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THEATERISATION: ARE WE READY?

Before going ahead with the proposed move of creating theatre commands to increase ‘jointness’ between the Indian Army, Navy and Air Force, we need to resolve certain fundamental issues pertaining to the chain of command, communications, operational guidance and training of officers.

LT GEN PR SHANKAR (Retd)

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The COAS says that the process of theaterisation will be “deliberate, thoughtful and well considered” and I agree with him. It needs to be that way. I also agree with Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia, Ex-DGMO, who in his article says that theaterisation must transform us into a regional power. Recent media reports mention that India is to get five theatre commands by 2022, and there is lot of commotion about it. However, if you give a syndicate in the Junior Command course a couple of hours, they will probably spend an hour in general discussion, half an hour trying to understand what theaterisation is all about, discuss possible outlines for fifteen minutes and mark the map in the last fifteen minutes. Believe me, that syndicate won’t be far from what the media has reported. If the number of syndicates is increased, one will get very imaginative and original ideas. In my view, the number and extent of the theatres is really secondary. We need to look at the primary issues first.

The chain of command relationship between the Theatre Commander, Chiefs of Services, the CDS, the RM and the PM is of fundamental and prime importance. This relationship of operational responsibility must be clear before we embark upon this adventure. Let us examine other parallel models to draw some lessons.

The USA has six global-scale theatres which they call unified combatant commands. A theatre commander is responsible for one section of the globe. Resources are placed at his disposal to execute military operations in the best interests of the USA in that region. The forces are allocated by the political authority and can only be transferred out or reinforced by that authority. The chain of command to a unified combatant command runs from the President to the Secretary of Defense and from the Secretary of Defense to the Theatre Commander of the combatant command. The Theatre Commander has a direct one-to-one relationship with the political leadership – Secretary of Defence and C in C aka the President of USA, from whom he gets his operational directive, guidance and resources. The Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff and Service Chiefs support the Theatre Commander. They assist the Secretary of Defense and the President in their command duties, provide a communication link and may be given the responsibility for overseeing the activities of the combatant commands sans any command authority. The command authority is with the political leadership along with the command responsibility. Mutatis mutandis if the theatre commander of a combatant command at any time considers forces assigned to him are insufficient or his authority, direction, or control is insufficient, he takes recourse to the Secretary of Defense.

In the Chinese Model, five joint theatres were established. As it stands, the theatres are within China. I suppose that the extra regional responsibility radiates outwards from each command in the region. This is the model typical of a regional power. The theatre commander is responsible to the Central Military Commission which is headed by Xi Jinping. In essence, the chain of command is direct – between the theatre and the Chairman of the Military Commission nee Head of the State. It is a one-to-one relationship. In the present conditions, the relationship is very tight, with Xi Jinping being hands-on in all military affairs. That has been amply revealed in the current Sino-Indian standoff in eastern Ladakh. Similar to the US system, resources allocated to each theatre enable it to carry out assigned tasks.

The CDS has been tasked to ‘facilitate restructuring of Military Commands for optimal utilisation of resources by bringing about jointness in operations, including through establishment of joint/theatre commands’. That process has commenced. However, in our case, the question which begs an answer is: who is the Theatre Commander responsible to? Is it the President of India who is the C in C but a titular head? Is it the CCS? Is it the PM? Is it the CDS? Is it the NSA? Is it the COSC? This issue needs clarity. We also need to be clear that the Chiefs of Services and CDS will have no operational role once Joint / theatre commands are instituted. After all, there can be only one sword in a scabbard. These functionaries will only support the theatres. If the Theatre Commander is subordinated to the COSC or any other functionary, it is only a relegated layering of the command structure, adding fat and confusion to it. If we adopt the US model, we are looking at a chain of command running down from the PM to the Theatre Commander through the RM. If we adopt the Chinese model, it has to be the PM through the CCS, who has to be in direct chain of command and responsibility with all others in supportive roles. Both the models have many downstream effects. Organisational behavioural changes will have to be brought in. If this relationship and command structure is not clarified, we will be better off being where we are. The adjunct aspect is that though the theatres can be demarcated within our boundaries, the responsibility will have to radiate outwards to encompass the region. For instance, the theatre facing China would be responsible for China, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, and Bangladesh for military operations. Similar outbound responsibility will have to be assigned to other theatres. It is a radical shift from the defence of our borders to being a regional power. We must get it right.

