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Insights into Editorial: Heading towards strategic instability

Insights into Editorial: Heading towards strategic instability


In late 2018, the government decided to set up three new agencies in order to address the new age challenges to national security:

  • the Defence Cyber Agency,
  • the Defence Space Agency and
  • the Special Operations Division

Clearly, this is a timely effort from the government to have finally decided to set them up though they are not yet in place.

While this is indeed a useful step in the right direction, it is also important to note that the constitution of these agencies is a far cry from the crucial recommendations given by the Naresh Chandra Task Force and the Chiefs of Staff Committee.

Both of these suggested the formation of three separate joint commands to deal with new challenges to India’s national security in the cyber, space and special operations domains.


But some argued that it is rather a lacklustre response to major ‘futuristic’ challenges to our national security raises a larger question of whether India is ready to face a war like situations and can win?


Above Question raises due to the following reasons:

There is a revolution in military affairs that seems to have attracted the attention of strategic analysts and policy planners across the world.

The current focus in military thinking across the world is increasingly moving away from traditional heavy-duty military hardware to high-tech innovations:

  • artificial intelligence (AI), big data analytics, satellite jammers, hypersonic strike technology, advanced cyber capabilities and spectrum denial and high-energy lasers.

In the light of the unprecedented capabilities that these systems offer, there is also an increased focus on developing suitable command and control as well as doctrinal concepts to accommodate and calibrate them.


The arrival of these technologies might deeply frustrate strategic stability of any country as because of their disruptive nature.


Strategic stability in the contemporary international system: Inherent paradox vis-a-vis high technology-enabled military systems:

Disruptive technologies have the potential to impact growth, employment, and inequality by creating new markets and business practices, needs for new products & infrastructure and different labour skills.

  • The most important being the issue of survivability of a state’s nuclear arsenal and its ability to carry out a second strike after a first attack.
  • Once accuracies get better, hypersonic glide vehicles replace conventional delivery systems,
  • Real time tracking and surveillance make major strides,
  • AI-enabled systems take over,
  • survivability of nuclear arsenal, which lies at the heart of great power stability.
  • There was, for instance, an assumption that the naval leg of a nuclear triad is the most survivable part since it is hidden away in the depths of the ocean away from the adversary’s gaze.

However, the potential ability of deep-sea drones to detect ballistic-missile armed nuclear submarines or SSBNs may make this assurance a thing of the past thereby frustrating traditional calculations.


Arrival of these new technologies to the emerging strategic competition among great powers:

  • The S.’s withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty is perhaps an indication of a potential arms race in the offing.


  • China has emerged as a key actor in the field of emerging military technologies. This is something that will concern New Delhi in the days ahead.


  • Beijing is in the lead position in emerging technologies with potential military applications such as quantum computing, 3D printing, hypersonic missiles and AI.
  • If Beijing continues to develop hypersonic systems, for instance, it could potentially target a range of targets in the U.S.


  • While the Chinese focus is evidently on U.S. capabilities, which China interprets as a potential threat which can be the same case for India also.


  • India might, in turn, consider developing some of these technologies which will create dilemmas for Islamabad (Pakistan).


  • The cascading strategic competition then looks unavoidable at this point, and that is worrisome. And yet, it might be difficult to avoid some of these developments given their dual use.



However, there is a need to ask how survivable India’s naval platforms are given the feverish developments of advanced sensory capability in the neighbourhood.

It is in this context that we must revisit the government’s decision to set up the agencies to address cyber and space challenges.

Moreover, reports indicate that the Space Command will be headed by the Air Force, the Army will head the Special Operations Command, and the Navy will be given the responsibility of the Cyber Command.

If indeed that happens, their effectiveness in terms of tri-service synergy will be much less than anticipated.

Even more so, given that the higher defence decision-making in the country is still civil services-dominated, despite the recent attempts to correct it, the effectiveness of these agencies will remain weak.

We can be sure of exponential growth in disruptive technologies and that the business landscape will shift faster than any year previous.

Therefore, proper timely steps must be taken by India to act as a deterrent to avoid any conflict situations with technologically developed countries.