Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Veiled Vipers land at DBO!

In a significant capability demonstration move by the IAF, a C 130J-30 Super Hercules
aircraft landed at Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO), the  highest airstrip in the world  at 0654 hrs today.
The Commanding Officer Group Captain Tejbir Singh and the crew of the “Veiled Vipers”
along with senior officer of Air Headquarters touched down on the DBO airstrip located at
16614 feet (5065 meters) in the Aksai Chin area after taking off from their home base at
DBO is an important Army forward area post which links the ancient silk route to china.
This base was built during the Indo-China conflict in 1962 and came into prominence when
Packet aircraft of the IAF operated from DBO between 1962 and 1965. Once again this
strategic base in the Northern Himalayas gained importance when it was resurrected and
reactivated by the IAF along with the Indian Army and made operational when a twin engine
AN 32 aircraft from Chandigarh landed there after a gap of 43 years.
Considering the very limited load carrying capability of AN 32 and helicopters, a
decision was taken by the IAF to land the C130J-30 aircraft  which is capable of lifting upto 20
tonnes of load. With this enhanced airlift capability the IAF will now be in a better position to
meet the requirements of our land forces who are heavily dependent on the air bridge for
sustainence in these higher and inhospitable areas.
The tactical airlift aircraft of the special operations squadron the  “Veiled Vipers” which
is capable of undertaking quick deployment of  forces in all weather conditions, including
airdrops and landings on unprepared or semi prepared surfaces created history today by
landing at this altitude and hostile terrain conditions. This achievement qualifies for the world
record for the highest landing by an aircraft of this class. Incidentally, this was the same
aircraft and crew that operated at Dharasu during “Op Rahat” for the Uttarakhand flood relief.
Today’s achievement will enable the forces to exploit the inherent advanced
capabilities of the aircraft by increased capability to induct troops, improve communication
network and also serve as a great morale booster  for maintenance of troops positioned
there. It is also a projection of the fact that the IAF is capable of operating in such inhospitable
terrain in support of the Indian Army.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Looking East through the military lens


As part of its Look East policy, India has been boosting military ties throughout East Asia.

For years the Indian security establishment has been excessively obsessed with Pakistan and the proxy war it has waged against India. Over the past half a dozen years, the focus has gradually shifted to meeting the rising challenge posed by China’s rising military capabilities in Tibet.

Apart from two new army divisions now deployed in the country’s north-east after they were sanctioned in 2009, the Indian Cabinet has also a fortnight ago cleared a new mountain strike corps specifically meant for offensive operations against China. The new formation, which is likely to cost well over $10 billion, will take at least seven years to be fully functional according to current assessments. Given the long and drawn out border dispute with China, Indian policymakers have naturally tended to think “continentally” and looked at countering China on land.

That may however be changing too. As part of its two decade-old Look East policy, India has substantially stepped up engagement with East Asian and ASEAN nations. Last December, during an India-ASEAN Commemorative summit, the relationship was elevated to a strategic partnership.

As Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh declared in Phnom Penh in November 2012: “India and ASEAN should not only work for shared prosperity and closer links between our peoples, but also to promote peace, security and stability in the region. I am happy to note our growing engagement in areas such as defence, maritime security and counter-terrorism.”

Although never explicitly stated, ASEAN and East Asian nations want New Delhi to be a counterweight to increasing Chinese footprints in the region. Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and, particularly, Vietnam and Myanmar have time and again pressed India to help them both in terms of military training and weapons supply.

Myanmar’s Navy Chief, Vice Admiral Thura Thet Swe during his four-day visit to India in late July held wide-ranging consultations with top officials from the Indian Ministry of Defence. Apart from increasing the number of training slots of Myanmarese officers in Indian military training establishments, India has agreed to build at least four Offshore Patrol Vehicles (OPV) in Indian Shipyards to be used by Myanmar’s navy.

In the recent past, despite its military junta’s perceived closeness to China, Myanmar had sourced 105 mm artillery guns, mortars, armored personnel carriers and rifles from India. But now it wants India to do more. In the near future, air force personnel, especially helicopter pilots, are likely to train in India in larger numbers. Even as Myanmar opens up to the world, its military is moving closer to India than ever before. That all three Indian service chiefs visited Myanmar in the past one year is testimony to India’s military diplomacy with Southeast and East Asian nations.

But it is Vietnam more than any other country in Southeast Asia that India seeks to support and engage. Both India and Vietnam have long-pending territorial disputes with China. Both have long-standing ties, dating back to Jawaharlal Nehru’s time. So, for more than a decade now, India has been providing Vietnam with assistance in beefing up its naval and air capabilities. For instance, India has repaired and upgraded more than 100 MiG 21 planes of the Vietnam People’s Air Force and supplied them with enhanced avionics and radar systems. Indian Air Force pilots have also been training their Vietnamese counterparts.
The Indian Navy, by far larger than the Vietnamese navy, has been supplying critical spares to Hanoi for its Russian origin ships and missile boats. But New Delhi is now more open in supporting Hanoi.

