A ‘heavy breakthrough capability’ in India’s context relates to having the capability to reach objectives up to 600km in depth, should the political circumstances impose war on our nation. Our democratic set up will never allow India to become the aggressor, as the people’s support will never be available for even thinking of such dangerous and unproductive ventures. India does not believe in either territorial conquest or forcible amalgamation of unwilling or a different type of population. Such actions can only be carried out by totalitarian regimes which can easily misrepresent facts to their countrymen and live a lie while festering rebellions gather smoke waiting for the central authority’s power to wane. It was exactly such a situation that arose in the erstwhile Soviet Union leading to its break up.
The Indian government spends huge sums of money every year for the modernisation of the Armed Forces. An approximate sum of Rs 79,600 crore1 was spent under the Major Budget Head 4076 during the Financial Year 2013-2014. The rough breakdown is as given in the table:
The figures clearly show that the government is prepared to provide funds to those who take the initiative and bid for resources, ensure projects are tightly controlled and expenditure monitored and have high levels of managerial and coordination efficiency in a structured mechanism in order to implement 100 per cent funds utilisation over a ten-month period during the financial year. It has been observed over the last five years that Army HQ has remained highly cautious, not exerting itself to carry out the required modernisation of the Army on the scale that is required to meet the security challenges of the future. There is no valid reason other than this to presume as to why the average value of the annual budget for the modernisation of the Army could not have exceeded Rs 25,000 crore.
A nation is feared and taken seriously for its conventional arms capability, if it is already a nuclear weapons state…
In such important matters, the results of the good work put in today become effective only six to seven years later. Foresight and drive are paramount to achieve long-term force strengthening objectives. It is pertinent to note as a comparative figure of efficiency, that in the private sector, an MNC like Hindustan Uni Lever2 repatriates more than Rs 16,000 crore of profits annually out of India merely by selling products such as soaps, toothpaste and shampoo! This is more than the Indian Army’s modernisation budget.
It is important to understand that the Army’s modernisation push should not in any way be at the expense of the other two services by getting funds transferred to the Army’s Head. Such an ‘easy’ solution would be foolhardy and will immeasurably hurt the country’s long term capability development efforts. The Army needs to do much more than the Indian Air Force and the Indian Navy as far as modernisation of warlike stores and building up deterrent capabilities are concerned. It is not only superior planning that is required to ensure this but also ‘enlightened’ lobbying in the quarters concerned as well as building public opinion and Parliamentary consensus to get the proposals through. This is eminently achievable under Indian conditions and circumstances. This will also make the Indian Army a formidable instrument that will support the country’s foreign policy and achieve sustained peace and tranquility in the Asian neighbourhood. We must, on a war footing, target to achieve an average expenditure of Rs 35,000 crore annually over the next five years for modernisation of the Army in order for it to become a superior force.
Not unrelated to the ‘paradox’ of the largest component of the Armed Forces getting the least amount of funds for its modernisation effort, is the little known fact that of the sidelining of Staff Duties (SD) Branch and the Weapons & Equipment (WE) Branch in Army HQs. Often these Branches are ‘headless’ or are treated as temporary parking slots for birds of passage. Almost all the senior officers posted here are in their ‘last rank’ posting and are therefore not inclined to exert themselves or increase their workload. Most of them are contented by burying themselves in the details and remain oblivious of the larger picture. The hard fact remains that these branches are the most important Line Directorates of the Army during long spells of peace. Yet they have remained neglected for a very long time not receiving the attention they deserve. The results achieved speak for themselves. If the importance and levels of functional efficiency of these branches are improved on a war footing, the Army can achieve higher levels of punch in future conflicts including decisive offensive capabilities at short notice, unlike the embarrassing situation that had emerged during OP PARAKRAM.
Our Army’s manpower management efficiency today compares poorly with other large size modern armies…
The SD Directorate is responsible for ensuring the optimum utilisation of the manpower structure of our Army. It lays down the organisational structure of formations and units, decides manning levels, carries out new raisings and sanctions all types of extra regimental employments and functional attachments of manpower. Similarly, the WE Directorate ensures the right selection of weapon systems after elaborate trials, does the drafting work for General Staff Qualitative Requirements (GSQR) for all equipment and forwards Requests for Proposals (RFP). It is directly responsible for preventing the negative impact of obsolescence of warlike stores, planning the long term indigenisation of costly equipment manufacture and giving the Army’s requirements to the DRDO and OFB at least six years in advance, life-cycle management of all existing systems and ensure timely mid-life upgrades. Such fields specially require domain specialisation and an officer posted to these Directorates should complete three tenures there during his 25 years of service provided his performance and integrity levels are of very high order.
