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How has the Army Adapted to Change in Counterinsurgency Operations

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  • February 27, 2014
    Round Table
    Only by Invitation
    1430-1700 hrs

    The army has been involved in counterinsurgency (CI) operations for almost six decades both within the country and in Sri Lanka. The causes of these uprisings are well known, as is the evolution of CI movements. However, as a key constituent of the government’s CI strategy, a study of the army’s ability to adapt to change deserves greater focus.

    Change has been evident, however slow, in the pattern of India’s socioeconomic evolution. The country has also witnessed political empowerment, giving both voice and visibility to demands, thereby influencing the manner in which the country is governed. There is greater transparency in every facet of public life. The media on its part has further ensured greater accountability from government functionaries. The nature of threats, both internal and external have evolved, though with the Pakistan factor remaining a challenge and a key determinant for resolving existing issues in Jammu and Kashmir.

    While each of these factors can be assessed in isolation, yet their impact on the conduct of CI operations by the army has been perceptible. These changes have taken place in the backdrop of over six decades of the army’s involvement in CI operations. Needless to say, some of the fac-tors enumerated, have influenced the manner in which the army deals with the challenge of CI op-erations. It has led to adaptation to change, either as a result of extraneous influences and at times because of internal evolutionary mechanisms.

    Change takes place at a number of levels and depending upon its nature and pace, it can be both revolutionary and evolutionary. However, a test case of successful change is the ability to transform the manner in which assigned objectives are achieved. In a more conventional sense, it could be achieved by adapting designated goals, strategy or organisational structure. However, giv-en the nature of operations in a CI environment, operational level adaptation can also be instrumen-tal in bringing about major change.

    With this as the backdrop, a roundtable discussion is being organised at IDSA on Feb 27, 2014, from 1430 to 1700 hours on how has the army adapted to change in CI operations. The proposed format of the discussion entails a brief introduction to the subject, which will be followed by a short presentation by nominated lead speakers amongst the invitees, on specific issues per-taining to the subject. After each presentation, the floor will be opened to the audience to invite comments and questions. The format has been adopted to ensure focused and deliberate discus-sion on specific areas. A brief summary of subjects that will be taken up for discussion and lead speakers for each are as follows:

    • The Indian Army has been employed in CI operations in the Northeast, Sri Lanka, Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir. Did these operations witness a clear goal for the army? Can such a goal be assigned given the protracted nature of operations? Were there cases of shifting of goals, due to strategic over reach or changing conditions? How did this impact the conduct of successful oper-ations? Maj Gen Umong Sethi (Retd)
    • Over a period of time the army has evolved its distinct method of fighting in CI operations. Has there been any major change in the strategy adopted by the army at the doctrinal level? If yes, what have been the drivers for this shift? How successful has been this adaptation to change? With specific reference to J&K, how has the army adapted to the external threat from Pakistan in addition to the internal threats of more conventional CI operations in the state. How does this ad-justment take place vis-a-vis other CI areas, which have a negligible external threat. Maj Gen Dipankar Banerjee (Retd)
    • The army units have been involved in making local organisational changes at the unit level to adapt to CI operations. This includes creating an additional company from within the resources of Support and HQ Company. In addition to the experiment of ‘I’ Battalions in the Northeast, the Rashtriya Rifles concept has been the most prominent change in CI operations. Did the army adapt adequately in terms of organisational changes, given its employment in CI operations since the fifties? Has organisational change at the headquarter level also been accompanied by a man-power policy, which ensures posting specialists to appointments that deal with issues like infor-mation warfare, psychological warfare and cyber warfare? Did training for CI operations and specialist staff appointments create adequate capacities and in the right time frame? Maj Gen Umong Sethi (Retd)
    • There have been distinct changes in the army’s operational conduct of CI operations over the years. What were the major changes witnessed in this regard? What was the reason for these changes to take place? How much of the change was forced by external factors? Did some in-ternal thought process lead to major changes? Have the changes merely been incremental, with limited ability to think out of the box? Maj Gen Dhruv Katoch (Retd)
    • Does the army have a distinct strategic culture in relation to CI operations? How has the strategic culture of the army impacted its ability to adapt to change, as seen in the context of CI opera-tions? Has it been a limiting or supporting factor in the successful conduct of operations? Brig Rahul Bhonsle (Retd)
    • Do civil-military relations have an impact on CI operations? If yes, what has been its impact on the process of change, its pace and quality? Dr Manoj Joshi
    • India has witnessed coalition governments in the recent past. There has also been a trend of re-gional parties having serious differences on the CI policy. What has been the impact of a domes-tic politics on the conduct of CI operations and adapting to the changing environment? Maj Gen Dhruv Katoch(Retd)
    • How well has the army employed technology to adapt to changing threats and emerging chal-lenges? Has the adoption of technology been ahead or behind the curve? Has the army played catchup with terrorists or incorporated technology proactively. Brig Rahul Bhonsle (Retd)