As The Hindu recently reported: “In a first, India has offered a $ 100-million credit line to Vietnam to purchase military equipment. It will be used for purchasing four patrol boats. The credit line was agreed upon around the time India once again expressed its resolve to remain involved in oil exploration activity in the Phu Kanh basin of the South China Sea. Vietnam says it is within its rights to invite India to explore for oil in this area. But China claims that this basin is within the “nine dotted line” or its zone of influence.”

Going further East, India and Japan’s growing strategic ties are not lost on Beijing. Following a longish visit to Tokyo a week after his summit meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has ensured that India and Japan are in a tighter embrace than ever before. In fact, a former foreign secretary of India, Shyam Saran went so far as to declare: “If Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Washington in July 2005, with the announcement of the nuclear deal proved to be a game-changer in India's foreign policy his visit to Tokyo in May 2013 may assume similar significance.”

But it is not just Japan that is receiving attention from New Delhi. Australia, some distance away from the Indian subcontinent, has also become a favored destination for Indian foreign and military diplomacy. AK Antony became the first Indian defense minister to visit Australia in June. En route he had stopped over at Bangkok and Singapore.

New defense cooperation avenues are being explored even as India and Australia play an increasingly important role in issues concerning the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean regions, both bilaterally and multilaterally. Both are members of the East Asia Summit (EAS), ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus), Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) and the Indian Ocean Rim ‑ Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC). 
The Indian military, generally working in isolation from the rest of the governance structure, is coming into its own in establishing lasting relationships with countries outside its traditional zone of influence. If New Delhi can sustain this newly acquired momentum, India’s military diplomacy is likely to play an increasingly important role in the country’s outreach in East and Southeast Asia over the next decade. New Delhi has, however, been careful not to trumpet this development, lest it raise China’s hackles.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Marginalising the soldier not good for nation's health


India's army has seen its role as the nation’s “ultimate weapon” diminish.

The Indian nation should have been able to look back at the country’s journey from 1947 and justifiably feel proud of the progress it has made so far. Unfortunately, the overwhelming mood in India today is that of gloom, despondency, and low self-confidence.

Institutions have been systematically emasculated, some even destroyed. The country’s economy is in the doldrums. The rupee is in a free fall. Experts say that the economy will improve and the rupee will also recover.

Since I have no expertise in those matters, I am willing to go with the optimism of the sarkari experts. But as a student of India’s armed forces, my worry is more long term and I am going to try and highlight the dangers inherent in this development.

The Soldier
It essential to understand why the soldier (in the broader sense) is pivotal for the wellbeing of a nation-state. Military scholars may quote Sun Tzu often when it comes to military strategy, but my favorite is the worldly-wise Chanakya. Centuries ago he toldthe king of Magadh:
"The Mauryan soldier does not himself the Royal treasuries enrich nor does he the Royal granaries fill... The soldier only and merely ensures that... He is thus the very basis and silent, barely visible cornerstone of our fame, culture, physical well-being and prosperity; in short, of the entire nation building activity.

The Indian nation state has, however, forgotten Chanakya’s advice. The Indian soldier today stands at the crossroads, confused about his status in the society and unsure about his own role in a nation led by “faux peaceniks” who will compromise national security for short-term gains like a Nobel Peace Prize. The havoc wrought by an indifferent polity and insensitive bureaucracy to India’s armed forces and changing societal norms, has hit the ordinary soldier hard.

The society no longer respects the soldier and his work in protecting the nation. They may pay lip service in times of crisis but that’s it. Bihar politician Bhim Singh’s utterly tasteless remark that “people join armed forces to die,” in the wake of the killing of five Indian soldiers on the line of control, is symptomatic of the bitter reality. Although forced to withdraw his remark, the Bihar politician symbolizes how a large section of Indian society view soldiering.

An Ultimate Weapon
A local politician, a thanedar, seems to command more clout in society today. This has often led to a loss of self-esteem among ordinary soldiers. A recent movie called Paan Singh Tomar depicted, in some measure, the humiliation that a soldier faces in the civilian environment, both while serving and after retirement from the armed forces.

And yet, from disaster relief in floods, tsunamis and earthquakes, to rescuing an infant prince from a deep tube well, and from quelling rioters in communal strife to being the last resort in internal counter-insurgency operations, the Indian Army is omnipresent. It is, what I have said time and again, India’s Brahmaastra — an ultimate weapon.

The versatility, adaptability, selfless attitude and resourcefulness of the Indian Army have allowed it to be what it is today: nation builders. Viewed in the context of India’s immediate and extended neighborhood, the Indian Army’s stellar role stands out in stark contrast to its counterparts in other countries.

