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Dealing with Dragon effectively

Our massive defensive capability has not deterred China. The answer to offensive capability does not lie in raising another manpower intensive Mountain Strike Corps. It lies in reassessing threats, restructuring forces, rebalancing them and reforming mindsets. It lies in reducing mass and increasing velocity.

LT GEN PR SHANKAR (Retd)

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This article mirrors historical cracks which promise to be repeating themselves in future. It is not directed at any individual, appointment or political party.

 In 1971, India was a poor country with strong Armed Forces. It halved Pakistan, created Bangladesh and cocked a snook at the US. Seventh Fleet threatening to intervene in Pakistan’s favour was taken in stride. In 2020, India is a rich country. Despite having large, internationally respected, welltrained and battle-hardened Armed Forces, our territorial integrity is at stake. Our ill-equipped forces have not been able to dissuade either China from unilaterally altering status quo at the LAC or Pakistan from interfering in our internal affairs with impunity for decades. Our dissuasive ability is obviously low. Leveraging China out entails great cost and risk in case dialogue fails. This situation should never have arisen.

When it is ‘business as usual’ territorial integrity of the nation seems like ‘cry wolf’. When the Chinese are at our doorstep, it is easily understood. The territorial integrity of the nation is the responsibility of the politico-military leadership. The bureaucracy executes their mandates to defend the nation. This is true of any democracy but ours. Clausewitz said that ‘war is politics by other means.’ Mao said ‘war is politics with bloodshed and politics is war without bloodshed’. Both never mentioned bureaucracies in-between! In authoritarian regimes like China and Pakistan, there is politico military fusion. The bureaucracy merely executes or is executed. However, in India a unique troika of political, military and bureaucratic leadership manages military affairs. This flawed leadership structure is costing India dearly.

India is facing huge disruption in military affairs. This disruption has ideological and technological components. The Pakistani ideology of radical Islam and the hard core communist Chinese ideology have disrupted military affairs at one level. Disruptive technologies applied differentially by each of them have disrupted military affairs at another level. China and Pakistan have repeatedly demonstrated convergence of ideology and technology into synthesised disruptions. Collusive multidomain warfare through massive asymmetrical aggression — in J&K, hinterland, along the LOC and LAC has been the norm. Our conventional capability devoid of ideology and weakened by perennial shortcomings has been side-lined without answers. India’s leadership troika needs rethinking. Why have we landed here?

Political leadership

Elected political representatives are responsible to defend the nation. They must ensure that the politicomilitary institutions work concertedly to defend the nation. When such concert happened between Indira Gandhi and Sam Bahadur in 1971,India had its greatest strategic victory. Will it happen in the present juncture? Our PM and RM showed unprecedented courage to make their stands on the frontlines. It is encouraging. However, the jury is still out. We’ve had two defence ministers (George Fernandez and Manohar Parrikar) who had hands on control over the military apparatus. They made a difference. The rest simply abdicated and outsourced their responsibility to the bureaucracy. As a result, Indian military has weakened.

On 6 December 2019, I wrote — ‘India is entrapped in a strange ‘Stability – Instability’ predicament. The political hierarchy believes that our nuclear, space and missile programs will provide us with security and ‘stability’. However, there is an increasing ‘instability’ due to our inability to equip our Armed Forces optimally’. I never expected to be proven so fast. Our political leadership has largely stayed away from the nuts and bolts of building military capability. Whether it is lack of knowledge or awe, our parliamentary leaders have kept military matters at arm’s length. When they have reached out, it is often to dip their hand in the till.

India cannot spend on its military when it cannot feed its poor. A strong economy offsets a strong military. Economic power is primary and military power secondary. These lopsided notions resulted in our armed forces being poorly funded, ill equipped and underprepared. Economic rise and decline are transients. Military necessity of defending nations is constant. In a toxic and predatory nuclear neighbourhood, Indian military demands will continually grow. In the 60s and 70s, we realised this and funded our military adequately despite other hardships. Somehow our leadership lost it thereafter. When Prime Ministers keep postponing scheduled meetings with Service Chiefs due to other pressing economic and diplomatic matters — it is back to 1962 — like diplomacy trying to supplant military capability. A cancerous paradigm.

1971 was not won on India’s geopolitical capability alone. The Indo-USSR pact just prior to the war tipped the balance. Thereafter, our pursuit of strategic independence and non-alignment without attendant capability development hit an air pocket. George Fernandes, as a defence minister, identified China not as an adversary or threat but categorically as the ‘Enemy No 1’. Yet successive political leaderships chose to appease China and tolerate Pakistan without building own capability or entering into balancing relationships / alliances / pacts. The result is evident.

