A Misplaced Notion?
A misplaced notion which elite forces such as the Indian Army's Para SF (Special Forces) suffer from, is the perception that they were and are not intended to be utilised for operations pertaining to the country's internal security conditions. Not only do they live in their own cocoon, but are also out of sync with the emerging trends and developments in the ever evolving modern-battlescape.
In today's age of nuclear and biological weapons, is there really a scope for a classical conventional war, one where such Special Forces outfits would be sent to operate behind enemy lines? In fact, this role can certainly be carried out far more effectively and at significantly lower costs by 'irregular soldiers' of the adversary. So why invest in a force which wants to disconnect from its national security role?
What is 'National Security’? Aren't Special Forces meant for specialised tasks pertaining to national security? Are these roles not inclusive of securing the nation from both internal and external threats? Let most of these ‘Special Forces officers’ answer the following question; What was the National Defence Academy (NDA) prayer they rattled out every morning muster?
Didn't it say —- “Strengthen us to guard our country against external aggression and internal disorders?” And what was the oath all of you took on commissioning from the Indian Military Academy (IMA) or the Officers Training Academy (OTA)? Did it ask you to only defend the country from external aggression?
Therefore, those who advocate staying away from Counter Insurgency Operations (CI Ops) are disgracing the oath which they had rightfully sworn by. Unfortunately, these misplaced notions are not only prevalent in the Special Forces community, but are also pervasive as part of a general feeling amongst top military thinkers who still believe that the Indian Army is meant for external security only.
What external threats are they waiting for, if the nation explodes internally? Which foreign enemy will they fight if our internal enemies destroy the country? In 2011, Dr Manmohan Singh, the erstwhile Prime Minister of India had observed that an 'Internal threat' was more dangerous than an 'External Threat'.
National Security Cannot Conveniently be Bifurcated
National security cannot be conveniently bifurcated into external and internal threats. This is what has gone wrong with India whilst national security is being dealt with by two separate ministries; The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the Ministry of Defence (MOD). It affects the effective utilisation of available resources.
No wonder Maoists have the upper hand over the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and other Paramilitary forces (PMF). Foolproof National security demands that a death blow be delivered to the nation’s internal enemies, using all available resources. It is felt that the decision for internal security to be handled by the Home Ministry was not to fight an internal threat but to rather checkmate the armed forces against an ‘imagined’ or likely 'military coup'.
A Nehruvian Legacy
This is a Nehruvian legacy which carries on to this day. A few incidents had taken place where he was apprehensive of the military. First, it was a letter written by Brig KM Carriappa (later General and a Field Marshal) to British Indian Army chief in 1947, asking him not to divide the British Indian Army. The contents of the letter were divulged to Jawaharlal Nehru by Lord Mountbatten.
Then an incident took place in a cabinet meeting where Lieutenant General Nathu Singh Rathore had questioned Nehru on importing a British General to head the Indian Army of a ‘Free India’. The events which unfolded thereafter in Pakistan had confirmed his beliefs; A military coup can take place even in India. It is because of such fears, that led Nehru to tell General Roy Bucher, Commander in Chief (C-in-C) of theIndian Army in 1949 -50, that India did not need an army because it did not have an enemy. "The Police can do the job", he stressed.
Thus, a lopsided view of Indian National Security is embedded in the mind of the political leadership of the country. In fact, in January 2012, there were rumours of a likely military coup in the media. Such an unfounded alarm is reflective of a fear-psychosis of the national leadership. Instead of national security, they were rather worried about their own positions. Even the post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) created with much fanfare, has many lacunae. In fact, it is a toothless tiger doing more harm to its own den.
No wonder India deals with national security in a piecemeal manner. After years of such a practice, even the armed forces and its leaders have begun to think that they are meant only for external threats. Serviced and manned by the Army, how can Special Forces then have different views? Ironically, these military experts do not understand the demands of the 'Brain Force Wars' of the 21 st Century.
The threat to India's security in the 21st Century is rather more from an internal enemy, one aided and abetted from outside our territorial boundaries. The advent of WMD's with deadly lethality, perfect or near-perfect accuracy and unimaginable ranges of weapons, such as Bio-Weapons, like Corona, the direct and absolute wars of the 'Brawn Force Era' have passed onto the annals of history. The direct use of WMD’s and physical force is slowly going out of fashion.
