ONE OF FOUR PARTS
THE ARMY IS NOT WAR READYBY
15 Feb 2016
A generation of officers has grown and won awards, laurels and promotions doing counter-insurgency operations. With all present generals having donned the uniform after the last full-scale war of 1971, war-preparedness has become an elusive concept.
Speaking recently at the Counter-Terrorism Conference in Jaipur, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, alluding to Pakistan, said, “Some countries have used non-state actors (terrorists) for 15 years to achieve political and strategic objectives, with counter-productive results.” The truth is, far from being counter-productive, the Pakistan army has achieved substantive results against India through this strategy.
On the one hand, it has increased India's policing commitments on the land and coastal borders. The 1999 Kargil conflict forced the Indian Army to deploy a division (12,000 troops) round the year at 15,000 to 18,000 feet to ensure no reccurrence of mischief. After the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, the Indian Navy, made responsible for coastal security, has been flogging its expensive warships, at the cost of war preparedness. On the other hand, Pakistan's strategy has, to its own amazement, rendered the Indian Army unfit for conventional war. After Operation Parakram (the 10-month military stand-off from December 2001 to October 2002), where India failed to militarily coerce Pakistan, the Indian Army was expected to learn the right lessons. Since no insurgency which enjoys an inviolate sanctuary has ever been defeated, it was, since 1990, argued that the Indian Army should build capability to hit terrorists' bases in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir rather than fight the elusive terrorists on its soil.
Instead, it did the opposite. Once the November 26, 2003, ceasefire, at Pakistan's initiative, was accepted, the artillery guns on both sides fell silent. With long-range firepower to hit Pakistani bunkers no longer an option, raids by Special Forces to thwart the proxy war was the natural choice to keep the Pakistan army on tenterhooks. Calling it a war-avoidance measure, this option was closed by the Army Chief, Gen. NC Vij by fencing the Line of Control in July, 2004.
The argument that the fence is cost-effective and prevents infiltration continues to be made by senior officers who are unwilling to concede its biggest drawback: It has instilled the Maginot mentality, (a line of defensive fortifications built before World War II to protect the eastern border of France but easily outflanked by German invaders.).
Any worthwhile military commander the world over will attest that a fortification induces a false sense of security and stifles the offensive spirit and action. Today, the fence denotes the Indian Army's physical, mental and psychological limit of war-fighting. It gives respite to the Pakistan army and encourages it to continue with the proxy war, without fearing Indian retaliation. The initiative has passed completely into the hands of the terrorists and their Pakistani handlers. The latter dictate the rates of engagement, infiltration, areas to be activated and to what purpose, including methods of initiation. This is the reason that even with the strength of over 12 lakh, the Indian Army fails to deter the six lakh Pakistani army from cross-border terrorism. The Pakistan army refuses to hand over Hafiz Saeed, Dawood Ibrahim, Masood Azhar and others to us. Each time our political and military leaders warn Pakistan, it challenges us to a war.
The Indian Army Chief, Gen. VK Singh wrote a letter (leaked to the media) to the Prime Minister in March, 2012, saying the Army was unfit for war. Media reports routinely decry the unpreparedness of the Army. What little the Army has as war reserves, for example, equipment, vehicles, spares and ammunition, is merrily being using to raise more units — two divisions (each with 12,000 troops) between 2009 and 2011, and a Mountain Corps (90,000 troops). Since 2012, the Army's annual defence spending ratio of capital (for acquisitions) and revenue (pay and allowances) has been 40:60, instead of the other way round. This means more manpower costs and less war preparedness.
Unfortunately, the present state suits both the political and the Army leadership; the former does not want to understand military power and is petrified by nuclear weapons, the latter is comfortable with counter-insurgency operations (CI ops). The Army has honed its skills in it for 25 years. About 40 per cent of the Army is in the Jammu and Kashmir theatre doing CI ops, while an equal number prepares itself to replace those. A generation of officers has grown and won awards, laurels, promotions and status doing CI ops. With all present generals having donned uniform after the last full-scale war of 1971, war-preparedness has become an elusive concept.