Since Independence, our political leadership has allowed India’s publiclyfunded defence industrial and research complex to grow into self-serving silos. Treating these as sacred cows despite calcified underperformance has cost us dearly. It is indeed ludicrous to even contemplate politically motivated strikes and unions in these sectors. However, we have witnessed them. Politically we have not been able to make these institutions either perform or reform them. Thank god we are now thinking of corporatisation of OFB.

Bureaucratic leadership

The intelligent bureaucrat was to be the conduit between earthy politicians and sophisticated military brass. Utopian. The canny bureaucrat kept them apart and usurped power. In this process, civilian control over the military was subverted. Political control was converted into bureaucratic control. Military affairs have been piloted as per bureaucratic discretion through a created ‘System’ often ignoring operational expediency. It enables the bureaucratic leadership to remain faceless. This ’systemic’ anonymity enables lack of accountability or fixing responsibility when the chips are down.

The bureaucratic leadership is risk averse and goes by the book. The emphasis, therefore, has been on book strengthening. Hence, changing procurement procedures has been a higher priority than capability enhancement. Two-bit foreigners talk of ‘a moribund, process bound, bureaucratic defence acquisition system which constantly underdelivers on outcomes.’ It is personally frustrating when our best and brightest which form the IAS fail to deliver for India. My personal experience is that when they are committed to a cause and are driven by the politico-military necessity they deliver outstanding and stupendous results. Why not normally?

The military is a very specialised and niche field. It needs knowledge beyond the ordinary to synthesise varied fields to achieve desired outcomes. It demands domain knowledge which the bureaucratic leadership don’t have. Further, institutional knowledge is ignored at the altar of expediency. When leadership operates from lack of knowledge it invariably takes wrong decisions. If that leadership persists with its ignorance in a multidomain scenario, disaster is round the corner. That is our experience.

 Britishers invented the art of divide and rule. Our bureaucratic steel frame, a descendant of the empire, learnt this art well. The propagation and maintenance of mutually exclusive military silos is an artistic outcome. As a result, our vast defence research and industrial complex capable of powering our military is heavily underperforming. In China, all state-owned enterprises were called ‘Rust Buckets’ at the turn of the century. Today they are powering China to superpower status and dominating every field of Chinese activity. Our publicly funded defence establishment, spearheaded by the bureaucracy needs considerable introspection. Consistent resistance to reform or perform has weakened India’s defence capability.

Very distressingly those who are supposed to support the military; especially those in the field of research, production and quality assurance think they know better than the military and have been giving it prescriptions; fully supported by bureaucratic processes. It has denuded national capability to defend itself. The manifestation of this ‘know-all’ thought process has surfaced at Finger 4 on Pangong Tso.

Military leadership

 Indian military leadership needs a geopolitical vision and awareness of the domestic political landscape while remaining apolitical. It is the last bastion of the nation and needs to keep politics at arm’s length. What we have witnessed is that Armed Forces leadership exhibiting political aspirations of individual nature leading to political compromises. This trend is outright dangerous for the fabric of the nation.

The military leadership has been unable to tune in with the political masters professionally. Whenever this tuning has happened positively, the outcomes have been favourable. In most cases this has not happened. Their inability to convey to the nation and its leaders the dangers of confronting enemies with grave deficiencies is consistent. The inability to assert itself with or bypass the proxy bureaucratic leadership has compounded issues.

 India’s military leadership is wracked by inter-service dissonance. The joint service ethos to think for the common good of the nation was plainly missing. Hopefully, the CDS will rectify it. There are also serious intra service divisions. The Army sets the best example of divisions within — General Cadre / Non-General Cadre, Command / Staff, Combat Arms/Combat Support Arms/ Services….Armour/ Artillery/Infantry…..Rajput/Gorkha/Guards etc. A fractured, brahmanical and mandalised system ensures that the cream is denied to the nation. The worst have a fair chance of becoming top leaders. Structures which make incompetents into Generals puts national security at stake. There are equivalent issues with other Services. This core issue will not be rectified from within. It needs outside intervention.

Our armed forces are manpower intensive. Sure, you need boots on the ground. These boots need enhancement with ISR, Firepower, Mobility and Protection. Most importantly, they need offensive orientation. Our massive defensive capability has not deterred China. That is proven. The answer to offensive capability does not lie in raising another manpower intensive Mountain Strike Corps. It lies in reassessing threats, restructuring forces, rebalancing them and reforming mindsets. It lies in reducing mass and increasing velocity. Kinetic Energy then increases by a square of the increased velocity. Leadership in Multidomain Ops needs a different approach. It also needs the Government to help the Armed Forces in shedding the bulk or financing it.

