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Certain countries seized opportunity to extend military, economic clout amid global struggle against COVID19: Army Vice Chief

NEW DELHI (PTI):  In the midst of the global struggle against the coronavirus pandemic, certain countries seized the "opportunity" to extend their military, economic and political influence, Vice Chief of Army Staff Lt Gen SK Saini said on Wednesday.

In a virtual address at an event organised by the National Defence College of Bangladesh, Lt Gen Saini said future wars may gravitate towards zero cost wars wherein a "very virulent pathogen" may immobilise a high-technology arsenal.

He also mentioned that weaker militaries will continue to seek an asymmetric advantage in an unrestricted warfare milieu while social media will continue to be the "vector of choice" for the battle of narratives.

The Vice Chief of Army Staff extensively deliberated on the overall global impact of the coronavirus pandemic on military and security challenges, and ways and means to tackle them.

While countries are struggling to rein in the virus, certain countries have seized the opportunity to extend their influence militarily, economically and politically which does not augur well for the world community, he said.

His comments are seen as an apparent reference to China which drew criticism for trying to expand military influence in the South China Sea as well as Indo-Pacific in the last few months, notwithstanding the pandemic.

India and China are locked in a border row in eastern Ladakh for nearly seven months which was triggered by the Chinese military's aggressive behaviour.

Strategic security of most nations have been impacted due to reduction in funds for military capability and projects since vast sums of money have been diverted for urgent health requirements, Lt Gen Saini was quoted as saying by the Army in a press release.

He said the armed forces must devise a strategy to deal with challenges like delays in delivery of military hardware owing to halt of production due to a variety of reasons like unavailability of the workforce during the pandemic.

To effectively deal with the health crisis in the region, the Vice Chief of the Army said, the militaries must evolve a defence cooperation plan since they will become the first responders to such challenges.

He also called for technology-enabled solutions for integrated identification, control and management of such threats.

The Vice Chief of Army stressed the need to re-invigorate the defence industrial base to meet sustainment and modernisation needs and to focus on force preservation and readiness by giving a fresh impetus to health security .

He said that use of technology in training, development of digital communication and sharing of best practices among militaries must be the focus to tackle challenges associated with COVID-19.

Referring to de-globalisation , Lt Gen Saini said, Many countries fuelled by ultra-nationalism are experiencing an accelerated process of de-globalisation leading to the closing of borders for the movement of goods, people, services and even ideas .


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