Remember, Indian and Pakistani armies originated from the same source: the British Army. And yet, six decades since they parted ways, there couldn’t be a bigger dissimilarity in the way the two have evolved. As they say, India has an army while the Pakistani Army has a nation.

Despite India’s increasing dependence on the army to pull its chestnuts out of the fire time and again, the Indian Army has scrupulously remained apolitical. It has put down fissiparous and secessionist forces within India with great cost to itself over these 66 years. It has protected India from within and without.

The Indian army also has a unique distinction of helping create a nation (Bangladesh) in the neighborhood and then quietly walking away to let the people take charge. By contrast, the Pakistani Army has never really allowed democracy to flourish in its country. Instead, it has created a military-industrial complex that has spread its tentacles in every aspect of governance. Even today, the Pakistani Army does not let go of any opportunity to undercut democracy; it nurtures and treats jihadi elements as its strategic asset against India and the United States.

Even in other smaller nations around India — Nepal, Myanmar and Bangladesh, for instance — the armed forces have had to intervene and run the affairs of those countries at some point.

So who or what makes the Indian Army so distinct? Simply put, its leaders and its men and their ethos of “service before self.” From the early days of independence, Indian military leaders — stalwarts like KM Cariappa, Rajendra Singhji, KS Thimayya and later Sam Maneckshaw — led the forces from the front and provided a strong moral center that has remained more or less in tact; some very regrettable instances of moral and monetary corruption notwithstanding.

Since independence, one institution that has remained absolutely free of communalism and divisive tendencies is the Indian Army. When caste and religious differences have beset the country’s politics and society at large, the army has stood firm against these divisive forces. It has thus stood the test of time and has consistently upheld and protected the nation’s constitution with unflinching loyalty, making a major contribution in nation building in the first six decades of India’s existence as an independent, sovereign nation.

Civilian Control
However, as India marks its 66th anniversary, I am not so sure if this great institution can withstand the buffeting it receives both from within the Ministry of Defense and beyond.
Why has this happened? Mainly because inIndia, civilian control of the military has become synonymous with bureaucratic control. The political executive, barring a handful, neither has the knowledge nor any interest in military matters, and therefore, it depends completely on inputs from the bureaucrats who continue to mold the political leadership’s thought process according to their own perceptions on governance and administration.

Admiral Arun Prakash, former chief of naval staff and a prolific commentator on national security affairs, has this to say about the equation between the Ministry of Defense and Service Headquarters: "Two major factors have contributed to the systemic dysfunctionality that we see in the management of national security affairs. First is politician’s detachment and indifference towards matters relating to national security, because this is not an issue that can win or lose votes. "Since politicians have not considered it worthwhile establishing close and cordial relations with the leadership of the armed forces, it is not surprising that when faced with a crisis or problem, politicians finds themselves at a complete loss. A related factor is the total reliance that the politician places, for advice, decision-making and problem resolution on transient, generalist MoD civil servants, drawn from diverse backgrounds. This, despite the chiefs and the highly specialized Service HQ (SHQ) staffs being at his disposal for tendering advice in the management of national security."

The effort to cut defense services down to size had begun immediately after independence. Before 1947, the status of the commander in chief (C-in-C) in India was second only to that of the Viceroy. As a member of the Viceroy's Executive Council, he was also the de facto defense minister. He was served by his uniformed principal staff officers (PSOs) and the defense secretary who, incidentally, was below the PSOs in the order of precedence. The role of the Defense Department was not to examine proposals, or to sit in judgment over the Army Headquarters, but was restricted to issuing orders in the name of the Government of India.

Sixty-six years after independence, it is no secret that the political-military interface is all but absent in India’s institutional set up. The armed forces are completely under the day-to-day as well as policy control of the MoD. The desirable politico-military interface is now reduced to weekly, sometimes fortnightly meetings chaired by the defense minister. According to several former chiefs I have spoken to, these meetings are informal, without any agendas or note taking and have no official status — although in theory, the defense minister is deemed to have given policy directions in these meetings.

Former Army Chief Gen. Padmanabhan, who led the army in the crucial period when India mobilized its entire military under Operation Parakram in 2002, has rarely written or spoken about matters of national security since his retirement in 2003.

However, in his book, published in 2005, Padmanabhan had this to say about meeting of service chiefs with the defense minister: “Even at the level of the defence minister and Service Chiefs, exchanges on major matters of defence policy were few and far between, the Defence Minister’s weekly meetings with the Service Chiefs being used to update the minister and equip him to negotiate questions in Parliament. Often, these meetings were deferred, as ‘more important’ activities claimed the time of the minister… The result was… the greater role and authority assumed by the Defence bureaucracy. The Defence Secretary, with his nearness to the Defence Minister, often began to exercise power on the minister’s behalf and was, quite often, regarded as de facto defence minister. The ‘supremacy of the civil over the military’ was thus effectively changed from supremacy of the political authority to that of the civilian bureaucracy.”

