Is India confronted by “One or Two or Two and half” War or “Multiple Front War?”


(Brig (retd) GB Reddi)

The entire narrative in public domain debated is military-centric – “One or Two or Two and half Front” War.  And, the issue in the Parliament is focused on the India-China border standoff in Eastern Ladakh. The other theaters of war – Eastern Theater and Indian Ocean Region – barely are mentioned.

India is under siege on “Multiple Fronts” covering the full spectrum of national security: political, social, economy, technology and security forces to include armed forces. To successfully wage “Multiple Front War”, India must fight synergistically on all fronts.

Most importantly, the threats that have emerged are not recent in origin post May 2020 or the preceding 6-years of BJP-led NDA rule, but their roots can be traced to follies/blunders committed by successive ruling regimes since 1947 when India gained independence from British yoke.

Lack of understanding of plethora of threats/challenges faced by India is real. Many strategic analysts and editors invoke “One or two front War” confronting India. Holistically viewed, classic military categorization of “One or Two or Two Front” wars represent myopic and skewed view from external military adversary dimensions – China and Pakistan only.

What more absurd intellectually are debates and articles, mostly Army-centric operations, covering only occasionally Naval and Air Force dimensions. However, the “Half Front” threat, particularly terror strikes, is reviewed daily incident-wise episodically and their cumulative impact on national security in a long term context barely ever discussed in the Parliament. If discussion any in the Parliament, only one can witness mutual recrimination and cacophony.

Let me highlight that many new labels have been coined by experts to describe various forms of warfare in the aftermath of World War I and II, like guerilla warfare/insurgency (TE Lawrence in World War I), limited wars, situations short of war, nuclear deterrence, asymmetric warfare, terrorism   based on Holy Terror or Intifada, proxy war aided and abetted by state sponsors and non-state actors, etc. In the closing stages of 20th century two new labels emerged, that is, Revolution in Military Affairs and Network-centric warfare.

“Hybrid Warfare” is the latest label defining the nature and character of ongoing warfare globally. A thorough understanding of its nuances is vital at the decision making levels for informed and well considered debates.  Are the Parliamentarians, Bureaucrats and partisan media houses have necessary and accurate intellectual insights and in depth wherewithal to participate in purposeful, creative and constructive debates?

“Unrestricted Warfare” was the forerunner of “Hybrid Warfare”. In late 1990s, two senior PLA colonels coined the term to trace the contours of how technology innovation is setting off a revolution in Grand Strategy or Higher Directions of War, military strategy, doctrines and organization. “Unrestricted Warfare” discussed new types of warfare which may be conducted by civilians as well as by soldiers including computer hacker attacks, trade wars and finance wars. The strategic shift is from the classical “communist-centric unconventional warfare” of sponsoring and extending support to communist inspired insurgents to “Unrestricted Warfare” or “Creeping Covert Warfare.”

Later only, US thinkers categorized such shifts in warfare as “Hybrid” warfare, which is a strategy that blends nuclear warfare, conventional warfare, irregular warfare, information warfare and cyber warfare. “Hybrid” warfare can be used to describe the flexible and complex dynamics of the battle space requiring highly adaptable and resilient responses. Most importantly, some view it as the contemporary form of guerrilla warfare that “employs both modern technology and modern mobilization methods. In particular, the activity is focused on three decisive battlegrounds: (1) within the conflict zone population; (2) home front population; and (3) international community. Hostile forces would use “Hybrid” warriors hidden in civilian populations.

In sum, hybrid warfare synergizes four threats: (1) military;  (2) non-military; (3) disruptive high-tech, which exploit technology to gain/counteract military superiority; and overt and covert actions employed in a coordinated manner to achieve specific objectives while remaining below the threshold of formally declared warfare.

Xi Jinping is bent upon promoting, consolidating and advancing the CCP interests alongside his personal interests since assuming power as General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and Chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC) since 2012, and President of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) since 2013. Xi is the paramount leader of China. His enunciation of “Chinese Dream” is quite clear – Middle Kingdom status.

