AFP/Monitoring Desk

New Delhi - Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday told commanders of the army, navy and air force that “the duration of future conflicts will be shorter” and that “full-scale wars may become rare” but “force will remain an instrument of deterrence and influencing behaviour”.

His observation came against the backdrop of recent escalation of cross-border firing and shelling by Pakistan on the Line of Control and International Border as well as Chinese incursions in Ladakh.

“Beyond the immediate, we are facing a future where security challenges will be less predictable; situations will evolve and change swiftly; and, technological changes will make responses more difficult to keep pace with,” Modi said, adding, “The threats may be known, but the enemy may be invisible.”

“We should remember that what matters is capability of the force,” he said.

Modi’s eagerly awaited address at the close of the Combined Commanders Conference was astonishing in its grasp of the troubles bedeviling India’s armed forces. He spoke of the need for ‘ jointmanship’, ‘transformation’ and a ‘Digital Armed Force’, reported Indian media.

He outlined India’s key strategic challenges and priorities but observed that in addition to the ‘familiar challenges’ New Delhi had to be prepared for a changing world, which demanded a new thinking on India’s part with regard to economic, diplomatic and security policies.

Prime Ministers’ addresses at the combined commanders conferences are generally mundane affairs, that typically steer clear of detail. At the last combined commanders’ conference last November, then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh spoke of managing military budgets in times of economic downturn and civil-military balance. Modi’s speech, however, articulated a vision which could instantly translate into instant deliverables on the ground. He may have, for instance, tacitly approved a long- pending demand of the armed forces for the creation of three new commands: a cyber command, a special forces command and a space command.

“The threats may be known,” Modi said, “but the enemy may be invisible. Domination of cyber space will become increasingly important. Control of space may become as critical as that of land, air and sea.”

He asked the services to give serious thought to upgrade technological skills for effective “projection of power” by men. “When we speak of Digital India, we would also like to see a Digital Armed Force,” he said.

The most important task, the PM observed, was to ‘transform our armed forces’. He called for increased jointness and urged the three wings of the Services to work as a team all the way from the lowest levels of the Services to the top. He suggested a number of practical steps to achieve that goal.

He emphasized that an atmosphere of peace and security was essential to enable India to achieve its goals of economic development and that his government has focused on creating a favourable external environment and on strengthening India`s security.

India test–fires first home–made cruise missile

India successfully test-fired its first domestically built nuclear-capable long-range cruise missile Friday, marking another step in building up the country’s defence prowess.

The “Nirbhay”, or “fearless”, missile blasted off from a mobile launcher at the Integrated Missile Test Range in Chandipur in the eastern state of Orissa, the Press Trust of India reported.

“The trial was totally successful,” a senior government official associated with the launch told the Press Trust of India national news agency.

“The outcome of the trial was ascertained by analysing the data retrieved from radars and telemetry points,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Unlike other ballistic missiles, Nirbhay has a wing and tail fins. The missile is intended to cruise like an aircraft, helped by its small fins, and can be launched from land, sea and air.

The surface-to-surface missile is fitted with a turbojet engine and is capable of flying at low altitudes to avoid detection. It can even hover near the target, striking from any direction without being seen on radar.

With a range of up to 1,000 kilometres, it gives India the capability to strike “deep into enemy territory”, NDTV news network reported.

The Nirbhay is regarded by military experts as India’s version of the US Tomahawk cruise missiles. Friday’s success comes after the subsonic missile’s first test launch in March 2013 had to be aborted midway after it veered off course.

India, which shares borders with arch-rivals Pakistan and giant China, both of which are nuclear-armed, is developing the missile system to strengthen its air-defence capabilities.

India already has in its arsenal the supersonic BrahMos missile which it developed jointly with Russia. India in 2012 successfully launched its nuclear-capable Agni V ballistic missile with a range of more than 5,000 kilometres.

The Indian military views the Agni V missile as a key boost to its regional power aspirations and one that narrows — albeit slightly — its huge gap with China’s technologically advanced missile systems.

While the shorter-range Agni I and II were mainly developed with India’s traditional rival Pakistan in mind, later versions with longer range reflect the shift in India’s military focus towards China.

Just last month, Indian government scientists were in the news for winning Asia’s race to Mars when its unmanned Mangalyaan spacecraft successfully entered the Red Planet’s orbit after a 10-month journey on a tiny budget.