Over these six decades, the bureaucracy continued to acquire disproportionate powers vis-à-vis the service chiefs and now it’s a given that the defense secretary and not the service chiefs, is the single-point adviser to the cabinet on military matters. The defense and cabinet secretaries have a consistent interface with the political leadership, as the service chiefs attend the meetings of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) only if invited.

So the defense secretary, a generalist IAS officer and not the military brass, is responsible for national defense as well as conduct of war. Under the current rules, the service chiefs have neither been accorded a status, nor granted any powers in the government edifice. In the process, it is the service chiefs who were marginalized from the decision-making bodies.

While very few have been able to explain the real reason behind the antipathy against the military displayed by the civil bureaucracy and the political executive, my experience suggests that non-military personnel resent the armed forces because of their evidently orderly and efficient ethos, the tightly bound camaraderie, and their distinct standing in the society. And this is not unique to India. Renowned sociologist Morris Janowitz had famously said: “The intimate social solidarity of the military profession is both envied and resented by civilians.”

So is there a way out of this logjam? Can the status quo ever be broken?

Historically, it is to the credit of the Indian Armed Forces that they have fulfilled their assigned role as an organ of the state, that they have functioned effectively in every role, despite a general lack of a supportive government environment by way of adequate finances, resources, equipment, personnel policies, or higher political direction.

Yet though the average Indian soldier remains as hardy as before, he is certainly confused with the pace of change occurring all around him. It is here that the leaders — the officers — will have to adapt themselves to the new reality. The age-old system of regimental traditions and values is robust and serves to develop camaraderie and loyalty between the led and the leader even now. The new fashion to dismiss these ideas as outdated must be arrested. Military ethos is not developed overnight and is certainly not imbibed by pandering blindly to the changes in society. The overwhelming trend to be a “careerist” must be eliminated.
The desire to advance one’s career at any cost, to strive for promotion, even by cutting corners along with the crave for awards as a means to boost chances of attaining the next rank, has become a rampant practice among the officer class. Self-preservation has exaggerated that protection and advancement of career at all levels seems to have become a sine qua non for most officers. That must change. And that change must come from the top.
As the wise sage had said to the king: “While the Magadha citizenry endeavours to make the State prosper and flourish, the Mauryan soldier guarantees that the State continues to exist!”

Can we, people in uniform, civil services, politics, media and society at large, imbue this spirit and make the soldier — our bulwark against any potential threat — stronger?

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Now to build two more N-subs quickly

With its nuclear reactor going "critical" on Friday night, INS Arihant (Sanskrit for Destroyer of enemies), India's first indigenously developed nuclear-propelled and in the future nuclear-armed submarine has reached a significant landmark. It has certainly taken much longer than desirable. 

The project, earlier known as ATV (Advanced Technology Vessel), began way back in 1998 but picked up pace only in the mid-2000s. In 2009, it was launched by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's wife Gursharan Kaur at a ceremony in Vizag, headquarter of India's Eastern Naval Command.

Those associated with the projected from its inception will be satisfied professionals today. Indian Navy designers, engineers, scientists of the Department of Atomic Energy, Defence Research and Development (DRDO) and most importantly private sector companies led by the redoubtable Larsen & Toubro (L&T) deserve heartfelt thanks from the nation from having achieved the milestone. 

In a rare public comment, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh too has congratulated those associated with the project. He said: "I am delighted to learn that the nuclear propulsion reactor on board INS Arihant, India’s first indigenous nuclear powered submarine, has now achieved criticality. I extend my congratulations to all those associated with this important milestone, particularly the Department of Atomic Energy, the Indian Navy and the Defence Research and Development Organization.

"Today’s development represents a giant stride in the progress of our indigenous technological capabilities. It is testimony to the ability of our scientists, technologists and defence personnel to work together for mastering complex technologies in the service of our nation’s security.

"I look forward to the early commissioning of the INS Arihant."

That's the next important step. Now that the reactor is a "go" the submarine will make shallow dives, complete the deep diving trials and prepare for the weapon trials of the torpedoes and missiles with dummy warheads to be ready for commissioning. Once at sea, the vessel will be gradually loaded with weapons and missiles. Each test will be conducted underwater for two months or more. This will include the Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM). In the past the Navy has carried out 10 underwater launches of SLBMs code named ‘B05’ using a submerged pontoon to mimic a submarine. So far the range has been 700 km, while the bigger variant, know as the ‘K-4’, is designed to hit targets 3,500 km away.

The boat will then be commissioned in to the Indian Navy.

Top government sources indicate it is likely to happen over the next few months. 

