Globalization and Asymmetric Threats

Essay add: 11-01-2017, 11:41   /   Views: 35

In modern history of the world, nation state has generally been the basis of global world order. These nation states in pursuit of their political goals have resorted to all means of statecraft including wars. This warfare resorted by nation states has witnessed increased quantum of lethality, violence and destruction in past centuries. With advent of science and technology, the art of warfare have transformed its ways and means of engagement. The warfare has graduated from first generation primitive way to modern third generation warfare.

The world is now at the throe of fourth generation of warfare with globalization and IT revolution acting as key drivers. Soviet war in Afghanistan and 9/11 attacks on world trade centre have been watershed events to witness the emergence of asymmetric warfare as new form of warfare. The rise of Al Qaeda and Hezbollah are classic examples of non state actors challenging the hegemony of mighty nation states. The new world order has been rightly predicted by Samuel Huntington in his book ‘Clash of Civilizations':-

The most important distinctions among peoples are no longer ideological, political, or economic. They are cultural. New patterns of conflict will occur along the boundaries of different cultures and patterns of cohesion will be found within the cultural boundaries. The principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations. The fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future.

Indian experience post independence in asymmetric warfare has been restrictive to various internal security situations in the form of insurgency, militancy, terrorism, and other forms of violence. Indian politico-military establishment has successfully resolved the Punjab issue and has controlled the Pakistan sponsored terrorist activities in J & K. ISI now has resorted to asymmetric warfare through series of bomb blasts and suicide attacks on financial and economic centres. Thus asymmetric threats have encompassed both military and non military dimensions exploiting the security vulnerabilities of a nation. Hence it is imperative to study these aspects in detail and evolve a comprehensive strategy to combat these threats.

Globalization and Asymmetric Threats

Globalization is about networking, sharing, independences and free flow of information. It has greatly incrased the ability of both state (emerging countries) and non-state (terrorists, nacro-terrorists, criminal organizations) actors to project power on global scale. The key drivers of globalization are as follows:-

- Networked world. (Internet and Communication technology)

- Transportation. (Modern means - Air, Sea and Land)

- Information Technology Revolution. (Data and Knowledge)

- Media Explosion. (Increased Awareness)

Modern Example of Asymmetric Warfare - 9/11 Attacks. Nineteen fundamentalist terrorists from six countries entered the United States over a three-year period using reasons such as education, travel, and job training. The terrorist used the existing infrastructure (internet, aviation and telephone system) to train themselves. They were able to transfer money from abroad to support the operation over global financial network. The series of coordinated attacks of September 11th demonstrated how globalization has increased the ability of terrorist and other non-state actors to project power in the global environment. The disastrous effects of these attacks need no elaboration.

Asymmetric Threats. In the unconventional sense, asymmetric warfare is the ability to think and at in a manner that is not defensible with a conventional military force. The drivers of globalization facilitate easy accomplishments of acts of violence using the state infrastructure. The distinctive characteristic of asymmetric warfare over conventional operations are as enumerated:-

- Targets are not limited to military facilities or combatants, but rather a wide range of non military targets. The critical infrastructure attacks against nuclear power plants, water sources, electricity grids and other infrastructure facilities have more returns than conventional military targets.

- Groups or individuals responsible for waging an action may or may not be related directly to a state. This makes detection and retribution extremely difficult.

- Asymmetrical attacks seek to have a major psychological impact, on opponents will, ability to act or freedom of action.

- Military application seeks to exploit the vulnerability or weakest link like key facilities, staging bases and networks that are more vulnerable and less protected than forces involved in front line combat.

Philosophy of Asymmetric Warfare.

Definition. 9/11 bombings and anthrax attacks renewed interest of asymmetric threats and warfare in current scenario. The modern definition of asymmetric warfare is as follows:

“In the realm of military affairs and national security, asymmetry is acting, organizing, and thinking differently than opponents in order to maximize ones own advantages, exploit an opponents weaknesses, attain the imitative, or gain greater freedom of action. It can be political-can entail different methods, technologies, values, organizations, time perspectives, or some combination of these. It can be discrete or pursued in conjunction with symmetric approaches”.

Forms of Asymmetric Threats. Broadly, these can be categorized as:-

- Method. It generally refers to the employment of different tactical doctrines and operational concepts than that of an opponent. Identifying and exploiting the weakest link in given situation of circumstance would give an asymmetric edge to the opponent. The deception and surprise sprung on the target by its sheer scope and effect makes it different from conventional operations.

- Technology. The proliferation of technology and its use for destruction have been exploited to the maximum by the proponent's of asymmetric warfare. It has also been observed that low and technology used with ingenuity can challenge the sophisticated technologies of powerful nation.

