Short of a miracle, the situation on the Line of Actual control (LAC) or border with China is unlikely to change in the coming months. India can continue to repose its faith in the Armed Forces defending the integrity and sovereignty of the country despite the harsh winters or the inhospitable terrain. However, the Chinese actions on the LAC, growing China-Pakistan nexus, coupled with the growing Chinese influence in the neighbourhood have brought in new challenges necessitating a fresh look at India’s future strategy. India shares land borders with seven countries and water borders with four – Sri Lanka, Maldives, Thailand and Indonesia. In a future war with China or Pakistan or a two front war, land and sea will be intrinsically linked. India has to leverage its strengths and weaknesses of one with the other. Hence an integrated land and maritime strategy coupled with a neighbourhood plan is imperative for India. For this to succeed, China, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Myanmar have to be seen as one integrated block, each having an effect on the other.
China’s policy of encircling India to contain it—euphemistically referred to as the “String of Pearls “doctrine—has over the last few years moved from a “threat in being” to an actual threat. In typical Chinese fashion they have gone about it quietly but firmly, tightening the noose over the past many years The Chinese intention has been to develop a network of military and commercial facilities along its sea lines of communication which extend from the Chinese mainland to Port Sudan in the Horn of Africa running through several maritime chokepoints including Strait of Malacca as well as other strategic maritime centres of Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Maldives and Somalia. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and now its macro form of Belt and Road initiative (BRI) under which China will construct various land and maritime trade routes are also seen as a part of China’s larger military ambition. China has long realized the importance of maritime muscle to protect its economic interest in Indian Ocean and elsewhere and has been steadily working on it.
The Indian Ocean is a critical link in global trade routes, with 80 percent of global seaborne trade passing through it. Also eighty percent of China’s oil imports pass through the Strait of Malacca. This narrow waterway is a perfect choke point. India’s natural position in the Indian Ocean, with capabilities in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands at the mouth of the strait, would allow its Navy to cut it off in the event of a crisis or war. But increasingly China may be able to, quite literally, get around this. China has set up bases in the littoral Indian Ocean Region (IOR) nations including Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Djibouti and have invested heavily in few countries both on the East and West coast of Africa. Besides creating bases, over the years China has taken numerous steps to establish its supremacy in the sea and is building PLA (N) into a formidable force at a furious pace, investing in more aircraft carriers, destroyers and frigates, modern ships, maritime reconnaissance aircraft, and submarines and so on. There is a huge force asymmetry and the gap is just widening. In just about 4-5 years China will show its flag in the Indian Ocean.
Sri Lanka is India’s nearest neighbour and very relevant for India’s maritime strategy. Though India has had robust relations with Sri Lanka for centuries, China has planted its feet in Sri Lankan soil as well with huge investments in infrastructure projects. Sri Lanka, forced into a debt trap has handed over Hambantota Port on a 99 year lease to China causing great concern to India. Recently Sri Lanka has been slowing down projects with India and Japan. Maldives is again another country which is strategically important for India. The relations are on an even keel after 2018 elections, when Ibrahim Mohamed Solih was elected President. India has taken a number of initiatives to bring Maldives closer, trying to ensure that changes in political dispensation does not change the relationship again. Myanmar is also strategically very important for India and shares land and maritime border with India. Chinese initiative of Belt and Road has invested heavily in Port Kyaukpyu and pipeline which will pump oil and gas to China. The importance of Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Myanmar in India’s maritime strategy cannot be overemphasized.
China and Pakistan grouped together will form the core of the plan. Pakistan-China collusion will remain the biggest worry for India in the foreseeable future. China has plans to invest billions of dollars in the economic corridor and in the Belt initiative in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) and Gilgit-Baltistan (GB). As part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) numerous deals involving billions of dollars have been signed. The Gwadar Port developed by China as part of CPEC will be used not only to assist Pakistan Navy but also to launch offensive against India in case of a Sino-Indian conflict. All this coupled with Chinese interest in Aksai chin has changed the complexion of relationship between China and Pakistan. It is no more one-sided—equally China also needs Pakistan. For this, China will continue to keep Ladakh as a pressure point while Pakistan will continue with its proxy war to keep India internally tied down.
