Air Cmde Arjun Subramaniam
Air-Officer-Commanding, Air Force Station Hindan
ÃÂThis is another type of war, new in its intensity, ancient in its origin ÃÂ war by guerrillas, subversives, insurgents, terrorists, war by ambush instead of by combat; by infiltration, instead of aggression, seeking victory by eroding and exhausting the enemy instead of engaging him. It is a form of warfare uniquely adapted to what has been strangely called ÃÂwars of liberation,ÃÂ to undermine the efforts of new and poor countries to maintain the freedom that they have finally achieved. It preys on economic unrest and ethnic conflicts. It requires in those situations where we must counter it ÃÂ a whole new kind of strategy, a wholly different kind of force, and therefore a new and wholly different kind of military training.ÃÂ - US President John F Kennedy,1962India faces challenges like never before when it comes to tackling the lower end of the spectrum of warfare. The ongoing conflict with the Naxalites and the terror attacks in Mumbai are but grim reminders of this new reality. Preparing for the ÃÂbig battleÃÂ has always been the raisonÃÂ dÃÂetre of most militaries the world over. Even the militaries of the US and Israel, which have talked about this genre of warfare for decades, realised its all pervasive influence only after being rudely tested in Iraq and Lebanon.
The period after the Second World War saw economically progressive nations with large and powerful militaries develop an ability to effectively use military power as a potent tool of coercion in furtherance of state policy by engaging in coercive diplomacy. Before going further, there is a preliminary need to establish a linkage between the coercive capability of large powers and the emergence of Sub-Conventional or Irregular Warfare as a means of combating this capability.
During the Cold War, coercion became akin to a game, with the US and the USSR testing their coercive capabilities across the globe using divergent tactics with different tools, but having similar objectives, viz expansion of influence and interests. Deterrence and coercion worked side by side and were complementary to one another. The end of the Cold War saw the emergence of a deeply fragmented world that suddenly saw the emergence of numerous localised conflicts that were based on fundamental differences of race, religion and ethnicity.
Terrorists, insurgents and freedom fighters found remarkably new ways of fighting established states and combating the coercive capabilities of established nations or even coalitions with what is now commonly known as asymmetric warfare. Thus, if one were to look across the spectrum of conflict ÃÂ while powerful nations like the US, Russia and India and even smaller nations like Sri Lanka and Israel attempted to avoid ÃÂfull scaleÃÂ war fighting methods to resolve conflicts and attempted to evolve coercive conflict resolution methods, their opponents excelled at what has emerged in recent times as techniques of ÃÂSub Conventional and Irregular WarfareÃÂ that eat away gradually at the fabric of the state. Therefore, one can deduce that sub-conventional warfare has emerged as an effective counter to a larger nationÃÂs ability to coerce, and the tools used are in stark contrast to the tools of conventional coercion, be it diplomatic or military.
Image: The HAL Lancer on user trials with the Army, flying over snow-capped mountains. The helicopter is specifically designed for counter-insurgency duties (for use over mountains and thick jungles), police patrolling, para-military surveillance duties and against light armour. Image copyright bharat-rakshshak.com. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.