- Will. Asymmetric will can be used to propel a campaign or cause forward. An opponents unwillingness to surrender or accept defeat can protract a war until a wholly superior opponent give up.

- Propaganda. Using radio broadcasts and other mass media to push forward an image or agenda can crate this asymmetry. The media war in Somalia changed the course of operations against the US.

- Organizational. Organizational Asymmetries are most notable when a conflict involves a state and non-state actor. Typically, non-state actors will be organized in a network fashion, where a state actor will be organization hierarchically.

- Innovativeness. Creating asymmetry is all about using low end, human intensive simple idea supplemented with selective and widely available means can create a divesting asymmetric effect.

Security Strategy - Indian ContextDeterrence against Asymmetric Threats.

- Deterrence by Denial. It prevents the enemy from achieving the benefit that he seeks, or makes doing so excessively costly and difficult. It is important to analyze the possibility of deterrence for asymmetric threats. There are three main actors who wage the asymmetric wafer, viz persons who execute the actions, group which plans and provides wherewithal for execution of operations, third party supporters who provide safe haven, finances and moral support. The Indian experience for past few decades has not being encouraging, mass mobilization ordered post attacks on Indian parliament did not affect Pakistan polity and infiltration continued unabated.

- Deterrence by Punishment. It threatens to harm the opponent of retribution and its consequent prohibitive cost. The efficacy of deterrence by punishment against small number of terrorists or its camps / training facilities by raids, missile attacks or air strike in hostile territories is also doubtful for its effects. One potentially viable option is to threaten and punish third-party supporters of the terrorists, rather than the terrorists themselves.

Indian Experience. India has wide experience in asymmetric threats like suicide attack on Prime Minister Rajeev Gandhi, attack on Indian parliament, hijacking of aircrafts by terrorist, recent hijacking of train by Naxalites, bombing of religious places like Akshardham/Raghunath temple or mosque in Malegaon, bombings at Jewel/Shingar theatre in Jammu/Ludhiana, bomb blasts in metros and lastly attack on Taj hotel in Mumbai. It also has an example of Kargil conflict where occupation of icy heights by the Pakistan's Northern Light Infantry took Indian Army by surprise and took considerable effort to evict the instructions.


India's visualized role as future regional an world power necessitate secure environment in the region in pursuance of its political and economic goals. It needs to have security structures adequate to combat the evolving threats from state and non state actors. The spectrum of threat has been diversified and lines have blurred between military, civilian, business, culture and organization targets. Thus security environment encompass both military and non military aspects and it needs to be prepared to fight hybrid wars contesting multidimensional threats.

The broad strategy to countr asymmetric threats is to prevent, protect, respond and pursue. Any state or non-state that wishes to be successful in countering asymmetric threats must have a productive and accurate intelligence system in place. It is important that apex organization draw a list of most likely scenarios to guard against and set priorities based on the periodic reviews. There is a need to form a collaborative intelligence system at global, regional and national level which should be tied to the early warning systems designed to monitor changes in antagonist activities, and escalate reports via a separate and distinct chain of command for timely actions.

In order to combat these threats, it is not only necessary to have preventive mechanisms but also to have capability to wage asymmetric warfare and pose a deterrence/threat in being to the potential adversaries. The defence minister Mr AK Anthony while speaking on strengths and weakness of Indian Air Force said, “We (Indians) need to conceptualize and build asymmetric capabilities against superior forces.”

Asymmetric Capabilities It is imperative to carry out constant review of the geo-political situation, security strategy, defence preparedness, Armed forces structures, equipment profile, relational orientation with potential adversaries and future contours of warfare. This review will bring out the strengths and weakness related to security of India as also of its potential adversaries. The periodic appraisal of the asymmetric capabilities needs to be carried out for realistic assessment of the present and future security paradigm. The offensive asymmetric capabilities will then be based on weakness of the potential adversary. Eg India's strategic location dominating the sea lanes of communication in Indian ocean is the string which Indian can flex or pull on energy security of dependent nations.