Militarily, it is time to look at China and Pakistan together and the need is to have an integrated plan to include land and maritime strategy and the necessary air capability to meet both challenges. The success in building our military strength will lie in our ability to assess the priority of land, air and naval forces and use of disruptive technology in an increasingly hostile neighbourhood. India needs a three aircraft carrier Navy to ensure sea control in our area of interest in the IOR, besides building up our sea denial capability. Control of Malacca straits will have a stranglehold on energy routes to China. It is well within India’s grasp either singly or in concert with other countries. This will send a powerful signal to China. India has to firm up its land and sea strategy to deal with the changed scenario. Timely and effective use of its airpower as part of the overall strategy will certainly be vital.
While building the military strength will take time, India has to take its gloves off and adopt a continuous, focused, graded approach which includes kinetic and non kinetic measures. Pakistan and China will continue with their nefarious designs to destabilise India immaterial of the present crisis being resolved or not. If this nexus is broken or kept under stress it will keep both countries under check – that will be a game changer for India. India has to make it difficult for China to operate at will in POK and GB and other areas. For this India will have to transport the war away from border to areas where it will hurt the countries. Otherwise we will be falling into militarization of the entire border with both the countries which has long term implications.
India has been keeping away from internal issues of both countries and has been reactive so far. Both China and Pakistan have taken advantage of this and have continuously targeted India in international forums, besides stirring up trouble internally in multiple ways. It is time to change. Both China and Pakistan have enough internal and external issues which must be exploited. The key to success will lie in selection of areas/issues to focus on for maximizing the dividends.
Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Maldives are vital to our national strategic interest. China has exploited all the neighbouring countries by promising huge investments and slowly and steadily drawing them into a debt trap leading to loss of sovereignty and strategic freedom. The realization is setting in and India can step in and provide an alternate model. While India will not have the financial muscle to match China, it must use military diplomacy, proximity, close historic and traditional ties of many years, soft power ,trade, health, disaster relief, helping countries in the neighbourhood in the fight against Covid pandemic, sharing of technology and so on to ensure our vital national interests are protected. This needs a consolidated multidirectional, integrated neighbourhood plan. The plan should look at China and Pakistan together as one block: Building a combined land and maritime strategy with extensive use of non kinetic measures to break China –Pakistan nexus while simultaneously building a close relationship with other neighbouring countries. Only then can the “String of Pearls” be converted from a life-threatening noose into a value –enhancing adornment.
A paratrooper who had served in Ladakh at various levels, Major General P. RajagopalAVSM,VSM (Retired), has also commanded the division in Eastern Ladakh.
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Emergence of Indian Armed Forces since 1947
The Indian armed forces, with strength of over 1.3 million, are the fourth largest army in the world today. Since independence, the forces have undergone a gradual transformation in their strength, operational ability, and role. As an associated force to the British armed forces in different military operations as well as to maintain internal security, the most dedicated, decisive, and strong combat power of the modern world with the aim of safeguarding the interests of the country against any internal or external threat.
The transformation of the armed forces started with the beginning of the Second World War. The strength of the military had significantly increased from 6 lakh to 2.5 million during the war. However, the impending independence of India led to British apathy towards armed forces, resulting in a drastic reduction of manpower, depleted logistics, and weaponry. The 1947 Indian Independence Act was passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom on July 5, 1947 to partition British India into two new independent dominions, India and Pakistan. The act received Royal Assent on July 18, 1947. As a prelude to the Indian Independence Act, British Prime Minister Clement Attlee announced on February 20, 1947, a grant of self-government to India not before June 30, 1948. The Mountbatten plan was announced on June 3, 1947, having specified an outline of the proposed transfer of power and partition of India.
The partition of armed forces and distribution of military assets were formulated as per the provisions of Sections 11, 12, and 13 of the India Independence Act. A Partition Committee was formed on June 7, 1947, with two representatives from each side and the viceroy in the chair, to decide about the division thereof. As soon as the process of partition was to start, it was to be replaced by a Partition Council with a similar structure. As per the provisions of the act and the consent of the Partition Committee, the division of the British Army took place on June 30, 1947. Out of 11800 officers and 5 lakh other serving personnel, they were divided into a ratio of 64% for India and 36% for Pakistan. Similarly, assets, including ordnance factories and training establishments, were also re-distributed. However, the process of distribution was very complex as various military units had mixed religious structures. Hence, the inter-unit transfer of troops also took place. In the same way, all sixteen ordnance factories were located in India. Hence, it was retained by India and a lump sum payment was made to Pakistan to develop its infrastructure. The defence training institute remained in Quetta, and India had established another training institute at Wellington.
