Home Anti-Access (A2) and Area Denial (AD): Emerging Revolution in Military Affairs

Anti-Access (A2) and Area Denial (AD): Emerging Revolution in Military Affairs

Just as the blitzkrieg in 1940 had changed the nature and rules of present day warfare, the new age anti-access/area denial technologies and strategies have assumed the role of being an engine of Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) in the 21st century.[i] These new parameters have not only redefined the basic concepts of ‘Offence is the best form of Defence’ and ‘Active Defence’, but turned it upside down. The latter became the norm as a direct fall out of World War II.


Conceptual Aspects of A2/AD Technology and Strategies


It is an integrated and well-coordinated process of effectively combining the political, economic, and informational tools with potent and credible military capabilities over a protracted period of time against an adversary to deny him any defined or identified area of interest.[ii] However, as and when, and if at all, the adversary seeks to intervene in those areas, it would come at a prohibitive cost in terms of men, material and resources. An effective combination of political, economic, and informational methods with sophisticated lethal and/or disruptive A2/AD capabilities will make these challenges even more resilient and potent with ever mounting costs associated with continued operations in such areas.


The over-riding advantage that is offered by this concept is the wide spectrum of strategic options that are possible to be applied in a graduated manner and its capability to operate just below the surface of not much discomfort to the adversary. A2/AD technologies and strategies are also cost effective in their application, at least until the outbreak of hostilities when more direct and kinetic capabilities are be required to be fielded. In more hostile circumstances and environment, lethal A2/AD instruments include sophisticated longer-range kinetic capabilities and methods like ballistic missiles, submarines, weapons of mass destruction, and offensive space and cyberspace assets. Equally dangerous but less technical A2/AD methods might include terrorism or proxy warfare employed by opponents to open alternative “fronts,” distract attention, and impose excessive costs politically and economically as well. Therefore lethal or disruptive vulnerabilities are offered in all five key domains—air, sea, land, space, and cyberspace.[iii] Herein lies the great potential and range of tools of intervention that can be applied on the adversary.


A2AD and the Case of China-Pakistan


China has always taken well considered strategic decisions to pitch Pakistan against India for decades now. If earlier it was to help Pakistan develop their nuclear weapon programme, in recent times, it has been to support Pakistan for their home grown terrorists and their networks to operate freely against Indian targets: both civilian and military. The most vocal and visible indication has been China’s support to the extreme case of using its veto power to stall the process of black listing the chief of Jaish-e Mohammad (JeM), Maulana Masood Azhar in the United Nations; not once, but three times over. It does not require great analysis or any speculation to understand the China-Pakistan connection and implications of such a move for India. It is in no uncertain terms an open support to Pakistan for proxy war against India.


China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)


The CPEC is part of China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) mega move to gain access to the ports of Gwadar, and at the same time, build Pakistan’s flagging economy, as also provide connectivity to the Central Asian Republics (CARs) with an eye on the economic isolation of India in South Asia. This indication gets ground seeing that Russia is being made part of this corridor. Let us not overlook the fact that 200 kilometres of the CPEC passes through Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK), which legally and rightfully is Indian Territory belonging to the Republic of India. The Indian government has already recorded its protest on the same time and again.


The CPEC is a $ 46 billion dollar investment spread over 15 years, covering a distance of 12 thousand kilometres from Kashgar in China to Gwadar in Pakistan. It is a combination of rail, road connectivity, Special Economic Zones, dry ports and power plants, a real booster for economy of Pakistan. China is also attempting India’s political isolation by making forays into its immediate neighbourhood in countries like Nepal, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Maldives. All these actions could well be taken as part of diplomatic efforts to have good relations with these countries. What creates doubts in these relations are the issues connected to China’s insistent and actions aimed at securing exclusive areas and territory in these countries for their exclusive rights.


Strategic and Operational Implications of the Pakistan-China Collusivity against India


When we study the actions of China and Pakistan, they appear to being in sync and synergy with each other. This brings the realisation that the Sino-Pak combination has put India in a relatively disadvantageous position having being smartly outmanoeuvred by the former two. Pakistan has been propagating for a long time now, that their strategy of a very strong air defence cover, makes them a follower of the emerging contours of A2/AD strategy in proxy war (political), economic and technological realms. India must clearly be able to read through the actions of our neighbouring countries in the light of what is being seen as anti-access and area denial technologies and strategies in the coming days. India needs to undertake the following measures in order to be prepared to face these challenges in coming decades:

  • Greater emphasis, coordination and synergy for Joint Services operations.
  • Address capability gap between services.
  • Identification of own areas for anti-access and area denial on India’s mainland as also on the Andaman & Nicobar Islands.
  • Set of measures to raise costs to India’s neighbours in Mountain Warfare along borders. 
  • Economic and security challenges arising out of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
  • Trading time and space for conventional operations alone is a difficult proposition given the contemporary nature of conflict.  
  • Difficulties in shaping the battlefield.
  • Need for a SWOT analysis of regional groupings like ASEAN, SAARC, SCO and BRICS on priority basis.

Finally, it is getting clearer that the world as such is not developing towards being a safer place to live, rather, is always in search of those technologies and strategies which are less intrusive in nature and kinetic capabilities that are kept as a last resort – a loud pointer towards increasing focus on cyber, space and hybrid warfare capabilities.




[i] Christopher J McCarthy, “Anti-Access/Area Denial: The Evolution of Modern Warfare” available at

[ii] Nathan Freier, “The Emerging Anti-Access/Area-Denial Challenge,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, May 17, 2012.

[iii] Ibid.

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Lt Gen Rameshwar Roy

Contact at: [email protected]
Lt Gen Rameshwar Roy (Retd) is former GOC 16 Corps and Director-General Assam Rifles.
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