4I2SR system suitable for network-centric warfare, which would allow them to optimize their individual capabilities; however, plans have been made to develop such a system in the next five to ten years. In fact, all new weapons and equipment acquisitions are now being planned on a tri-service basis to ensure interoperability.

India’s Quest for Strategic Outreach

Given its growing power and responsibilities, India has been steadily enhancing its expeditionary and military intervention capabilities, which have been amply demonstrated in recent times. During the 1991 Gulf War, India airlifted 150,000 civilian workers, who had been forced to leave Iraq, from the airfield at Amman, Jordan, over a period of 30 days. This was the largest airlift since the Berlin airlift at the end of World War II. During the 2004 tsunami, the Indian armed forces were at the forefront of rescue and relief operations. Over 70 Indian Navy ships transported rescue teams and relief material to disaster zones in less than 72 hours, even though the country’s eastern seaboard had itself suffered considerable casualties and damage. Likewise, Indian Navy ships on a goodwill visit to European countries during the Lebanon war in 2006 lifted and brought back 5,000 Indian civilian refugees.

From the ongoing modernization plans described above, it is evident that India is preparing to join the world’s major powers in terms of the ability to undertake out-of-area contingency operations. Further, the acquisition of SU-30 MKI long-range fighter bombers with air-to-air refueling capability, C-130J Hercules transport aircraft, and airborne-warning-and-control-system and maritime-surveillance capabilities over the next five to ten years will give India considerable strategic outreach. New Delhi has consistently favored military interventions only under a UN umbrella. Though that position is unlikely to change in the near term, India is likely to join future coalitions of the willing even without UN approval when vital national interests are threatened and need to be defended. Shiv Shankar Menon, India’s national security adviser, stated in a speech in August 2011: “As a nation state India has consistently shown tactical caution and strategic initiative, sometimes simultaneously. But equally, initiative and risk-taking must be strategic, not tactical, if we are to avoid the fate of becoming a rentier state.” [11] He went on to mention that India was cooperating extensively with other militaries to fight piracy off the Horn of Africa. Such cooperation will increase in the future as India adds to its intervention capabilities.

Given that India faces complex strategic scenarios and is located in an increasingly unstable neighborhood, it is in New Delhi’s interest to encourage a cooperative model of regional security and work with all friendly countries toward that end. At the same time, New Delhi finds it pragmatic to hedge just in case worst-case scenarios—such as the collapse of China or China’s use of military force for territorial gains—begin to unfold and threaten India’s economic development or territorial integrity. The increasing emphasis on maritime cooperation, particularly with the United States, is part of India’s continuing efforts to fulfill growing obligations and responsibilities as a regional power. New Delhi is now working to cooperate with all the major Asian powers in order to maintain peace and stability in the Indian Ocean and the Asia-Pacific more generally, though without aligning militarily with any one power. Toward this end, the armed forces are working together to achieve joint warfare capabilities for intervention operations in India’s area of strategic interest. In sum, a rising India will soon become a net contributor to security in the Indian Ocean region, together with strategic partners such as the United States.

Nonetheless, India’s modernization plans are moving ahead at a very slow pace. Policy paralysis in New Delhi due to the vagaries of coalition politics in a parliamentary democracy, along with the reduction in the defense budget as a share of India’s GDP due to sluggish growth in the economy, has further exacerbated the difficulties in increasing the pace of modernization. However, the process is certainly underway, and there is hope that it will receive bipartisan support across the political spectrum because of the realization that no alternative exists for addressing emerging threats and challenges but for India to quickly modernize its armed forces.

India’s military modernization, however slow it might be, will lead to a qualitative increase in defense cooperation with the United States and other strategic partners by enhancing the capabilities of the Indian armed forces for joint coalition operations, if they are in India’s national interest. Overall, India will gradually acquire the capability to act as a net provider of security in South Asia and the Indian Ocean region. This positive development will allow strategic partners like the United States to reduce their military commitments to the region to a limited extent. Hence, India’s modernization efforts will enhance and further cement U.S.-India relations.


[1] The India-Pakistan combat ratio is assessed by this author as 1.2 to 1.0 in India’s favor.

[2] Laxman K. Behera, “India’s Defence Budget 2012–13,” Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), IDSA Comment, March 20, 2012, http://www.idsa.in/idsacomments/IndiasDefenceBudget2012-13_LaxmanBehera_200312.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Gurmeet Kanwal, “Indian Army’s Modernisation,” India Strategic, January 2012.

