An essay on "National Security and Evolution of Warfare - A Psychosocial Perspective" by Rudrani Ghoshal demonstrates the psychosocial outlook in the context of the transformation of warfare and the transition towards soft power.

An essay on "National Security and Evolution of Warfare - A Psychosocial Perspective" by Rudrani Ghoshal demonstrates the psychosocial outlook in the context of the transformation of warfare and the transition towards soft power. India is a beautiful amalgamation of diverse cultures. It is one of the only two civilizational states alongside China that survived the test of time and the wrath of recurrent invasions. Since 1947, India has emerged as one of the most prominent powers that preach the practice of humanity, peace, and harmony. However, contrastingly, it has repeatedly been breached of its territorial integrity by its neighbours, namely, China and Pakistan.

India's national security has thus been subjected to constant transformation and evolution. As the nature of warfare and national security threats evolved, which was highlighted by our first CDS, Late Gen. Bipin Rawat, to be threefold, India has also moulded its national security policy and practices towards soft power. In this aspect, the author highlights the manner in which the psychosocial response plays a significant role in determining the responses towards the different aspects of India's national security.


Kautilya in the Arthashastra said,

"Dharma is law in its widest sense—spiritual, moral, ethical, and temporal. Every individual, whether the ruler or the ruled, is governed by his or her own dharma. To the extent that society respected dharma, society protected itself; to the extent, society offended it, society undermined"

India, rather, Bharat, is the land that bears the origin of "Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam", which translates to – The world is our family. And since the transfer of power from the British crown to the Indian Administration, it has been an integral aspect of India's Foreign Policy. Being one of the only two existing civilizational states, India vows to project the halo of its venerated ancient wisdom across the globe and contribute its bit to the regulation of bilateral or multilateral affairs for the welfare of the global community. For centuries, India, rather Bharat, has been making revolutionary contributions in every sphere of life fathomable to mankind and been leading the world in the true sense, like a veracious "Vishwa Guru". The same goes with the administrative principles and procedures that had been predominant and exceedingly efficient amongst the magnificent Indian emperors and rulers.

Kautilya's Arthashastra is one of the best examples to support this claim. And since ancient times, the concept and practice of maintaining diplomatic relationships and applying force against neighbouring rulers have thrived in the history of Indian Administration. Diplomacy and foreign policy, however, happen to be extensions of warfare.

In Arthashastra, Kautilya makes an assumption as a political realist that - every nation acts to maximize power and self-interest. Therefore moral principles or obligations have little or no force in actions among nations. It is further observed that it is good to have an ally however, the alliance's effectiveness lasts only as long as it is in that ally's and one's own self-interest. This is attributed to the prioritization of securing the self-interest of the ally in the event of amplification of the power of the enemy.

This is relevant to India, especially in the present context when the global community is experiencing multiple alliances, where a country is a member of multiple groupings based on its converging and diverging interests with the other nations. These groupings can be attributed to globalisation's rapidly evolving standards and the rising threats as a consequence. While on the one hand, the civilization is advancing towards a more inclusive, technologically advanced, and prosperous future but on the other hand, it is leaving behind a trail of consequent menaces that are often unanticipated and overlooked, thus creating a window for evolving nature of contemporary security threats at both national and international levels.

It was pointed out by the ex-chief of Army Staff, General M.M. Naravane, that the lessons from the past are extremely important for the zeal of looking forward to the future. The present events are but trailers of future conflicts, especially pertaining to those on cyberspace and the informational battlefield, and it is observed to be played in our borders that are active and unsettled.

National Security - Challenges and Opportunities

The history of warfare in India goes as back as thousands of years and is well documented in our ancient scriptures. The Indian epic Mahabharata gives an elaborate account of the war of Kurukshetra and also happens to be the source for the laws of warfare that are now codified in various international legislations, especially the Geneva Conventions. A war could be waged only for a righteous cause and was appropriately called Dharma Yudha, implying a virtuous and just war. The rules of engagement were well defined to restrain the personal whims of the nobles and soldiers. The Arthashastra, a treatise written by Kautilya in the fourth century BC, went on to explain the unmistakable linkages between statecraft and warfare.

Over time, the nature of warfare has evolved based primarily on the simultaneous evolution in the nature of threats, and thus came the concept of modernization of weaponry. The inception of the 21st century witnessed a massive change in the global security environment. Considerable uncertainty and anxiety seeped in with the fading out of the traditional and the already known and anticipated security threats. Post cold war became a quest for a single – superpower domination. The events post 11 September 2001 have created a new security environment in which there is a paradigm shift in defining the nature of conflicts and in understanding the concept of national security.