The Northern Command of the British Indian Army was allotted to Pakistan, whereas the Southern and Eastern Commands became part of the Indian Army. The Central Command was raised during the war and was disbanded in September 1946. Later on, Delhi and East Punjab Command were raised on September 15, 1947. During the process of transformation and division, 144 army units were disbanded. 61 units of the Indian Princely forces were returned to the states. The Brigade of Gorkhas, recruited in Nepal, was split between India and Britain. Of the Indian divisions which took part in World War II, the 6th, 8th, 10th, 14th, 17th, 19th, 20th, 23rd, 25th, 26th, and 39th were disbanded, those remaining being the 4th, 5th, and 7th Infantry Divisions, the 1st Armoured Division, and the 2nd Airborne Division. Hence, the Indian Army was left with 88 infantry battalions, 12 armoured regiments, and 19 artillery regiments at the time of independence.
At the time of partition, the nations inherited a split air force that was weak in quantitative and qualitative terms. The assets of the Royal Indian Air Force were divided on a one-third basis, under which India and Pakistan got six and two fighter squadrons, respectively. The Indian Air Force, at that time, was composed of around 900 officers, 10,000 non-commissioned officers, and over 820 civilian technicians and administrative staff.
Reallocation of naval resources reduced the operational capability of the Indian Navy to maintain vigilance and patrol the eastern and western coasts of India as well as the islands of Andaman and Nicobar.
After Second World War in 1945, the Indian Armed Forces had only one Indian General officer, Major General Hiraji Cursetji of the Indian Medical Service officer. In addition to him, one brigadier from medical, three Indian brigadiers from combatant arms, and 220 other Indian officers in the temporary or acting ranks of colonel and lieutenant-colonel were part of the Indian armed forces. Till May 1947, the Indian Armed Forces had only 14 Indian officers at the rank of brigadier serving in combatant arms, with no Indian flag, general, or air officer in the combat arms of the armed services.
Sir Claude Auchinleck was the last Commander in Chief of British India. He was reappointed on August 15, 1947, as Supreme Commander of India and Pakistan till November 11, 1948, when this post was abolished. He played a crucial role in monitoring and executing the division of armed forces between India and Pakistan. It is an irony that the first Indo-Pak War and the intrusion of the Pakistan army took place in Kashmir while he was the supreme commander of both countries. As well, both commanders in chief of the Indian and Pakistan armies were officers of the Royal British Army and were reporting directly to him.
General Sir Rob McGregor MacDonald Lockhart, a senior British Army officer, was the first Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army from 15 August 1947 to 31 December 1947. He was succeeded by General Sir Francis Robert Roy Bucher on January 1, 1948, and he handed over the command to the first Indian officer, General KM Cariappa, on January 15, 1949.
Similarly, Air Marshal Sir Thomas Walker Elmhirst was the first Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Air Force since 15 August 1947 to 22 February 1950. Air Marshal Subroto Mukerjee became the first Indian Air officer to took over Chief of Air Staff on April 1, 1954. He continued till November 8, 1960.
Rear Admiral J.T.S. Hall happened to be the first Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Navy from August 15, 1947, to August 14, 1948. Vice Admiral Ram Dass Katari was the first Indian to become Chief of the Indian Navy on 22 April 1958 till 4 Jun 1962. Hence, the transformation of the Indian Armed Forces was completed in 1958.
The Indian armed forces faced the biggest challenge at the time of partition. This process of transfer of power, assets, and demographic migration on a religious basis has witnessed the transfer of more than 14 million populations across the border, clubbed with massive violence and clashes. During this entire process of independence, responsibility for maintaining law and order was handed over to India’s own Armed Forces. Despite the heavy loss of manpower, logistics, and firepower, the armed forces acted in a very professional manner. Over and above, during this crisis of migration, the sudden attack of the Pakistan army and militia on Jammu and Kashmir was the real litmus test for our defence forces. Undoubtedly, joint operations by the Indian Air Force and Army halted the intrusion and saved Kashmir. Armed forces successfully completed the accession of Junagarh and Hyderabad and later on the annexation of Goa into India in 1961 into India.
