Round Table Discussion with DG ICRC on “New Technologies and Means of Warfare – Humanitarian and Legal Challenges”

Round Table Discussion with DG ICRC on “New Technologies and Means of Warfare – Humanitarian and Legal Challenges”

Report on Round Table Discussion with DG ICRC on
“New Technologies and Means of Warfare
Humanitarian and Legal Challenges”
Held at the USI on 13 Jan 2015



A Round Table Discussion on the subject “New Technologies and Means of Warfare – Humanitarian and Legal Challenges” with Mr Yves Daccord, Director General, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was held at the USI on 13 Jan 2015 with Shri RS Kalha, IFS (Retd) in the Chair. The talk by DG ICRC was followed by an interactive session in which the ICRC delegation, heads of various think tanks, serving and retired Armed Forces officers and research scholars shared their views on the subject.

Initial Remarks by the Director USI

Lieutenant General PK Singh, PVSM, AVSM (Retd), Director USI, while welcoming Mr Yves Daccord, Ms Mary Werntz, Regional Head and the ICRC delegation highlighted the importance of the subject and how it would impact the human society in conflict scenarios. He said that he looked forward to a free and frank discussion on how to deal with the new threats to mankind; and what actions need to be taken both by the ICRC and the international community. He introduced the Chairman Shri RS Kalha, IFS (Retd) a former Secretary MEA  and member of the National Human Rights Commission (2003-2008) and requested him to take charge of the discussion.

Chairman’s Opening Remarks

Shri RS Kalha shared his experiences and views on how the new methods of warfare, in various domains, are impacting the human society and the urgency to evolve an effective mechanism to deal with the complex issues involved in doing so by the international institutions and policy makers across the world. He invited Mr Yves Daccord to give his views on the subject before throwing the house open for discussion.

Presentation by DG ICRC

Mr Yves Daccord, DG ICRC, highlighted the following important issues in his presentation :-

(a)  Lack of international convergence at the political level; where, on one hand the whole world is a globalised community today; at the same time, it is extremely fragmented due to lack of trust in the intent of rival governments and aberrant behaviour of adversaries.

(b)  Ability of a state or non-state actors to conduct ‘acts of war’ without employing large bodies of soldiers/manpower or occupation of territory.

(c)  Role and place of human beings in warfare is diminishing as technological innovations have taken over that role. Acts of war or attacks on adversary’s vital interests can be launched without human intervention.

(d)  Loss of human control on the use of various weapons, means and methods of warfare. Technologies are moving towards development of more and more autonomous weapon systems.

(e)  The ICRC believes that human beings must retain ultimate control by addressing legal, ethical, humanitarian challenges in the wake of asymmetric warfare.

(f)  Drones and cyber attacks have added new levels of complexity to deal with the perpetrators of such attacks both by state and non-state actors – especially because the sources of attack can neither be detected/located nor acted upon immediately. Weak governments do not have the will or wherewithal to counter such threats.

(g)  Diminishing ethical and moral values is aggravating the situation.

(h) The extent of suffering and collateral damage is much wider than conventional warfare and in some cases limitless e.g. CNB warfare.

(j)  The International Humanitarian Law (IHL) must ensure protection of civilians and economic interests. The IHL must ensure compatibility between the civilian rights and the armed forces to act responsibly while fulfilling their tasks.

Mr Daccord concluded his talk by emphasising that India has ‘ideas to contribute’ and an important role to play because, today, ‘when India speaks the world listens’. This he said was clearly discernable at the 7th Vibrant Gujarat Summit 2015 (11-13 Jan 2015). He had just returned from the Gujarat Summit.



The following issues were raised and responded to by the DG ICRC and members of the ICRC delegation :-

(a)  Need for defining the responsibilities of the State realistically according to their current potential and standing in the world.

(b)  Judicial intervention which should ‘fix responsibility and compensation, including interim relief’. The Chairman highlighted the need for vicarious responsibility of the State as was the practice in India.

(c)  Use of cyber attack for commercial espionage must be checked.

(d)  Need for addressing ‘discriminatory approach’ adopted by more capable and powerful countries.

(e)  Political convergence is essential to ensure collaboration between countries to deal with non-state actors and asymmetric warfare.

(f)  There was a need to address ethical questions in a conflict.


Concluding Remarks by the Director USI


Lt Gen PK Singh thanked Mr Yves Daccord for his thought provoking presentation and stressed that new methods of warfare had telescoped the time and distances for executing ‘acts of war’ and limited the ability to react to them well in time. The international organisations must look at this issue dispassionately to protect the global community from the colossal collateral damages which the new methods of warfare could inflict upon those who were not a party to the conflict. The need for evolving counter measures is much more urgent today than it was in the past. He suggested that the ICRC and the USI could conduct an international seminar at which all the affected countries, including some public faces of those affiliated to non-state actors could be invited to present their view points to deal with emerging conflict scenarios across the international boundaries.

     In the end, a copy each of the latest Issue of the USI Journal was presented by Maj Gen PJS Sandhu (Retd), Deputy Director and Editor of USI to Mr Yves Daccord and Ms Mary Werntz.

Initial Remarks by the Director USI


Chairman’s Opening Remarks


Presentation by the DG ICRC


Report compiled by Lt Col BS Varma (Retd), Assistant Director USI.


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