The Military leadership has not been able to get the best out of the existing system. Sitting aloof and expecting others to come up with goods will not work. They must acquire skills and capabilities to ingest disruptive technologies, head projects in DRDO, operate factories and run the MOD system on their terms. Only then can they demand structural reform. They often hit a road block on one issue – lack of knowledge. If you do not know what you want how do you expect others to give it to you? The military must roll up its sleeves and get its hands dirty on the floor. There is no other choice.

The current military, bureaucratic and political leaders might feel indignant at my bluntness. The FM says the current situation is the gravest since 1962. It could not have developed if the leadership was ok. The flurry of emergency imports, delegating additional financial powers, sanctioning new schemes and invoking fast track procedures whenever the enemy is at the gates further vindicates my arguments.

However, let us think positively. If a suboptimal system can stymie Chinese aggression in its tracks, what can a rebalanced and synergised leadership achieve? Good leadership is the fundamental to any progress. In any case, a thriving Military, Industrial and Research system are our tickets to strategic independence, guaranteed territorial integrity, kickstarting our economy and improving social factors. This crisis presents an opportunity to permanently turn the tables. I am sure the current leadership realises this. I am confident that they will grab this historic chance. When that is done — watch out China. Otherwise. Get ready for more Salami Slicing.

Lt Gen P.R. Shankar was India’s DG Artillery. He is highly decorated and qualified with vast operational experience. He contributed significantly to the modernisation and indigenisation of Artillery. He is now a Professor in the Aerospace Dept of IIT Madrasand is involved in applied research for defence technology. His other articles can be read on his blog www. gunnersshot.com.

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Defence

‘ARMY CAN MEET ANY CHALLENGE TO SAFEGUARD COUNTRY’

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The Army is fully prepared to meet any challenge like the use of drones and social media by adversaries to safeguard the country, said Commandant of Chennai-based Officers Training Academy (OTA) Lieutenant General M K Das. Lt Gen Das, who is also the colonel of the Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry (JAKLI) regiment, said the situation in J&K is getting better with the Army and other security agencies working together to stamp out terrorism. Speaking to media on the sidelines of the maiden attestation parade of 460 new recruits of the 126th batch after a successful 40-week training period at Dansal here, he said the Indian Army is aware of the challenges and prepared to give a befitting response to the enemies of the nation.

Talking about the need to introduce special training courses for soldiers in the aftermath of the developments in Afghanistan, he said, “Our training is very contemporary as it caters for all the contingencies and unforeseen situations. My young soldiers, who have taken the oath to defend the constitution and the country, will live up to all the challenges. One of the unique things of this regiment (JAKLI) is all our troops hail from J&K and Ladakh. They have ingrained quality to be security conscious much more than others.” Lt Gen Das said, “All the situations unfolding in the country or in our neighbourhood, the JAKLI regiment will continue to excel and be the lead agency in the fight against terrorism.” Asked about the challenges posed by the use of drones to hit targets and deliver weapons and narcotics from across the LoC and International Border, he said a capsule course on anti-drone measures has been introduced. “On Army Day on 15 January, our chief took the threat seriously and our soldiers are being prepared to deal with the challenge in a better way.” During recruitment training, Lt Gen Das said that besides the arms handing and exercises, thrust is also given on science and technology, cybersecurity and other new challenges. He said the misuse of social media by “anti-national” elements is a reality and the new recruits are being trained in cybersecurity during their basic and orientation courses.

On attempts by Pakistan to mislead the youth of J&K, Lt Gen Das said, “The youth of J&K is showing keenness to be a part of the regiment which is a message to those who think they can mislead our youth. Joining the regiment is the best way to serve the nation, the youth live like a family and there is complete communal harmony.” He said the regiment is increasing the number of local youth from Ladakh and would also go for recruitment in J&K to provide an opportunity to the local youth to become part of this regiment. Asked about his message to the misguided youth, he said, “J&K is the crown of India but if I focus as a soldier, I feel they (misguided youth) have not understood their country… the situation has not gone out of hand and the Army has kept its window open to allow them to surrender and join the national mainstream.”

He added, “We have a unit of 162 Infantry Territorial Army who are former militants but have become upright soldiers.” Lt Gen Das said the Army and other security agencies are working in close coordination and the situation in J&K is getting better and the “day is not far when this region will make our country proud.”

