New Delhi: India’s armed forces need to be alive to the maxim of “expect the unexpected”, Chief of Army Staff General Manoj Pande said on Saturday, underlining the need for the military to remain cognisant of the contours of the evolving geopolitical landscape and security challenges.
In an address at the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) in Nagpur, the Army chief also talked about India’s “legacy challenges” of unsettled borders and that those will “continue to engage us”, in comments that came amid a lingering border row with China in eastern Ladakh.
Delving into various regional and global security challenges, General Pande said there has been an increasing contestation in traditional and non-traditional domains in the Indo-Pacific and the “key markers” include the assertion of sharp and aggressive power with a shift in the centre of gravity of economic heft.
Highlighting the challenges arising out of the cyber domain, he cited the CERT-In (Indian Computer Emergency Response Team) annual report of 2022 and said that there were nearly 14 lakh cases of website intrusion, malware propagation, malicious code, phishing, distributed denial of service attacks, ransomware attacks and data breach attempts in one year.
Technological advances in the electromagnetic spectrum could impact military operations, intelligence gathering and civilian infrastructure reliant on electromagnetic waves, he said.
Information domain too is becoming increasingly complex with narrative shaping’ and cognitive dominance’ as an integral part of conflict prosecution, said Gen Pande.
He also talked about grey zone pursuits by India’s adversaries.
We already are witness to manifestations of disinformation campaigns, cyberattacks, selective historical referencing, cartographic manipulation, leveraging politico-economic heft and increasing military footprints in our neighbourhood, and fanning religious radicalization as part of proxy war pursuits, said the Chief of Army Staff.
Apart from the military domain, the signatures of grey zone pursuits can also be seen in domains like food, migrants, and even critical medicines or vaccines, he said.
As guardians of the nation’s security, we are constantly seized with the contemporary threats, he said.
Concurrently, the ability to correctly assess future threats remains pivotal to our strategic planning and preparedness, he said.
He said that emerging and disruptive technologies are no longer superpower-centric and these are available to many nations and even non-state actors. We are also witness to the low tech versus high tech contestations, amidst an increased propensity in risk taking behaviour, he said.
Gen Pande said black swan events can add turbulence in the dynamic global security canvas. The outcome of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine and Israel-Hamas conflicts will itself redefine relations, linkages and hierarchy amongst nations, giving a new shade to world politics in the coming decades, he said.
In the Indo-Pacific, he said, there is an increasing contestation in traditional and non-traditional domains. The key markers include the assertion of sharp and aggressive power with a shift in the centre of gravity of economic heft. Concurrently, a confluence of interests, capacities and capabilities is bringing countries together, he said.
South Asia is marked by unresolved border disputes, both territorial and maritime, illegal cross-border migration, transnational crimes, terrorism and non-traditional threats such as illegal and unregulated fishing, piracy and increasing religious fundamentalism, he said.
These manifestations, coupled with regional vulnerabilities to climate change-induced disasters, have kept the region in a flux, he said. He also said that India’s legacy challenges of unsettled borders will continue to engage us.
The Indian Army remains seized with the military implications of these dynamics. Proactive measures, capability enhancement, adaptability and a holistic approach to all aspects that impact or augment security, stands mandated, he said.
General Pande also said that India envisions the resolve to emerge as a developed nation when it celebrates its centenary milestone.
The Indian Armed Forces remain fully aligned to the national vision and objectives. The foremost implication, therefore, is to ensure that the nation’s security is not impacted in any way so that the nation’s progress continues unabated, he added.