A major pre-requisite of theaterisation would be the operational guidance to the Theatre Commander. It will have to be given by the political authority and not the bureaucracy as it has been loosely happening. The operational guidance will have to be based on national interests and threat perception, as defined by the political leadership and not as (mis)translated by bureaucracy. To that extent, theaterisation will also force the political leadership to be hands-on with the Armed Forces and not keep them at arm’s length. Hence, many misplaced perceptions will automatically correct themselves and sharpen to lead to a realistic relationship between ends, ways and means. The issue which needs to be recognised is that individual service perceptions which run riot today will and must be curbed. The threat definition will be a synthesised one based on ground realities, adversary capabilities and geopolitical situation including alignments. Luckily for us, we are in a situation where the threat from our adversaries is at a peak. We can realistically define what we need to guard against and what we need to project to be a regional power. Also, the political awareness of this problem is acute and current. It needs to be kept that way. This will also inform us the joint capabilities we need to develop in the future. This critical and valuable input must be captured for implementation.

An important part of any command is communications. Communications follow the chain of command. Command is exercised through communications. Hence, prior to establishment of theatre commands, a system of integrated joint communications must be put in place. At present, the communications between the services are only linked. In most cases, they are tenuous. They need to be integrated to allow a ceaseless and seamless flow of information and data. This will imply that headquarters have to be integrated and restructured so that they can work together. One has to understand that despite ushering in jointness and integrated commands, pure Army, Navy, and Air Force formations and units will also continue as before. They have to be brought on a common grid to function as one entity. Till the time a clear road map for integrated communications does not start rolling out, integrated commands will remain a far-off dream. Thus, this is a high-priority area.

In the US system, the Theatre Commander must have served in at least one joint duty assignment as a general or flag officer. This places high value on training and staffing from the grass roots level. Even as per the original mandate given to the CDS, training and staffing is high on priority along with procurement. Jointness in procurement commenced when the IDS was established and is streamlined to a large extent. Hence, joint training and staffing needs greater focus from now. For a system which has a number of joint service training institutes like NDA, DSSC, CDM, NDC and so on, the Indian Armed Forces have not been able to achieve jointness to the required degree. For example, despite being trained on the same campus, officers in DSSC go through largely segregated service-specific training and are also largely posted within their respective organizations after the course. Presently, the DSSC is like three courses, one each for the Army, Navy and Air Force, with a degree of joint training. It should be one course with a degree of service-specific training. In fact, in my opinion, jointness needs to be brought about much earlier at the Junior Command level. The Higher Command courses have to be integrated. Unless inter service and joint staffing is the norm, and people go up the ladder after mandatory staff appointments in inter service organizations, we will not produce Theatre Commanders of value. If we do not get our training and staffing issue right, we will end up with senior officers who cannot command troops and staff who cannot serve them. A major aspect linked to training is personnel and HR functions. The best and most capable people have to go up the ladder. The emphasis on quality leadership must be high. The services are bedevilled by a quota system of leadership, colour consciousness of the uniform, lanyard and regimental affiliations and outdated priorities of loyalty. The present system of promotion to the higher ranks ensures that while the best might not have a reasonable chance to reach the top, the worst have a more than fair chance to reach the apex. This needs a major relook professionally.

The CDS was mandated to bring about jointness in operation, logistics, transport, training, support services, communications, repairs and maintenance, etc. of the three services, within three years of the first CDS assuming office. In effect, this is the precursor to theaterisation. If headway is not made on ground and if the issues highlighted above are not thought through for implementation, the establishment of Theatre Commands will be a disaster. We also need to be cognisant of the fact that at present there are a lot of moving parts in our system: a raging virus, the eastern Ladakh standoff in a long haul mode with China making insidious moves through our neighbours, Pakistan desperately trying to revive the J&K problem in collusion with China, and ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ and the economy still on shaky ground. We are trying to establish joint commands under these conditions. We will be successful only if all three Service Chiefs and the CDS pull together. We do not need emotionally contentious issues related to pay, pensions, and terms of service to distract us from the main tasks. The nation can pay a little more in the short run for long term security. We also do not need competing requirements or theories of desired operational capabilities coming up through the margins. One of the first principles of jointness is to speak in one tone.

