The Indian army has incorporated a hundred and more words in English that defines the best way of doing business. However, the confession is that most of these are borrowed and blatantly plagiarised. For instance, some common words known to the environment are abinitio, paradigm, per-se, these were all picked up after the DSSC (where we turn soldiers into soldier scholars) to make one look as having arrived at the higher leadership environment. But lately if you want to sound a little more intelligent you use, Grey Zone, tactical application, operational convergence, strategic gains, operational fires, UCAV, we even have not spared the Germans we use schwerpunkt and blitzkrieg also infamously.
We love the English language and how it sounds, if articulated well, it actually wins us many a battle before it being actually fought. Who needs intelligence if you have the vocabulary, at least in the Indian Army? I have heard presentations start with, “I assure you sir, my formation will lead the charge and deliver exponential success”, then frizzles out after the one question asked, tell me how many men have gone through their annual range classification tests. Or better still, “welcome to the formation that spells victory, where defeat is unheard of and every man a super soldier”, that is all fine tell me what is your mission reliability state.
What ails me is the physical application or should I say the convergence of certain critical factors. Logic, analytical skills, prognosis of lessons learnt, enemy capabilities and ways, own capabilities and ways, desired end states, structured and balanced applications, convergence of strategic gains. We all are so happy fighting the last war. Same redundant tactics and operational art. Same applications of force levels, in the same terrain, in the same manner, within the same time frames, yet in every war game the passions run so high, as if we invented the plan afresh. A little tweaking with force configurations, the constant dilemma of whether to apply by night or by day, the important decision of the mighty D.
Fails me, that we the leadership and seemingly the educated lot, more often than not lose sight of one essential factor, ‘creation of multiple criticalities’ towards assured victory. In simple words in today’s vibrant and dynamic age of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) and almost force parity. We just need to go back to supplementing with adequate finesse the almost perfunctory surprise and deception plan. The idea is not to commit, play the guess work matrix, force decision constrictions and above all have the force potential for quick application to decapacitate.
Generate the focused asymmetry which is decisive and changes the paradigm. The enemy knows your capability, he knows his terrain, he already has plans and contingencies to take on your might, he has the same DNA. What he does not have is the Chanakya and the Shakuni. In warfare we need a steady mix of both. We teach Operational Art in all our schools of instruction, but yet in every training war game played we are biased to the pinks. We constantly apply what we learnt last from our environment and instead of finding ways and means to achieve a creditable change, end up justifying or fighting to justify existing plans.
We have systems in place, the MO, MI the ARTRAC. Who see operations holistically, they have experts that have studied the enemy, but there is no continuity? A two-year tenure and that is it. Every two years we go in to invent the same vicious cycle of borrowed or imparted knowledge, that does not seem to leave our psyche. We have also spent crores on computer-based war games, whose software helps many an army specialist earns his livelihood. The fact sheet however is that it is hardly a resilient and vibrant tool. Most of the time we use it only because we have spent money on it. I am sure most of the people using these would argue in favour but ask the man in the field or the user and take an unbiased view.
We today are constantly talking about artificial intelligence, but the problem is the talk is all pseudo, played out only in conferences in HQs. Someone told me that we are using these in a very large scale in image interpretation and generating intelligence. Well, I am a realist, unless I see it applicable on ground, I do not believe you. Yes, I agree to a certain degree we have managed to configure an ISR plan, we have managed to integrate resources and the required paraphernalia that would help in generating intelligence.
What we need to see however is the application on ground and what actually in what time frame is available to the user. What I need for the commanding officer to be given is hard and applicable intelligence, short of this all measures end up to nothing. I am being cynical here, because I have heard many a HQ guy swear by the progress. But I want to burst your bubble. Show me the fact sheet of applicability on ground and that too in situations of adversity, not peace time. In peace time I too am superman.
Most of our leadership has an issue. In the appointments we tenanted we take everything at face value, because we do not have the time to get into operational applicability and we want to follow the whites. Any kind of technology influx looks good in a PowerPoint. So be it. If the higher HQ says it is good, it must be, I just have to find ways and means to make it relevant, with this analogy, many of us allow unmanageable or in fathomable technology to be incorporated. The problem is it is only for the senior officers briefing. We in the field desist trying it, or even if we have tried it, do not train to incorporate it in our functioning.
Harsh truths always sound critical, artificial intelligence has to start simultaneously at multi levels, or the best is, bottoms up and not HQs down. That is my perception. I need to equip my soldier with the best tools of destruction and survival. Nighttime visibility, anti-thermal suits, sensor units, body protection etc. He needs to be an information generator, has to have the communication means and the survival resources.
This needs to be integrated into a schematic information dissemination plan. Where a trained group of people characterise, distinguish, sift, prioritise, and convert information into actionable intelligence. We need then to integrate this intelligence into a plan. Therefore, here the leadership comes into play, where decisions are timely, war gamed adequately for changes and contingencies, prevent fratricides and actionable decisions are given some even laden with a risk factor, towards a coherent application of means.
Many a time the army intelligence will take over the artificial intelligence matrix, by adding on human dimensions of emotional activity. Therein lies the quagmire of processes. In the neighborhood there is a huge influx of technology in military domains, that can look into your bedrooms. We are talking about systems that have a look and transmit capability in all weather and through all mediums. We have a neighbour who is looking at domination of space for military purposes. Investing in high end technology to give impetus to his philosophy of non-contact warfare. His stated policy is not contact.
For ease of understanding, it means he will fight a war, in his time, in his domain, with his tools and you will not even know it is a war panning out. What are we doing? Restructuring, realigning, refocusing. Taking us away from a status of assured victory on one front to hoping for a stale mate on the other. Well and good, that is a requirement no doubt and I am sure this has been well thought of.
But the bigger requirement is beating him at his own game. Putting means and measures in place that beats his technology. Configuring a plan that negates his non-contact phase. Enabling a grey zone which is dispassionate about emotion and runs high on unattributability. Understanding his military contact thresholds. Using all means to develop responses short of war not only in the physical domain but the largest percentage of invisible domains.
About the Author
The author is a military analyst and commentator on national security issues. Views expressed are the author's own and do not reflect the editorial policy of Mission Victory India