Veterans Criticise Decision to Retire Army Officers whose Bases are Attacked

"It appears that the present COAS’s gratitude to the establishment for appointing over two others in contention outweighs his responsibilities towards his command. Thus, his actions have exhibited over time."

Veterans Criticise Decision to Retire Army Officers whose Bases are Attacked


“Essentially, the government wants these officers to put in their papers and retire. The officers will still be eligible to receive all the benefits that are due to them,” a government officials was quoted in a report in the Hindustan Times on June 21, 2019 in the article by Sudhi Ranjan Sen. The government has told the Indian Army that three commanders in charge of the Uri brigade, Sunjuwan military camp and the Nagrota army base should be told to go home.

Veterans and Serving Officers Respond

Brig IS Gakhal (Retd), ex-Cdr RR Sector

It appears that the present COAS’s gratitude to the establishment for appointing over two others in contention outweighs his responsibilities towards his command. This, his actions have exhibited over time. Now for the issue at hand. My RR Sector HQ was located in the centre of a large trading road head village. My requests to move it out to a secure place were scoffed at.

One late evening I was returning from my Ops room to residential quarters 200 meters away when two grenades were launched. One of the two escorts and I were injured and evacuated. A Court of Inquiry (CoI) was held where no one questioned me. The result was I did not make it to the next rank, but was given a wound medal.

Therefore, the army has an internal mechanism to find fault and remedy it. The Uri Commander was moved within a week – that is sacking in every which way you see it. Army is far less forgiving than any other organization. A team of four soldiers were sentenced to imprisonment for firing at a car that had jumped to check posts already. This one action finally led to 40 CRPF deaths at Pulwama.

Who wants to go to jail for doing his duty? So checking of cars was dispensed with and a 350 kg explosive laden vehicle rams into CRPF convoy. Short sighted actions lead to long term damages. The government decisions to terminate services of commanders whose bases are attacked is one such pea-brained idea.

Cdrs will develop a defensive mindset. Secure bases offensive operations be damned. Cdrs will avoid operational assignment to play safe.  More manpower will get deployed to base security and less for actual ops. We will have to relearn lessons that we learnt during IKPF and Kargil. Till date I haven’t come across a single sacking of IPS and Babus whose actions resulted in loss of many lives.

Take the case of 119 children dead in Bihar due poor health management. The other factor is that only if the Cdr has been given the wherewith all by the government to defend the base, can the government morally sack a Cdr?

Rear Admiral Alan O’Leary (Retd)

We in the Armed Forces, take over appointments, as directed by the headquarters. On taking over, every Commander makes the best of what he has. Deficiencies in infrastructure, quantum of war material at his disposal and locational disadvantages including inimical political diktats.

Until recently, he could not even hit back, if the striking terrorist force manages to flee to safely, across the Line of Control. We have to remember that surprise is on the side of the attacker. Knowing all this and the fact that Commanders have one hand tied behind their back and then put into a boxing ring.

It is absurd to put all blame on him and ask them to resign, for a terrorist attack in their jurisdiction. This would destroy morale and there would be few takers for difficult jobs. The correct and appropriate action in these circumstances would be, for the Chief concerned, to put in his papers and go, if he was unable to make a dent on the environment instead of seeking a scapegoat.

We must remember, the fine example set by ex CNS Admiral DK Joshi, who by his resignation put a message across loud and clear to the government, in no uncertain terms.

Gp Capt Johnson Chacko (Retd), ex-Instr DSSC

Security of military establishments is the responsibility of the police. Without intelligence the commander can’t do much. If they are to be held accountable then the entire area should be under Army rule. Sack the police or their intelligence set up first for not providing credible intelligence. IAF is not designed to secure its own bases, they have to depend on police during peace and Army during war.

It may be changing but even then credible intelligence is not available. What happened to the SP in Pathankot, who brought the terrorists to the base? It was passed off as the terrorists kidnapped him!

A Serving Brigade Commander

It’s a sad decision if implemented! We have to realize any premeditated attack by a terrorist organization will be done on a post and will gain some success. The success of the attack can be limited by thorough security planning. The issues are far too many. Over cautiousness and a defensive attitude will set in, while perimeter patrols will be in dominance, all activity will be restricted to in and around the base.

Commanders (Cdr) down the line will have a fortress mentality and therefore the entire idea of being fluid and flexible to any response will be negated. Attacks in tandem on two separate posts in staggered timing will be the norm. No post will venture out to help another, knowing very well the next attack can be on him. The Cdr is responsible to train his troops to take offensive defensive positions.

Gain intelligence, be ready to provide quick reaction and also negate any terrorist actions, but this cannot be without the right security apparatus. The need of the hour is investment in night vision devices, frequency trackers, intruder alert devices, smart fences, versatile cameras, ruggedized and bullet proof all-terrain vehicles capable of cross-country mobility, assistance by attack helicopters on call, drones and predators to locate the terrorist, mines in most vulnerable areas, the power with the post Cdr to open fire on suspicion (remember the mobile check post and the car that didn’t stop and what happened).

A versatile intelligence detachment which is actually collecting intelligence and not looking at which unit is selling rations and what commander is using his vehicle to transport his family.  If an order like this is the norm, a strong Cdr can be taken off easily by orchestration of an attack on his post. The best way to take him out of the picture.  

The competition in the hierarchical system of leadership is so strong that this might just cascade into something catastrophic. Attacks orchestrated by competitive individuals like the anonymous letters that’s become a trend before every board or time of ACR.

