A decision taken in the recent Combined Commanders’ Conference — a formal occasion when Lt Generals equivalents from the three services confer on strategic and doctrinal matters along with their political superiors — was to indigenise military practices of the armed forces. A step towards that direction was to promote quotes from Indian leaders and thinkers in conference rooms and indigenisation of exercise names and call signs. The former are nicknames or codenames given to exercises or operations. Call signs are radio nomenclature to identify certain appointments and, in some instances, hide their identity.

This news led to predicted mirth…


“The most valuable commodity during times of uncertainty is — clarity.”

Three primal emotions — hunger, procreation and fear are the bedrock of all living beings. Of these, fear is accentuated in humankind because of our ability to imagine. Fear heightens during uncertain times leading to paralysis, kneejerk responses, psychological trauma and in some cases, much worse. Communication, therefore, becomes crucial during crises.

1. Wrest control of the narrative at the earliest stage.

Humans abhor a vacuum, and in the absence of credible information, they consume anything that takes its place, even if they are irrational narratives. People who would…


Weapons of war fall into five broad categories. Kinetic, Chemical, Nuclear, Radiological, and Biological. Except for Kinetic (with some exceptions) — others are considered to be Weapons of Mass Destruction, capable of wiping out a large number of humans, structures, flora, fauna and the environment indiscriminately.

Kinetic weapons range from a spear, an assault rifle to an Intercontinental ballistic missile with a conventional warhead. These weapons cause damage due to their kinetic, penetrative, explosive or incendiary effect.

Nuclear weapons release tremendous destructive force using nuclear reactions. Though there are nine countries which possess nuclear weapons and all of them leverage…


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The First World War, that killed 20 million people, was touted as the ‘war to end all wars’. Yet just two decades later, the world erupted into the Second World War, killing over 70 million. Hitler’s death camps alone killed over five million. But a decisive event in August 1945 changed the way wars were fought ever since. While the two hundred thousand killed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were a minuscule fraction of the total casualties of the war — less than half a percent — the nuclear nations agreed on a covenant that is upheld till date.

Preventable diseases…


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The ‘Ten Cardinal Principals of War’, have stood the test of time across ages. With modifications, they can be leveraged in all warlike situations including the battle against Covid-19.

The first and pivotal one is ‘Selection and Maintenance of Aim’. War is always about making tough choices. And these are not options between a right or a wrong. Instead, it is about choosing lesser of the two evils. The choices we face now are between saving lives from the pandemic or from the economic devastation that will follow it. Both have the potential to claim tens of thousands and both…


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India is at the cusp of an exponential pandemic crisis. But like any crisis, bold action can help reduce the impact. Here are seven of them.

Firstly, recognize and accept realities at the earliest possible stage. Risk experts have a different take on the adage — hope for the best but prepare for the worst. It is “hope is not a strategy, and the reality is always worse than scenarios”. If we are alarmist, then at the most, we may waste some resources, but if not, preparation would save countless lives. Now is not the time to be hiding bad…


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In 1984, Charles Perow, a Yale Sociologist, postulated the theory of ‘Normal Accidents’, stating that multiple and unexpected failures are built into a society’s complex and tight coupling. This means that highly interdependent systems start collapsing in a domino effect if just one element is affected.

Consider the downpour on 26th July 2005, which flooded Mumbai for two days and killed over a thousand people. But that’s not all that the cloudburst did.

Schools, colleges and banks had to be closed for two days after that. Disruption to connectivity with the central servers prevented operation of Banks and ATMs —…


Photo by Alfons Morales on Unsplash

A great way to leverage the time the lockdown has imposed on us is to rekindle the habit of reading. While some of us may already be voracious readers, many would probably want to read more than we currently do.

How many books does one have to read to be called a voracious reader? Well, there is no magic number, but here are some indications of a voracious reader. Firstly, they are always reading. Sometimes more than one book at a time. Many readers read 3–4 books of different genres simultaneously. They utilize every bit of spare time to dive…


Roman gladiators were warriors who fought wild animals, condemned criminals, and other gladiators, for the entertainment of Rome. Usually to the death. Their valour and skill in the arena was their path to fame and wealth — in the rare cases of survivors. Most died a torturous death. But the legends of gladiators, much like the Knights' Templar or modern-day sportspersons; were principally meant for entertainment. The Roman Empire itself was built on an entirely different foundation. That of the Roman legions and its phalanxes.

At its zenith, the Roman Empire controlled over five million square kilometers. This mighty realm…


Security and Risk functions need to become revenue oriented!

Over the last two decades, Fear, Uncertainty & Doubt – (or FUD as it is referred in the trade) have been the driving force of risk and security management projects.

It typically goes like this. Usually a security related incident, such as hacking, fraud, physical breach or fatal accident triggers the mindshare of senior management and an ‘assessment’ is sought.

Typically, a specialized team carries out a ‘risk assessment’, painting possible (and often wildly alarming) scenarios and their consequences to the company. Then, using some sort of financial modelling, the assessors…

Raghu Raman

Distinguished Fellow - ORF @orfonline, Columnist, Author, former CEO NATGRID, Speaker, Ex-soldier & UN Peacekeeper. All views are personal.

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