The irony is that the people of India do not know what the Army is supposed to do. The nation regularly pays homage to soldiers who die fighting terrorists inside the Indian territory rather than fighting Pakistani soldiers on the border. Few bother to think that if the Army does CI ops (which should be the paramilitary's job), who would do its job of fighting the war? Should the nation be spending huge amount of money building a military force when what the Army wishes to be is to become a glorified paramilitary force?
The idea of a fence on the LoC came from the BSF, which had erected one on the India-Pakistan border from Gujarat to Rajasthan and another on the India-Bangladesh border. But the Army was never receptive to the idea of erecting a fence as it was found effective only against illegal immigrants and was considered a police tactic. The Army chief, General S. Padmanabhan (General Vij's predecessor) told me: “When Vij asked my opinion on the fence, I told him that this idea had been there since 1993. The reason why it had not been implemented so far was that it was unsuited for the terrain along the LoC. Moreover, a fence would instil a defensive mindset in our troops.” What should the Army do? The Army Chief, Gen. Bikram Singh invited me to his office in January, 2013, and asked my opinion. I suggested four-pronged action: The fence on the LoC should be dismantled; troops should be reoriented to the conventional war role from the present anti-infiltration role; CI ops should be handed over to the paramilitary and the police in Jammu and Kashmir in a phased manner; and the Army should go back to its core competency — preparing to fight a war.
These are the actions that the Army would take during war; taking them in peacetime would help deter Pakistan from continuous trouble across the LoC. Adopting an offensive-defence posture does not imply war; it means peace and stability on the LoC as it would spur the Army to equip and train itself for war. These actions will also help the Army to reduce its strength by nearly 2,00,000 troops in five years; a must for a professional Army desiring to prepare itself for present-day warfare.
The Modi Government, which projects itself as more muscular than the previous regimes, has not helped matters. Speaking in the Rajya Sabha on July 22, 2014, the then Defence Minister, Arun Jaitley praised the Army for CI ops by concluding that, “innovative troops deployment, efficient use of surveillance and monitoring devices and fencing along the LoC have enhanced (the Army's) ability to detect and intercept infiltration.” Encouraged, the Army decided to upgrade the fence. The northern Army Commander, Lt Gen. D.S. Hooda told the media in August, 2015 that, “The new fence will be twice as effective as the existing one. It will be hard to breach.” The Pakistan army will continue to allow the Indian side to repair the fence damaged by vagaries of nature each year, without resorting to small-arms firings.
The writer is Editor, FORCE, a newsmagazine on security & defence.
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TWO OF FOUR PARTS
IS MORE THAN WAR READY
Lt-Gen RS Sujlana (retd)
Feb 19, 2016
Today’s military leadership is better trained with vast professional experience comprising counter-insurgency operations and high-altitude warfare. The Army has trained with world armies and UN peace-keeping missions. So to say the Army cannot conceive a conventional war is a figment of the imagination
On February 15, in these pages, Pravin Sawhney had argued (‘The Army is not war ready’) that the Indian Army was distracted from its ideal readiness for war. Lt-Gen(retd) RS Sujlana gives a contrary view.
A vast array of factors combine to ensure that an army is ready for war, but the tenacity of men and women who make up the force, their wherewithal and the will of the nation to war are the three main factors. Mr Sawhney has agreed that as the Army has not fought a conventional war after 1971 and has been involved in counter-insurgency operations (CI ops) for nearly a quarter century, the senior leadership of the Army cannot conceive the concept of conventional war.
In addition, having erected a fence along the Line of Control (LC) to limit infiltration, the Army has developed an inbuilt Maginot Line, or defensive mentality which today denotes the physical, mental and psychological limit of war-fighting! He questions whether the Army wishes to be a glorified Para-Military Force (PMF). If this was not enough the article goes on to state, “that the people of India do not know what the Army is supposed to do”. When the word Army is used it is a direct reflection on the officers, JCOs and other ranks of the entire force. Thus, a brief examination of how the Army (and its’ men) have stood and will stand for the nation and the issues raised to assess how wrong the starting premise is follows.