Col PK ‘Royal’ Mehrishi (Retd), ex-Sikh LI, Clinical Psychologist

This is the most hair brained thought process ever let loose in the public domain. The Commanders will resort to every trick in the book (not in tactical sense) to keep their bases taint and blemish free (from terror attacks) and this will prove counterproductive. The exact opposite should be the norm, which Commander’s base has faced how many attacks? And how many terrorists were neutralized?

Bases are administrative strongholds not tactical piece of ground, saving/protecting them will yield very marginal advantage of persons inside the base getting good sleep and rest. These in turn will become rest, refit, recreation and recuperation centers. The alert edginess that we seek in our troops will vanish as counter terror operations will seize and protection of Fort (base) will become a pre-dominant tactical requirement.

This idea stems from quantification and laying down the level of answerability of Commanders in a most skewed manner: “Base attacked, troops casualties (in numbers), date, time, location etc. Sack the Commander.” By the same token, the task of a politician is to win elections and legislate. If he or she loses an election, bar him from public life and never allow him to contest an election. Sacked. Period.

Commanders on ground deal with multiple variables and ever changing situations, they get fleeting opportunities to target the terrorist and neutralize him, do not take away their freedom of action by restricting them to protect their bases first. In fact, the response to an attack on an Army base should be asymmetric to the damage caused by terrorists. It should be swift, remorseless, out of proportion to the harm caused and a lesson “Not to beard the lion in his own den.”

Maj Gen CD Sawant (Retd), ex-GOC Inf Div, CDM

It is a very stupid decision. As it is the commander is under cloud after the episode. More often than not their fate is sealed, why add insult to injury? Moreover it is a joint responsibility. Take case of Uri, the sentries on duty, their commanders up the chain till CO and Bde Cdr all share a joint responsibility. Are they going to ask all of them to put in papers? Even that would be stupid; nobody let the terrorists enter by design. Uri Brigade till Corps level was crying hoarse for a wall to replace fence.

Who was responsible to deny funds? I had a word with an ex-Corps Cdr of that area on the issue. He told me that as Bde Cdr, GOC and Corps Cdr he demanded funds which were not provided. Who all will be considered responsible? Will they ask MoD officials to put in their papers? If this decision is implemented it will cause further problems and give fillip to ‘no mistake syndrome’.

If it is willful default then the officers responsible should be tried and NOT told to put in papers. Unless there was gross negligence it would be wrong to send home the commander. In any case this is not going to stop terrorist attacks on camps. This is being seen worldwide.

The decision will lead more attacks on Army camps by terrorists as Cdrs at all levels will get into fortress mentality/defensive and thus will allow various tanzeems to plan and attack bases. As offensive ops will get curtailed leadings to easy access to terrorist. When parliament was attacked, did the Home minister or PM resign or step down? Instead they mobilized the entire Indian Army against Pakistan.

Concluding Analysis

Lt Gen PR Shankar (Retd), ex-DG Artillery

In the ongoing proxy war, there will be times when bases are attacked. Hence sacking commanders just because bases are attacked in a carte Blanche manner is poor thinking. There have been times when attacks have been repulsed successfully. However it is also well known that militant attacks on bases generally occur only when they detect laxity or weakness in a base when their chances of success are great.

That is tantamount to poor command. Commanders of bases which are attacked and have shown definite laxity in necessary deterrent measures or in reaction capability should be sacked after due diligence.

The argument that for similar events, CAPF command personnel are not taken to task is precocious. If that line is taken we are no better than CAPF! The Indian Army has to differentiate itself from the CAPF if it has to survive as a more capable institution. Our last bastion has to put itself on a higher pedestal. In the final analysis, I think the Army is in the loop fully, if this report is to be believed.

I feel the Army has probably put up these recommendations for the government’s approval, if at all. I cannot imagine that the government has come out with such stringency when the RMs are under change due to elections.

If the government has come out with these actions on its own then there is an issue. What are the yardsticks used to come at this decision? Are there different yardsticks for the paramilitaries? If such measures are to be imposed, equally there should be rewards. If you expect such high standards of accountability then there should be equally high value and status given to soldiers and commanders vis-a-vis everyone else.

Lt Gen GK Duggal (Retd), ex-DGAR & Corps Cdr

It seems strange that Veterans without knowing the full facts start questioning the wisdom of those decisions which are taken with due diligence. There have been many such incidents in the past, why this commander has been told to go home would need very detailed information on the circumstances that led to this decision.

We know such decisions are taken at the apex level based on recommendations up the chain. So we should let the commanders at the helm operate without the social media’s unnecessary intervention. Notwithstanding the above, it is necessary to debate on such serious issues, and everybody is entitled to his views which must be respected. However, we need to consider the following:

  • Yes, MoD has mooted this drastic action, but we have to see the response of the highest military hierarchy.
  • Yes, there are many bosses. But every commander has his arena to handle, and make sure that failure of command does not take place under his watch.
  • When serious and disastrous incidents of the kind under discussion take place, it goes without any doubt about the command failure of the commander holding that arena.
  • I fear that detailed enquiry may have brought out some very uncomfortable and irrefutable facts detailing the appalling state of affairs.
  • We need to remember the MoD would have many sources to offer inputs other than from the Army.
  • These incidents had taken place over two to three years ago. In this period a very detailed analysis of these incidents would have taken place. We do not know who recommended what to the MoD. Let us leave it to the wisdom of the COAS and wait for the final disposal of those cases.

(Views expressed are the respondents own and do not reflect the editorial policy of Mission Victory India)

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