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Is South Asia Moving Towards Contactless Wars? – OpEd

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Since February of this year, Russia has started a special military operation in Ukraine in order to neutralize the enemy. Moscow has referred to the operation to “eliminate a serious threat and demilitarize Russia’s southern neighbor. For the last four months, Russian and Ukrainian forces are battling and the losses are numerous on both sides. 

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Meanwhile the whole West is helping Ukraine with military aid, equipment and financial aid to rein in Russia, but no such results have been seen, despite the additional factor of keeping Moscow isolated from international market.

This war could have been contactless as Moscow has world’s best arms/ammunitions and military. But in order to get its interests secured, the forces were brought into the battle field. Similarly, in Afghan war, United States and allied forces brought in their armies in Afghanistan on the name of war on terror, but left out by leaving a bleak future for the people of the country. 

As it is reported that all the powers are importing arms to cement their defence capabilities but it consume a larger chunk of the countries budget. Same is the case with India, it has a large military and the country remain one of the largest importer of arms. 

To minimize the defence expenditures, India has announced a recruitment plan, called Agneepath, also known as the “path of fire” on 14 June. PM Modi’s government announced an overhaul of recruitment for India’s 1.38 million-strong armed forces, looking to bring down the average age of personnel and reduce pension expenditure.

The proposed scheme will bring in men and women between the ages of 17-and-a-half and 21 for a four-year tenure, with only a quarter retained for longer periods. But the aspirants, who had dreams of joining the forces, were shattered, with analyst criticizing the short sightedness decision. 

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The whole country was on protest and the youth were saying that they were cheated, wondering where they will go after four years of service.

India’s National Security Advisor (NSA), Ajit Doval, in an interview said that the scheme will not be rolled back, adding that there is a change in the armed forces’ make-up is necessary if the country wants to prepare for future wars and conflicts. NSA Ajit Doval explained that “The idea of war is undergoing a great change. We are going toward contactless wars, and also going towards the war against the invisible enemy. Technology is taking over at a rapid pace. If we have to prepare for tomorrow, then we have to change”.

The term of contactless wars and invisible enemy can be understood to some extent, but when it comes to India, it is complex. The country is in logger heads with China in Arunachal Pradesh and Line of Actual Control. With Pakistan, though it had agreed to hold the ceasefire, but the recent past shows, the normalcy is hard to be maintained. In Kashmir valley, its armed forces are on their toes, when it comes to fight the militants and rebels.

In India itself, the issues in Assam, Nagaland and other areas are facing insurgency from time to time. In such case the idea of contactless wars and fighting the invisible enemy is hard to digest. Though Indian central leadership argues that it is best for the country’s defense and economy, but many believe it is politics, and now has been trumped by the reality of economics.  

The government later announced that quarter of forces recruited through the scheme will be hired in government departments, but the stark reality is otherwise. With the visible religious, political and ethnic fault lines, the decision can backfire. Minorities are experiencing the diminishing pluralism and violence against them is on the rise. 

The effect of India’s “Agniveer” proposal will not solely be on its military or the economy. It will also have a direct bearing on Indian society. The demobilized short-term contractual soldiers could provide a major recruiting pool for such groups who wish to use violent means to pursue their ideological goals. The consequences of such an eventuality will be catastrophic.

Qudrat Ullah is a freelancer and media activist. He writes on political developments and security issues with special focus on South Asia and the region.

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