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Defence

SOUTHERN NAVAL COMMAND OBSERVES INTERNATIONAL COASTAL CLEAN-UP DAY IN KOCHI

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The Southern Naval Command observed International Coastal Clean-up Day on Saturday with a focus on mangrove plantation and clearance of plastic/non-biodegradable waste along with waterfront areas in and around Kochi, said a press release from the Ministry of Defence.

Pursuant to the global campaign of keeping coastlines clean, more than 600 Naval personnel and the families of Southern Naval Command undertook clearance of plastic and non-biodegradable waste at different locations spread across the city, coastal areas such as Fort Kochi beach, Thevara waterfront, Willingdon Island, Cherai beach, Bolgatty and around 2 km stretch of the Venduruthy channel while restoring around 1 lakh sqm of mangroves to the pristine condition. In addition, 80 mangrove saplings were also planted along the Venduruthy channel. Similar coastal cleanup drives and lectures/webinars/competitions emphasising protection of the coastal and marine environment were undertaken with the enthusiastic participation of the Naval community at other outstation Naval units located at Lonavala, Jamnagar, Chilka, Coimbatore, Goa, Ezhimala and Mumbai.

Being the Training Command of the Indian Navy, the Southern Naval Command has always been at the vanguard in promoting environmental conservation activities both at the Command Headquarters, Kochi as well as at Naval stations spread across the country.

Mandated to oversee naval training, the Southern Naval Command has conceptualised and implemented a variety of green initiatives. Keeping environmental preservation as one of the Key Result Areas, the Command has constantly endeavoured to motivate young officer and sailor trainees of the Indian Navy to imbibe the habit of protecting mother nature as part of their grooming efforts in preparing them to become responsible future Naval leaders and dependable citizens of India.

Particular attention has also been given to create more awareness among the families and more importantly the children.

During the last three years, the Command has adopted a multi-dimensional approach towards conservation of the environment and implementation of energy conservation methods.

To highlight a few, the personnel of the Command were actively involved in the rejuvenation of 4.5-km-long Venduruthy Channel near Kochi Naval base, creating awareness in and around Naval establishments.

Efforts were undertaken to enhance green cover by conducting mass plantation drives which included planting more than 75,000 trees, using the fast-growing Miyawaki forestation method. In addition, regular coastal clean-up drives, mangrove plantation drives, in-house handling and recycling of bio and non-biodegradable waste, adopting efficient energy and water-saving methods etc were also undertaken. The Command has also earnestly endeavoured to continue all the efforts for protecting and conserving the environment and natural resources. Towards achieving the same, the Command has implemented a Green Initiative and Environment Conservation Roadmap with a prime focus on Carbon footprint reduction.

With the personal involvement of Vice Admiral Anil Kumar Chawla, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Naval Command is committed to creating a clean, green and healthy environment in line with the visionary environment conservation policies of the Govt of India. On the occasion, Adv M Anilkumar, Mayor, Kochi Municipal Corporation and staff also participated in Kochi.

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Defence

IAF TO HOLD AIR SHOW OVER DAL LAKE IN SRINAGAR ON 26 SEPT

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An air show will be held here on 26 September where IAF’s skydiving team Akash Ganga and Suryakiran Aerobatic and Display Team and paramotor flying will manoeuvre the skies over the famous Dal Lake, officials informed on Saturday.

The air show will be organised by the Air Force Station Srinagar and the Jammu and Kashmir administration as part of the ongoing celebrations commemorating ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’, they said. The main aim of the exercise—under the theme ‘Give Wings to Your Dream’—is to motivate the youth of the valley to join the Indian Air Force (IAF) and to promote tourism in the region, the officials said.

The event will be flagged off Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha at the Sher-e-Kashmir International Conference Centre (SKICC) overlooking Dal Lake.

More than 3,000 college and school students are expected to participate in the programme to witness the impressive manoeuvres of the IAF, which will motivate them to dream about a career in the force and in the aviation sector, the officials said. “The show will also develop passion among the students to give wings to their dreams. Along with the students, 700 teachers will also be present at the venue,” they added.

During the demonstration, students will also be familiarised with the new technological advancements achieved and incorporated by the IAF while flying aircraft in the sky over the world-famous Dal Lake, the officials said. Stalls will be established at SKICC where students will be familiarised with the achievements of the Air Force, employment opportunities in the IAF, recruitment rules and eligibility criteria, they added.

