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Sri Lanka Army

Defenders of the Nation

29th August 2019 22:12:50 Hours

“Modern War Has Neither Start Date or End Date” - Keynote Address

Delivering the keynote address, Mr Nitin A. Gokhale, an alumni of the Asia-Pacific Centre for Security Studies in Hawaii and a media entrepreneur, strategic affairs analyst and author of books on military history, insurgencies and wars opined that some of the asymmetric wars have cropped up from weak states and the approach for traditional core values appear to be not applicable.

Mr Gokhale added that traditionally the national security is always viewed in the prism of combating external threats and meeting external challenges. Use of force for protecting the core value of a national democracy is therefore diverse and tolerance is defined as national security.

In recent years, the national disclosure and national security has undergone several transformations and its scope has widened and it is no longer confined to levels just matching military power with a neighbour. Now, experts are talking about multi-dimensional and multi-cultural approaches to define the ‘national security’.

In the past two decades, in fact arose well-organized and armed non-state actors and they have been commonly seen, involved in security matters. In such scenario, it is difficult for individual states to disclose specific limitations or launch responses. “Some of those asymmetric challenges have emerged from weak states which had been bogged up by world dynamics until the 1990s,” he pointed out.

“Others related to the arise of global terrorist networks in this new reality victory in conventional battlefields are no longer transferred into the ‘mission victories’ and in conflicts, like in Afghanistan this is obvious, as we are witnessing. It is highly unlikely a formal surrender from the likes of ISIS similar to Bokoharam would take place.”

“Modern wars have neither start date or end date. We see alongside the rise of such non-state aggressors. However, strategic geo political competitions among a few economically powerful and regionally dominant states result in sail of Techtronic ships, like what happened during the cold war”.

Military therefore have to anticipate a mixture of symmetrical and asymmetrical conflicts, in which each new mission will likely to be involved in complex different environments, he said.

“Now, we are above to enter the 3rd decade of the 21st century, but many people are still stuck in the 20th century models and thinking security challenges that were obtained during those years”.

Refugee crisis, HLDR situations, peace-keeping, environmental problems, global health issues, humanitarian emergencies, technological developments, economic collapses, issues of demographics, decrease of natural resources lead to conflicts in modern societies and nations have to be prepared for combat against these more than how they comply with the tradition, he remarked.

A number of non-traditional security threats, health issues, water shortage, infections and non-infection and recent health issues and also the availability of inadequate health capacities are yet to be realized in the region. More than 3 billion people of the world are living under water stress in Africa, Middle East, South Asia and Northern China. “Most of the enemies of the nations are not from outsides but they are in within as mass migration, drug trafficking, natural climate disasters affect them”.

“In previous years, dominance was achieved by rationing information although the methods used those days are not accurate. Social media and other new internet processors pose a bigger threat and create new problems. Security Forces have to use the balancing openness. Cyber space, having more domain in comparison with land, sea, air and outer space is more challenging”.

“Hence, armed forces should be concerned over it and fully incorporate with proper digital networks and space assets in their capabilities. Future militaries need a range of capabilities in counter insurgency, nation-building, protection of populations, etc. “Non-state actors played some role in India and in Sri Lanka recently and those are eye-opening diversions”.

“I was in Sri Lanka to report the Eelam War - IV. In Eelam War - IV many lessons were learnt. The success of the Eelam War - IV was due to political, diplomatic and military sector operations. Future is always unpredictable and the next war will not come with any warning and it will be a time-tested one in the battle between both governments and the militaries. Therefore, the themes discussed in this ‘Defence Seminar’ are important to the whole world not only to Sri Lanka” Mr Gokhale underlined.

Here follows the full text of the keynote address;

His excellency President of Sri Lanka, Maithripala Sirisena, Secretary Defence, Sri Lanka’s Army Commander Gen Shavendra Silva, participants from around the world, serving and retired military officials, guests ladies and gentleman. I deem it a great privilege to stand before you and deliver the keynote address for the Colombo Defence Seminar 2019. I am honoured and humbled at the same time. Sri Lanka and Sri Lankan friends have always treated me with great affection ever since I first came here to report on Eelam War IV in 2006. Since then this country is like second home to me. Thank you Army commander for this opportunity to share my thoughts on how militaries should strive to achieve excellence in contemporary security scenario.

As this learned audience is well aware, traditionally national security was always viewed through the prism of combating external threats and meeting internal challenges. Use of force for protecting the core values of a nation—democracy, diversity and tolerance—was defined as national security. The security environment is however no longer linear or predictable. In recent years the discourse on national security has undergone a subtle transformation. Its scope has been widened. It is no longer confined to counting force levels or just matching military power with a neighbour. Now, experts talk about a multi-dimensional, multi-faceted approach to define National Security and meet multiple challenges. Well-organized and well-armed non-state actors have risen to prominence in the last 20 years. They have thrived because of the limitations of individual states in responding to them. Some of these challenges found a base among weak states, which were part of the Cold War military blocks. Others are a product of global terrorist networks.

As scholars have pointed out, in these new realities victories on conventional battlefields no longer translate to a point where one can say ’Mission Accomplished.’ These conflicts are without a start date or and end point—as we see currently in Afghanistan. Because these outfits are amorphous, there is no pact or treaty that emanates from an act of surrender. Indeed there is no act of surrender.