Like all professionals, the team that brought Arihant to this stage is now focused on the next two submarines in the series being built in the same shipyard. Their aim: Take the indigenous content of the next two nuclear submarines from the 40 to 60 and then to 70 per cent by the time the third submarine is ready for commissioning possibly by 2017. The combined team that has built Arihant is however proud of the fact that its digital control systems are designed competely locally which means no dependence on foreign vendors in this critical aspect.

According to Commodore Ranjit Rai, a former Director, Naval Operations and Naval Intelligence, this project has seen a huge collaborative effort.

Writing in a defence magazine some years ago, he had observed: "A large planning and design office called Akanksha (Hope) in New Delhi, has directed the ATV programme under the current Director General, retired Vice Admiral D S P Verma. Facilities at Vishakapatnam have been built by the DRDO, industry and the Indian Navy with BARC’s collaboration with funds and monitoring from the PMO.

"Two Admirals with technical expertise have headed the two large supporting complexes. One is the sprawling Defence Material Department (DMD) at Hyderabad, which collaborates with DRDO labs and BHEL for the heat exchanger turbine propulsion system, and MIDHANI for special steel requirements and other contractors. The large Submarine Building Centre (SBC), tucked behind high walls and barbed wires in the heart of Vishakapatnam, is where the hull was put together in sections provided from engineering and refinery reactor maker L&T. This company is investing heavily in ship building, and already has facilities at Hazira in Gujarat and Mazagon Docks in Mumbai (Bombay).

"Walchandnagar Industries provided the gear box and shafting as it does to Indian Navy’s Leanders. Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL), another state-run company, is fitting out the USHUS sonar, radars and the Combat Management System along with Tata Power Ltd which has a tieup with BAE Systems for the control pedestal. KSB pumps and Jindal pipes have also played a significant role. The submarine is coated with rubber anechoic tiles supplied by a rubber vulcanising firm in Mysore to provide stealth qualities.
BARC, which steered the critical nuclear reactor installation programme in 1975, also manufactures and stores India’s fission and fusion atomic bombs. It has provided training to Navy’s technical officers in submarine nuclear technology.

"The ATV project has also set up a small submarine reactor training complex at Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR), Kalpakkam, near Chennai with facilities to test the 80 MW–plus pressure water reactors before insertion into submarine hulls. The reactor is normally sealed into a 600-ton titanium shell of about 10 metres in diameter.

According to a former Indian Navy nuclear boat Captain with command of INS Chakra, “the nuclear submarine operates like any other under water boat, except that it can stay under water for months and it is imperative that the key members learn to operate the computer controlled nuclear power plant… Each crew member has to be aware of all the possible emergencies including emergency shut down that can take place in the ensconced nuclear reactor.”

With two more nuclear-powered, nuclear-armed submarines on their way, this public-private partnership can only get stronger. For the moment though, its time to savour a major milestone in Indian Navy's journey to becoming a powerful force in India's immediate and extended neighbourhood.

Nuclear reactor on INS Arihant goes critical; huge step forward for India's N-triad

Moving towards completing its nuclear triad, India tonight activated the atomic reactor on-board the indigenous nuclear submarine INS Arihant paving way for its operational deployment by the Navy soon.

Top government sources told me that all systems of the indigenously made nuclear reactor are "go" and the submarine will soon be launched to sea on the Eastern coast.

"We are gearing up for the sea trials of Arihant," the then DRDO chief V K Saraswat had told reporters in May.

Nuclear triad is the ability to fire nuclear-tipped missiles from land, air and sea. After the nuclear reactor is activated, the agencies concerned can work towards readying the warship for operational deployments soon.

According to earlier reports, the DRDO has also readied a medium-range nuclear missile BO-5 for deployment on the Arihant and its last developmental trial was held on January 27 off the coast of Vishakhapatnam.

So far, the US, Russia, France, China, and the UK have the capability to launch a submarine-based ballistic missile.
Though this comes as good news for India's defence capabilities, there is some concern over the overall strength of India's submarine fleet. India has 14 conventional submarines that run on either battery or diesel and are aging and outdated. Each of them will have completed the standard life-span of 25 years by 2017.

The nuclear submarine will help India achieve the capability of going into high seas without the need to surface the vessel for long durations.

Conventional diesel-electric submarines have to come up on surface at regular intervals for charging the cells of the vessel. 