The post-Independence military history bears testimony to the multi-tasking capability and true grit of the Army in handling crisis after crisis. Four months into freedom and the Army had a war at hand, the Indo-Pak War, 1947-48. The Army at that time was still reorganising itself, experience and numbers of military leaders were at a premium, but still the Army went forth to drive out the Pak intruders with tremendous credit. However, contrary to advice, the political leadership hurried into a ceasefire under the aegis of the UN, eluding a total victory. The political leadership still did not feel the necessity of strengthening the armed forces (opining that the nation could well do with just a police force). A laissez-faire attitude continued and as it cuddled up to China, no effort was made to rejuvenate the armed forces. This flawed policy saw the heart-breaking outcome of the 1962 War with China. The Army was ordered to throw out the Chinese. With what? No one could answer. Even the Air Force was kept out of action. But still, the Army fought resiliently and valiantly with archaic weapons, limited ammunition sans winter clothing to name a few; the war was lost but the enemy could not break the spirit of the Army. After this debacle, the Army started to expand in 1963. The Army's tryst with counter-insurgency operations had already begun in Nagaland. In the midst of this expansion and training of new units, the Army (and the Air Force) fought the Indo-Pak War of 1965, defeating a Pakistan Army equipped with latest weapons (like the famous Patton tanks and Sabre Jets) and drove them to dust. However, the political leadership was again found wanting and all captured areas were returned to Pak without weighing their strategic significance. Something similar seems to be brewing up now with calls of pulling back from an expensive battleground — the Siachen Glacier. Guess, some people will never understand strategic concerns. In the ensuing six years, the Army's involvement in CI in the North-East had increased manifold but come the 1971 War, the Army amazed the world with their blitzkrieg historic victory. The political leadership again failed to garner any leverage; over 90,000 Pak prisoners were returned without resolving any issue; rather the enemy played truant and retained 54 of our prisoners who never returned home. Today, they are totally forgotten by the nation. In construing the traits of the present lot of senior officers, it hints that they lack the offensive spirit. Far from the truth as this obviously implies that the resilience, offensive spirit, camaraderie and the will to fight and win is not required in battling at the highest battlefield in the world at Siachen (since 1984) and CI ops, as this is where the Army has fought continuously post- the 1971 War. How very wrong can they be, inherent in such ops are not only these traits but much more. If this was not so, Col Gurung, Commanding Officer, 19 Madras, with the unstinted support of his seniors, would not have personally directed the super-human effort to pull out his 10 men from below tonnes of snow at the staggering height of 20,000 feet. This included one still alive, the now-legendary Hanumanthappa. Does anything more need to be said about the required traits which made this happen and the officer-man relationship in the Army? Forgotten, perhaps, is also the victory in the 1998 Kargil War, where it was all blood, guts and offensive actions. Ironically, here too, the soldiers carried the day and fought with “whatever they had” in the words of General Ved Malik, the then Army Chief. Are the LC Fence and the Maginot line the same? Definitely no, their aims are/were poles apart. Let not the LC Fence be confused to be a part of the conventional defensive concept. Moreover, wherever there is an obstacle (like a minefield or wire obstacle) offensive plans exist to strike the enemy. So has this created a defensive mindset? The answer is again, “no.” Needless to say, the cost-effectiveness of the fence is indeed debatable.
Yes, without doubt there are large deficiencies in arms and equipment and these continue to grow by the day. These telling deficiencies are likely to continue in the near future, with the defence budget at an abysmal 1.74 of the GDP, almost at the same level as it was prior to the 1962 conflict. The political leadership has to come out of the proverbial ostrich syndrome and show predilection for the armed forces and provide them not only the required wherewithal, but ensure their rightful status, dignity, pay and allowances. The Army can well do without being involved in CI ops, but to say that the Army is only training for CI ops is remissness. Regular and appropriate time is being spent on conventional roles, rather even in Jammu and Kashmir, the troops deployed along the LC on defensive positions remain acquainted with their conventional role which does have its' fair share of offensive action plans. With regard to offensive actions like hitting terrorist camps in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, it is for the government to decide and direct the Army to implement. Will the Government's real politik allow this? It is not for the Army to decide.
Criticism is important but when someone decides to outrightly condemn the Army or any other organisation, there is a need to balance out views. At the risk of being branded intolerant, some censorship is warranted. The Army is physically, mentally and psychologically prepared to fulfil its roles and offensive soldiering is their forte'! Let there be no doubt about their fighting competence.
The writer is a former Commandant, the IMA and former Chairman of the PPSC.
