By Lt Col Manoj K Channan, VETERAN
The use of private military contractors (PMCs) dates back centuries, with mercenaries and other private actors employed in various military and security operations throughout history. However, the modern concept of PMCs emerged in the post-World War II era due to changing global security dynamics and the growing role of non-state actors in conflicts.
The Cold War era saw various PMCs emerge, with private companies and contractors employed by governments and other actors in various military and security operations. For example, the CIA reportedly used private contractors to support its operations in Laos during the 1960s, while the South African government employed private military companies during the apartheid era.
However, it was only in the 1990s that the use of PMCs became more widespread due to various conflicts around the world and the increasing globalisation of security. In addition, the end of the Cold War and the emergence of new security threats, such as terrorism and organised crime, led to a growing demand for private security services, including military and intelligence services.
Since then, PMCs have been employed in various military and security operations worldwide, including Iraq, Afghanistan, and other conflict zones. Using PMCs in these contexts has raised various legal and ethical concerns, including accountability, transparency, and potential human rights abuses.
Despite these concerns, using PMCs will likely continue to be a feature of modern warfare and security as non-state actors and transnational threats continue to shape global security dynamics. However, there is growing recognition of the need for greater regulation and oversight of PMCs to ensure greater transparency, accountability, and respect for human rights in their operations.
Non-State Actors – Hybrid Warfare
The increased prominence of PMCs in warfare could have significant implications for the future of conflict and security operations. As with any new development in warfare, it will be necessary for policymakers and military strategists to carefully consider the potential risks and benefits associated with the use of PMCs in different contexts.
The Wagner Group and Blackwater are private military companies (PMCs) that provide military and security services to clients, including governments and corporations. These companies have been involved in various conflicts and security operations worldwide and are accused of engaging in activities that blur the line between military and civilian operations.
The use of PMCs in warfare is not a new phenomenon, but their increased prominence and the expansion of their capabilities could have significant implications for the future of warfare. One potential impact is that PMCs could be used more frequently as a substitute for conventional military forces, as they are often more cost-effective and politically palatable for governments.
Another potential impact is blurring the lines between state and non-state actors in warfare. PMCs are not bound by the same rules and regulations as traditional military forces, and they often operate in a grey area between legitimate military operations and illicit activities. This could make it more challenging to determine who is responsible for particular actions in a conflict.
Using PMCs could exacerbate the already-existing challenges associated with accountability in warfare. PMCs are typically not subject to the same legal and regulatory frameworks as traditional military forces, which could make it more challenging to hold them accountable for human rights violations or other abuses.
PMC – Indo – Pak Scenario
The use of PMCs is a complex issue, with arguments for and against them. On the one hand, PMCs can provide specialised skills and expertise that may be lacking in traditional military forces. But on the other hand, they can also offer cost-effective solutions for security and defence needs.
On the other hand, using PMCs can also raise concerns about accountability, transparency, and potential abuse. Additionally, engaging PMCs in conflict may have unintended consequences and create long-term challenges for security and stability.
In the case of India and Pakistan, engaging PMCs could escalate tensions between the two countries and further complicate an already volatile situation. Therefore, it is essential for policymakers to carefully consider the potential risks and benefits of using PMCs and to engage in a dialogue with relevant stakeholders before making any decisions.
Ultimately, deciding to engage PMCs is complex, requiring careful consideration of various factors, including the specific context and the potential risks and benefits. Therefore, India needs to assess its security and defence needs carefully and explore various options before deciding whether or not to engage PMCs.
PMC in Tibet as a Counter Force to PLA
It is worth noting that Tibet is a sensitive region with a complex history and ongoing political tensions. Therefore, actions in Tibet must be done with a complete understanding of the potential implications for regional stability and the well-being of the Tibetan people.
If India were to consider using PMCs in Tibet, it would be necessary to carefully consider the legal and regulatory frameworks governing their use and the potential risks and benefits of such actions. Additionally, it is essential to engage in a dialogue with relevant stakeholders, including the Tibetan people, to understand their perspectives and concerns.