String and Pull Philosophy. This philosophy is offensive and aggressive in its contnt. It encompasses wide scope of application using all means of national power to gain advantage over weakness of an adversary so as to respond and pursue. The means available for leveraging can be termed as strings and pressure exerted for desired effet can be termed as pull. The skill then of the politico-military leadership is its ability to utilize correct string and apply apt pull for desired effect. The graphic representation of the strings is as shown”-

Road Ahead

Countering Asymmetric Threats. The recent Hotel Taj attacks laid bare serious shortcomings in Indian security matrix with special stress on intelligence, defence and policing capabilities. Dealing with unexpected requires agility and ability to adapt to new situations. The military strategist countering asymmetric threats should be as much an economist, business professional, cultural expert as also a techno savvy person. It will never be possible to fully protect against an asymmetric attack, as there are limite resources and an almost infinite number of scenarios to be considered. However effective mechanisms in place will provide prior warning of impending threat and mitigate its effects owing to forethought and forewarning. Maj thoughts on the countermeasures are as follows:-

Apex Organization. A vibrant National security council (NSC) would be an ideal apex body as realms of asymmetric threat encompass a wider multi spectral canvass. All elements of state that contribute directly or indirectly to national security would form the part of this body.

Integration of Police, PMF and Armed Forces.

Understanding Threats. All security agencies should know the threats at different levels. There may be areas where agencies have an overlap in combating the threat which have to be coordinated from top to lowest level. Regular liaison and meetings will improve the understanding of threats between all security forces.

Sharing Data. The central Government is implementing a scheme called “Crime and Criminal Tracking Network Systems (CCTNS).” The goals of the system are to facilitate collection, storage, retrieval, analysis , transfer and sharing of data and information at the police station and between the police station and the State Headquarters and the Central Police Organizations. There is also a requirement of a system of community policing, a toll-free service, and a network to store, retrieve and access data relating to crimes and criminals. It is recommended that Armed Forces through not involved in policing duties should also have access to these networks owing to its security implications.

Other Initiatives. These include nationwide unique personal identification system headed by Mr Nandan Nilekarni, operationalisation of Multi Agency Centre (MAC), subsidiary MAC, and state special branch network to share intelligence at National and State level. It is also proposed to start Business Process Re-engineering of the Foreigners Division and Mission mode Project on Immigration, Visa and Foreigners' Registration and Tracking with the objective of accounting foreign travelers.

Operational Military Focus. It is imperative to understand the contours of military involvement in the realms of asymmetric threats. The operational military focus can be follows:-

- Establishment of Theatre - State security grid. The integrated civil - Theatre military (Tri-service) grid to be formed so that all possible security situations can be reviewed periodically through an institutionalized mechanism. The security grids can have parallels at every like Corps/Area District Level so that greater liaison formed with civil.

- Capability Based Forces Structures. There is need to have rapid action forces with state of art equipment to combat any situation. These forces should be capable of moving at short notice using multi mode transport capability. They should have the capability to deal with various operational contingencies.

- Blurring of the Lines. The lines between civil-military as also distinction between front an rear of traditional battlefield have disappeared. The implications of this phenomenon are greater civil military interaction and more joint ness in all agencies of state. The blurring of front and rear has made the threat omni-directional. Every soldier needs to be alive to situation.

- Civic Action Programmes. In J&K, through Op SADBHAVANA, Armed Forces have gained experience in winning hearts and minds of locals thereby alleviating socio-economic conditions of the people residing in remote areas. The initiation of such programmes in remote areas of other states would assist the civil government for equitable social development.

- Ex-servicemen Fraternity. Today sixty years post independence there is large strength of ex-serviceman residing in all corners of the country. The services of these in gaining intelligence can be easily tapped by empowering existing Zila Sainik Boards or creating quasi intelligence organizations.

Efforts and Payoffs. There are efforts necessitated in reorganization/ Coordination of resources, increasing accountability and efficiency of existing organizations as also creation of new structures. All elements of national power have to work in concert to combat this new form of asymmetric warfare. The budgetary constraints would always be persistent; however nothing is more costly than national security and pride. Once the systems are in place the rich dividends from these miniscule investments would be justified.


The developed world is riding the wave of globalisation for an unprecedented economic revival. The developed nations are not getting richer by helping the rest of the world develop through globalization, but rather by exploiting the developing world for their own benefit.

In order to make even the underprivileged have adopted an asymmetric approach to avoid opponent's strengths and exploit its weakness. Religion and ethnic identities have provided rallying point for all to bear asymmetric threats against the developed world.

India needs to look at the issue holistically and adopt recommended strategy in conjunction with like minded nation to thwart the ill effects of asymmetric warfare. It has to ensure that there is equitable progress in the entire country with no bias towards any class, caste, creed or race to avoid repeat of happening at global level. Naxalism and other separatist issues should be addressed with urgency within the political framework.

Combating asymmetric threat is a national issue and a matter to be addressed by elements of national power. National Security Council needs to be proactive with stress on preventive action based on inputs from intelligence agencies. The Armed Forces have to be sensitive to the security situation, hone their skills/capabilities to adapt to the situation and remain the cutting edge of the nation.

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