Friday, August 9, 2013

Don't rush into dialogue with Pakistan, warn stalwarts

The killing of  five Indian soldiers in Poonch sector of the Line of Control (LoC) earlier this week and the subsequent fiasco over the Defence Minister's contradictory statements in Parliament has generated a huge controversy. Despite the uproar, many commentators and politicians have suggested that dialogue with Pakistan must be "uninterrupted and uninterruptable." 
Disturbed by the ongoing development, 41 strategic affairs experts formerly with the Army, Navy, Air Force, IFS, IB, RAW and the Civil Services and now prominent commentators and writers got together in New Delhi today and issued the following statement urging the government NOT to go ahead with dialogue with Pakistan. Here's the full text. Their names are at the end of the statement. The collective wisdom of these stalwarts is not some thing to be sneezed at. The question is: Does the establishment have the sagacity to listen to these voices of caution?
The full statement for whatever it is worth:
Reports indicate that with the change of government in Pakistan and the exchange of visits by special envoys, the Government of India is prepared to resume the composite/comprehensive dialogue with Pakistan, interrupted since January this year as a sequel to the beheading of Indian soldiers by the Pakistani army on the LOC in J&K. The possibility that discussions on Sir Creek and Tulbul Navigation may take place even before the proposed meeting of the Indian and Pakistani Prime Ministers in September in New York on the margins of the UNGA meeting has been aired in the media. Reports indicate that all these are being done without any linkage to the 26/11 terror attack or to the issue of Pakistan sponsored terrorism.
The Joint Statement issued after the Sharm el-Sheikh Summit between the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan in 2009 alluded to the resumption of the Composite Dialogue Process, while proclaiming: “Action against terrorism should not be linked to the Composite Dialogue Process”. The Dialogue that followed with Pakistan was identical in substance and form with the Composite Dialogue Process. This Dialogue Process was agreed to in 1997. It remained suspended after the Kargil Conflict and the attack on the Indian Parliament in December 2001. It was resumed only after a cease-fire along the LoC in Jammu & Kashmir took effect in November 2003 and a categorical public assurance received by then Prime Minister Vajpayee from then President Musharraf in January 2004 that territory under Pakistan’s control would not be used for terrorism against India. The Sharm el-Sheikh Declaration and the business-as-usual Composite Dialogue that followed has emboldened the Pakistan establishment to stall, obfuscate and delay action against the perpetrators and masterminds of the 26/11 terrorist attack. The Pakistan establishment has quite evidently concluded that India does not expect firm action against those perpetrating terrorism from its soil and that terrorism and dialogue can go hand in hand.
The government would be well advised not to rush into a dialogue with Pakistan on the assumption that the new Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mian Nawaz Sharif, is ostensibly committed to improving ties with India. Good intentions are not sufficient to create conditions for productive negotiations; concrete actions on the ground are required. All the more so because of known structural impediments on the Pakistani side to normalization of India-Pakistan ties represented by the mind-set of the Pakistani military and the jihadi groups nurtured by them. The threat of India-directed terrorism from Pakistani soil is far from being eliminated.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif promise to expedite the trial of those accused of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks and grant India MFN status agreed to by the previous government has not been kept. On the contrary, we see negative developments that can seriously set back the relationship. Our Consulate in Jalalabad has been subject to a terrorist attack for the first time, raising questions about the timing. This has been followed by the highly provocative killing of five Indian soldiers inside our territory in J&K a couple of days ago. Earlier on, the Pakistani Foreign Office issued a statement on a recent incident of firing inside J&K, the harshness of which was incompatible with a desire to turn a new page in bilateral ties. In this context, the implications of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s declared intention to focus on resolving the Kashmir issue need to be properly analyzed.
The trend lines of Pakistan’s hostile acts, both through its organs of state and sponsored non-state actors, which are accompanied by implausible and even insulting denials and explanations, do not show signs of reversal under Pakistan’s new government which has blandly denied even the occurrence of the latest incident of the killing of our soldiers. Since the beginning of this year, 57 incidents of border violations have occurred. The Raksha Mantri has informed Parliament that both infiltration by terrorists and cease-fire violations on the LoC have increased by more than 80 percent since last year.
In these circumstances, it is evident that the euphoria over the change of government in Pakistan, and its initial statements is misplaced. India would be well advised to calibrate its approach to Pakistan not to mere assurances and promises of a desire for normalization of relations but to concrete indicators that the latter is moving away from the use of terror as an instrument of foreign policy.
Over the years, we have put behind us many instances of hostile acts by Pakistan, including the terrorist attacks against the symbols of our democracy, our centres of economic activity, our cities and our streets, in the hope that engagement and dialogue will change Pakistan’s behavior in its own interest. The meagre results of this policy are apparent. It is unfortunate that we have learnt nothing from this and have gone to make compromise after compromise with Pakistan simply to keep some kind of engagement going. Such a policy of appeasement has manifestly failed to deliver results – as indeed all appeasement must fail. This is the ineluctable lesson of history.
The way forward is for all Indians, and the government in particular, to develop a national consensus on issues of national security, counter-terrorism and defence preparedness, de-linking them from electoral politics. Ill-advised attempts and measures to denigrate and undermine the functioning of vital institutions like the Army and the Intelligence Bureau through motivated assertions and leaks to the media are a cause of serious concern. These inflict incalculable damage  on vital security institutions and systems, and on the morale of the personnel concerned.
At a time when Pakistan is day in and day out using terrorism against us, it would be ill-advised for the Prime Minister to meet with Nawaz Sharif as it would signal that relations between the two countries are in a business-as-usual mode. India should show no anxiety to hold a dialogue with Pakistan, keep a steady focus on the issue of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism in any conversation that takes place, abjure language that equates our problems with terrorism with those of Pakistan, and take Siachen out of the basket of issues to be discussed with Pakistan as and when a dialogue is resumed, in view of the evolution of the ground situation in the area.
India has for much too long meekly put up with Pakistan-inspired terrorism and our citizens across the country have paid a terrible price. This has only encouraged Pakistan in its pursuit of such policies. It is time that policies are devised that will impose a cost on Pakistan for its export of terror to India, and thus change the cost-benefit calculus of these policies and actions. A proactive approach by India towards Pakistan must be the order of the day, as it will yield us much better results than those garnered by policies of appeasement which have regrettably been pursued by us for years.
We therefore strongly recommend that we do not rush into a dialogue with Pakistan, and the proposed meeting between the Prime Ministers of the two countries be cancelled.


