Seminar on India Defence Vision 2025
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Ajit Doval, Director VIF, addressing the Seminar

A two-day seminar on ‘India Defence Vision 2025’ was organised by Vivekananda International Foundation on May 25-26, 2011. Spread over six sessions, the seminar focused on different facets of India’s national defence from a futuristic perspective. The seminar focused on national and defence vision, in the light of changing geo political and security environment. There are demands for India to play a greater role in the global political, economic and security order. Internally Indians are aspiring for peace and prosperity at par with developed nations as the country progresses in the new millennium. One of the important routes of transforming these dreams and aspirations into reality is articulating well thought out national and defence visions looking beyond the horizon of immediacy.

Among other issues, strategic planning, threat perceptions across entire future battlefield spectrum, strategies for capacity building, resource mobilization, technological imperatives of military modernization etc. were discussed and debated by a wide array of strategic experts and an equally enlightened audience which had gathered for this important event at VIF. A number of serving officers from the three services also attended the seminar.

In his opening remarks, Lt Gen RK Sawhney (Retd.) remarked the fact that India’s defence modernization continued to suffer serious flaws despite the fact that security challenges confronting the nation were becoming increasingly more multifarious and complex. He recounted India’s rising global profile, the growing economic and military competition with China, the nexus between China and Pakistan, instability in India’s neighbourhood, low intensity conflict, and non-traditional security threats as having added to India’s security concerns.

While Mr. Ajit Doval, Director VIF, presided over the inaugural session General (retd.) NC Vij delivered the key note address. Explaining the idea behind a seminar on defence vision 2025, Mr Ajit Doval said that it was an effort to visualize where India would stand by 2025. He underlined that India’s true power potentials accruing from her recent economic growth, ethos and values embedded in her centuries’ old civilization, sound democratic credentials, entrepreneurship of a young population, richness of natural resources etc. were yet to be sufficiently harnessed for nation building. He also emphatically stated that the mission and objective for nation building needed to be clearly understood, articulated and pursued with steadfastness.

Gen. NC Vij, the former Chief of Army Staff while delivering the key note address emphasized that laying down a vision document for any armed forces will be a challenging task, particularly India, for several reasons. Broadly speaking national vision is a geometric projection of a state's instruments of power, economic, policy, governance and security. Defence vision is driven by national vision. By 2025, it may be reasonable to estimate that despite varied given challenges, with the drivers of growth in place, India could aspire to play a major role in securing the regional, “commons,” be it on land, maritime, aerospace or cyber domains.

This trajectory is however likely to meet stiff challenge from environmental realities. We are presently at that cross road of history where fundamentalism is posing the greatest threat to the security of mankind. What shape it will adopt in the coming decades and how does world cope with it, will be critical in determining the state of world peace. There are several reasons for these changes; (a) Globalization, multilateralism and regionalism are replacing bilateral international relations. (b) Greater focus on economic growth, trade and development and(c) Good amount of cooperation in anti- terrorism aspects.

Ambassador Rajiv Sikri’ in his address focused on geo-political and regional perspectives and impact on India’s security in 2025. Emphasizing Asia’s pre-eminence in the present world order, Mr. Sikri said that different geo-political arcs in Asia such as economic growth, political uncertainty, competition for natural resources like water, energy etc. intersected India at some point. Ambassador Sikri further added that India maintained a defensive culture while some of her neighbours were showing aggressive designs. Expressing his views on smaller neighbours, the Ambassador emphasized that they needed to understand India’s legitimate security concerns.

Air Chief Marshal S Krishnaswamy, former Air Chief, in his address on National Vision 2025 underlined the need for in-camera briefing by serving chiefs to select groups of parliamentarians inside the Parliament on the state of armed forces’ preparedness to address India’s increasingly complex security challenges. India can emulate the United States where representatives of armed forces routinely brief the Congress on security matters. Air Chief Marshal S Krishnaswamy however stressed the need for greater accountability in security affairs, especially on the part of services. It was also felt there was a strong case for improving the existing mechanism to interface between the armed forces and the Ministry of Defence.

