Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has had many impacts, but one area which merits more attention is whether it has produced effects sufficient to alter our understanding of warfare.
However, there are some key takeaways which have implications for the Indian military, which uses a significant amount of Russian-origin weapons systems.
- The key takeaway for India from Russia’s unimpressive military performance is to invest more in sensors, electronic warfare, greater digitization, satellite communications and unmanned systems not just for reconnaissance and surveillance, but also attack missions.
- This does not require dispensing with legacy platforms, but rather making them more lethal and effective. India will also need greater missile forces to enhance its offensive capability.
- The Indian armed forces will need to be proficient at combined arms warfare. No amount of advanced technology can substitute or compensate for low morale and training, weak command, poor tactics and strategy.
- In the recent budget, the government has created a massive scope in research and development for domestic manufacturers of defence goods by earmarking 68 per cent of the capital.
- The defence ministry has already rolled out new schemes for promoting research and has been careful about doing it independently and not through the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
- Modern warfare has more tech-friendly. Therefore, massive investments to boost technology in the country would be one of the essential steps, rather than re-inventing the old wheel.
Three claims by propents:
There are at least three claims made by proponents that the conflict has heralded a shift in warfare.
- The first is that the battle tank has been rendered obsolescent, because of the highly effective performance of anti-tank missiles such as the American-built Javelin or Advanced Anti-Tank Weapon System in visiting destruction upon Russian T-90s.
- A second claim is that emerging technologies such as cyber and digital technology, Artificial Intelligence, remotely piloted systems such as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, and space-borne capabilities have rendered obsolescent legacy platforms such as fighter planes, warships, and artillery weapons.
- Emerging technologies cannot be a substitute for legacy platforms; they can at best enhance their performance.
- If precision firepower is to be delivered against adversary targets, legacy systems will matter for launch of ordinance.
- Emerging technologies can enable better Command, Control, Communication, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, help optimize situational awareness, reduce decision time for commanders from detecting threats to responding to them, and augment sensor to shooter capabilities.
- Infantry plays a key role in providing protection to any advancing tank column and retaliating when threatened. This doesn’t herald a change in warfare, it is just poor tactics.
- Finally, the failure of the Russians to effectively apply air power botched the invasion from the outset. This has convinced proponents that air power is not consequential.
- A corollary to this is the low morale among Russian soldiers consisting of a large number of conscripts and poor command.
- Military effectiveness is critically a function of troop morale and command competence. These two vital variables have very little to do with technology or logistics.
Strategic Lessons for India from Russia-Ukraine Crisis:
The Russia Ukrainian conflict has been an eye-opener for the rest of the world and India.
- First and foremost, by now, India must have understood that nobody would come to help India in case military tensions get out of hand with our east neighbor China.
- A similar case is advantageous to India if Pakistan and our western neighbor start acting up, and the West is not likely to enter into war with China for India’s sake.
- While a lot of international condemnation is expected, as is happening against Russia, nobody would provide military support or enter into war for another country’s sake.
- On similar lines, even though Russia has been a close ally of India for decades, the growing proximity between Moscow and Beijing is public.
- Therefore, any possibility of Russia playing the active role of a mediator between India and China is unlikely.
- Moreover, even though India has succeeded in a neutral global stand until now, it might not be able to continue this for long.
- US, Russia and China are amongst the most substantial powers, and even if India does not join a bloc, it would have to accept which country it was closer to.
- After Prime Minister Modi came to power, his vision was a self-sufficient India. In dynamic times, India would reap benefits if it strives for ‘Atmanirbharta’.
- India’s wars of tomorrow would have to be fought with Indian equipment only.
- The Russia-Ukraine crisis has clearly shown the vulnerability of depending upon another nation for military equipment.
We are heading toward a more divided and unstable world geo-politically and geo-economically.
The existing global structures that in any case needed reform are breaking up.
A new Cold War has begun. The crippling of Russian power as a result of the crisis which the West is aiming for will create a void that China will fill.
Europe’s ambition to develop a degree of strategic autonomy has been quashed with NATO’s rejuvenation under American pressure and internal European divisions.
The US is reaching out to China to persuade it not to support Russia on Ukraine and if it succeeds- for which China will extract a price- the stage would have been set for a G 2 world that China aspires for.
This can impact on the Indo-Pacific concept and the QUAD. India will now pursue an even more nimble-footed foreign policy to protect its interests in an increasingly challenging external environment.