Having made very significant progress in all fields, particularly economy, technology and armed forces dimensions, Xi Jinping has consolidated China’s position in the South China Sea, Hong Kong and is challenging almost all peripheral nations to include Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam and India. Virtually, China has expanded its influence through the OBOR/BRI project in Central Asia and Eurasia besides West Asia to include Iran and Turkey.  China’s influence extends into Latin America and Africa. In sum, Xi Jinping’s key adversary to tame is India in South Asia. So, to expect China to relent and revert to status quo ante on the LAC is an impossible expectation. Thus, the long-haul on the LAC  is unavoidable.

China is employing all available means to tame India.  “Communication” is a key part of war today. Global Times and other social media platforms have been waging “Information Warfare – digital media, electronic media, print media etc., with the end objective of influencing various sections of Indian society” blaming the Indian nationalist forces including the armed forces for the current LAC standoff and its futility.

Five Chinese hackers, in association with China’s main intelligence service, are all over India — Zhang Haoran, Tan Dailin, Jiang Lizhi, Qian Chuan, and Fu Qiang. They are targeting social media, technology companies, universities, government agencies, non government organizations and key individuals. They are using supply chain applications and video games to break into software companies and individuals to embed malicious code.

Meanwhile, China and Pakistan have entered a secret three-year deal to expand potential bio-warfare capabilities, including running several research projects related to the deadly agent anthrax, a report by The Klaxon said, quoting multiple intelligence sources. Thus, bio-war is distinct prospect even through “lone wolf” terrorist alien infiltrated by land, sea and air.

Can the political leaders and parties meaningfully and constructively debate on the above issues not only in the Parliament but also on various platforms of media/social media to expose China’s “Janus-faced” postures. In particular, regulate and ban all foreign digital media coverage and reach.

In reality, India today is confronted by “Hybrid Warfare” waged by both China and Pakistan. The prevailing vicious divisive internal environment favors the conduct of “Hybrid Warfare”. After all, India is engulfed simultaneously by “Multiple Front Wars” – COVID-19 crisis; internal vicious political wars with no end in sight; left extremism, separatist, sub regional and supra tribe insurgencies; rabid Islamist communalism/terrorism, right wing nationalists; economic and trade wars including loot and scoot of raw material resources, capital flight, smuggling, narcotics, gun running etc; and, technology wars to include space, cyber, web, nuclear, chemical, biological warfare. Who is responsible and accountable for the cumulative build up full spectrum threats engulfing India?

Lack of understanding of the extraordinary and incredible transformations in the nature and character of modern warfare in the 1648 post-Westphalia global order is the root cause for the ongoing cacophony in visual media – purely military centric obsession. It causes more confusion and friction. Post 1648 Westphalia Treaty, there had been extraordinary shifts in the nature and conduct of Warfare due to breakthroughs in military technologies from time to time of Industrial Revolution.  With the introduction of new weapon systems, mankind’s warfare system to include structures, doctrines and processes have undergone dramatic changes.

From 1648 to 1860, States/regimes massed manpower on battle fields restricted to 10 kms or so, and waged short duration skirmish type of close quarter battles, with people were left out of battle and their outcomes depending on physical bravery of Kings/Commander-in-Chief’s leading from the front. Muskets, low caliber barrel loading guns, steam ships and horse cavalry were the means of waging wars – classified as Generation 1 War.

Followed the Generation 2 warfare based on attrition – massed firepower based on indirect firepower – between 1860 to 1918 with heaps of dead in trenches based on artillery conquers and infantry closes and conquers. Military technologies advanced with the introduction of rifles, 5.5 in breach loading guns, and more importantly the pioneering development of tanks to cross the trenches and the appearance of bi-planes for recce purposes.

Developed tri dimension maneuver warfare (land, sea and air) – Generation 3 – during the interregnum of World War 1 and II with the later based on joint operations on global scale (Maginot Line Defense-Blitzkrieg-Island Hoping-Mountain-Desert); and. speed, surprise and mental and physical dislocation with “Bypass and collapse enemy” in attack and “Draw the enemy in and cut-off” in defense). The atomic bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima ushered the end of World War II.