Srinagar-based PRO Defence Col Emron Musavi said the display will include flypast by various aircraft of the IAF. The spectators would also get to witness paramotor flying and IAF’s skydiving team Akash Ganga in action. ‘Ambassadors of IAF’, Suryakiran Aerobatic Display Team, will be performing in the valley after a gap of 14 years, he said. Col Musavi said the symphony orchestra of the IAF would also be performing at the event. The event would also consist of a photo exhibition depicting the history of the

IAF, he said. 

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Defence

ARMY ORGANISES EXHIBITION IN JAIPUR TO COMMEMORATE INDIA’S VICTORY IN 1971 WAR

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JAIPUR : South Western Command of the Indian Army on Saturday organised an exhibition showcasing defence equipment at Chitrakoot Stadium in Jaipur to mark the 50th anniversary of India’s victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war.

Speaking to ANI, an Indian army official said, “We have displayed the defence equipment in this exhibition to make people aware of the Indian army achievements. We want to motivate the youth by showcasing these types of equipment.” “Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, these events had been started to make people aware of Indian Arm Forces. So, we are also continuing the move by organising these kinds of events,” he added.

Further, he said that India’s victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war is memorable for all the Indians, so, every citizen should be aware of this war.  

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Defence

BRO makes history, appoints woman Army officer in-charge of road construction unit

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The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has appointed a woman Army officer for the first as the Officer Commanding of its 75 road construction company (RCC) in Uttarakhand, the Defence Ministry said on Sunday.

The three platoon commanders under Major Aaina, Captain Anjana, AEE (Civ) Bhawana Joshi and AEE (Civ) Vishnumaya K became the first women RCC. The appointments were made on August 30.

BRO on Sunday recalled the list of women officers who were assigned higher leadership roles in the organisation in the current year.

According to a statement issued by the Defence Ministry, BRO has inducted a large number of women into its workforce over the years, right from officers to the level of commercial pilot license holders. “In this regard, a General Reserve Engineer Force (GREF) officer EE (Civ) Vaishali S Hiwase took over the reins of 83 Road Construction Company on April 28, employed on an important Indo-China road connecting Munisairi-Bughdiar-Milam, in an area full of adversity and challenges. The lady officer has taken control and is leading the charge with meticulous execution of her tasks,” the statement said.

“The BRO created history again on 30 August when Major Aaina of Project Shivalik took charged as Officer Commanding, 75 Road Construction Companies (RCC) at Pipalkoti in Chamoli district in Uttarakhand. She is the first Indian Army Engineer Officer to command a road construction company. Not only this, all three platoon commanders under her, Captain Anjana, AEE (Civ) Bhawana Joshi and AEE (Civ) Vishnumaya K are lady officers and they have together created a first-ever women RCC. The Border Roads plans to make four such all women-led RCCs, two each in North Eastern and Western Sectors.”

As India celebrates 75 Years of Azaadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, it also celebrates the ongoing efforts of our Nation towards women empowerment. Women today have started assuming their rightful, equal place as the frontrunners in nation-building and representatives of our strong national character, the statement read.

Over the last six decades, in a graduated and steady manner, the BRO has increased the number of women employed in various roles and duties of road construction. A consolidated effort is being made to empower them by giving them authority and responsibilities to undertake work independently. These women have become symbols of Nari Shakti in their respective areas.

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Defence

IN FIRST FOREIGN VISIT AFTER TAKING OVER AS CDS, GEN BIPIN RAWAT TO VISIT RUSSIA, US

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In his first visit abroad after taking over as the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Bipin Rawat will be visiting Russia and the US.

Rawat took over his new office as CDS on 31 December 2019, and since then has been declining foreign invitations for focusing on the new assignment of integrating the defence forces as a combined fighting force. “There is a conference of the CDS-rank officers of the Shanghai Cooperation Agreement member countries. China and Pakistan are also part of this grouping,” senior defence officials said.

The CDS conference would be focusing on addressing the regional security issues and Afghanistan is also likely to come up for discussion, they said.

The CDS would also witness the activities of the respective armed forces taking part in the SCO peace mission drills being held in Russia. Indian Army and Air Force are also taking part in the exercise there.

The visit will take place in the coming week and soon after return from Russia, Rawat would be leaving for the US for meeting his counterpart and other American military leadership at the Pentagon.

The two countries have been coming closer militarily in the last few years and have been holding multiple military exercises and hardware cooperation.

The Indian military saw a major change in senior-level structures under the Narendra Modi government as the focus is now on the theatrisation of the fighting forces and bringing in more capabilities and jointness among the three services. 

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