A soldier’s profession is war. He is selected, trained, nurtured and then posted to his unit (Army) to be ever prepared for war-to protect his country, its constitution and its values. He needs guns, equipment, tanks, society’s support and political direction to fight war. This is what our political leaders, and bureaucrats don’t understand. And therefore, the crucial necessity to educate them in professional military matters.
For quite some time two issues have been doing the rounds in the media. The question of expansion of specialised/elite commando forces: As mentioned by former Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Deepak Kapoor (Retd); a proactive strategy to mobilise fast and strike hard; to launch self contained highly mobile battle groups with T 90 and T 72 tanks backed by the Indian Air Force (IAF), to assault within 96 hours.
This concept was debated earlier on also during former COAS Gen N C Vij’s tenure. The second issue is the delays which occur in the procurement of military hardware from abroad for use by troops, due to cumbersome procedures and bureaucratic delays.
Gen Vij (Retd) had preferred to modernise the existing units instead of any further proliferation of specialised forces. Now, the specialised forces are really meant to undertake those offensive tasks across the border in Pakistan or China which would paralyse enemy command and control systems such as by raiding headquarters, damaging airfields and aircraft, ammunition depots, bridges and so on.
For which purpose they may have to move by helicopters or dropped by air or even march long distances by night inside enemy territory without being detected. Personnel chosen for such units have to have exceptionally high standards of physical fitness, morale and of course leadership.
This concept is really a leaf from Maj. Gen. Orde Wingate’s two expeditions which he led behind Japanese lines, in Burma, during the second World War. For his second expedition he briefed Mr. Churchill and President Roosevelt of America with all his requirements. Such was the interaction. The political leaders knew what was required for such operations. In India it is not so. Our political leaders or bureaucrats are clueless about such military matters.
"What do we need the special force for in a 'Reactive doctrine'? When the nation would be content with defending the present LoC and LAC."
To revert back ; the question is, if the army's primary task is going to remain as “Chowkidars” of the Loc (Pak) and LAC (China) and in future, focus on internal security, then Gen. Vij’s decision to only modernize the existing units instead of proliferation of special forces cannot be faulted. What do we need the special force for in a “Reactive doctrine”? When the nation would be content with defending the present LoC and LAC.
On the other hand, Gen Malik, ex COAS had laid the blame on cumbersome equipment procedures for procurement resulting in lack of preparedness and by implication non availability of equipment for India’s initial failure at Kargil.
Now it is a fact, in spite of India having a very large structure for Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) which has nearly 42 highly sophisticated laboratories and a huge budget which is supported by nearly 40 defence production factories, which employ more than 1,83,000 personnel and yet India remains dependent for its tanks and their spare parts, AK-47s and their ammunition, long range artillery guns, hand held radar systems, even bullet proof tests and mine detectors on foreign countries.
This is, no doubt, a serious handicap for the Army. In addition, there is a wide gap between the DRDO and the Army. The latter has no control of the Ministry of Defence. Thus, a great deal of time is wasted in paper transactions. And in the process, the troops suffer.
However, given that there are many flaws in the system, even then the Army cannot take recourse to this shortcoming. The fact is that the Army was surprised by Pakistan at Kargil and caught with its pants down. Because, the LoC there was left naked. It is only India’s brave Infantrymen who rallied and saved the day! Or the President, Prime Minister, Defence Minister and the COAS would have been shown the door!
Kargil would continue to be addressed as a political and higher command failure of the worst order resulting in approximately 500 casualties. It cannot be justified no matter what one states about the non availability of equipment and connected hardware.
What needs to be done? The lesson to be learnt is that the Indian Army Chief is a big man. There is only one Army Chief. He is accountable for India’s security. He must accost the PM or the President, if Nation’s security is being compromised due to procedures and other delays while in service instead of making out cases after retirement.
During his service the Army Chief’s first requirement is the Nation’s Defence Policy outlining Army’s objectives and tasks based on which he will finalise Army’s operational doctrine, development and training. He must demand this. And only then can he decide on equipping the Army. Obviously, the Army cannot remain hostage to foreign arms factories to overcome which a massive Indigenization plan would have to be implemented.
The Private entrepreneur would have to be educated regarding the operational environment in which the Army functions. He will have to be encouraged. And the Army can do a lot here. Insufficient efforts have been made in the past by the Army to educate its political masters and the bureaucracy regarding the onerous intelligence, manpower and equipment needs it has. And when the Chief’s retire, the Nation would like to know as to what they did to resolve these issues while in service instead of justifying Kargil.
(Maj Gen. VK Madhok is a product of the 1st Course JSW/NDA and was commissioned into the 3 GR. He was the BGS HQ Southern Command and the COS at HQ 4 Corps. He retired as the ADG (TA). He lives in Pune. The author can be reached on Email: [email protected] Views expressed are the authors own and do not reflect the editorial policy of 'Mission Victory India')