[5] This section draws from the author’s analysis in “Indian Army Modernisation Needs a Major Push,” India Strategic, February 2010, http://www.indiastrategic.in/topstories482.htm.

[6]“Modernisation Thrusts of Indian Army: Interview with Deputy Chief of Army Staff,” CLAWS Journal (Winter 2010): 1, http://www.claws.in/CJ-winter-2010.pdf.

[7] Standing Committee on Defence, Indian Ministry of Defence, “Demands for Grants (2012-2013),” April 30, 2012, 70-71,

[8] Author’s email interview with Admiral Arun Prakash (retired), July 27, 2012.

[9] Vinay Kumar, “Credible Navy Need of the Hour: Antony,” Hindu, July 21, 2012.

[10] Author’s email interview with Kapil Kak, July 27, 2012.

[11] Shiv Shankar Menon, “India and the Global Scene” (16th Prem Bhatia Memorial Lecture, New Delhi, August 11, 2011), http://www.maritimeindia.org/article/india-and-global-scene.

Military Modernisation in India : An Approach

August 4, 2012 by Team SAI
Filed under Modernising The Military


India’s security concerns are defined by a dynamic global security environment and the perception that the South Asian Region is of particular global security interest. The continuing presence of terrorist and fundamentalist forces in its neighbourhood has prompted India to maintain a high level of defence vigilance and preparedness to face any challenge to its security. Might in terms of conventional forces and their reach assumes importance as such forces are an ‘instrument’ through which nation states exercise national power, be it through coercive diplomacy, ‘outcome based demonstrations’ or a ‘viable force in being’. Undeniably military capability facilitates exercise of power on a wide canvass, in safeguarding interests of a nation state be they territorial, maintenance of internal cohesion, economic, cultural or ideological.

Notwithstanding several years of planning, modernization of the Indian Army has usually been hyphenated by alternate spells of agitated activity followed by long intermissions of virtual procrastination. The defence plans have rarely been formally approved before their commencement. Knee jerk responses and haphazard planning, this had made India a reactive rather than proactive nation in matters defence with a large portion of budget for capital acquisitions being surrendered.

The military should define its efforts to ensure that forces have the best equipment and necessary capabilities to guarantee their success in any mission or environment. The strategy designed must fulfil its overarching goals, priorities, and objectives. To maintain decisive advantage over any enemy and to meet the challenges of a new modernization construct, the Indian Army must develop and field a versatile and affordable mix of equipment to enable soldiers and units to succeed in full-spectrum operations today and tomorrow.

Two key objectives of modernisation are:-

• Reinforcing the capabilities of military to prevail in today’s wars, while building capacities needed to deal with future threats.

• Reforming institutions and processes to deliver the ‘goods’ to the war fighter in the time he needs them.

Any contemplated Modernisation Strategy needs to support these objectives. Our modernization plans need to ensure that they address pressing capability gaps; that they have applicability in both today’s and tomorrow’s wars, so that they present affordable and feasible solutions based on sound cost benefit analysis. In the present era of strategic uncertainty, the changing nature of warfare demands a judicious mix of threat and capability based forces to operate as combined arms and services components.

We must define the structure of a ‘capability based force’ for meeting National Security Objectives of the 2020s and also to achieve the desired levels of deterrence against China and Pakistan. We must also evolve theatre centric war fighting strategies, both services specific and joint. Modernisation Strategy must therefore be conscious of these. All modernisation efforts must be directed to achieve these capabilities in the stated time periods.

Transformation vs Modernisation. A clear understanding of the distinction between Transformation and Modernisation is necessary. Transformation has close linkages to Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA), the extreme shifts in the security paradigm, threat manifestations, and the reviewed capability aspirations. Changes in concepts and doctrines will necessitate transformational endeavours both in force and equipment capabilities. Modernisation is an on-going and enduring enterprise to keep the forces suitably equipped to fight and win todays and future wars in the prevalent concept of war fighting. Modernisation is therefore, in essence, an incremental endeavour to upgrade weapons, equipment and systems in a prioritised manner-duly conscious of the current and future war fighting capability needs of the Army and dependent on budgetary support and the availability of relevant technology.

