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Prasad asked: How has globalisation increased the pace of development of military technology and warfare?

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  • A. Vinod Kumar replies: Globalisation, a post-Cold War phenomenon, entails a plethora of conceptions pertaining to global interdependence of societies, peoples and cultures. In the economic realm, globalisation represents the integration of economies through free trade, driven by lowered tariffs and minimal protectionism. Similarly, the dynamic movement of people across geographies, and consequent exchange and assimilation of ideas, cultures and ways of living underlines the socio-political dimension of globalisation.

    It might be difficult to specifically identify whether or how globalisation has directly impacted the military technological spectrum and/or warfare. Yet, as a natural extension of political interaction of states, the military cultures, and systems and practices are bound to be influenced by politico-economic milieus in which they exist. Thereby, three broad imprints of globalisation could be identified: (a) greater diffusion of military technologies (b) consolidation and global expansion of the defence industry (or industrial base), and (c) trans-nationalisation of conflict.

    All three are in many ways mutually complementary though linkages are stronger between the first two. The traditional ways of defence spending drastically changed with the end of Cold War, with military industrial bases forced to find newer markets outside conventional strategic domains, to not just fund their growth but also ensure their survival. Though economic globalisation and end of bloc rivalry opened a new scope for global arms market forays, the defence industry had to undergo massive consolidation prompted by atrophy of existing funding lines and effeteness of prevalent industrial models. While the United States witnessed large-scale mergers and acquisitions resulting in emergence of entities like Lockheed-Martin, Northrop-Grumman, etc., besides companies like Boeing and Raytheon lapping up many companies under their wings, Europe saw the creation of EADS Consortium which integrated an array of defence majors across the region. At the same time, new defence industrial bases emerged (lsrael) on the global scene, while some existing ones expanded beyond national borders (Russia), leading to a global competitive defence market.

    On the other hand, advent of new-generation military technologies, prodded by the revolution in military affairs (RMA), also gained momentum, duly influenced by the globalisation process, complementing defence industrial consolidation as well as global diffusion of military technologies, restricted until then by alliance politics and strategic demarcations. From highly-securitised environs, the global defence industry literally adopted laissez faire and ventured into newer regions and domains to explore newer markets by offering technology transfer to joint development and production. This enabled a faster permeation of military technologies, with concomitant effect on defence strategies, capabilities and nature of warfare.

    The global expansion of defence industries and diffusion of military technologies could have had their natural effect on the nature of conflict and warfare, with more wars and insecurities providing for proliferation of arms markets and industries. The post Cold War world witnessed many such wars, be it in the name of counter-expansionism or counter-terrorism. Yet, the greatest impact one could discern as an imprint of globalisation is the unprecedented trans-nationalisation of conflicts, mainly involving non-state actors. The genesis, growth and rapid expansion of terrorist groups like al Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the deep penetration of their Salafist extremist ideologies across borders and regions is a testament of how conflicts attained such trans-national character, whereby many nations fight a common threat or enemy. 

    Posted on June 12, 2019