Independence and the division of armed forces resulted in a heavy loss to the armed forces and took decades to recover. Since then, the Indian military establishment has gone into phases of transformation, namely post Indo-Sino war in 1962, the recommendation of Gen K.V. Krishna Rao in 1975, followed by the post Kargil war since 2000 onwards. The Indian armed forces have now entered into the era of the biggest reforms since independence, comprising of the creation of integrated theatre command, battle groups, cyber, space, nuclear, and strategic forces, and the implementation of CDS and the Department of Military Affairs. The modern Indian armed forces are in the process of convergence as a global superpower with complete dominance on land, sea, air, and space. Indeed, it is a great transformation of the armed forces since independence.
The author is, SM, VSM Former Additional DG (AFMS) & Expert in Defence, International Strategies & Current affairs.
A SALUTE TO THE INDOMITABLE SPIRIT OF KARGIL BRAVEHEARTS
o commemorate the 23 years of victory over Pakistan in the Kargil War of 1999, the Indian Army on Monday organised a motorcycle expedition from New Delhi to the Kargil War Memorial at Dras (Ladakh).
The 30-member rally was flagged off by Lt Gen B S Raju, the Vice Chief of Army Staff from the National War Memorial, New Delhi on Monday.
Over the next six days, the team of 30 serving personnel who have embarked on this expedition will endeavour to replicate the indomitable spirit of the Kargil brave-hearts by rekindling the spirit of fortitude, courage and adventure synonymous with the Indian Army, said the Ministry of Defence.
The bike rally would pass through Haryana, Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh before culminating the expedition at the Kargil War Memorial, Dras on 26 July 2022.
2 ARMY OFFICERS KILLED IN ACCIDENTAL GRENADE BLAST
Two Army officers were killed in an accidental grenade blast along the Line of Control in the Mendhar sector of Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch, the Defence Public Relations Office said on Monday. During the treatment, one army officer and one Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) succumbed to their injuries.
JCO Sub Bhagwan Singh
“Last night, an accidental grenade blast occurred in Mendhar Sector, Dist Poonch, when troops were performing their duties along the Line of Control. The blast resulted in injuries to soldiers.
During the treatment, one officer and one JCO succumbed to their injuries, “said PRO Defence Jammu.
According to the Defence PRO, the blast occurred along the Line of Control (LOC) on Sunday night, when the army troops were performing their duties, thus injuring them. All the injured soldiers were immediately evacuated to Udhampur via helicopter.
As per the reports, one officer and one Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) succumbed to the injuries.
The Indian Army expressed grief over the death of two officers.
The Indian Army tweeted, “General officer commanding (GOC) @Whiteknight_IA and all Ranks salute brave hearts Capt Anand and Nb Sub Bhagwan Singh who made the supreme sacrifice while performing their duties on the LoC in Mendhar Sector. We offer deepest condolences to their family members.”
MAKE IN INDIA PUSH: IAF TO INDUCT COMBAT AIRCRAFT
Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari on Sunday said that the Indian Air Force (IAF) is planning to induct Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) and Light Combat Aircraft MK-1A and MK-2 along with the 114 multirole fighters. This will be done to bolster India’s combat capabilities through indigenisation under “Make-in-India” in the future.
The IAF chief said that the move will not only “strengthen the Air Force” but also bring a “huge boost” to the Indian aviation industry as part of the Aatmanirbhar Bharat initiative of the Narendra Modi government. “On the aircraft front, we are looking ahead for the AMCA and the LCA MK-1A and also the LCA MK-2 a few years from now. The case for 114 MRFA is also progressing well. With this, it will not only strengthen the Air Force but also bring a huge boost to the Indian aviation industry,” ANI quoted the Air Chief Marshal as saying.
“We have already committed for seven squadrons of AMCA. The numbers for the LCA MK-2, we will take a call as and when the first production model comes out and we start inducting the aircraft into the air force and we can always increase the quantity based on its performance and rate of induction,” he added while speaking about the number of units of the aircraft that the IAF is planning to induct.
When asked about the timeline of the induction of the S-400 air defence system from Russia into the forces, he said that it will be done as per the schedule adding that all deliveries should be completed by the end of next year. “The induction program of S-400 is going as per the schedule. The first firing unit has been inducted and deployed. The second unit is also in the process of getting inducted. Delivery schedules are on time, hopeful that by the end of next year all deliveries will be completed,” Chaudhari said.
