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Grey Zone Warfare

Why is it in the news?

  • India’s Chief of Defence Staff, General Anil Chauhan, highlighted “grey zone warfare” as the latest form of informal warfare during the 2024 Raisina Dialogue.
  • He cited confrontational incidents in the South China Sea involving small boats as an example of this tactic, amid competing territorial claims among several countries in the region.

Top of Form

 About Grey zone warfare

  • It refers to a middle ground between direct conflict and peace in international relations, where actions are ambiguous and fall into a murky area.
  • It encompasses various activities such as economic coercion, influence operations, cyberattacks, mercenary operations, assassinations, and disinformation campaigns.
  • Grey zone warfare has been present throughout history but gained prominence during the Cold War era due to the restraint on direct conflicts between major powers armed with nuclear weapons.
  • Nations engage in grey zone warfare to promote their national objectives through covert aggression or obfuscated actions, especially when direct conflict is deemed too costly or risky.
  • Tactics of grey zone warfare are often employed by parties with limited resources to gain an advantage over technically superior adversaries accustomed to conventional warfare.

Examples of Grey Zone Warfare

  • South China Sea: China’s actions in the South China Sea, including territorial disputes and confrontational incidents with neighbouring countries, exemplify grey zone warfare tactics.
  • Taiwan Strait: Chinese military activities, such as regular fighter flights over the Taiwan Strait, constitute a grey zone strategy aimed at wearing down Taiwan without escalating into full-blown conflict.
  • US-China Relations: The United States has also engaged in grey zone tactics against China, including economic sanctions, trade tariffs, and maritime reconnaissance.

Distinctive Features

  • Covert and Indirect: Actions in grey zone warfare are often covert or indirect, requiring nuanced responses from affected countries.
  • Escalation Dynamics: Grey zone conflicts can escalate across multiple dimensions, leading to unintended over-escalation and complexities in crisis management.
  • Strategic Objectives: Grey zone tactics may aim to bait adversaries into escalation, normalize disputed territorial claims, or project strength without direct confrontation.

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