It is the era of 'Brain Force Wars’. To further accentuate, I would say that it was the era of 'War by Other Means' (WOM) — mostly fought by 'Irregular Soldiers', like militants/insurgents, trained or sponsored by the enemy. In WOM, internal vulnerabilities of the adversary are exploited.
In fact, a new doctrine has emerged which advocates ‘Warfare without Rules’. Some suspect that Covid-19 is the product of such a doctrine which is based on the book, 'Unrestricted Warfare', written by two Chinese colonels in 1999: Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui. This sets the stage for an era of 'Invisible Wars' waged by an 'Invisible enemy'. It is time for our national security planners and armed forces to grasp this emerging form of military conflict(s).
Internal Enemies: the Supreme Threat!
Given the aforementioned, SF cannot obtain a sabbatical from national security as long as the external threat does not develop. They ought to be an active part of the National security apparatus, both in external and internal security scenarios. Centuries ago, great Indian sage Chanakya had said, that a state/king faces four kinds of danger:—
— One that emanated from outside and abetted from outside. It is an external war
— One that emanated from inside and abetted from inside. It is rebellion or palace intrigue.
— One that emanates from Outside but abetted from inside. It is treason by fifth columnists. King must keep a watch on such elements
—Lastly, one, which emanated from inside and abetted from outside. It is an insurgency or secession.
According to Chanakya, the last scenario is the most dangerous threat, and it must be tackled by the king/state by all the resources at their disposal. The India we know today, all the way from the North East (NE) to Jammu & Kashmir, and from J&K to Kerala through Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu, is in a very, very vulnerable situation internally.
Both China and Pakistan are actively abetting them. China and Pakistan might not directly attack India, but by the use of Kashmiri militants, NE Separatists, and Maoists/Naxalites to balkanise India. At best, China and Pakistan might pose a threat to the border(s). To counter it, India has adequate deterrence.
Given this, India has to muster all its resources and deal with the internal situation. Was the National Security Guard (NSG) not deployed at Golden Temple in 1984? What mess was made at Pathankot airport on January 01, 2016, when half-trained force was used to tackle the suicide terrorists who had entered the airport?
Undoubtedly, it must be noted that special occasions would arise when Specialised Forces would be used in internal threats. Even NSG is a specialised force —-it was used in Mumbai’s 26/11. So for what special occasions, the advocates of no-usage of SF in CI Ops, are waiting for? What if India goes to the la Soviet Union? What is it saving the SF for?
Saving for a Rainy Day Which May Never Come?
It is ridiculous to say that the best should be preserved for a day which may not come. It suffers from the same mindset displayed by some other elite troops who think they were destined to replicate General Guderian and Manstein of the Second World War’s German Army. Should India extensively invest in such non-useable elite forces, who are more or less redundant for active use in the Brain Force Wars or the WOM of Designer wars? Missiles, drones, Swarm Technology, Laser killers, Bio-Weapons and WMD, serve as the proportionate deterrence to prevent an enemy from any direct misadventure.
And a final reminder that erstwhile Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia were not broken up by the mighty North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) or US's elite forces, but by their internal enemies. Soviet Union was not defeated in Afghanistan by the USA but by 'Irregular Soldiers'. And now the USA is finding herself helpless against the same 'irregular Soldiers'... All her elite forces are rendered useless against the WOM.
It is time for the Indian security planners to understand as to what lies in the menu for future military conflicts in the region? Geopolitics of the area is giving clear indications of a hike in internal disturbances, sponsored and aided from outside. It must use all its resources, Including the elite Special Forces, against the internal enemy. Danger to national security and its integrity is not as much from explosions on the borders, but rather from the resultant of unmitigated internal implosions; well within the bounds of our country.
Clarification Pertaining to the Article
This article was written by the author in response to a 2018 interview of Lt Gen Katoch, which was published in 'The Week' and reproduced on 'Mission Victory India.' Lt Gen Katoch cited the 'over deployment' of Special Forces operatives in CI Ops, a role meant to be carried out by the Rashtriya Rifles (RR). Lt. Gen Katoch has maintained that the Indian Army's Special Forces are meant for highly specialised operations, often beyond the country's geographical borders. Both views expressed by Lt. Gen Katoch and Col. Kushwaha respectively, have been prevalent in the Indian Army as two separate schools of thought.
Link to Lt. Gen Katoch's Article: https://missionvictoryindia.com/sf-not-for-ci-ops/