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 Madras and 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

EASTERN FLEET AWARDS FUNCTION TO RECOGNISE OPERATIONAL ACHIEVEMENTS

Ashish Singh

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Fleet Awards Function 2021 was held to celebrate the operational achievements of the Eastern Fleet during the last year. Fleet Awards Function marks the culmination of the Operational Cycle of the Eastern Fleet and recognises accomplishments of the ‘Sword Arm’ of the Eastern Naval Command (ENC). Vice Admiral Ajendra Bahadur Singh, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief ENC was the Chief Guest at the event hosted by Rear Admiral Tarun Sobti, Flag Officer Commanding Eastern Fleet.

As compared to previous years, the Fleet Awards Function was held as a modest event with full observance of COVID protocols. The function culminated with the distribution of sixteen coveted trophies covering the overall spectrum of maritime operations. INS Sahyadri was adjudged as the Best Ship of the Eastern Fleet amongst Capital ships, INS Kamorta as the Most Spirited Ship for displaying indomitable spirit and grit whilst undertaking a plethora of challenging missions and Best Corvette trophy as won by IN Ships Kiltan and Khukri amongst Corvettes and similar classes of ships.

The year gone by was a challenging one for the Sunrise Fleet. Even as the COVID pandemic gripped the world, Eastern Fleet went about its operational responsibilities and maintained a forward active posture. Sustaining high operational tempo, the Fleet ships participated in numerous operations, exercises, and humanitarian assistance missions. The Eastern Fleet ships participated in several major bilateral and multilateral exercises such as Malabar-20, La Perouse, PASSEX with various navies and undertook Op Sahayam and Mission Sagar for delivery of HADR stores and Op Samudra Setu for evacuation of stranded Indian citizen from overseas. In the second wave of COVID-19 as Op Samudra Setu II, Eastern Fleet ships acted as the mainstay for enhancing oxygen delivery to the Eastern seaboard emphasising its role as a professional and credible force.

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AIR FORCE CHIEF ADDRESSES COMBINED GRADUATION PARADE AT IAF ACADEMY

Ashish Singh

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The Combined Graduation Parade (CGP) was held at Air Force Academy (AFA) Dundigal Hyderabad, marking the successful culmination of training for 161 Flight Cadets of Flying and Ground Duty Branches in the Indian Air Force. Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal R.K.S. Bhadauria was the Chief Guest and Reviewing Officer of the CGP, where he conferred the President’s Commission upon the graduating flight cadets. On this occasion, 6 officers from the Indian Navy and 5 officers from the Indian Coast Guard were also awarded ‘Wings’ on successful completion of their flying training.

The Reviewing Officer was received by Air Marshal R.D. Mathur, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Training Command and Air Marshal IP Vipin Commandant Air Force Academy. Chief of the Air Staff was presented with a general salute by the Parade on his arrival followed by an impressive march past. Highlight of the parade was the ‘Pipping Ceremony’ in which the graduating flight cadets donned their ‘Stripes’ and were awarded ‘Wings’ &‘Brevets’ by the Chief Guest. The newly commissioned officers were then administered the ‘Oath’ by the Commandant of AFA in the presence of the Reviewing Officer and other dignitaries.

After the ‘Pipping Ceremony’, the Reviewing Officer presented awards to the Trainees who had excelled in various disciplines of their training. Flying Officer Prajwal Anil Kulkarni from Flying branch was awarded the President’s Plaque as well as the Chief of the Air Staff Sword of Honour for standing first in overall order of merit in the Pilots’ Course; while Flying Officer Kritika Kulhari was awarded the President’s Plaque for being first in overall order of merit in Ground Duty branches.

The grand ceremony culminated with the newly commissioned officers stepping out in slow march to the traditional notes of ‘Auld Lang Syne’; as they received their first salute from the junior course. They then went past the Saluting Dias and passed through the portals of the Academy, symbolising the beginning of their journey in the IAF. Flypast by Pilatus PC-7 Mk-II, Hawks, Kirans and Chetaks as well as display by Sarang, Suryakirans & Akash Ganga Sky Diving team added colour and cheer to an impressive graduation parade.