Unfortunately, in the Indian Army, the prevailing situation is that officers with little chance of promotion are posted to these branches and in many cases, it is their first exposure to the highest rank that they can achieve. Therefore, their motivational level is low, and automatically, the Army’s modernisation effort has become slow and drags with no focus on management efficiency. For example, the Army’s manpower management efficiency today compares poorly with other large size modern armies that have achieved a standard ‘brick’ of 45 combat divisions for a million men in arms. This type of restructuring study does not require the assistance of management consultants such as McKinsey or BCG! We only have to look inwards and pool our existing talents to achieve this benchmark.
The Nuclear Arms – Conventional Armed Capability Paradox
A nation is feared and taken seriously for its conventional arms capability, if it is already a nuclear weapons state. This was the lesson America learnt after the Vietnam War. In the present and future regional and world conflict scenarios, it is enough if India possesses a second strike nuclear arms capability of 25 second generation thermo-nuclear ‘tested’ warheads, to prevent any hostile power from daring to escalate a conflict situation to a nuclear level. The ‘second strike’ capability has become far more important than the ‘first strike’ capability itself. It is like a single wild elephant standing near a wire fence creating the necessary deterrence to all other denizens nearby, even across the fence.
Our democratic set up will never allow India to become the aggressor…
Any country wantonly using nuclear weapons for a ‘first strike’ will attract a nuke-out by the USA, as per its secret nuclear doctrine and contingency plans. These are hard learned lessons of the US, which, despite being the world’s unsurpassed nuclear power, fared badly against non nuclear opponents in the Korean and Vietnamese Wars. After the US woke up to the realities of the world and laid stress on developing unmatched conventional war capabilities from the late 1970s, no opponents including China want to go near the mighty American war machine. All Chinese plans for the ultimate ‘liberation’ of Taiwan and completion of unification, stands indefinitely postponed, loss of face notwithstanding!
In the present scenario, nuclear weapons can only be used by a nuclear state facing complete annihilation or conquest. Any irresponsible nation state under the rule of a military dictator or irresponsible and misguided zealots that tries to employ nuclear weapons against its adversary, in all likelihood, will be met with either a pre-emptive or a massive retaliatory strike by the US even if this country is not at war with the US. First use of nuclear weapons is a sin which the world can neither tolerate nor forgive.
In order to ensure lasting peace in our neighbourhood, it is, therefore, necessary that a country of India’s size and population, which has dreams of becoming a permanent member of the UN Security Council, should aim to possess a credible ‘second’ strike nuclear capability. The nation must focus on developing a formidable conventional arms capability instead of resting its hopes on a first strike nuclear capability which mere possession of nuclear weapons provide. This is the only language our neighbours understand. We can then concentrate on achieving a sustained economic growth of eight to ten per cent of GDP, and increase the present levels of cross-border trade by at least 20 per cent annually over the next two decades. It has been rightly said that if goods do not cross borders, soldiers surely will. At present, goods are not crossing our borders in sufficient quantities so as to preclude future wars.
The good work that our external intelligence agencies do, never gets reported…
Achieving Heavy Breakthrough Capability by India
A ‘heavy breakthrough capability’ in India’s context relates to having the capability to reach objectives up to 600km in depth, should war be imposed upon the nation. Our democratic set up will never allow India to become the aggressor, as the people’s support will never be available for such dangerous and unproductive ventures. India does not believe in either territorial conquest or forcible amalgamation of unwilling or a different type of population. Such actions can only be carried out by totalitarian regimes which can easily misrepresent facts to their countrymen and live a lie while festering rebellions gather smoke waiting for the central authority’s power to wane. It was exactly such a situation that arose in the erstwhile Soviet Union leading to its break up.
For a heavy breakthrough operation to be successful, it ideally requires the concentrated offensive efforts of two army-sized groupings, be it in the plains or mountains. This boils down to having in the plains six Armoured Divisions and eight motorised Infantry follow on Divisions, along with the usual supporting arms and logistics complements. Whereas in the mountains, nine fully equipped and acclimatised Mountain Divisions will be needed to meet this requirement. These force groupings should have all necessary integral complements in order to have balance and sustain the momentum.