Factors Affecting Military Modernisation

Winning In Present and Future Conflicts. A clear understanding of what would constitute winning, or what would indicate achievement of National Military Strategic Objectives, is a necessary precursor to any modernisation endeavour. These end states, some quantifiable and some abstract, would be achieved through the synergised application of combat power of the three services and also other elements of National Power. Therefore to meet our end of the commitment, the Army must develop capabilities and capacities in key strategic domains, entailing new inductions, raisings and various modernisation upgrades.

Threat Manifestation. Besides various internal security issues, the visualised external threat manifestation in the time continuum from the short term through mid, to the long term, for which the Army has to be prepared, are as under: -

• Short Term. War with Pakistan as a direct consequence of the on-going proxy war is a high probability. This would be fought against a nuclear backdrop. Possibility of collusive support by China will have to be factored in. There is a very high possibility of border skirmishes with China. Internal Security deployments are likely to increase.

• Mid to Long Term. In the mid to the long-term China would be the main threat. We may be forced to fight a ‘two front war’. Peace-making commitments in the Region are likely to increase. There would also be increased security commitments in the Region for the IA for protection of its vital resource and other interests.

Concepts and Doctrines. From the evolved war fighting strategies must emerge concepts and doctrines to wage and win the nations wars. This must be an ongoing endeavour, keeping the constantly evolving battlefield milieu and the emerging and available technologies, in mind. The key drivers for this are the experiences of the field armies and the lessons and ‘best practices’, gleaned from contemporary wars and conflicts, worldwide. This is the quintessence of a professional army. Clearly articulated concepts and doctrines, in synchrony with our war fighting strategies would give the necessary focus to our modernisation endeavours. Military doctrine which is the driver of military modernization and transformation for countering the myriad threats growing around the South Asian Region requires the military to meet under mentioned responsibilities which includes: -

• Defending the homeland against hybrid nature of threats.

• To deter and defeat near to middle term threats generated by Pakistan and China.

• Maintaining long-term combat effectiveness for securing national interest and core values.

Changes if any to the present basic war fighting concepts need to be ascertained from the Field Armies – (not to be confused with Doctrine and theatre Strategies). We must question whether current concepts are adequate for fighting and winning today’s and future wars since it has great relevance and bearing to prioritised weapons and equipment acquisitions and upgrades.

Impact of the National Military Strategy on Modernisation of the Army. Capabilities developed through due processes of modernisation must be synchronous with meeting the ends of our National Security Objectives, and therefore must be closely linked to a National Military Strategy .The broad constructs of a National Military Strategy that have a bearing on the Army modernisation are: -

• Evolve from Threat based forces to Threat cum Capability based forces to achieve national security objectives.

• Develop capabilities to win against all present and future adversaries across the full spectrum of warfare, if wars are forced upon us.

• Achieve appropriate levels of deterrence that would lead to prevention of war including proxy wars, through strong conventional and nuclear forces.

• Ensure sanctity of the borders.

• Effectively deal with proxy wars and enhance our capabilities to fight Counter Insurgency (CI)/Counter Terrorist (CT) Operations.

• Develop capabilities to fight and win ‘Short Wars’.

• Create capability to fight and win a two front war, if forced upon by Pakistan and China.

• Enhance capability to rapidly switch forces from East to West and vice versa.

• Achieve Network Centric Warfare capability and technological edge over adversaries.

• Maintain an effective nuclear deterrence and create a viable nuclear triad.

• Increase our capability to ‘Fight Dirty’ in a nuclear environment.

• Develop an out of area capability.

• Improve and enhance our Peace Keeping Capability.

• Create Post Conflict Management Capacities and Capability.

• Create capabilities to conduct joint operations by the Army, Navy and Air Force across full spectrum of warfare.

• Create desired degree of influence in the Indian Ocean Region.

• Develop strong maritime capability to ensure security of Island territories.

• Develop and create suitable air and space based capability to ensure air dominance over sovereign territory including island territories.

• Build adequate capacities for contingencies in Military Operations Other Than War (MOOTW) and Internal Security functions.

• Create synergies with other organs of state.

• Ensure reasonable share of the GDP for defence (3%) to ensure that the required impetus to modernisation is provided.

Inadequacies in the Present Approach to Modernisation

• Whilst the needs of modernisation is acknowledged and understood, there seems to be no overarching and unambiguous policy paper on the same, based on strong fundamentals (a National Military Strategy).