IAF CHIEF’S ADDRESS TO THE COMBINED GRADUATION PARADE

Addressing the Parade, CAS commended the AFA and other Training Establishments for timely completion of the training despite severe Covid constraints placed upon the training infrastructure. He noted the significant milestone achieved by the Air Force Academy in achieving over 20,500 flying hours in the last one year – the highest ever in the Academy’s history. He said, “My congratulations also to the award winners for their outstanding performance during the training, and to the six officers from Indian Navy as well as the five officers from Indian Coast Guard for earning their coveted wings. Good Show and Keep it up. My special compliments on achieving this milestone and implementing significant enhancements in our training curriculum.”

Recognising the academy and parents, the CAS mentioned, “Indeed, this day is a great testament to the grit and determination shown by each one of you as well as to the yeoman contribution by the instructors. I take this opportunity to commend the efforts put in by all our Training Establishments and the faculty for guiding, mentoring and teaching; not only the fundamentals of being a Military Leader, but also instilling in you IAF’s core values of ‘Mission, Integrity and Excellence’. Living by these core values and preserving our glorious traditions through selflessness and sacrifice will be your sacred duty from this day on. Emphasising on the parents role, the CAS appreciated the role of parents during the Covid time. He said, “I would like to express my deep gratitude to all the proud parents who stood by their daughters and sons during an extremely rigorous training schedule. I am mindful of the fact that your wards did not come home during the term break and have been toiling non-stop in pursuit of their dreams. You – as their parents and their family – should be proud of the fact that your guidance, support and encouragement are here for all to see; as your children stand on the parade ground- resplendent in their blue uniforms and transformed into spirited and confident officers of the Indian Air Force. To all these graduating officers, I have this to say. In a short while from now, you will take your first steps into the IAF as Commissioned Officers. As you do so, it is essential for you to know where you are headed and the huge responsibilities that will come to rest on your young shoulders.”

CAS referred to unprecedented and rapidly evolving security challenges and reminded the young officers that they were entering the IAF at a juncture when a rapid infusion of technologies and combat capabilities was driving a monumental transformation in the Air Force. He also highlighted the change in operational methodologies and functioning with development and operationalisation of major automation and networking projects. He exhorted them to hit the ground running and prove their mettle once they reach the field; in order to exploit the state of art aircraft, weapons, sensors and technologies to their fullest. He highlighted, “IAF is undergoing a monumental transformation. Rapid infusion of niche technology and combat power in every facet of our operations has never been as intense as it is now! This is primarily because of the unprecedented and rapidly evolving security challenges that we face, coupled with a rising geo-political uncertainty in our neighbourhood and beyond. The last few decades have clearly established the critical role of Air Power in achieving victory in any conflict. It is in this backdrop that IAF’s on-going capability enhancement assumes tremendous significance.

Highlighting the IAF’s modernisation, The CAS said, “All of you are very fortunate to be joining the Air Force at this juncture. The Pilots will get to fly fighters carrying an array of potent standoff precision weapons and connected in networks. The transport and helicopter fleets are equipped with C-17, C-130, ALH, Chinook and Apache aircraft which are state of the art and capable of contributing equally effectively in war or HADR situations. Engineers will need to master e-MMS, which is one of the largest networked aircraft maintenance management systems in the world that we have established across diverse type of aircraft. Controllers will have to adapt to vectoring fighters in large formations using digitised and networked IACCS systems in the MAFI environment. Logisticians will use automation to drive procurement and resupply through totally automated and computerised networks on inventory management. All of you will be tied together with a completely paperless e-governance suite to enhance the efficiency of basic administration across the entire Air Force.”

Talking about the technology and futuristic warfare, the CAS informed the graduating cadets, “I have always believed that the generation you belong to is technologically adept and well versed with exploiting the digital space. Now is the time for you to prove it. I can assure you that the environment you will step into, when you cross these portals will not only challenge, but stretch your capabilities. You will need to hit the ground running and work hard to deliver what the Air Force expects of you. It was with this focus that B Tech degree was introduced compulsorily for the Air Force cadets in NDA and I am happy to note that 81 of the87 graduating officers from the Flying branch are B.Tech. I am sure this will facilitate rapid comprehension and exploitation of modern platforms, weapons, sensors and technologies. Notwithstanding all these advances in technology, as young leaders, you must know that IAF’s core strength is in “OUR PEOPLE” and you must always nurture this strength.