Such a force aggregation may at first sight look unrealistic and unattainable unless we go for costly forces expansion and disregard manpower ceilings constraints. But if we really do a re-think and change our philosophy of war, it is attainable in a realistic timeframe of four to five years without breaching the existing manpower ceiling. In the US, the Congress has mandated a compulsory Decennial Forces Structure Review, in order to cut costs and do away with what is redundant. Similarly, we in India should also adopt a Statutory Forces Structure Review every 15 years under Parliamentary mandate to confront the realities of our strategic environment more realistically.
As per open sources of information3, India possesses the following:
- Infantry Units — 378
- Armoured Regiments — 63
- Mechanised Infantry Units — 44
- Artillery Regiments — 280
- Engineer Regiments — 72
- Air Defence Units — 56
If we prioritise their grouping, we can have the following force structure for the Indian Army:
The above is a simplistic calculation to reflect the magnitude of the forces structure problem faced by India at present, if we have to ensure ‘Conventional Forces’ deterrence for ensuring peace, security and the uninterrupted economic surge over the next two decades. The requirement of additional forces and groupings under the Corps HQs has been deliberately left out, for if we embrace the ‘Heavy Breakthrough’ philosophy of operations, sufficient reserves in terms of armoured formations and fire support formations will still be available at the respective Field Army level and infantry formation reserves can be recreated from holding groupings as and when required. There is unmistakably the need for Air Defence cover for Corps Maintenance Areas, strategic command and control centres, which will have to be worked out after meeting the already discussed priority requirements. The actual challenge at hand is how to find 23,000 more troops to raise the 23 New Raising Units (including corresponding logistics support and command echelons) without raising the manpower ceiling of the Army.
A suggested line of thinking is given below:
The few surplus Infantry Units and Artillery Units available are required for special tasks under Army HQs arrangements and should not be treated as surplus. There will also be the urgent requirement to raise three more Corps HQs as applicable, in order to control the additional Heavy Breakthrough groupings which are to be created. The ‘thought process’ to carry out the necessary structural and functional modernisation of the Indian Army is even more important and vital, than any urgent need for purchases of new imported weapons platforms to remove the accumulated obsolescence of the Army’s hardware stock.
Simultaneously, a pruning down of the bloated Defence Ministry bureaucracy by at least 25 per cent is recommended, in order to make this organ of the government serve the Armed Forces’ secretarial requirements and coordination with the other Ministries better. Presently, our Defence Ministry’s civilian bureaucracy is several times that of even the US Department of Defence and it is generally perceived that its main function over a period of time has become to slow down the Army’s modernisation programmes. This saving of establishment costs and foreign jaunts can be diverted to more useful purposes. Those who cannot speed up the indigenisation drive and cannot cut down the procurement and R&D cycle time, should not have any secure slots in the scheme of things. Non productive establishments should be shut down and the work outsourced on global tender basis or by giving research grants on the US DARPA model. The post-1962 War fervour should be re-created to enable us to have a fearsome war machine at the nation’s disposal within the next five years time. Merely harking for increase in spending on Defence from the present level of 1.74 per cent of GDP to 2 per cent plus, will not yield the necessary results in terms of optimum output for capital expended, unless there is a winning managerial model that is adopted to implement the pressing Army modernisation drive.
Our Border Areas Development Programme is poorly planned, coordinated, implemented and monitored…
What better example can one quote about the Defence Ministry bureaucracy’s inefficiency, than the 20 years delay caused in modernising the Army’s Artillery Arm, which has gravely jeopardised national security by saving our adversaries from any ‘Self Defence Counter-attack capability’ by India. The same is the case with our Air Defence capabilities, which are no better than they were in 1962. The pounding that the Indian Army got from the Pakistani Air Force in 1965 has not yet been made unimaginable in a future war scenario.
Revitalising Intelligence Agencies
It is true that the good work that our external intelligence agencies do, never gets reported. That is how intelligence agencies perform. Having said this, it is also true that the leaning and expertise of RAW has been on the external political front and has repeatedly been weak on insight into our potential adversaries’ military planning, thinking, clandestine force augmentation and assessment of weaknesses that our military can take advantage of. The hostile policies of both Pakistan and China towards India are ‘military’ driven.