Ultimately, any decisions regarding using PMCs in Tibet must be made to promote long-term stability and security in the region and with a complete understanding of the potential implications of such actions.
Retired Agniveers and PMCs
The use of PMCs is a complex issue with potential risks and benefits that must be carefully considered. Any decision to create a PMC must be made with a complete understanding of the legal and regulatory frameworks governing their use and the potential implications for accountability, transparency, and the well-being of local populations.
The Agniveer / Agnipath recruitment policy, aimed at recruiting young professionals and skilled workers into the Indian Army, is a recent development, and its long-term implications are unclear now.
As for the creation of a PMC by the Indian state, it is difficult to predict whether such a move is likely. The decision to create a PMC would depend on various factors, including the country’s perceived security threats and the capabilities and resources a PMC could offer.
Ultimately, the decision to create a PMC would require careful consideration of a range of factors, and policymakers need to thoroughly analyse the potential risks and benefits involved before making any decisions.
Strategic Messaging: PMC in Indo-Pak Context
The fight against state-sponsored terrorism requires the international community’s sustained and coordinated effort and commitment to promoting stability, security, and respect for human rights worldwide.
State-sponsored terrorism refers to using violence, intimidation, and other illicit means by a government or its agents to advance its political objectives. This type of terrorism can have severe regional and global security consequences and contribute to ongoing conflicts and instability.
Pakistan has been accused of state-sponsored terrorism, particularly its support for extremist groups in India and Afghanistan. While the exact nature and extent of Pakistan’s involvement in these activities are debatable, evidence suggests that the country has supported and facilitated terrorist activities.
The use of state-sponsored terrorism is a complex issue that requires careful consideration of the underlying causes and motivations behind such activities. Addressing state-sponsored terrorism may require various diplomatic, economic, and security measures, including targeted sanctions, intelligence sharing, and cooperation between international partners.
PMC – Ukraine Conflict
Limited publicly available data exists on using Private Military Companies (PMCs) in the Ukraine conflict. However, various international organisations have reported some information in the media.
It is difficult to verify the exact nature and extent of PMC involvement in the conflict, as these organisations often operate in a secretive and unregulated manner. Additionally, using PMCs raises various legal and ethical concerns, including accountability, transparency, and potential human rights abuses.
The conflict in Ukraine began in 2014, following the ousting of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and Russia’s subsequent annexation of Crimea. Since then, various armed groups, including Ukrainian military forces and Russian-backed separatists, have been involved in the conflict.
PMCs have also reportedly played a role in the conflict, with Ukrainian and Russian PMCs reportedly operating in the region. Some reports suggest that Russian PMCs, such as the Wagner Group, have been involved in various military operations in Ukraine. In contrast, Ukrainian PMCs, such as the Azov Battalion, have reportedly been active in the conflict.
PMC: Wagner Group
The Wagner Group is a Russian Private Military Company (PMC) with reported links to the Russian government. The group was first identified in 2014, during the annexation of Crimea, and has since been involved in various conflicts around the world.
The same ownership and structure of the Wagner Group are unclear, but it is believed to be controlled by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian businessman with close ties to the Kremlin. The group has been linked to various Russian military operations, including the annexation of Crimea, the conflict in Eastern Ukraine, and the Syrian civil war.
The Wagner Group’s operations are characterised by a high degree of secrecy and deniability, with many of its personnel operating in unmarked uniforms and without official recognition from the Russian government. The group has been accused of engaging in illicit activities, including arms trafficking, mercenary activities, and human rights abuses.
In recent years, the Wagner Group has been linked to various conflicts worldwide, including Syria, Libya, Sudan, and the Central African Republic. The group’s involvement in these conflicts has raised concerns about using PMCs in modern warfare and the role of non-state actors in shaping global security dynamics.
It is worth noting that the exact details of the Wagner Group’s operations are challenging to verify, as the group operates in a secretive and unregulated manner. However, there is growing concern among international observers about the potential risks associated with using PMCs in modern conflict zones and the need for greater transparency and accountability in this area.