On the current pandemic situation, the CAS described the IAF’s role in it and said, “While maintaining operational readiness, IAF has also been proactively assisting in the national fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Proactive vaccination and strict COVID discipline within IAF enabled us to undertake all COVID tasks on a war-footing. IAF’s heavy lift capability was put into action for airlift of crucial COVID related equipment; wherein our transport fleet flew more than 3800 hours within two months in a huge effort across the globe and domestically to transport critical oxygen Tankers, and all related medical equipment and supplies. You all are joining the field that operates at this level, across the spectrum.” “It is also essential for all of you to bear in mind that as future leaders, you will stand shoulder to shoulder with your comrades in Olive Greens and Whites and prosecute integrated operations. You will be an integral part of this important transition in the years ahead”, the CAS concluded.

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SINO-INDIAN LOGJAM: THE STRATEGIC GAINS AND IMPLICATIONS OF GALWAN

LT GEN PR SHANKAR (Retd)

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Galwan is a turning point in our history. It was India’s ‘Casablanca’ moment when our boys stood on the burning deck to turn tables. It was that moment in time when India and the world realized that the Chinese can be overcome. It was the Nth coming of the Indian Armed Forces from behind. It ensured that India regained its strategic confidence. Many articles have appeared to commemorate the incident. However, a strange dichotomy has emerged. Most analysts say that India is in a state of asymmetry with PLA which has hung a Damocles sword over Ladakh to tie us down to our Northern Borders at the expense of our maritime interests in the IOR. One detects ‘Strategic Hesitancy’ due to a gross overestimation of Chinese capabilities despite Galwan and its aftermath. We need to understand the strategic gains of Galwan and their implications. 

Indian Army officer Capt Soiba Maningba Rangnamei of 16 Bihar Regiment during the clash with Chinese soldiers in the Galwan Valley. (ANI Photo)

Fact 1: In Mar 2020, the Belfer Centre analysis stated “China is regularly operating with a permanent Indian conventional force advantage along its border areas…it would have to rely upon mobilization primarily from Xinjiang and secondarily from the Western Theatre Command… By contrast, Indian forces are already largely in position”. This forecast has been borne out on ground. My own view is that China does not have an ‘Akshay Patra’ from where it can draw forces without consequences – long and short term. The PLA does not have numerical superiority over Indian Army along the LAC if numbers are crunched. Further, the recruitment standards of PLA have been lowered as per South China Morning Post and many other inputs. The quality of PLA is suspect.  

Fact 2: PLA Air Force (PLAAF) suffers from a numerical disparity in comparison to the IAF along the LAC. India has a stronger air position, with a large number of airfields. Even if some airfields are down, operations can continue from other locations. The same is not true for PLAAF. IAF has a clear edge for the present. The PLAAF is trying to neutralise this edge by building up air infrastructure at a frenetic pace. 

Fact 3: Any terrain allows deployment up to a level only. Beyond that, pumping in more forces results in diminishing returns. It is a matter of space, logistics, effectiveness, survivability, mobility and recuperability. In high altitudes, these factors get compounded. From a defensive perspective, India has adequate forces to thwart China. In my considered opinion, China does not have enough forces to wage a decisive  war in its favour against India.

Fact 4: China is transforming PLA from a conventional land based force to a multidimensional force with a global foot print. Increasing force levels along the LAC is at expense of the larger role. The assessment to be done is whether a hand brake has been already put on this process post Galwan.     

Fact 5:  Comprehensive national power is a fictional metric coined by the Chinese to create a halo. It has no value on the battle field. Otherwise Taliban should not have kept USA on the run for so long. India needs to fight asymmetrically to defeat PLA. While India has the tools to do so in Tibet, PLA does not have it. There are no morals in not using the asymmetric option against an untrustworthy enemy.     

Fact 6:  Conventional ‘big’ battles between nuclear nations is fertile imagination. Most of the conventional weapons are now consigned to deterrence only. However we need to be prepared to defend our territorial integrity conventionally if push comes to the shove. The trend will be localised battles of high pressure and intensity.  

Pre-Galwan Opinion: As per the Belfer Center Report, ‘India has key under-appreciated conventional advantages that reduce its vulnerability to Chinese threats and attacks. India appears to have cause for greater confidence in its military position against China than is typically acknowledged in Indian debates, providing the country an opportunity for leadership in international efforts toward nuclear transparency and restraint. Indian strategists have not focused on this opportunity, in part because they draw pessimistic conclusions regarding China’. How true!

