Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Kargil VIJAY Diwas Special: India Takes On Tech-Transformations to Counter Future Wars

Recently, India and the US signed various defence tech deals – India’s first at that during PM Modi’s visit in June 2023. In July 2023, India and France hailed the success of the first Scorpene submarine construction programme (P75 – Kalvari), a model of Make in India and the sharing of naval expertise between companies in the two countries. The consistent push to Bharat’s Atmnirbhar Abhiyan in the defence sector as well, via the inclusion of rapid technological advancements only proves that the Indian Armed Forces are all set for a major paradigm shift in their capabilities and strategies

But is that enough to counter future threats at India’s vast borders? Or is border threat just the tip of the iceberg? If, so where do we get better counterforces?

“During the Kargil War some glaring deficits came to the fore such as lack of intelligence through Techint (read satellite imagery), heavy dependence on imported arms and ammunition (case in point being the shortage of 155 mm artillery ammunition), delay in execution of certain time critical missions due to lengthy procedures ( read need for better integration of the three services),” opines Commodore Ashok Rai, VSM, PhD (Retd.) He adds, that in the prevailing geo-strategic security dynamics in our immediate neighbourhood, India has no option but to quickly leap-frog and mitigate any shortfalls that may have crept into its security apparatus due to any reason vis-à-vis our adversaries. 

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He asserts that some of the Government policies such as Athmanirbhar Bharat, ‘Make in India, Make for World’, and purchase of critical state-of-the-art weapons and sensors from advanced countries such as the US, France and Israel along with the transfer of technology are but a few examples which the government is undertaking at a war footing. he adds, that while a lot is happening, however, a lot is yet to fructify such as true integration of the Armed Forces Headquarters with the MoD, Creation of the Theatre Commands, mitigating the deficit sensors and platforms be its fighter squadrons, ships, submarines, etc.  

KARGIL WAR
KARGIL WAR FILE PHOTO

Having said that, one of the Kargil War Heroes asserts an extremely valid point: “In the face of warfare’s changing landscape and rapid technological advancements, women have an edge as multitaskers, making them invaluable force multipliers. With a vast border and varied terrains, women are being trained and must increase in numbers to operate cutting-edge technologies. The talent pool is bigger, providing better selection opportunities, but training in various tech-driven armed sectors will define the success of our forces,” emphasises Captain Yashika Hatwal Tyagi, Kargil War Hero, who writes to me from Dehradun, India. 

But is that all? No! So let’s take a deeper look at what it will take for the next-generation Indian Armed Forces to be prepared to counter future wars, which will be characterized by highly sophisticated technologies, asymmetric threats, and the need for comprehensive defence systems across multiple domains. With some more defence experts, let’s delve into the various fronts on which India needs to be prepared and the crucial role of women in this transformative journey.

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Preparedness Needed Across Multiple Fronts

Land Warfare: Future land warfare will witness the integration of advanced technologies like AI, robotics, and autonomous systems. India should modernize its armoured forces, enhance its infantry capabilities, and equip soldiers with state-of-the-art personal equipment. Robust intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities will be vital for situational awareness and precision targeting.

Naval Warfare: India’s maritime security will be bolstered by investments in next-generation submarines, aircraft carriers, and autonomous underwater systems. Strengthening anti-submarine warfare capabilities, enhancing maritime domain awareness through satellite surveillance, and developing long-range strike capabilities are crucial.

Air Warfare: The Indian Air Force must adapt to the changing dynamics of air warfare. Acquiring advanced fifth-generation fighters, unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs), and long-range precision strike capabilities will be vital. Air defence systems, including hypersonic missiles, should be developed to counter emerging threats.

“In this era of rapid technological advancements, our armed forces must embrace cutting-edge technologies across all domains to become a developed economy by strengthening our defence systems. From cyber warfare to space capabilities, we must prioritize research and development to stay ahead and counter future threats. Our preparedness hinges on our ability to adapt and integrate these transformative technologies effectively,” informs Group Captain OP Gupta, VSM (Retd.) who is a former Air Force Officer and an educator now. He goes on to share that India can harness their immense potential and contribute to a more diverse, inclusive, and effective defence establishment to safeguard its national security interests.