Post World War II, due to horror prospects of nuclear Armageddon in case of outbreak of nuclear wars, the dynamics of warfare have changed quite dramatically.  Super Powers adopted “Super Insurgencies (Generation 4)”  to achieve end objectives following limited wars (Korean War) and situations short of war (Arab-Israeli wars). And, the end objective focused on eroding an opponent’s will to fight by destroying his means by elective strikes at soft targets and creating terror effect on a massive scale aimed at reducing will to fight.

The ways adopted include: psychological build up through justness of cause; infiltrate and integrate local forces to ensure systemic collapse;  information warfare through influence operations by instant live media coverage gaining  access to adversary’s political will/nerve centers and influence operations with wide variety of social media platforms not only to lower the morale and will of the adversary’s people but also polarize and rally sectarian groups to challenge the legitimacy of the State; establish and operate sophisticated networks at all levels to include safe havens, finances and weapons; to change demographics through legal and illegal migrations; cultural expansionism  (Confucianism Centers) by peaceful means and population implosion by visionary long term strategic perspective plan with multilateral cooperation by forging and networking with clan, caste and communal groups.

In the aftermath of 9/11 New York terror strikes, terrorism became the handmaiden of strategy. Terror organization carried out multi dimensional offensives – selective and swift suicide strikes, killings, kidnapping and hostage taking, extortions, use of miniaturized and remote controlled explosives, and anthrax etc aimed at mass destruction of people & properties

Let me also highlight that terrorism, insurgency, resistance movements etc., have always existed as weapon of the weak as well as strong from times immemorial. And, they have been adapted to appropriate to situation context and content and technology availability. Suffice to recount that the roots and practice of terrorism have been traced at least to the 1st-century AD Sicarii Zealots, which assassinated collaborators with Roman rule in the province of Judea. The first use in English of the term ‘terrorism’ occurred during the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror, when the Jacobins, who ruled the revolutionary state, employed violence, including mass executions by guillotine, to compel obedience to the state and intimidate regime enemies.

Now, terrorism is used as a means in all dimensions of national security – economic terror, technology terror, media terror etc. And, the many faces of “Hybrid Warfare” exemplify it. Wake-up Blind men of Hindustan and avoid providing platforms to China to hurt national interests particularly the will to fight of soldiers on the LAC.

So, political leaders and parties must avoid “headless chicken” diatribe over issues like  Shenzhen Zhenhua Data Technology platform – The Overseas Key Information Database (OKIDB) –collecting and storing data of prominent Indian individuals. Since the data collected is viewed as national security breach, there is nothing that is stopping the Parliament to ban it and also take pro-active counter hacking security measures.

Next, can any of the “Blind men of Hindustan” rationally explain the reasons for army units deployed in “eye-ball-to-eye ball” confrontation on the “Sikkim Borders” whereas the ITBP units led by Indian Police Officers and other Central Para Military Forces inadequately equipped with combat support systems deployed on the LAC in other theaters particularly in Eastern Ladakh with a plethora of logistics, recruiting and training establishments spread all over India at a great cost to the exchequer.

Never too late for political parties and leaders to sink their differences and reach consensus over the issue of modernization of security forces to include armed forces and Central Para Military Forces by merger and integration for effective operational synergy based on optimum costs. Surely, merger and integration would not only provide operational synergy but also at optimum costs and send the right signals to adversaries to avoid taking “PANGA” with the nation.

To sum up, my appeal to the “Blind men of Hindustan” to wage the wars on all fronts; not merely restricted to Eastern Ladakh theatre, particularly on the Naval Front in the Malacca Straights.  Also, the information war operations must be imaginatively processed to influence the Chinese to understand the disastrous consequences of waging wars on the global plane in pursuit of CCP and Xi Jinping interests. Forging strategic military alliances with nations having converging interests to counter China militarily is becoming an imperative. Also, the war must be carried out on economy and trade fronts, particularly banning export of raw materials like iron ore etc., and import of electronic goods.  On the technology front, our scientists must provide significant breakthroughs in indigenous design and development of Generation 5 and 6 systems.

The “Will to fight till the last man and last round” by the armed forces cannot be expected to deter Chinese PLA aggression and transgressions for eternity. India, as a nation, must develop enhanced capabilities in all fields to match with China’s capabilities. Time is running out. “Catch up or succumb to China”.