Corroboration. Overall all these facts and opinion have been borne out in the past one year on ground in Eastern Ladakh. However things are changing. 

PLA ACTION

The PLA executed a premeditated and calibrated operation to ensure that the focus of Indian action remains on the LAC instead of expanding to POK and Aksai Chin. This was in response to abrogation of Article 370 and its political postulations. To that extent, China has achieved its aim as I have enunciated in my article ‘Aim Revisited’@ https://www.gunnersshot.com/2021/06/please-read-in-conjunction-with-these.html . However when viewed in the larger context, PLA did not achieve objectives to cripple India like  cutting off the DSDBO road or inflicting a military defeat on the Indian Army or coercing India into alignment with China or preventing India from doing what it wants. In fact the opposite has happened. PLA had to retreat humiliatingly after destroying their own defences and obliterating the Chinese flag. To that extent China stands defeated. However there are larger issues which have exposed the severe limitations of the PLA and China. We need to exploit them. Unfortunately at a military level, these have not come out clearly. At the political level it has not been  realised as to how to drive home the advantage which Galwan gave us. I will leave the bureaucratic level out, whose (in)action has contributed more to the detriment of national interests, objectives and strategy. 

PLANNED OFFENSIVE VS SPEED OF REACTION

The PLA incursions were meticulously planned with two divisions at a time and place of China’s choice. News of rehearsals on walk-through GIS models had also been publicised. It was probably appreciated that India will not be able to react in time and space to even pose a challenge to PLA. Hence two divisions would be able to militarily coerce India to achieve multiple political aims and objects. The execution failed due to gross under-assessment of Indian capabilities. All these were probably based on PLA norms. These norms indicate PLAs lack of military grasp. Its incapability to exploit the advantage and initiative when the window of opportunity opened is well established now.  However the more important issue is the Indian reaction. We could build up an equivalent amount of forces to mirror PLA deployment in a matter of 2-3 weeks and stymie the offensive in super high altitudes. In the battlefield equations of time and space, capability to build up forces in such quick time frames indicates India’s latent offensive capability. Any one noticed that?  India’s military capability to launch an offensive into Tibet at a time and place of its choosing by beating the PLA in time is now established. The edge which IAF brings to the table enhances Indian offensive potential. India will win the ‘Race to the Swift’ unless PLA commits additional forces in Tibet on a permanent basis. It seems to be doing that now! Anyone with fundamental common sense will discern as to who is tying down whom. Further, it tells us that we need to get into a preventive counterattacking mode rather than being permanently defensive. 

OUTMANOEUVRE IN HIGH ALTITUDE

Occupation of Kailash Range and heights above Finger 4 in the face of PLA led to China being outmanoeuvred. More importantly, there was no counter manoeuvre by the PLA due to its limited capability in high altitude. The limitations of a political Army when set against a professional  Army have been exposed.  Significantly, the capability of PLA will not get better since it has already degraded its intake standards of height, eyesight and even hearing. Overall it leaves PLA as a vulnerable force in the mountains at super high altitudes. This will be exploited by all forces opposing China anywhere. It has taught everyone that PLA can be arm twisted into retreat.     

TURNOVER IMPLICATIONS

There are reports in the media that PLA is turning over both the divisions from Eastern Ladakh.  It begs a question. Why are they doing so? It takes more than a year for troops to get used to the environment and be fit for fighting. Just when those two divisions were getting fit to fight they are being turned over. PLA will now have two new divisions which are not fully fit for high altitude warfare. There are two explanations. First. The two divisions are beat-up and fatigued in near combat. Poor show then. Second.  PLA troops do not identify with Tibet as their home land worth defending by sacrificing their  life. After all, China as it exists today is an unnatural country which has never existed earlier in history. It has a spatial divide, an ethnic/racial divide and an economic divide between its Han dominated core in the East and the non-Han West. Despite all the talk of change of demography, Hans have not settled in Tibet in droves. Both these issues need monitoring to assess PLA’s ability and commitment to fight a last man last round battle in high altitudes.