Blackwater, now known as Academi, is a private military company (PMC) based in the United States. The company was founded in 1997 by Erik Prince, a former Navy SEAL, and has been involved in various military and security operations worldwide.
Blackwater gained notoriety in 2007 when several personnel were involved in a shooting incident in Baghdad that killed 17 Iraqi civilians. The incident sparked widespread outrage and prompted a series of legal and political inquiries into the company’s operations.
In the years since the Baghdad incident, Blackwater has been involved in various military and security operations worldwide, including in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Ukraine. However, the company’s operations have been characterised by a high degree of secrecy and controversy, with allegations of human rights abuses, mercenary activities, and other illicit practices.
In Ukraine, Blackwater was reportedly involved in security operations supporting the Ukrainian government during the conflict with Russian-backed separatists in the Donbas region. The exact nature and extent of Blackwater’s involvement in the conflict are unclear, but reports suggest that the company provided training, equipment, and other support to Ukrainian forces.
However, using PMCs like Blackwater in conflict zones raises legal and ethical concerns, including accountability, transparency, and the potential for human rights abuses. Moreover, many experts argue that using PMCs in modern warfare can exacerbate conflicts and undermine efforts to promote stability and security.
There have been calls for greater regulation of PMCs and increased transparency in their operations. However, the exact regulatory framework for these organisations remains unclear, and the use of PMCs in conflict zones will likely continue to be a source of controversy and debate.
PMC – Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK)
Advocating for using private military contractors (PMCs) in any specific conflict zone or situation is inappropriate. The use of PMCs in conflict zones is a controversial and complex issue. Therefore, any decision to employ them should be based on carefully considering the specific context and the potential risks and benefits.
Furthermore, the conflict in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir is a sensitive and complex issue. Therefore, any efforts to address it must be guided by a commitment to promoting peace, stability, and respect for human rights.
Using PMCs in conflict zones raises various legal and ethical concerns, including accountability, transparency, and potential human rights abuses. Moreover, many experts argue that using PMCs in modern warfare can exacerbate conflicts and undermine efforts to promote stability and security.
Instead of relying on PMCs, efforts to address the conflict in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir should focus on diplomatic and political solutions and support for local communities and institutions. This could include efforts to promote dialogue and reconciliation between different parties, as well as investments in economic development and social services to help address the underlying causes of the conflict.
PMC: Law Enforcement
Using PMCs in law enforcement is a highly contentious issue. Any decision to employ them should be based on carefully considering the specific context and the potential risks and benefits. Furthermore, it is essential to ensure that any use of PMCs in law enforcement is subject to appropriate regulation and oversight and that private actors are held accountable for any misconduct or human rights abuses.
Traditionally, law enforcement is seen as the exclusive domain of state authorities, and using private actors in this context can raise questions about accountability and oversight. In addition, the use of force by private actors in law enforcement operations can create a risk of human rights abuses and other forms of misconduct.
Despite these concerns, there have been cases where private actors have been employed in law enforcement operations, such as in cases of private security guards protecting individuals or private property. In some cases, governments have also contracted private companies to provide law enforcement services, such as border control or prison management.
PMCs offer many solutions outside the legal framework of carrying out law enforcement / extrajudicial killings, as in the case of encounters to eradicate known criminals, avoiding the judicial process, which may get compromised due to shoddy investigation or the intervention of political Godfathers.
Late Mr KPS Gill was ruthless in eradicating terrorism in Punjab and got the state back from a brink where the secessionists had the upper hand.
Was this the right way? In hindsight, the legality can be overlooked as the ends were achieved by eradicating terror. PMCs are a valuable tool if handled well, but they remain a double-edged sword; the creation of cult figures like Bhindranwale, LTTE and other such groups has not augured well for the Indian State. It will be well to keep the shelf life of PMCs short, lest they bite the hand that feeds them.
The author is an Indian Army Veteran.
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