Kargil War 2
Kargil War Hero Captain Yashika Hatwal Tyagi, first time ever, was a Woman Veteran in Republic Day Parade 2023 at the Kartavya Path

Captain Yashika Hatwal Tyagi was the first lady officer from the Indian armed forces to be part of the battle zone in Operation Vijay at Kargil. She emphasises, “Remember, Mahima….our military doctrine unambiguously dictates: we don’t attack, We defend our borders. There is no second chance in battles, we have to train to be ‘First-time right’. Having said that, gender should never be the focus; skills should take precedence. By embracing a diverse and better inclusive recruitment pool, we can build a team that is not only more talented but also reflects the strengths of the entire workforce. In the rapidly expanding defence sector, excluding women means limiting our capabilities. In the realm of technology, gender stereotypes are irrelevant. I was five months pregnant when I was in the war zone at Kargil. Machines and bullets do not differentiate between gender!” 

Technological Transformations and New Warfare 

Cyber Warfare: As modern conflicts increasingly transcend physical boundaries, cyber warfare will play a pivotal role. India must invest in cutting-edge technologies and skilled personnel to build a formidable cyber defence capability. Strengthening cyberinfrastructure, developing advanced encryption systems, and fostering a cyber-literate workforce are essential steps.

  • Un-manned Warfare: “Our armed forces possess a diverse range of unmanned capabilities, including UAVs, UGVs, USVs, UUVs, and the development of indigenous UCAVs. These advancements have revolutionized our operations, providing us with enhanced intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and combat capabilities. Embracing unmanned systems has minimized risks to our personnel while maximizing our operational effectiveness across land, air, and sea domains. As we continue to invest in cutting-edge technologies and push the boundaries of innovation, India remains at the forefront of unmanned warfare, ready to face future challenges head-on,” informs Group Captain OP Gupta (Retd.). 
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Autonomous Systems: AI-enabled technologies such as unmanned systems, drones, and autonomous vehicles will revolutionize warfare. These technologies can enhance surveillance, reconnaissance, and strike capabilities. India should develop indigenous AI solutions, prioritize research and development, and promote collaboration between defence establishments and academia.
Kargil War 4
  • Space Warfare: The militarization of space presents both challenges and opportunities. India must expand its space-based capabilities, including satellite systems for communication, surveillance, and navigation. Developing counter-space capabilities to safeguard its space assets and developing strategies for space-based operations will be crucial.
  • Quantum Technologies: Quantum computing, quantum cryptography, and quantum sensing offer tremendous advantages in areas such as secure communication, data analysis, and advanced modelling and simulation. India must invest in research and development in quantum technologies to stay ahead in future conflicts.
  • Electronic Warfare: As reliance on electronic systems continues to grow, electronic warfare will become increasingly important. India must focus on developing electronic warfare systems to disrupt enemy communication networks, neutralize electronic threats, and protect its own assets.

And for all of the above to become a ground, air and naval reality, Group Captain Gupta says that India needs two things:

  1. Present Gov’s defence policies and vision are in the right direction resulting in India to turn from major importers of defence equipment to an exporter. 
  2. India needs to invest adequately in R&D of latest technology to have the upper hand in options of tactical surprise against our adversaries.

The Deeper, Integral Role of Women

Experts are of the strong belief that women have increasingly demonstrated their capabilities in the armed forces and should be fully integrated into the next-generation defence framework. Their inclusion brings diverse perspectives, enhances decision-making, and strengthens operational effectiveness. 

Commodore Ashok Rai  (Retd.) says, “Women bring valuable skills to the table, such as multitasking. As we globalize defence technology, it is crucial to underline the fact that women are capable of much more.”

And Captain Yashika Hatwal Tyagi rightly concludes in perhaps the most inspiring words in modern times: “We need strategic minds, not just brute force. It’s time to cultivate a better inclusive defence workforce. We are witnessing gradual but steady progress, exploring deeper domains that were previously closed to women. While we aim for more women commanders and pilots, my dream is to see a woman commander on India’s Nuclear Submarine and a whole squadron of women leading Rafael aircraft. Let women command armoured tanks and hold key positions in the challenging Siachen Glacier. The future of warfare demands skilled individuals, and women have the potential to excel, beyond the imagined!” 

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Mahima Sharma
Mahima Sharma
Mahima Sharma is an Independent Senior Journalist based in Delhi NCR known for her multi-niche news reach. She has been in the field of TV, Print & Online Journalism since 2005 (earlier additional three years in the allied media). With a rich professional history at CNN-News18, ANI - Asian News International (in collaboration with Reuters), Voice of India, and Hindustan Times, Mahima is also the Founder & Editor of The Think Pot. Recipient of various awards for different works beyond journalism as well, Mahima Sharma was conferred with the REX Karmaveer Chakra (Silver) 2023, presented by iCONGO in partnership with the United Nations. Known for her Digital Media Strategy skills, in 2022 she was assigned the pivotal role of Entrepreneurship Education Mentor at Women Will, a Google-backed program in collaboration with SHEROES.

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