Former Deputy NSA Strategy Nadia Schadlow said, “The space between peace and war is not an empty space but a landscape churning with political, economical and military changes and thus it’s important to emphasize on this period.”
War can take many forms and it’s an ever-evolving process and with blurring of lines between war and peace, the armed forces are faced with a quintessential dilemma created by the shift from a conventional State vs State warfare to hybrid warfare between State vs State or State vs Non-State actors.
Hybrid warfare or non-linear warfare refers to an intense political, economic, information, military operations just short of a conventional war, the efforts are ambiguous in nature and it is difficult to understand the extent to which it can take place. The tactics used are just below the threshold of a conventional war but can go on for a long period of time.
For example, China implements the Salami Slicing strategy which is a military strategy that uses small provocations, none of which would constitute a large scale conflict. These are small actions by China, wherein they stake a claim on the territory and keep repeating its claims and then they bring the conflict to a stage where the region becomes a disputed region between China and the other country, like in the South China Sea or in the Ladakh region with India.
The conflict in Ladakh in 2020, is an example of China’s use of the Salami Slicing strategy, to claim a large area near the Pangong Tso lake, the Galwan Valley, Depsang Plains, Gogra Posts and Hot Springs, which resulted in India being forced to negotiate with China and therefore China using its military and economic power to gain leverage in a conflict.
“He who occupies the field of battle first and awaits his enemy is at ease, and he who comes later to the scene and rushes into the fight is weary”- Sun Tzu
India’s Special Frontier Force (SFF) conducted Operation Snow Leopard on 29th-30th August along the Kailash Range and the south bank of Pangong Tso lake after China failed to restore the status quo in eastern Ladakh which resulted in India gaining an upper hand in the conflict and therefore helping India during disengagement talks.
The hybridization of warfare is a combination of both military and non-military resources like the use of information and technology for propaganda, hacking, technological warfare using state of the art technology, meddling in elections like in the US through ‘fake news’ and use of “social bots”- computer-generated accounts masquerading as real users to spread misinformation on social media platforms.
Use of economic sanctions to gain leverage in a conflict. The use of CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act) by the US, a federal law that imposed sanctions on Iran, North Korea, Russia, includes sanctions against countries that engage in significant transactions with Russia’s defence and intelligence sector.
The US barred Turkey from its F-35 aircraft programme after Turkey’s purchase of the S-400 missile defence system from Russia. The US sanctions on Iran forced the middle eastern country to come to talks over its nuclear project and thus forcing Iran to sign the nuclear deal (JCPOA 2015) to get a waiver from sanctions.
The space between War and Peace
The concept of China’s peaceful rise or China’s “peaceful development” was an official party policy adopted under Hu Jintao’s regime. It was an assurance to the world that China’s rise as a nation will not pose a threat to international peace and security. This was aimed to create a narrative around China’s rise as beneficial for a ‘peaceful’ world order post the collapse of the USSR or post the Tiananmen square incident which saw the communist country’s attempt to quash a democratic movement.
With the start of the second decade of the 21st century, the world is facing the ramifications of this ‘rise’ primarily under Xi Jinping.
The Chinese PLA believes that future wars will be marked by three “non” warfare: Non Contact, Non-linear and Non-symmetric or Asymmetric warfare.
Credits: Getty Images
Non-contact warfare: A state of warfare where the advanced adversary uses its weapons and aggressive military posturing to intimidate the enemy. There is no contact between the forces but the show of weapons, use of media and information for building a narrative that the forces are well equipped to eliminate any threat and cannot be trifled. Methods are used to avoid any direct contact because of an implicit understanding that any large scale conflict is not beneficial and strong psychological impact on the opponent will act as a deterrent.
Non-Linear: As mentioned earlier, it’s the hybridization of warfare with ambiguity regarding the rules of war and the blurring of lines between an enemy and a non-combatant. Nonlinear conflict is the simultaneous deployment of multiple, complementary military and non-military warfare tactics.
Non-symmetric: Warfare between parties whose relative military power differs. A conflict between a strong powerful state and a relatively less powerful state or a conflict between state and non-state insurgents or armed militants. Since a warring state does not engage directly considering the cost of war, the use of proxies creates non- symmetric warfare. For Example, Pakistan’s active support to terrorists, militants in Kashmir to fight their war against India.
The Chinese mouthpiece Global Times’ failed attempts to create a narrative around their military’s prowess to psychologically counter India shows how they use botched up information to gain an advantage. China initially denied any casualty during the Galwan clash, whereas the Indian Army released an official statement after it. China violated its 1960 official claim line in the Galwan valley and then claimed the entire Galwan Valley which it hadn’t done before in order to counter India’s road development in the region.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh gave a statement in the Parliament, where he said that China continues to “occupy 38,000 sq. km of land in Ladakh.” He said while our forces strictly abide by the LAC for peace and tranquility, this has not been reciprocated by China and that there is always an inconsistency in China’s words and their actions. This was India’s counter to China’s claim that called India’s preemptive actions in Ladakh on 29th-30th August as an attempt to change the status quo and accused India of crossing the LAC. The way the world is viewing warfare is rapidly changing and it’s important that the Indian Military acknowledges these new, hybrid forms of warfare and equips itself to tackle it.
High Altitude Warfare School, Gulmarg
Past Perfect, Future Uncertain? By Vivek Chadha (Chapter: The case of China)