• There is inadequate articulation of the generation of capability required in the various strategic domains. Some element of desired capability is factored in, but the process however, is handicapped due to the non-availability of a comprehensive outlook regarding capabilities in diverse strategic domains.

• Modernisation endeavours predominantly driven by acquisition of affordable state-of-the-art weapons, equipment and military technology.

• Dependent to a great deal on threat perceptions –albeitwith insufficient Net Assessment of likely future scenarios & capabilities of present & potential adversaries.

• Desire for max indigenisation exerts considerable influence on all modernisation processes. There is a lack of a pragmatic balance between the compulsions of indigenisation and the dire modernisation needs to meet the desired capability of the military. This is all the more compounded by our inadequate indigenous capability for military hardware in the Country.

• A distinct lack of accountability exists, especially in meeting deadlines of modernisation.

• There is low decision making resolve at different levels due to various factors.

• At times modernisation becomes a process of reverse engineering –doctrines and force employment philosophies are modified to suit weapons and equipment procured.

• Modernisation initiatives are greatly influenced by perceptions of likely budget allocations – “cut the coat according to the cloth available”. Customary Budget allocation fixation severely retards modernisation aspirations and plans.

• We have in place a tedious, and in some cases repetitive acquisition and procurement processes.

• In the absence of an over arching philosophy for equipment procurement, on-going efforts at modernisation of the military are not synchronised amongst various stake holders (user, DRDO, OFB, DPSU, Pvt Sect etc).

Contours of a Recommended Modernisation Strategy

Modernisation Fundamentals

The IA envisions, ‘being a highly motivated, optimally equipped and modernised, operationally ready force, capable of functioning in a synergised joint service environment, across the spectrum of conflict’. In sync with this Vision, the IAhas made elaborate modernisation plans for developing war prevention and full spectrum capabilities. Our primary objective for such an upgrade must be to stay competitive and
technologically reliable while remaining cost efficient.

A concept led, capability based, modernization, which is threat related and resource conscious is only feasible if we can identify capabilities needed to accomplish operational and tactical requirements of our field force. Like any military, India too, faces difficult choices in establishing its budget priorities for modernizing the armed forces to meet both near-term and future threats. With a growing inventory of weapons and equipment nearing obsolescence and the urgent need to upgrade or replace them, the present allocation of defence budget, which is pegged at less than 2% of India’s GDP, is grossly inadequate to support genuine modernisation needs.

Another modernisation dilemma that the military faces is that it can carry out substantive modernisation only by simultaneously undertaking large-scale downsizing, due to budget constraints. However, it cannot afford to radically downsize as its operational commitments on border management and internal security duties require a large number of manpower-heavy infantry battalions.

Capabilities take several decades to create. Therefore their identification, prioritisation and developmental road map need careful calibration so that it is available in the visualised operational time frame.

Strategic Guidance and Actions at Macro Level

All modernisation endeavours must meet the ends of the Vision Statement of the armed forces. The military modernisation must respond to a technologically and strategically challenging security environment and must secure for us a competitive advantage over our potential adversaries. The AMS must also be symbiotic with the Transformational Goals of the IA. The AMS should define our efforts to ensure that soldiers have the best equipment and necessary capabilities to guarantee their success in any mission or environment today and tomorrow.

We must develop and field a versatile and affordable mix of weapons and equipment. Balanced development of all arms and services must be undertaken to ensure combat effectiveness of the field formations. Each theatre has its own operational dynamics, which need to be addressed in detail to achieve distinct advantage; therefore the planners must develop theatre specific capability within the ambit of modernisation.

The Modernisation strategy must also be dynamically responsive to the demands of the Field forces in helping them to win wars today and tomorrow. We must strengthen and simplify processes involved with Fast Track Procurement (FTP).

The military must emphasise with the government the critical need of service predominant modernisation first, with focus on war fighting, and developing joint capabilities later. The modernisation strategy must focus on resources first in making up existing voids and hollowness in the service, and thereafter in eliminating capability voids in the desired levels of deterrence against our adversaries.

We must also refine and streamline our acquisition processes so as to shorten the periods from identification of the need to its actual fruition in the Field Army. We must consider the full life cycle costs of all systems being contemplated for new induction. We must also make informed decisions on modernisation upgrades, refits and disposal in keeping with our 30:40:30 principle (state of the art: contemporary: legacy) of equipment holding.