REBALANCING DIVIDEND

Rebalancing a strike corps deployed against Pakistan to face the PLA has a tremendous strategic dividend for India. The rebalancing exercise does not detract our capability against Pakistan or in the IOR. On the other hand dual tasking  significantly enhances our defensive and offensive options and capabilities along the LAC. PLA has now been forced to react to this. It will have to deploy additional forces in Tibet which is its secondary theatre and it will be at the cost of its larger geopolitical priorities.  It has come to light that PLA is busy building infrastructure to house troops permanently along the LAC. PLA has been forced to commit itself much more to the LAC than hitherto fore and it no more takes Indian Army for granted.

THE GEO-STRATEGIC FALLOUT

Galwan inspired many countries to face up and counter China which were hesitant to do so till then. Malaysia, Phillipines, Singapore, Japan and Vietnam took up issues more forcefully with China after Galwan. These countries will be thankful that India has tied down China in remote Tibet. It takes Chinese focus away from them. Unfortunately, this fact has not been played up by either our diplomacy or strategic community to build or form a coalition of nations which are militarily affected by China and have a dialogue with them for joint action. Galwan also forced convergence of all democratic nations to form an unitary view about China. QUAD would not have come about without this action. NATO would not have declared China as a systemic global security challenge. The geo-strategic fallout has been huge.   

SUMMARY

We have turned ‘Defeat into Victory’ but are we capitalising on it? We have exposed the limitations of PLA. The Chinese seem to have learned from their shortcomings. They are increasing the depth of the battlefield and building a firm base.  I do not see a plan to overcome our short comings.   We remain in awe of Chinese!  We are not able to tell the world as to how to deal with China! There is a need for political and strategic introspection. Galwan has also brought out that while we are fully prepared and capable of taking on the PLA in close battles, we are unprepared for the deep battle. We need to be able to deter the Chinese from any further adventurism by re-tooling for war in super high altitudes. We  should enforce ‘Standoff’. Standoff can be imposed by improving battlefield transparency, reach, and survivability of existing forces. Let me put it across simply, the table which I outlined in my earlier article can be implemented incrementally, with indigenous technology as an evolutionary process. It needs unified thinking and clarity of mind. More than great financial investment, it needs commitment and dedication. That is sorely lacking. Strengthening the LAC is not at the cost of our maritime aspirations as being perceived by many.  The challenge before the CDS is to increase joint ‘force’ and ‘operational’ capability. Theatre commands are  contentious and emotive issues. Let them evolve. Increasing indigenisation rather than importing Russian tanks and Israeli guns should be the greater priority. We have a task cut out ahead.    

Lt Gen P.R. Shankar was India’s DG Artillery. He is highly decorated and qualified with vastoperational experience. He contributed significantly to the Modernization and Indigenisationof Artillery. He is now a Professor in the Aerospace Dept of IIT Madras and is involved inapplied research for defence technology. His other articles can be read onwww.gunnersshot.com

India’s military capability to launch an offensive into Tibet at a time and place of its choosing by beating the PLA in time is now established. The edge which IAF brings to the table enhances Indian offensive potential. India will win the ‘Race to the Swift’ unless PLA commits additional forces in Tibet on a permanent basis. It seems to be doing that now! Anyone with fundamental common sense will discern as to who is tying down whom. Further, it tells us that we need to get into a preventive counter-attacking mode rather than being permanently defensive.

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INDIAN COAST GUARD ON ALERT OVER OIL SPILL FROM MV DEVON

Ashish Singh

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The Indian Coast Guard (ICG) received information from MRCC Colombo in late hours of Thursday regarding a mid-sea oil spill about 450 Km South East of Chennai. On further investigation, it was revealed that a Portugese Flag Container ship MV Devon on passage from Colombo to Haldia (West Bengal), developed an underwater crack in the left side fuel tank containing about 120 KL of Very Low Sulphur Fuel Oil (VLSFO).

The crack resulted in spillage of about 10 KL of oil into sea before preventive action was taken and remaining oil in tank was transferred to another tank by ship’s crew. The vessel is carrying 10795 Tonnes of general cargo in 382 containers and manned by 17 crew of mixed nationality. The container ship is continuing her voyage to Haldia & likely to reach today. ICG is in continuous contact with MV Devon and master has reported that the vessel is stable. ICG pollution response team at Chennai has been alerted and kept standby. In addition, ICG ships & aircraft deployed at sea are also put on alert in pollution response configuration.