1.     Mr Anil Baijal, former Home Secretary
2.     Amb Satish Chandra, former Deputy National Security Advisor
3.     Maj Gen Ramesh C Chopra, Strategic Expert
4.     Lt Gen Shantonu Choudhry, former Vice Chief of Army Staff
5.     Amb Rajiv Dogra, former High Commissioner to Italy & Romania
6.     Mr Ajit Doval, former Director Intelligence Bureau
7.     Air Marshal Satish Inamdar, former Vice Chief of Air Staff
8.     Mr DR Kaarthikeyan, former Director Central Bureau of Investigation
9.     Brig Gurmeet Kanwal, former Director Centre for Land Warfare Studies
10.     Maj Gen Dhruv Katoch, Director Centre for Land Warfare Studies
11.     Air Chief Marshal S Krishnaswamy, former Chief of Air Staff
12.     Lt Gen NC Marwah, former CISC & GOC-in-C Andaman and Nicobar Command
13.     Maj Gen Ashok Mehta, former GOC IPKF
14.     Mr Nripendra Mishra, former Chairman, TRAI
15.     Mr DC Nath, former Special Director Intelligence Bureau
16.     Vice Admiral KK Nayyar, former Vice Chief of Naval Staff
17.     Amb G Parthasarathy, former High Commissioner to Pakistan
18.     Brig Vijay Raheja, Strategic Expert
19.     Amb M Rasgotra, former Foreign Secretary
20.     Mr RN Ravi, former Special Secretary Intelligence Bureau
21.     Gen Shankar RoyChowdhury, former Chief of Army Staff
22.     Mr CD Sahay, former Secretary Research & Analysis Wing
23.     Lt Gen Ravi Sawhney, former Deputy Chief of Army Staff
24.     Brig Vijai Sawhney, Strategic Expert
25.     Amb JC Sharma, former Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs
26.     Gen VN Sharma, former Chief of Army Staff
27.     Amb Prabhat Shukla, former High Commissioner to Russia
28.     Amb Kanwal Sibal, former Foreign Secretary
29.     Amb Rajiv Sikri, former Secretary (East), Ministry of External Affairs
30.     Mr Dhirendra Singh, former Home Secretary
31.     Lt Gen PK Singh, Director United Service Institution of India
32.     Mr Prakash Singh, former DG Border Security Force
33.     Lt Gen SK Sinha, former Vice Chief of Army Staff & Governor J&K & Assam
34.     Lt Gen DS Thakur, former Deputy Chief of Army Staff
35.     AVM AK Tiwary, former Chief Operations Officer, Air Command
36.     Mr AK Verma, former Secretary Research & Analysis Wing
37.     Gen NC Vij, former Chief of Army Staff
38.     Brig RS Chhikara, Strategic Expert
39.     Brig Vinod Anand, Strategic Expert
40.     Col Karan Kharb, ex Commanding Officer, 21 Bihar Regiment
41.     Lt Gen Gautam Banerjee, former Chief of Staff, Central Command

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Political expediency cannot mix with military action

The ceasfire put in place at the line of control (LoC) between India and Pakistan in November 2003 is all but a charade now. Brutal killings, cross-border raids, medium and heavy firing with small arms and mortars has increased exponentially over the past couple of years. This calendar year alone, there have been 57 ceasfire violations by Pakistan, a whopping 80 per cent jump from 2012. The number of infiltration attempts have risen dramatically too. But more than anything else, it is the intention of the Pakistani Army and ISI to keep the pot boiling in Kashmir that has not changed, ceasefire or no ceasefire.

Recall what the then Northern Army Commander Lt Gen KT Parnaik told me in an interview on June 17 less than two months ago: "With we have to understand that the infrastructure that supports and propels this entire proxy war across the border is intact, whether they are the training camps or the launching pads or the communication facilities. Secondly the continued efforts of the establishment in Pakistan to push the infiltrators across the LoC continue. 