In many ways, Pakistan resembles the erstwhile GDR, solid and efficient military wise and in the skills and achievements of its intelligence agency whereas in real fact, this nation is being corroded from the inside and faces an uphill economic challenge for its existence. This strategic weakness needs to be exploited by using the Pakistan Army to hasten the collapse of governance in that country, and become a victim of its own follies and overconfidence. Pakistan-inspired terrorism should not be confronted by mere retaliatory actions of the same nature. The more serious way of retaliation is to make Pakistan a country teeming with more terrorists than it can manage, who constantly fight amongst themselves for local dominance – which is far easier to obtain than the ‘glories’ of Jihad and martyrdom. Pakistan must be made to sink to the level of Somalia over the next five to six years and get more and more enmeshed in Afghan affairs, which is an ‘incurable’ disease. Only such a policy would force the Pakistan Army to give up its rabid and congenital hatred towards India. The Pakistan Army’s betrayal of Islamic interests can be gauged by its collusion with the Chinese and Iranian intelligence agencies in the suppression of the Uighur population in Xinjiang and the Baloch population of Iran.
There should be all-weather four-lane highways connecting railheads in India and China…
RAW needs ‘stiffening’ in order to stand up to the ISI agency’s shenanigans as well as to neutralise the Chinese intelligence Agency’s hold in the trans Himalayan belt. This can be achieved only if up to 40 per cent of all middle level onwards RAW officers including those of the technical cadres are drawn on permanent secondment, after putting in ten years of service in the Army. Alternatively, any officer joining RAW should first be asked to successfully complete a three-year tenure in the Army. If officers from the IPS, Postal Service, IRS and Information Service who get a deputation to RAW with an incentive promotion are able to achieve this much, imagine how much more they would be able to achieve after being baptized in the Indian Army. The existing systems have not made RAW a feared and respected agency in the minds of our country’s enemies. The Mumbai train blasts, hijack of an Indian Airlines plane to Kandhahar, the attack on Hotel Taj in Mumbai and the blast in the Indian Embassy at Kabul need to be avenged with greater severity and subtlety.
The Chinese military intelligence’s capability is grossly underestimated by us, merely because they do not indulge in supporting terrorist actions in India. The Chinese penetration and influence peddling in our border areas is amazing so much so that the population in the border areas have more faith in China. Our Border Areas Development Programme is poorly planned, coordinated, implemented and monitored. Good intelligence always serves the interests of the victor. Ethnicity and religious beliefs should get factored in and exploited in a larger dimension unobtrusively by us, in order to reap effective dividends. Tibet will become even more difficult to control for China than Xinjiang unless an agreement is reached during the Dalai Lama’s lifetime. Chinese image building activities in Nepal also need close monitoring.
Concurrent with the development of heavy breakthrough capability by the Indian Army, trade with our neighbours should get seriously enhanced and encouraged, whatever be the setbacks in other fields and engagements. One only has to examine the level of trade and investments between China and Japan and between China and the US in order to draw the right conclusions. Even if Pakistani cricketers and ghazal singers do not come to India, there should be rail links striding across our border states facilitating movement of goods trains.
Mid-course corrections are an inherent part of the metamorphosis to becoming a respected power in our own right…
There should be all-weather four-lane highways connecting railheads in India and China, especially in our North-East over which border trade and tourism could thrive. The same type of road connectivity should apply to the POK, the Northern areas – Indian J&K state frontiers, across our Jammu, Kashmir and Kargil regions. This is the challenge for our Commerce Ministry, which should get the considered backing from the Cabinet Committee on Security. We can act confidently with restraint and be more ‘peaceful’ if we are militarily very strong, as this quality alone generates respect amongst nations.
The Indian Army should take advantage of the fact that the government has authorised a standing Army strength of 1,00,000 above the one million mark. Therefore, achieving 45 Combat Divisions Force level plus the necessary complementary adjuncts, is well within the realms of possibility, while putting into effect our restructuring plan for transforming into a ‘heavy breakthrough’ capability Army. Acquiring a credible and advanced second strike nuclear capability will require construction of eight nuclear submarines over the next 16 years. If something good has to emerge, then we have to do our job with tremendous speed after doing the initial basic thinking. Mid-course corrections are an inherent part of the metamorphosis to becoming a respected power in our own right.
- Defence Services Estimates 2013-14, http://164.00.47.134/lsscommittee/Defence/ 15-Defence-20.pdf accessed on 26 May 2014.
- Hindustan Uni Lever- http://fy2013-14.hulannual reports.com/download center accessed on 07 June 2014.
- Centre for Strategic and International Studies, Washington & International Institute for Strategic Studies, London websites http://csis.org & http://iiss.org accessed on 08 June 2014.