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THREE OF FOUR PARTS
FENCE OR NO FENCE, THE ARMY'S VIGIL DOESN'T SLACKEN
BYLt Gen Syed Ata Hasnain (Retd.)
In the ongoing debate on reorienting the army, the time for implementing many ideas such as downsizing and changing the defensive mindset could be premature or due to a skewed understanding of the operational environment
It is absolutely correct that Pakistan has achieved a fair degree of its intent through sponsoring a proxy war on our soil and India has been unable to take the response to Pakistan’s soil. Yet the Indian Army alone is not the only instrument of response. Also decisions are not taken by the Army but advice is definitely given. It is for those who receive the advice to choose the instrument of coercion. The Army is the lead agency and remains fully prepared to do what it has to, in any part of the spectrum of war.
The Indian Army has been drawn into a long counter insurgency (CI) campaign in J&K through an adroit Pakistan game plan conceived 30 years ago. This happened just as the world entered into a phase which has been characterized by Hybrid War, with Conventional War taking a backseat. With nuclear parity, India conventional asymmetry with Pakistan has received a setback. Since then, India focused more on economic growth and opportunities from the prolonged restructuring of the global economy. Its emphasis on war avoidance led to a strategy (or by default) of following strategic tolerance. By contrast, Pakistan’s compulsions of attempting to maintain a bogey of deterrence and risking sponsored proxy war, has prevented it from achieving its socio-economic goals. In the long run it is still advantage India although no one can discount the attraction of Pakistan’s geostrategic location which makes it a frontline state for western support.
Indian generals may not be experienced in conventional operations but not many around the world are. Anyway, experience at sub tactical level in conventional operations does not qualify for competence at operational and strategic levels. The maxim, command experience in any theatre and form is good enough for assuming higher command responsibility continues to hold good.
There have been an almost obsessive chain of arguments against the LoC Fence, branding it as the chief cause of a defensive mindset. The ceasefire from 2003 actually worked to our advantage. The then army chief Gen Nirmal Vij had the clarity of thinking to begin construction well before the Pakistani ceasefire offer. The ceasefire only facilitated the construction at alignments close to the LoC.
Till its completion, the ‘mathematics of terror’ was always in favor of Pakistan’s Deep State. Thousands of terrorists were killed only to see a larger number infiltrate, almost at will. The CI grid could just not handle it; high attrition was not high enough. The operationalisation of the Fence led to redeployment of resources. By 2007 there was higher attrition, the drying up of leadership and curbs on across-the-border flow of IED material, ammunition and grenades. Incidentally the last major successful IED blast took place eight years ago.
The ceasefire helped in focusing on counter infiltration without any loss of aggressiveness. It is a misnomer to think that the offensive spirit is promoted by daily trans-LoC artillery duels. Removing the Fence will increase infiltration and that will require more troops. The Fence in no way curbs initiative because the Army gives it no tactical significance except for countering infiltration, a realm which, if not exploited, would amount to tactical sacrilege. It does not even metaphorically infuse a fortress mentality, let alone literal one, because enough troops are deployed ahead of it.
As to the notion that the Indian Army’s 1.2 million troops are unable to deter Pakistan with half that combat power, it is never the numbers which dictate this. It is the capability and attitude of those who control the strings of decision making. Stating that 40 per cent of the army serves in CI operations in Northern Command gives credence to the Pakistani lie. If that had been so, the field to peace deployment ratio would be completely skewed; mercifully it has never come to that.
The Army has competent leaders preparing for conventional war fighting. There are enough contingency plans for the Rashtriya Rifles and operationalisation of offensive options; the Army needs no advice on that. About India’s military professionals being incompetent because they donned the uniform after 1971, perhaps the opinion of some foreign institutions and armies should be taken.
The Army is not in CI operations of its own volition. Get a competent replacement and it will withdraw. But, the Army’s hard won results cannot be frittered with experiments. The blood and flesh expended to regain the loss will again be that of the Army. Lt Gen DS Hooda’s decision to selectively upgrade the LoC Fence will further strengthen the CI grid and enhance the chances of zero infiltration. With no ingress from PoK and the absence of a leadership, the kinetic part of the militancy would almost be over.