"The number of ceasefire violations that we have had and a large number of incidents in which they had tried to breach the LoC and the fence has been detected in the past. So I feel as long as the intention on the infrastructure doesn't change we cannot keep our guard down. While these figures have marginally changed over a period of time, it is not the numbers that are important, it is the fact that they continue to be there and every season these camps get activated for training and motivation. Intelligence agencies have confirmed that these camps continue to be active. So they are talking about 42 camps across and 4,000-5,000 is generally the strength. They come for training and go away, but the important part is why should the adversary maintain these camps, why should they give them the patronage? They get arms, equipment, state of the art communication equipment and wherewithal to carry out infiltration. This itself highlights the problems that exist today. Despite a number of dialogues, there is no improvement, that's why we can't let our guard down."

Words of a true professional who foresaw what is in store.

Despite all the professed willingness showed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to take the peace process with India forward, as long as the Pakistani Army and ISI along with groups like Lashkar-e-Toiba, remain inimical to India, no amount of dialogue will calm the situation on the LoC.

The Indian establishment, especially those pushing for talks with Pakistan at any cost must take this factor into account. Can Sharif enure the closure of these camps? Can New Delhi hold Islamabad accountable to the promise it made in January 2004 that Pakistan will not allow its territory or territory controlled by it to be used by terrorists for anti-India activities?

If there is no guarantee on this count, no amount of conferences on the sidelines of UN General Assembly or otherwise, are going to bear any fruit.

That said, the Indian security establishment, especially the Indian Army will have to look within and review some of the procedures and tactics that are being employed along the LoC. When the January beheading of an Indian soldier happened, there were were murmurs that there could have been tactical errors on part of the patrol party that allowed the Pakistani Border Action Team (BAT) to kill the two Indian soldiers. 

After the killing of 5 soldiers on Monday night-Tuesday morning, the murmurs have become a louder. An initial internal assessment of the incident points to tactical lapses by the local unit. A couple of questions need quick answers for the situation to be rectified. One, why was the area domination patrol strenth only 6 and not minimum 10  (a section) as is the standrad practice? Some reports have suggested that the outgoing ballation (21 Bihar) was showing the incoming unit (14 Maratha) the key locations and a bunker ahead of the fence but well within the LoC. If that be so, why take the new unit on a familiarisation exercise at night? Also was the patrolling pattern repeated without variation over a prolonged period giving the adversary the chance to observer it closely and then attack at a time and place of its choosing?

No doubt, all these possible shortcomings are being looked into. Surely the commanders on ground would know that the most vulnerable period on the LoC is during the chnage over of units. The old unit is in transfer mode, the new one is on unfamiliar territory. That's when the adversary is known to strike. In 2010, in the Uri sector, two Indian soldiers were beheaded in exactly these circumstances. That Indian troops hit back appropriately with similar tactics is also well known.

But there is a larger question here posed by veterans of Kashmir deployment: Have commanders on the ground lost the ability to take initiative and launch punitive action against raiding Pakistani forces? Has the leadership developed cold feet in taking actions that are well within its realm of responsibility? 

Sample what one veteran emailed to me in the immediate aftermath of the killing of 5 soldiers. : "If I were the CO, I would have launched adecisive counter attack to make the enemy pay with or without permission from my superiors and to hell with the consequences. Such actions are not without precedents. In the early 60s, there was anincident of beheading in Blue Sector (J&K) which was answered by an immediate counter attack by the battalion after which there was no such incident till the battalion was de-inducted. The Company commander later on rose to be an Army Commander. And then there was a Corps Commander (who later on became the Chief) who ordered punitive action with telling effect without any sanction from the Army Commander. When pulled up, he said that seeking permission for local actions would only result in delaying the response which would have finally ended in a stalemate. No further questions were asked. At present we only seem to be reacting instead of (pre-) acting and/or pro-acting. Its time we went on the offensive with a series of attacks which will give a clear message to the enemy that we mean business. Endless inaction on our part will certainly leave us in a demoralised state. If this course leads to war, so be it. Patience seems to our only strong point at present." 

2013, admittedly is not the 1960s but bold local commanders are known to be appropriately aggressive even in the past half a dozen years. Of late however, there is a tendency to be ultra cautious, to look for directions from the top before taking any step considered out of the box.

After all is said and done, Indian Army must also review its counter-infiltration operating procedure on the LoC. In all likelihood commanders on ground are constrained by an overwhelming urge to look for signal from the brass before taking any tough step. 

They will have to revisit the old adage: what is militarily desirable is not necessarily politically correct. They must know that mixing political expediency with military action is suicidal. Only then Indian army officers can regain the confidence of its men and thereby the Indian citizens.