From Myanmar to Pakistan, India’s possible security challenges in 2024

GS Paper II

News Excerpt:

“It is said that history does not repeat itself, but often rhymes.” The last two years are too recent to be consigned to “history”, but some of the most significant incidents of 2022 and 2023 in the strategic domain could be extrapolated to the composite Indian national security challenge in the year ahead.

Significant strategic turbulences in the global arena:

  • In 2022:
    • Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022:
      • This war has ousted the long-held belief that in the post-Cold War era, major nations would not go to war - much less over territory. 
      • This event has also established the fact that nuclear weapon states can enter into conventional warfare over contested territory.
        • And, if pushed to the wall, they may rattle their nuclear power.
    • Indian and Chinese military stand-off in Galwan Valley: 
      • Chinese armed forces violated the 1993 agreement to maintain peace along the LAC and moved into Galwan in the Ladakh region. 
      • Though both nations have not escalated the stand-off to a shooting war. 
  • In 2023:
    • Hamas terror attack and the brutal reprisal by Israel:
      • Hamas, a non-state entity (albeit with covert state support), stunned Israel with its audacious attack. 
      • The manner in which the operation was mounted in complete secrecy till the moment of the attack and the innovative use of rockets exuded considerable tactical acumen.
    • Houthi rebel group (non-state entity) in Yemen:
      • They picked up the Palestine gauntlet and embarked upon a daring attack on merchant shipping with Israeli linkage.
      • The impact on global shipping and supply chains has been disruptive, compelling the USA to cobble together a naval task force of like-minded nations to ensure safety and stability in the Red Sea region. 
      • This has been a mixed bag since the politics surrounding the relentless Israeli attacks on Palestine have led to divergent views among US allies. 
        • And, there is a visible reticence among the latter to support Washington in this matter uncritically.

Key learnings from these recent incidents for India:

  • In reference to the rhythms of history, the strand to be highlighted is how the target of each attack (Ukraine, Israel or merchant shipping) was caught by surprise.
    • These incidents revealed the inadequacy of both actionable intelligence at the tactical level and the ability at a higher planning level to anticipate out-of-the-box security exigencies based on technological trends.
  • India has a patchy track record in this regard
    • The 1962 border war with China, 
    • Kargil in 1999,  
    • Mumbai terror attack of 2008,
    • Recent Galwan military stand-off in 2020. 
      • The surprise element left Indian apex security planners and the operational force commanders bewildered.

India’s security challenges in 2024:

  • On the external front:
    • The security postures of China and Pakistan individually and the strategic cooperation between them, as well as their support to non-state entities, are abiding challenges for India.
    • Furthermore, the probability that the current Hamas-Houthi churn could embolden groups in the Subcontinent to advance their anti-India agenda remains high. 
    • The spike in terrorist violence in Jammu is illustrative.
    • Recent developments in Myanmar (issue of Rohingya) and their spillover into the Indian northeast, the pro-China orientation in the politics of the Maldives could unspool in a manner that is harmful to Indian interests.
  • On LIC-IS (low-intensity conflict – internal security) domain:
    • India’s overall security index will remain relatively parlous in 2024 due to a combination of factors that include electoral compulsions (Lok Sabha election in India) and funding constraints regarding modernisation of old defence inventories.
    • The more serious challenge is that institutionally, India's defence is going through a radical re-wiring both at the apex and bottom level.
      • At apex - recent appointment of a retired three-star officer as the second CDS was a radical decision that has dented the apolitical nature of the armed forces.
      • At bottom - the introduction of the Agniveer scheme for young recruits will  reduce the combat level of the army in the long run.
    • There has been no objective review of India’s military preparedness status since the Khanduri report 2018. 
      • Rhetorical assertions are periodically made about the capability of the Indian military, but these are not borne out in the bean counting of tangible combat assets.
    • The most difficult challenge for security planners will be to acquire conventional platforms (tanks, aircraft carriers, fighter aircraft) and determine their efficacy/vulnerability in the emerging battlefield environment. This will be further modified with the gradual introduction of AI and related technologies.
Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence, headed by B C Khanduri was formed to assess the procurement policy relating to defence equipment, operational preparedness of the armed forces and review the accidents involving strategic defence assets.


History may repeat itself faster than expected, and India's security concerns in 2024 and beyond will put the next administration and the senior defence management team to the test.

Book A Free Counseling Session