Saturday May 21, 2022 12:20 am

Changing Nature of Global Conflicts

📝 Online Desk
🕐 2021-05-09 15:02:22

Changing Nature of Global Conflicts

General Manoj Mukund Naravane


Indian Army Chief General MM Naravane who is leading the 2nd largest armed forces in the world by active duty military personnel, with about 1445000 active soldiers delivered a keynote speech on Changing Nature of Global Conflicts: Role of UN Peacekeepers’ during the Army Chief’s conclave organized by Bangladesh Army Chief General Aziz Ahmed.

The Bangladesh Army hosted the conclave coinciding with the celebrations of the birth centenary of the country's ‘Father of the Nation' Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the 50th anniversary of Bangladesh’s independence.

Force commander of UN multidimensional integrated stabilisation mission in Mali Lieutenant General Dennis Gyllensporree, force commander of UN multidimensional integrated stabilisation mission in the Central African region Lieutenant General Sidki Daniel Traore and Bhutan army's deputy chief of operation Brigadier General Darji Rinchen, among others attended the conclave.

Senior diplomats, security strategists and police officers also attended the seminar. The Indian Army chief has interacted with the senior officers of the participating nations and military observers from the other nations.

The conclave was held as part of a multilateral UN-mandated counter-terrorism exercise, Shantir Ogroshena (Frontrunners of Peace). An Indian Army contingent of 30 personnel have participated along with the Royal Bhutan Army, Sri Lankan Army and Bangladesh Army in the exercise.

litary observers from the US, UK, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Singapore have also attended the exercise. The aim of the exercise is to strengthen the procedures and enhance interoperability amongst neighbourhood countries to ensure robust peacekeeping operations in the region. The armies of all the participating nations shared their valuable experiences and refined their drills and procedures in peacekeeping operations.

Here we are publishing a short extract from the key note address of Indian Army Chief General MM Naravane.

The relations between India and Bangladesh are anchored in shared history and common heritage, a history of struggle for freedom and liberation. We take great pride in our role and contribution during the War of Liberation. The blood and valour of the martyrs of both nations is written in gold in the annals of history.

The world, by and large, is slowly recovering, from a year long fight with COVID. However, the last one year has seen unprecedented changes. The disruptive powers of the pandemic, have been adequately demonstrated and acknowledged. We have seen the change compressed in time, and come to accept that many things will never be the same again. The total break-down in global supply chains have caused us to pause and reflect on their frailty and vulnerability, forcing us to re-engineer our dependencies and explore local solutions to local problems.

So, there is little denying that change is upon us like never before. And, the real driver for this rapid pace of change, is the advances made in Technology. Successive technological revolutions are occurring at smaller intervals. The advent of rapidly evolving, dual-use technologies present new opportunities and are changing the very character of warfare.

In my talk today, I shall share my views on this very Changing Character of Conflict, and the Role of UN Peacekeepers in this new paradigm. As two of the largest troop contributing nations to the United Nations, the subject holds special relevance in the context of India & Bangladesh.


Changing Character of Conflict

The character of conflict has been constantly evolving over the years, albeit the pace has picked up exponentially in recent times. The nature of war in terms of the organised nature of violence, in terms of the blood and gore, in terms of the victor imposing his will on the vanquished, is constant and unchanging. As to how wars will be fought in terms of weapons, technology and the strategic context, however, changes rapidly. So, while the nature of war is constant, the character keeps evolving and changing. Since, the nature of war is unchanging, force and violence have not disappeared.

They have only manifested in newer forms.

This change has panned out in various conflicts across the world in the year gone by. We have seen how the very imaginative and offensive use of drones in Idlib and then in Armenia - Azerbaijan, shaped the outcome of the conflicts.

We have also seen how disruptive technologies are now driving doctrinal cycles like never before. It may not be inaccurate therefore, to infer, that technology itself is steadily emerging as a core combat capability. Niche technologies like artificial intelligence, quantum computing, 5G, autonomous and unmanned systems, precision technology etc have become the new drivers of technological revolution.

Wars are no longer confined to the customary hard core kinetics but are  being contested in the ambiguous grey zone. This is characterized by ambiguity, uncertainty and a careful, pre-meditated risk escalation to keep actions below the threshold of all-out war. In the Grey Zone, militaries play to the edge. Geo-strategic spaces are being constricted without altering the state of peace; geo-strategic realities are being altered without a shot being fired.