Principally no one can argue against the need to right size. However, collusive threats from Pakistan and China have not waned. The decision to raise two new divisions was taken after assessing and anticipating threats as also the existing voids in the order of battle. A full scale Army level war game preceded the final decision. The raising of the Mountain Strike Corps was also triggered by the prevailing environment on the Sino India front. There are still enough arguments for and against it.
Lastly, the 1.7 percent allocation to the Defence budget which is slated to further reduce is a measure of the capability that we wish to develop as a nation. Given better procedures for acquisition and manufacture of select hardware within India, armed with a better equipment profile and administrated by a more competent and empathetic bureaucracy the Indian Army is quite capable of looking after both, the CI front and the conventional one without impinging on capability for either.
The writer, a former GoC of 15 Corps, is with Vivekananda Foundation and the Delhi Policy Group
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FOUR OF FOUR PARTS
ROUTES OF INFILTRATIONS:
350-km LoC in Kashmir valley has 40-50 infiltration routes
Feb 27, 2016.
- Kalighati, Kail, Keran, Machil, Kundiya,Tanghdar, Darnak Karna, Jabli Bala,Tootmar Gali, Noori Post,Gail Gali, Eagle Post, Gujar Dori, Balthadaya forest, Kunji Nad and Dacha forest in Kupwara
- Jabra, Kamalkote-Madiyan, Dulanja, Lachipora, Torna, Churanda, Hatlanga, Sahura, Gohalan, Zamboor Pattan and Nowgam in Baramulla
Tribune News Service
Srinagar, February 26The nearly 350-km-long Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir has many “porous infiltration avenues” which are close to launch pads across the fence, claimed defence sources.
There are of 40-50 routes where from militants find it easy to sneak into the Valley, sources said.
Even if the LoC is buried deep under snow the infiltration never seizes. The militants killed in the recent gunfights at Chowkibal in Kupwara district and Pampore in Pulwama district had “infiltrated recently”.
The Army, however, has maintained that infiltration from across the LoC into Kashmir was down to a “trickle” as compared to infiltration figures of earlier years.
Defence sources said that infiltration avenues are correlated with launching pads, general areas and the reception area.
“The group of trained militants is put at a launch pad in PoK where they are provided weapons. They along with a guide do probing actions for five to six days along the LoC before sneaking into the Valley,” said a Defence official. “And when Pakistani Army fires at our posts, the waiting militants get an opportunity to sneak in as our observation gets affected.”
The official said infiltration routes keep on changing from time to time and over the years some routes have become active while others have turned dormant.
Of late, major infiltration attempts are being made in the frontier Kupwara sector and it is turning out to be a key area for militants to sneak into the Valley.
The infiltration along the LoC in Baramulla and Bandipora districts has dipped even though militants have not stopped infiltrating through these sectors.
Sources said there were 16-17 launching pads across the LoC in the Kashmir region.
The LoC in Kashmir runs from lofty peaks of Gulmarg in Baramulla to Kupwara and Gurez in Bandipora district.
Along its long and arduous course the LoC also passes through several fresh water streams. It is fenced with barbed wire and sophisticated equipment like UAVs, high-power cameras, thermal imagers and long-range observation system to notice any movement.
Two divisions of Army —one based in Baramulla and another in Kupwara man the stretch. The easiest and shortest infiltration route to the Valley is through the Keran sector.
The sector, sources said, has three infiltration avenues. Though there is heavy presence of Army in the area to counter any infiltration attempts, militants often try to enter into Kashmir through this sector.
After Keran, the other favourite infiltration route in Kupwara is Machil. Almost all the infiltrators coming into the Valley through the Kupwara sector have to cross the vast Shamsabari forest range to reach the hinterland.
The Tangdhar sector in frontier Kupwara district had been laid inactive for a long time, but since last six years the route has got activated again.
The toughest infiltration route, however, is through the Gurez sector of Bandipora district.
Militants sneak through Kanzalwan and Nowshewra ridges before entering Bandipora. The Gurez sector is surrounded by 14,000-feet high mountain range.
In the Uri sector of Baramulla, traditional infiltration routes emanate from high mountain passes. The sector is dormant now unlike past when it was the favourite route for militants. Same is the case with Gulmarg, which has not seen much activity in the recent past.
“The routes can get active any time as launch pads are there to push militants,” said another Defence official.
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