The global strategic context is also important to take into account. It is changing rapidly, driven by the speed of technology development, realignment of forces with the recent decline in the markets of the West along with emerging economic strength and rise of China and India. These developments require careful management of the current global redistribution of power and taking steps to engineer a suitable political equilibrium within a rising Asia.

Militaries the world over have to therefore anticipate a mix of symmetrical and asymmetrical conflicts in which each new mission will likely involve a complex mixture of conventional and novel doctrines and strategies.

Although the future always difficult to predict, it is imperative for militaries to prepare for it even if governments as a whole remain indifferent. We are about to enter the third decade of the 21st century, but many people are stuck in 20th century thinking about security challenges.

Ladies and gentleman, in coming years, major powers will be focused on the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, narcotics, and organized crime more than conventional armed conflicts. Information warfare, threats emanating from cyber space and aerospace will consume more national resources than ever before.

Rising regional powers like India will have to contend with regional conflicts and developments associated with them: refugee crises, peacekeeping, humanitarian emergencies, environmental problems, global health issues, technological developments, and economic collapse. Issues of demographics, including migration and health; depleting natural resources and degradation of environment will lead to conflicts. And nations will have to be prepared to combat these more than the traditional threats.

Very soon, more than half the world’s population will be urban. The number of people living in mega-cities--those containing more than 10 million inhabitants--will double to more than 400 million. The explosive growth of cities in developing countries will test the capacity of governments to stimulate the investment required to generate jobs and to provide the services, infrastructure and social supports necessary to sustain livable and stable environments.

There are a number of non-traditional security threats to take care of. Health for one. Water shortage for another. Developing countries are likely to experience a surge in both infectious and noninfectious diseases and in general will have inadequate health care capacities and spending.

Nearly half the world’s population--more than 3 billion people--will live in countries that are ‘water-stressed’--having less than 1,700 cubic meters of water per capita per year--mostly in Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and northern China. So the challenges to national security come not just from the adversary across the border but also enemies within: Disease, hunger, natural calamities, mass migration and lopsided development.

Meeting these challenges and not just guarding the borders will constitute National Security. Like Comprehensive National Power, National Security is all encompassing. Among the security challenges requiring urgent attention, terrorism is the most pressing real and eminent threat; especially from externally sponsored and state-assisted cross-border terrorism. Home-grown terrorism, both complements and adds to the burden.

Note has to be taken of the nexus that exists between terrorist outfits, criminal gangs involved with drug trafficking, gun-running, pushing of fake currency and irregular movement of persons across national borders. This creates a very nefarious network of crime and threat to security that requires a very comprehensive and refined approach. For instance, relevant data and information on the activities of all these elements will need to be compiled, analysed and assessed as a base for supporting preparation of counter-measures by the concerned agencies. Needless to say this requires coordinated efforts by the intelligence agencies, para-military forces and all arms of the government.

The 21st century is marked by an abundance of information. In previous years, dominance was achieved through rationing information, exercising information control, censorship and propaganda. Such methods are not practical or prudent in the contemporary world. There is a constant increase in the number of sources of information which cannot be muzzled and have to be managed. The security forces therefore will have to focus on balancing openness with security to exploit the power of the media, both tactically and strategically.

As our world gets transformed, the character of economies change and technology evolves, the nature of conflicts and the objectives of war will also change. We know that old rivalries can play out in new theatres such as space and cyber. And, new technologies offer us new ways to be more effective against both traditional and new challenges. So, militaries must be ready for the present and prepare for the future.

Cyberspace is today the fifth domain of human activity, in addition to land, sea, air and outer space. Our dependence upon cyberspace for social, economic, governance, and security functions has also grown exponentially. Unfettered access to information through a global inter-connected Internet empowers individuals and governments, and it poses new challenges to the privacy of individuals and to the capability of Governments and administrators of cyberspace tasked to prevent its misuse. The govt’s job is complicated by the unique characteristics of cyberspace. It is borderless in nature, both geographically and functionally; anonymity and the difficulty of attribution; the fact that for the present the advantage is with offense rather than defence; and, the relatively anarchic nature of this domain.

The future needs forces that are agile, mobile and driven by technology, not just human valour. Militaries need capabilities to win swift wars, for we will not have the luxury of long drawn battles. Armed forces must fully incorporate the power of digital networks and space assets into their capabilities. Equally, they must be prepared to defend them, for they will be the first targets of the adversaries.

Senior military leaders must have experience of tri-service commands, experience in technology-driven environment and exposure to the full spectrum of challenges – from terrorism to strategic. We need military commanders who not only lead brilliantly in the field, but are also thought leaders who guide our forces and security systems into the future.

Militaries of the future will have to play many roles. They must have the ability to do force projection, possess effective deterrence and have the ability to conduct high-intensity warfare, they must also have the soft power to contribute in nation building, CI-CT operations and winning hearts and mind. An all of government approach coupled with intellectual adaptability will be needed for future military leaders to succeed in an uncertain, unexplored and unknown terrain that will characterise the battlefields of the next decade. There is no uniform template to apply to every emerging situation. A nuanced and ‘horses for courses,’ approach will be needed to be successful in the coming conflicts.

The conference theme has been chosen with great care. The sub-themes cover almost everything that militaries the world over will face in coming years. My compliments to the planners and organisers for giving deep thought to each of these subjects.

Many thanks for your patient hearing. Let me once again thank the Sri Lankan Army and its Commander for inviting me to this conference as the key note speaker.