The lines between peace and war have become blurred and a large number of challenges, both military and non-military, have become vital national security concerns. International terrorism now occupies an important slot on the security agenda of all nations. And not so surprisingly, security threats became a monopoly of the US perception. With this scenario, India, like other countries, started reassessing the security estimates to develop long-term security strategies.

For India, the security challenges were further exceptional and multipronged. Given its unique geographical location the defence perimeter for India – a 3310 Kms of Indo-Pak border and the 3917 Kms of India – China border, there's ever-looming unrest over the territorial integrity. Most of these border areas are subject to recurrent disputes and some of them encompass one of the most dangerous terrains, like the glacial Himalayan region or the Rann swamps in the west, or the dense forests in the eastern and the northeastern regions. India also has a coastline of over 7000 Km and that accounts for a substantive maritime threat as almost 95% of India's international trade are through the waterways. The security of the Islands under India is also crucial as they provide for the sea lanes of communication.

Geography is just one causal factor for National security threats. The evolution of technology and the proliferation of weapons bringing about a massive change in the conventional warfare system, through the introduction of a more treacherous hybrid warfare, is a matter of immediate concern not just for India but for the entire international community. It was pointed out by Late Gen. Rawat that the unpredictability and the increasingly violent nature of future conflicts stand on the edifice of significantly contested and uniformly connected battlefields. Technology is the prime determinant of the nature of future wars, there remains a high possibility of significant asymmetric components for the conventional conflicts that will lead to hybrid warfare.

Hybrid warfare is an amalgamation of the lethality of conventional warfare and the intensity of irregular warfare and holds true to its name not just theoretically or logically but also in terms of its capabilities and effects. The likely aim of India's adversaries is to destabilize India by employing varied threats which are likely to manifest predominantly during peacetime and intensify during the war in conjunction with the employment of conventional forces.

Primarily, when it comes to hybrid warfare, India's main adversaries are China and Pakistan and the kind of threats posed by them are multifaceted. Pakistan, since 1947 has been actively engaging in hybrid warfare against India by fuelling and instigating the separatist sentiments in Kashmir, spreading fake news, propaganda and anti-government sentiments, and suppressing and exploiting the populace in the region, infiltration, and terrorist activities. China, on the other hand, is significantly more tactical.

China predominantly and gradually undertook a multi-instrument strategy to establish the legal basis for its claims over the South China sea. In the Indian context, this strategy is seen as particularly functional in China's claim over the Pangong Tso, Galwan, and North Sikkim, which highlights China's strategy of Grey Zone, along with several other strategies adopted by it, namely, the Salami slicing strategy, Fait accompli strategy and the strategic gradualism.

An important aspect of these concepts is that they are significantly vague and their inherent inconclusiveness makes their distinction from each other rather challenging. This also poses as a disadvantage for the other countries to effectively comprehend these strategies. The Chinese strategies reflect the philosophies of Sun Tzu. and this orientation contributes to their suitability for unrestricted warfare in political, economic as well as resource warfare. To understand India's national security threat from China it is important to consider its strength which lies in the economic domain, diplomacy, and in their politico-military hierarchy which is highly synergized along with the technological strength and the ability of psychological manipulation which prevents direct confrontations with its adversaries.

This is a determinant of the transformation of the nature of warfare as the evolution of the national security threats for India. China's assistance to Pakistan, especially in the sphere of space and cyber warfare is yet another opportunity for India to capitalize on its Research and Development capabilities by retaining the brilliant minds in the subcontinent. In this context, interestingly the outcomes of India's national security policy are said to be significantly influenced by the personality of the official framing the policy based on their perception of the threat and its assessment. Here, the Tri-Guna theory, which enunciates the three basic dimensions of human nature, namely, Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas, is observed to play an important role in reflecting the civilizational connections in the National security policy.

The recent change in warfare paradigm has been rather evident in instances like the Israel-Palestine skirmishes or the Armenia – Azerbaijan conflict and most recently in the prolonged Ukraine-Russia conflict. The Indian armed forces have embraced rapid modernization and progressive upgradation of weapons, keeping a hawk's eye on the technological capabilities. This aspiration of indigenous technology production in alignment with Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan by the Indian armed forces has also been backed by the National Budget, which witnessed an increased allocation of funds.