It may be recalled that, ICG ships & aircraft in a coordinated operation with Sri Lanka deployed vessels had successfully undertaken a major firefighting operation last month onboard MV X-Press Pearl off Colombo, thereby averting a major environmental disaster. The vessel now partially sunk off Colombo is under the supervision of Sri Lankan authorities and efforts are in hand for its salvage.

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Defence

NORTHERN COMMAND PAYS HOMAGE TO GALLANT SOLDIERS ON ITS 50TH RAISING DAY

Ashish Singh

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‘Golden Jubilee Raising Day of Northern Command’ was celebrated at Udhampur amidst strict COVID protocol. On this occasion, Lt Gen S Harimohan Iyer, COS, HQ Northern Command, on behalf of Lt Gen YK Joshi, Army Commander, Northern Command and all ranks, laid wreath at the Dhruva War Memorial and paid homage to the gallant soldiers of Northern Command who have made the supreme sacrifice for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country.

Northern Command was raised on 17 June 1972 and completed 50th Raising Day. In his message to the troops, the Army Commander stated that these glorious years are testimony to historic operational achievements of Northern Command in ‘Op Meghdoot’, ‘Op Parakarm’, ‘Op Vijay’ ‘Op Rakshak’ and ‘OP Snow Leopard’. The resolute response of the Indian Army against aggression on the LC & LAC has won numerous accolades. In addition, our firm yet people friendly sub-conventional operations have not only thwarted attempts by our Western adversary to destabilise the nation but also, won the hearts and minds of the local populace.

Northern Command has been at the forefront to assist the administration and people of UTs of J&K and Ladakh during every natural calamity like snow blizzards, earthquakes (2005), Cloudburst of Leh (2010), floods in Jammu & Kashmir (2014) and frequent avalanches. The current COVID-19 pandemic is yet another example when the Indian Army has gone out of its way to support the people, in their times of need.

The Army Commander in special order of the day complimented all ranks for their extraordinary leadership, courage and sacrifice to keep the flag of the Command, the Indian Army & Nation flying high and exhorted all ranks to rededicate towards safeguarding our Nation’s integrity and resolve to confront new challenges with exemplary professionalism and courage.

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Defence

INDIAN COAST GUARD SAVES 16 LIVES FROM SINKING BARGE MV MANGALAM NEAR REVDANDA PORT

Ashish Singh

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In a swift sea-air coordinated operation amid inclement monsoon weather, Indian Coast Guard ship and helicopters undertook successful rescue of all 16 crew on Thursday from sinking MV Mangalam near Revdanda port of Maharashtra. MRCC Mumbai received information from Second officer of Indian flagged MV Mangalam (IMO-9084619) intimating that the vessel was partially sinking with 16 crew onboard approximately 3 Km from Revdanda Port (Raigarh District), and the master was planning to abandon the vessel. The crew of the distressed vessel were in panic due to swelling water ingress and waves breaking over the ship. MRCC team initiated rescue action and convinced the master and crew to remain onboard with life jackets as Coast Guard ships were dispatched for assistance.

Indian Coast Guard Ship Subhadra Kumari Chauhan pressed into action and proceeded towards distressed vessel with best speed for rendering assistance. Meanwhile, two Indian Coast Guard Chetak Helicopters were also launched at 9:45 am from Indian Coast Guard Air Station Daman for evacuation of the crew from MV Mangalam. Braving rough seas, Indian Coast Guard ship Subhadra Kumari Chauhan quickly arrived at scene of distress and post assessment of situation lowered the rescue team in inflatable boat amidst challenging sea conditions. Meanwhile, Indian Coast Guard Helicopters also arrived at the location and despite gusting monsoon winds commenced airlifting of crew. Through daredevil operations, the ICG Ship & helicopters successfully rescued all 16 crew. The rescued crew were taken to Revdanda and administered first aid following COVID protocol. All crew were safe and healthy.

The timely co-ordination and rescue by ICG once again saved precious lives. On an average, Coast Guard saves one precious life every second day at sea. The incident once again showcased Indian Coast Guard’s resolve and commitment towards safety of life at sea, upholding its motto ‘We Protect’ and ready to undertake operations at sea 24×7 through the year.

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