“The threat of multiple fronts always exists. The capabilities of the air force in handling two fronts at a time will necessarily have to keep getting bolstered by the induction of various platforms. On the ground, we will need more radars, and additional SAGW systems and all of these are going to come from indigenous sources, for which the action is already at hand,” he added.
The IAF chief further said that the forces are fully in sync with the Centre’s Aatmanirbhar Bharat push which has resulted in the “quick induction” of platforms such as the light-combat helicopter and aircraft and radar systems.
SEARCHES FOR SURVIVORS ON, ARMY INDUCTS RADAR
The Indian Army on Sunday inducted radars to trace survivors under the debris which was laid after a cloudburst struck the area near the holy shrine of Amarnath on Friday.“Xaver 4000 radar has been inducted and has been operational at Amarnath since late noon for finding any survivors under the debris,” said Indian Army officials. Earlier, Lieutenant Governor (LG) of Jammu and Kashmir Manoj Sinha on Sunday visited a base camp in Pahalgam and met pilgrims.“The security personnel and administration have carried out an efficient rescue operation. We pay condolences to those who lost their lives. Efforts are underway to resume the Yatra along with repairing the path. Pilgrims should come, we will provide them with all facilities,” Sinha assured.
The Amarnath yatra was temporarily suspended on Friday, till further notice.
However, the pilgrims have been waiting at the Baltal Base camp for it to recommence.As many as 35 pilgrims were discharged following treatment, Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) Officials informed on Saturday.“35 pilgrims have been discharged following treatment. 17 people are getting the treatment and are likely to get discharged tonight. All safe and healthy,” said SASB Officials.The critically injured patients were airlifted to Srinagar.“Critically injured people were airlifted to Srinagar. 2 people who were buried but were alive were rescued. We’re taking all precautionary steps. 41 missing as per Jammu and Kashmir police out of which some were rescued. Yatra may resume within a day or two,” said Kuldiep Singh, DG, CRPF.As per the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) data on Saturday, at least 16 people have died in the cloud burst incident near the holy shrine of Amarnath.Meanwhile, four Mi-17V5 and four Cheetal helicopters of the Indian Air Force were deployed for rescue and relief efforts at the Amarnath shrine on Saturday.The Cheetal helicopters flew 45 sorties, carrying five NDRF and Army personnel and 3.5 tonnes of relief material while evacuating 45 survivors from the holy cave.Earlier the officials on Saturday informed that the LG chaired a high-level meeting to review the ongoing rescue and relief operations at Amarnath cave.Meanwhile, the Indian Army informed that they have pulled up “critical rescue equipment” to speed up the rescue operations in the affected areas.“Indian Army pulls up critical rescue equipment to speed up the process of rescue operations and route maintenance in view of recent cloudburst of Amarnath in which 16 people lost their lives while several are assumed missing,” said the Indian Army.
LET TERRORIST TALIB HUSSAIN NOT A MEMBER OF BJP: J&K BJP CHIEF
Jammu and Kashmir BJP chief Ravinder Raina on Monday said the most wanted Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorist Talib Hussain who was apprehended from Reasi district is neither an “active member of the BJP nor a primary member”.
Speaking to ANI, Raina said, “Hussain is neither an active member of the BJP nor a primary member. There was a letter circular, on the basis of which it is believed that Sheikh Bashir, who is the President of BJP Minority Front of Jammu and Kashmir had appointed Hussain on 9 May.” He termed the reports fake which claimed that one of the two most-wanted LeT terrorists, who were overpowered by locals and handed over to the police, was in charge of the party’s IT cell.
The BJP leader further said after that Hussain had circulated a letter himself and resigned from the membership of the party on 18 May. “A couple of years ago, Hussain along with with his three colleagues used to come to the BJP office as a media person. He had also interviewed me many times, he used to call himself a reporter for a YouTube channel named ‘New Sehar India’,” Raina said.
“As a journalist, Hussain clicked photos with us many times in the BJP office. Pakistan terror outfit wanted to target the head office of the BJP of Jammu and Kashmir. It has been done through the targeted medium and carried out such incidents,” he said. “It is too soon to say more on this matter as the investigation is going on. Not only the BJP, but all the offices of other political parties need to be more alert now,” Raina added.
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