The traditional, rather simplistic and straight - jacketed war and peace disposition, has therefore, lost its relevance in the face of vigorous jostling for competitive spaces short of all out conflict. In this ‘No War No Peace’ state of flux, asymmetric use of technology is likely to render the conventional military might redundant to a certain extent.

Conflicts are also steadily moving into the newer domains of space, cyber, and informatics. Mere mastery of the traditional domains is not adequate.

Yet another character of this changing conflict paradigm is the threat posed by new actors, state & non-state, both in the kinetic and non-kinetic spaces. Military threats are assuming a trans-national form with external linkages to global organisations with similar agendas & ideologies. Armed conflicts are turning intractable and harder to resolve due to rise of transnational illicit networks, increasing internationalisation of civil wars or local conflicts and involvement of violent extremist groups. With non-military means increasingly gaining importance, multi-domain operations are going to be the norm in future and the lines of operations will present an amalgamation of threats.

Armed Forces the world over would need to adapt to this change to remain relevant and effective. In order to illustrate my point, I would like to relate it to the game of cricket, which we in the subcontinent understand better than anyone else.

The form and character of the game, continue to evolve from the traditional Test Cricket to ‘Ltd Overs’ and now the T 20. However, the skill sets for the shorter version and ofcourse the approach to the game, is significantly different. While the longer version of the game affords time to adjust and adapt to the conditions, the shorter format demands far greater mental and physical agility. Every delivery wasted is a lost opportunity. You also require more all-rounders, players with multiple skills ready to assume different roles. You can’t expect to win the T20 match if you are training & preparing in the Test cricket mode.

Armies need to change, and change quickly. Our Forces Structures, Doctrines and Strategy, Rules of Engagement and Capability Development initiatives need to be aligned to the evolving security paradigm. But unfortunately that is not always the case. Armies are conservative by nature and guilty of preparing not only for the last war, but often for the wrong war.


This is the simple truth of history - warfare evolves faster than warfighters do.

The challenges to troops operating under the UN mandate, in some of the most difficult and conflict inflicted areas in the world, need to be seen and understood in this contemporary threat paradigm.


Role of United Nations

The United Nations, by far, remains the most internationally represented multilateral organization mandated with the role of maintaining international peace and security. Pursuant to its charter, the UN objectives include protecting human rights, delivering humanitarian aid, promoting sustainable development and upholding international law. UN peacekeeping is a unique, important, complex, diverse and dynamic instrument that is built on global partnerships. Each operation is based on basic principles of peacekeeping – consent, impartiality and non-use of force except in self-defence and in defence of the mandate.


Changing Nature of Conflict : Impact on UN Peacekeeping

As you would agree, the changes in conflict dynamics have generated a range of challenges to UN peacekeeping operations. Originally designed to support inter-state ceasefires and peace agreements, modern peacekeeping operations have transformed to address intra-state conflicts, failed & fragile states and situations involving asymmetric use of force, including from violent extremist groups. Moreover, growth of non-state actors wielding new technologies, transnational illicit networks and globally connected violent extremist groups, as I have discussed earlier, pose new challenges.

Some of you would have seen the recent report by a UN investigation team of experts, on the deadly missile strike at Aden airport in Yemen, last December that left 22 dead. Only the Houthi rebels, says the report, possess the ability and technology to undertake this type of strike. These potent capabilities, which earlier were the preserve of the State, are today in the hands of terror organisations and non-state actors. These developments need to be factored in, while planning peacekeeping operations.

Moreover, shifting geopolitical and regional dynamics are further challenging UN’s ability to exert influence over conflicts sustained by proxies & regional interests. It is evident that economic constraints in the

aftermath of the pandemic, will have a direct bearing on budgetary support to Peacekeeping Operations.

The emerging trends of conflict-most notably-the influence of niche technologies, the impact of climate change on security and rapid urbanisation or migration will alter risk profiles around the world and have major implications on design and conduct of peacekeeping operations. The effect of these trends on peace keepers and their role in managing conflicts needs to be understood and analysed to address the issue in right earnest.

Even the UN organs will need to shed some of the old practices and adapt to these changes.

Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen, MP participated in a photo session with local and foreign military personnel who participated in the seminar titled "Army Chief's Conclave" held at the Multipurpose Complex in Dhaka Cantonment recently. Photo: ISPR

Role of UN Peacekeepers

Proactive Apch. As part of the UN’s new strategic thought, the UN Secretary General, has stressed upon the ‘Requirement of Conflict Prevention and Peace Building’ rather than on ‘Peacekeeping’. This calls for a proactive, integrated, multi-dimensional effort involving political, civilian and military lines of operations. The focus of peacekeeping operations should hence be to create favourable conditions to include disarmament and neutralisation of negative forces, establishing rule of law and protection of civilians.