Several initiatives have been taken to ensure optimum preparedness against the National security threats faced by India in the form of iDEX (Innovation for Defence Excellence), DISC (Defence India Start-up Challenge) along with the integration of Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Quantum computing, Augmented reality, and Data Analytics techniques in technologies like Satellite Communication, Surveillance, UAVs, hypersonic missiles, advances sensors and in the different aspects of cyber security. It is said that a missed opportunity is the most expensive loss and India has been resilient and persistent in evolving in National security policies to keep up with the transforming nature of warfare and has been capitalizing on the diplomatic relationships which have been prominent amongst the International community, especially in the recent years.

The Psychosocial Perspective of National security

The domain of national security is ever evolving, and this continuous and rapid evolution is attributed to the technological transformation that is happening worldwide. The perception of national security threats, although primarily constitutes those pertaining to the national borders, however a more complex and interesting nature of this threat is observed from the psychosocial perspective. The psychological and psychosocial perspective is just as interesting as it is complex and has been scarcely explored. With respect to national security, the psychosocial response is the integration and application of psychological concepts in National security. Socio-political stability is essential to immune a country from security threats, whether they are internal or external. It was pointed out in a recent study that the conflicts are realities that are co-constructed and reflected through protests against the social, political, and developmental changes in India.

Thus, the resolution of these conflicts might be effective when done through deconstruction. Another parameter to assess the psychosocial reaction to national security is the sense of national identity, especially from the perspective of the youth. Currently, India enjoys a demographic advantage with the highest percentage of the youth population and thus it is important to understand their perception of national identity especially to determine the nature of internal security threats to frame an effective national policy. It was observed that external events, namely media served as a significant determinant of the sense of national identity in the youth when compared to their self-reference.

However, it is often observed that the sense of identity is a result of historical and contextual factors and this is significantly reflected in the attitude and commitment of certain communities towards their services in the Indian armed forces. In terms of external national security threats which India encounters primarily from the borders it shares with China and Pakistan, it is the Indian armed forces who stand as the first line of defence. It is thus important to ensure their psychosocial response to the national security threats which will reflect in policies aimed at ensuring their motivation and morale in combat roles. Even when it comes to retrieving information from hostile detainees during interrogation, the psychological persuasion technique has well widely discussed and accepted.

To understand the psychosocial response to the issue of national security it is thus important to incorporate a multidimensional approach that essentially includes the social and political aspects with respect to internal thereat and those emerging from the borders. The social and cultural diversity of India, where the ethnic and linguistic are essential components of the perceived identity of an individual, also plays an important role in determining this response, especially in the Indian internal security scenario.

Along similar lines, the National Security advisor had highlighted that the power position of a country that earlier was achieved through wars has transitioned significantly toward the application of soft power to achieve the same object. The concept of soft powers stands on the edifice of the capability to influence the mind of the population at large by managing their perception, along with efficient diplomacy and intelligence. He further enunciated the present national security phenomenon as a war of minds and how it's the citizens' responsibility to capitalize on their minds' capabilities, which would in turn serve as an impactful determinant of the blow of the psychological warfare waged by the adversaries of India. It is thus evident that the psychosocial component in terms of national security response is an emerging sphere and has immense potential.


India, as a civilization, has been the preacher of 'Vasudhaivakutumbakam', which translates to the perception of the entire world as one united family. Time and again India has also proved its support for the promotion of peace and harmony through its active participation in humanitarian and peacekeeping activities across the world. However, as is evident from history that when it comes to national security, there is no guarantee that what goes around will eventually come around. India is no exception and has repeatedly breached its territorial integrity by its neighbours, namely Pakistan and China. However, interestingly, some lessons could be learned from the commitment of Chinese nationals toward their national security issues.

The only difference here is that India can achieve the same democratically by generating the perception that social, cultural, and economic diversity is in fact our greatest strength which unifies us under the same national identity. This is possible if the psychosocial responses generated towards the national security issues are explored more comprehensively while maintaining coherence with the objective of military psychology.

The psychosocial perspective can be considerably complex owing to the difficulty in developing it as a generalized concept even in a uniform population in terms of diversity. However, the perspective of national security has evolved from traditional warfare toward the countries establishing their dominance through soft power. It is important for India as well to explore this subject further. This will be beneficial for establishing India as a superpower in the coming years, beyond the parameters of the economy and military power, and subsequently, assist in formulating an efficient National security policy. After all, the dimmed civilizational glory has to be restored through the pride of the Indian citizens in the collective national identity in a much brighter and stronger sense.

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Rudrani Ghosal

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