India needs to be prepared for the new-age 4G wars

Story by  ATV | Posted by  Aasha Khosa | Date 26-02-2022
National Security Adviser Ajit Doval at the Passing out Parade of the National Police Academy
National Security Adviser Ajit Doval at the Passing out Parade of the National Police Academy



 Pallab Bhattacharyya


In his address to the IPS probationers of the 73rd batch at SVPNPA Hyderabad, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval highlighted the issue of 4th Generation Warfare (4GW) and said "Wars have ceased to become an effective instrument for achieving political or military objectives. They are too expensive and unaffordable and at the same time, there is uncertainty about their outcome. But it is the civil society that can be subverted; that can be divided; that can be manipulated to hurt the interest of a nation." 


NSA’s comments drew a lot of criticism in the media and social media. Activist Aruna Roy, an IAS officer of Doval’s batch, strongly criticised Doval for “arbitrarily laying out a new political theory of war and national security, with dangerous implications and potential consequences.” Roy who relinquished IAS in the year 1975 and became a social activist feels Doval “neither bothered to define the civil society he wants his officers to be at war with nor explained what gave him the authority to declare a ‘fourth-generation war’ on our people. He should explain himself more, but it is a theory that legitimises efforts of the political executive and the private sector as nation-building; and paints opposition or adversarial advocacy by organised citizens’ groups (civil society) as undermining development and nationalism. He wants to short-circuit the democratic, social, and development safeguards in the Constitution.”


The heat generated by NSA’s speech was also caustically contested by retired IPS officer and Sahitya Academy Award-winning poet Keki N Daruwalla, who said Doval’s focus was not on suborned TV channels propagating fake news and churning a new narrative on almost every national event; it was on those people who constituted the civil society in India as if they are hell-bent on subverting the nation.


In the light of the debate, the four generations of warfare must be explained. The various levels of wars fought in history can be explained as the first, second, and third generation of warfare where the arms and ammunition, tactics, etc were used. The idea of the Fourth Generation of warfare was created by a team of analysts from the USA led by William S Lind. The 4GW, as prescribed by Lind and his team, dwelt on decentralized forms of warfare thereby blurring the lines between war and politics, combatants and civilians. Instead of fighting the prohibitively expensive war, the nations find it easier to wage war by dint of decentralized modes of warfare through NGOs, extremist organizations, or other disgruntled groups operating in the adversary nation.


The role of NGOs in India has come under scrutiny in the Intelligence Bureau (IB) report dated June 3, 2014 “The concerted effort by select foreign-funded NGOs to take down Indian developmental projects”. The 21-page report named seven agitations and areas as pursuing ‘anti-developmental activities’. These are: Nuclear infrastructure, Coal-fired power plants, Genetically modified organisms, Posco in Orissa, Vedanta in Orissa, Narmada Bachao Andolan, and agitations against extractive industries in the North East. 

The report says that due to the anti-developmental activities of many organizations India’s GDP growth fell by at least 2-3%.  


This becomes more relevant because of the geopolitical situation arising out of the tussle between Russia and Ukraine over the latter’s willingness to join NATO. Despite being a former Superpower, Russia is finding it difficult to mount a full-fledged attack on Ukraine. It’s no secret that Russia has been using the separatist leaders in eastern Ukraine and the pro-Russian government in Ukraine’s Donetsk region to wage the proxy 4th generation war. We can draw a parallel with Lashkar-e-Taiba’s attack in Mumbai in the year 2008 with the support of Pakistan’s ISI. Similarly, the attacks mounted by extremist organizations of the Northeast are sometimes strongly believed to be the handiwork of the Chinese intelligence agencies. 


Fifth-generation warfare is conducted primarily through non-military actions like social engineering, misinformation, cyber-attacks, Artificial Intelligence, etc. The misinformation campaign by some media houses as pointed out by Keki N Daruwalla and also in social media platforms indicate that humanity has already entered this phase of warfare. Therefore, Doval’s remarks should be viewed through this perspective. The policemen need to be trained as per the changing trends throughout their careers. Unfortunately, this is not happening in India.


Albert Einstein's famous quote should be a grave reminder to the police and policymaker- “Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death”.


(Pallab Bhattacharyya is a former director-general of police, Special Branch, and erstwhile Chairman, APSC. Views expressed by him are personal)