Exit Strategy. The transformation required for transition from a volatile conflict situation to a stable political and social environment requires concerted and coordinated efforts from all agencies involved. The troop contributing nations need to analyse the operational and political situation to effectively prepare their contingents to meet these challenges. With increasing deployment span of some peacekeeping operations, missions may be deployed for a long duration with little prospect of securing sustainable peace.

With the changing conflict dynamics, UN should be pragmatic in defining the mandate of the mission and the designing of peacekeeping operations should be based on a realistic exit strategy with definable objectives and missions.

Innovative Partnerships. Peacekeeping partnerships must translate into discernable results through greater clarity on mandated tasks, timely deployment of capabilities, greater readiness to implement critical mandated tasks, and ability of swift response in crisis. The UN has successfully partnered with regional organisations for enhanced operational effectiveness (e.g. deployment of African Union troops in Somalia).

Due to changes in conflict dynamics, UN needs to invest more in such partnerships. The troop contributing countries need to build capacities to ensure interoperability with regional forces under UN mandate in order to reduce time and costs.

Rapidly Deployable Forces. The evolving nature of conflicts mandates the requirement of maintaining a reserve of peacekeepers within the conflict zone or with the member state(s) as Rapidly Deployable Forces with strategic and tactical mobility through dedicated mobility assets and logistic echelons capable of rapid and swift deployment across the globe.

Lines of Operations. The lines of operations, primarily based on the mandate of the peacekeepers, need to also incorporate emanating threats. The UN should facilitate a ‘whole of mission approach’ with unhindered support of assets at UN’s disposal. The suggested lines of operations may include:-

(a) Intelligence based operations, against negative forces or spoilers.

(b) Protection of civilians and human rights and extending rule of law.

(c) Integration of parties through dialogue, disarmament and trust.

(d) Campaigns to highlight impact of peacekeeping operations.

(e) Building capabilities and capacities of host organisations & forces.

Conduct of Operations. The conduct of operations at tactical level should include a combination of kinetic and non-kinetic means, as defined by Rules of Engagement. The operations should be supported by force enablers in terms of ISR, communication, mobility, force protection and flexible logistic support. The essential aspects of operations should include the ability to project force capable of undertaking mandated tasks, protection of civilians and force preservation.

Infusion of Latest Technology. There is an inescapable need to technologically enable the peacekeepers to effectively manage situation in operational areas. The contributing countries need to provide tactical force multipliers like UAVs, surveillance devices and modern communication equipment to their contingent. Infusion of technology and force multipliers like aviation and logistics assets will remove limitations and enable the contingent to thwart challenges in achieving the mandate.

General MM Naravane, PVSM, AVSM, SM, VSM, ADC did his schooling at Jnana Prabodhini Prashala, Pune. An alumnus of the National Defence Academy and the Indian Military Academy, he was commissioned in the Sikh Light infantry Regiment in Jun 1980. He is an alumni of the Defence Services Staff College, Wellington and Higher Command Course, Mhow. The General Officer holds a Master’s Degree in Defence Studies, an M.Phil Degree in Defence and Management Studies, and is currently pursuing his Doctorate.

In a distinguished military career spanning almost four decades, he has the distinction of tenating key command and staff appointments in 'Peace and Field, both in the North-East and Jammu and Kashmir and has been part of the Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka. He brings with him an enormous amount of experience in serving in the most challenging areas. He has commanded a Rashtriya Rifles Battalion, raised an infantry Brigade, was inspector General Assam Rifles (North) and has commanded a prestigious Strike Corps. His staff assignments include tenures as a Brigade Major of an infantry Brigade, Defence Attache at Yangon, Myanmar, an instructional appointment in the Army War College as Directing Staff in the Higher Command Wing, besides two tenures at the integrated Headquarters of MoD (Army), New Delhi. He had the privilege of commanding the Republic Day Parade in 2017 in his capacity as GOC Delhi Area. After successfully commanding the Army Training Command, Shimla and the Eastern Command in Kolkata, he held the appointment of Vice Chief of the Army Staff before assuming the appointment of the Chief of the Army Staff on 31 Dec 2019.


General Manoj Mukund Naravane PVSM, AVSM, SM, VSM, ADC, Indian Army Chief.