It was evident that India’s national vision for 2025 with rising economic and political influence will dictate the defence vision. It would be mandatory to find a balance between aspirations and appraisal of social, political, economic and security perspectives in the years ahead. While there are many projections of India’s economic rise, this is likely to be challenged by socio-economic disparities, incongruities in growth patterns within the country, impact of the information revolution on rising aspirations and possible deficit in governance. India is also located in a difficult neighborhood with uncertainty creating survival concerns in some states as Pakistan and Afghanistan and as always it will be difficult to fathom the aims and strategy of China. These and other emerging geopolitical and regional political and economic scenarios will have a powerful influence on attainment of our national objectives which need deep deliberation. Outlining a defence vision in an insecure zone which has asymmetry in national power will also have to be sensitive to the views of our neighbours. On another plane while globalization will facilitate transfer of technology; yet our declared intent of strategic autonomy may constrain achievement of truly competitive military capabilities. The defence vision will have to take into consideration all these and related issues and suggest strategies for attainment by 2025.

Session on nature of wars 2025 covered the nature of future wars, impact of technology and the Next RMA 2025 in addition to ‘Cyber Domain- security challenges and capacity building’.

Militaries are frequently accused of preparing for the last war, thus future capabilities will have to be linked to the form and nature of conflicts that are likely to be faced in the intermediate period and in 2025. The Next Revolution in Military Affairs (NRMA) may be an appropriate definition of the coming age of wars fought in multiple domains with exponential impact of information technology in a world driven by computers and the internet. Thus information and cyber domain are additional spheres of engagement as more and more strategic systems are connected and infrastructure is driven by bytes. Portraying the nature of future wars and conflicts in the light of political, economic, social, technological and military developments in relation to the Indian security environment in 2025 indicate initiatives to prepare for the future be it on land, maritime, aerospace or cyber dimensions.

Continued relevance of conventional preparedness in the Indian context keeping in view the unsettled/disputed borders with China and Pakistan and possibility of a “Two Front Scenario” in the future cannot be overlooked. In meeting these challenges, jointmanship and synergy between the three services as well as with other government agencies would be of paramount importance. Chief of Defence Staff as the nodal hub for direction as well as cogitation in the defence system has been well established but not implemented so far, merits serious consideration.

The security environment in 2025 may not be all about war but more about defence diplomacy, military to military cooperation and actions for common good such as rendering disaster relief. As a pre-active instrument, elements of the armed forces may be deployed in the extended neighbourhood when so required by national interests be it for evacuation of our migrant workers or for disaster relief. Leadership challenges in 2025 will also necessitate exposure to senior middle rung officers in strategic concepts and operational art at an early stage of career so that they are well prepared to absorb the responsibilities of senior ranks. We do not have any well defined system in this regard so far. These multifaceted needs will form the overall continuum of capabilities to face wars and conflicts in the future

Land is likely to remain the primary medium for conflicts; however the conduct of warfare will not be exclusively determined by the traditional instrument, i.e. the army but is likely to be a joint enterprise drawing resources from aerospace, maritime as well as cyber domains. The challenges are likely to be a mix of the traditional and the nontraditional posed by state and non state actors. In the Sub Continental environment while land borders may become irrelevant on some fronts on others these may have greater salience. A continued nuclear backdrop will dictate relevance of a Cold Start strategy of, “hundred cuts,” rather than generating potential for deep, disabling thrusts resulting in mass attrition or amputation. Recommended strategies for capacity building for land warfare were underlined by Lt. Gen JP Singh (the current Deputy Chief of Army Staff who is responsible for equipping and developing the capability of the Indian Army). Lt. Gen. VK Kapur, former Commandant Army War College dwelt upon emerging threats, challenges and concept of land warfare 2025.

Session on nuclear security was chaired by former Deputy NSA Ambassador Satish Chandra wherein he also presented a paper on Nuclear Environment and Challenges 2025 and former Strategic Forces Commander; Vice Admiral Vijay Shankar spoke on Strategies for Nuclear Deterrence and Security 2025. Much as the world strives to rid itself of nuclear weapons these are likely to remain an important component of power in international relations in the years ahead. Countries as Pakistan are reportedly expanding their atomic arsenal while new aspirants as Iran and North Korea may pose a potent threat in the future. The threat of WMD terror remains real particularly in India’s immediate periphery. The likely global and regional nuclear environment by 2025 and challenges to India’s national defence will remain a key uncertainty and thus the importance of early identification of strategies and initiatives required including doctrine, organizations and force structures for nuclear security in 2025.