We must have a long-term vision of merging a modernized Army into a Transformed Joint Force by balancing and accommodating of requirements for the sake of jointness. However, this will not be at the expense of mid to long term requirements.

The military must create an apex body to monitor and facilitate modernisation.

We must energise and empower the Army Technology Board to include and execute modernisation through influx of new/cutting edge technologies.

Modification committee at Army HQ level must be strengthened to allow proliferation of equipment modified by field forces and found operationally suitable.

Equipment portfolios will need periodic capability reviews to assess operational relevance and cost effectiveness. There must be a clearly formulated portfolio strategy of all weapons and equipment modernisation based on priorities and budgetary support. Protocol issues need to be addressed by ensuring systems approach to induction of equipment, rather than stand alone development and proliferation thereby leading to incompatibility issues.

The Modernisation Strategy

The modernisation strategy must be centred around the following:-

• Ends. The objective of modernisation strategy is to ensure that the military has a modern and affordable mix of the best weapons and equipment available that will allow it to fight and win today’s and tomorrow’s wars across the spectrum of conflict.

• Ways. The above Ends would be accomplished by the following Ways: -

• Modernisation Through Acquisition of New Equipment. The existing voids and hollowness in the field armies need to be met through large-scale upgrades and considerable infusion of new equipment to ensure that the military is capable of fighting and winning today’s wars. Modernisation through acquisition of new equipment also entails development and acquiring new equipment or improving, upgrading or adapting existing equipment to give capability to fight and win future wars too. This entails:-

• Modernising the current generation of weapons.

• Investing in next generation technologies.

• Revolutionary technologies or the generation after next weapons.

• Fielding of new capabilities by exploiting and developing spinoffs of new technology or backcasting.

• Sustaining Existing Equipment. Close capability gaps by extending the useful life of existing equipment by life extensions, upgrades and overhaul since replacement of all equipment is neither feasible nor desirable. However, we must not lose focus of the equipment in service: -

• Modernising equipment to meet current and future capability needs through procurement of upgraded capabilities and recapitalisation.

• Product improvement through indigenous research and development(R&D).

• Leverage innovative designs and capability demonstrators emerging from the field armies and formalise the fast track production and induction of operationally viable projects.

• Capitalize on the Army Science and Technology Board to convert ideas into capabilities.

• Mitigating Shortcomings. Due to critical capability and security considerations, certain equipment needs to be procured on an emergent basis. Outright purchase of overdue equipment gestating with Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) or other indigenous manufacturers. These are basically to make up critical shortcomings in capabilities and cannot wait for the procurement and sustainment time lines discussed above. These will have to follow ‘fast track’ acquisition processes if not already in the pipeline for delivery within 12 to 24 months. In general terms, the equipment proposed should more or less be in the approved Annual Acquisition Plan (AAP), with some balances and variations.

• Fielding Equipment. Provide the appropriate quantity and type of equipment at the proper time, in accordance with the military operational priorities.

• Disposal of Equipment. The concept of disposal needs to be included in the planning process to fix timelines for discard of obsolete equipment/technology and also to plough back max revenue into acquisition through disposal.

• Means. Adequate fiscal support (budget allocation), a streamlined acquisition process, unambiguous capability articulation, revamped R&D and indigenisation strategies, a strong local industrial base and focused leadership are the Means to ensure that the military’s modernisation efforts bear fruition. Last but not the least is the need for full government support and strategic direction. This can only come about through strategic communication, a skill that needs to be urgently refined by the military.

To be effective and timely, all modernisation endeavours need to be supported by efficient and responsive supportive measures, especially in the planning and acquisition of equipment. Considerable streamlining and fine tuning of the planning and acquisition process is required at every level.


Equipping the military with capable and modern equipment to win today’s wars while setting the conditions for continuing success in future full spectrum operations entails trade-offs and risks, involving multiple competing objectives that must be balanced against constrained resources and uncertainty.

Capabilities take several decades to create. Therefore their identification, prioritisation and developmental road map need careful caliberation so that it is available in the visualised operational time frame.

The strategic imperative to sustain, prepare and transform for the future are the strategic ways, ends and means to build a balanced military for the 21st Century – an affordable versatile mix of tailor-able and networked organisations operating for current commitments and to hedge against unexpected contingencies at a tempo that is predictable and sustainable.