Session on Aerospace power 2025 emphasized that aerospace being a common medium, there is overarching potential for influencing effects on ground as well as at sea. Aero space power provides reach, depth, precision, flexibility and enhances options for expanding national interests in the immediate as well as extended periphery by a combination of manned and unmanned systems. The unifying space dimension will remain the single most important source for information and communication which can be used in multiple forms, discretely in a single surface to surface missile or packetized to bring down a whole system. Presaging developments in aerospace power in 2025 and envisaging perspectives for optimal utilization to achieve national goals and objectives would therefore be an important component of the national defence vision. Air Vice Marshal M Matheswaran, currently the Assistant Chief of air Staff for Operations outlined recommended strategies for optimal development of aerospace power to achieve defence vision 2025.

Session on maritime security highlighted the maritime environment and challenges for 2025 and strategies to address them. Globalisation, expanding energy demand, dispersed manufacturing and food production hubs supported by an efficient supply chain, highlight importance of seas as, “highways for trade,” in the future. The Indian Ocean in particular is set to be a maritime energy and trade highway. In the traditional domain, integrative Air-Sea battle concepts are being debated, their applicability in our context and employment to influence outcome on land may necessitate diverse capacity building in tandem. While freedom of the seas will remain relevant major challenges are evident in implementation due to rise of belligerent Non State Actors, in the form of pirates and their support networks. Envisaging challenges and threats to India’s maritime security in 2025, the broad capabilities required and outline benchmarks for holistic transformation were dwelt upon.

The session on ‘Resourcing for Defence Vision 2025’ was chaired by Mr. NS Sisodia, Director IDSA and had eminent speakers like Mr. Vinod Misra, Chairman, Defence Expenditure Review Committee, Dr. manik Mukherjee, Director, G-FAST, DRDO and Mr. Dhirendra Singh, former Secretary Defence Production who brought their combined experience together to address the challenges of modernization, technologies and indigenous development and problems in acquisition and equipping the armed forces.

Evolving a defence vision in congruence with national vision necessitates identifying fiscal resources that are likely to be available and how these can be efficiently converted into capability for achieving our aims and objectives. At the national level there would be competing sectors for the over all national budget. Within the allotment for defence a balance between manpower and capital costs will pose a dilemma. Quantitative reduction and qualitative up gradation are not mutually exclusive as, “boots on the ground,” cannot be wished away.

Past experience also reveals that translating resources into tangible capabilities remains a challenge. For this defence research and development requires a fillip with dual focus on indigenisation and modernization. Suggested models for defence production and acquisitions to achieve synergy in the public and private sectors in an indigenous mode also need consideration. Defence exports are a very important route for capacity development by least taxing of national resources. Thus various options going beyond the current debate on offsets and increase of foreign direct investment were outlined by the speakers.

Between the inaugural session and the valedictory session which was addressed by General (retd.) Shankar Roy Chowdhury, a galaxy of eminent security experts brought to fore India’s emerging security challenges in diverse domains and recommended strategies for building capacities to counter those challenges as outlined above.

Complimenting the idea behind a seminar on defence vision 2025, General Shankar Roy Chowdhury said in his valedictory address that a big country like India should be clear about what it wants. General Chowdhury cautioned that while preparing for a high-tech future war the military should not lose sight of low-tech warfare. He urged the military to remain prepared for warfare of varying propensity – high, medium and low. Underscoring the importance of motivation and ideology, General Chowdhury called these critical factors in India’s military power. Expressing his views on bureaucracy within the military, he said that there was a certain need for introspection by the services themselves to change both their attitude and mindset.

Views expressed by experts at the seminar will be published in a book form for wider dissemination to the general public.

Event Date 
May 25, 2011
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