Homeland Security

End the neglect of the Military
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Issue Vol. 28.1 Jan-Mar 2013 | Date : 26 Apr , 2013

Growing threat perceptions call for urgent sprucing up of the military machine which has been grossly neglected in India so far.

The Pakistan Army’s strategy in the near future will be based primarily on two perceptions. First, it believes that the ‘Kashmir’ issue is dying down; fading away from international focus and ‘Kashmir’ is slipping from Pakistani control. Second, internal turmoil in Pakistan is seriously threatening its territorial integrity as it dodders on the verge of becoming a totally dysfunctional state.

In the event of any future conflict, New Delhi’s political will and the capabilities of the Indian military should be such that China and Pakistan are hard-pressed to defend Tibet and Lahore respectively instead of threatening Arunachal and Kashmir.

In this situation, GHQ Rawalpindi headed by General Kayani has two choices. If India attacks Pakistan, the country under an ‘anti-India’ sentiment will unite once again. However, New Delhi is not likely to oblige. In India’s perception, Pakistan is falling apart in any case and war, unless imposed by Pakistan, makes little sense. In such an eventuality, it would be prudent on the part of Kayani to hold his flock together, needle India in Kashmir thus enabling Pakistan to regain a degree of unity and simultaneously bring back ‘Kashmir’ onto the centre stage of its international agenda.

The Western forces led by America require Pakistan’s assistance to ensure a smooth and honourable exit through Karachi port. Withdrawing forces would need to be escorted by the Pakistan Army to obviate the possibility of ambush by the local militia. Therefore, New Delhi is not likely to receive support against Islamabad from the international community till US withdrawal from Afghanistan is complete. General Kayani will utilise this opportunity to further Pakistan’s agenda against India.

The Pakistan Army comprises the regular conventional army and the irregulars or guerrilla forces under the jihadi flag, the likes of Hafiz Sayeed. On completion of the withdrawal by US and NATO forces from Afghanistan, the Pakistan Army plans to let loose the irregular forces such as the Afghan Taliban to capture large territories inside Afghanistan. The residual US forces may not even be allowed to ultimately retain a toe-hold in Kabul. Subsequently, attacks on the Union of India will be mounted from Talibanised Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Couple this threat with the principal challenge posed by authoritarian China in cahoots with Pakistan. Besides claiming 90,000 sq.km of Indian territory, the Chinese, with the help of Pakistani regular and irregular forces, will attempt to obtain a stake in mineral-rich Afghanistan. The long term objective of the Chinese is to open up the route to Central Asia, gain a sizeable presence in the Indian Ocean by positioning themselves at Gwadar port, replace US influence in Asia and eliminate completely, the Indian footprint in Afghanistan.

By arming Maoists, Beijing and Islamabad want to ensure that Indian Army’s attention is diverted from the borders to handle the growing internal turmoil.

The Union of India is in turmoil and transition. The internal circus in the name of governance continues owing to dearth of visionary and honest leadership. The Maoists, who control 40 per cent of Indian territory, will increase their influence primarily due to the inept civil administration which is failing on all fronts. On the one hand, external threats mount due to contradiction between dictatorial regimes in the neighbourhood and the Indian multi-cultural democracy. On the other, corrupt and failing instruments of the State are creating massive internal instability. Obviously, there is a connect between the external adversaries and the internal dissidence which makes the situation explosive.

Primarily therefore, the country is held together by its military and in particular by the Indian Army. The internal charade in the name of governance is only possible so long as the invincible Indian Army along with the Indian Air Force and the Indian Navy continue to secure the nation.

Due to neglect by the state for decades, Indian military power is in decline and its capabilities are shrinking. Though India is densely populated with 65 per cent of its population below 35 years of age, the huge shortages in manpower defy logic. The Indian Army has a deficit of nearly 10,000 officers. Surprisingly, despite the large population and high unemployment rate, the Indian Army is short of over 30,000 soldiers. There is a shortfall of approximately 2,000 officers and 15,000 sailors in the Navy. The Air Force is deficient of nearly 1,000 officers and 7,000 airmen. Shortfall in Young Officers in the Army is creating havoc with the traditional cohesion and bonding between the officers and soldiers. This state of affairs can be attributed primarily to the lack of incentives and unattractive terms and conditions of service in the armed forces.

Similarly, the equipment held on the inventory is ancient and archival. Yet, the military is expected to successfully defend the borders of the country. New Delhi’s neglect of its military over decades is gradually but surely, destabilising the ‘final’ instrument of the State with morale plummeting to the lowest levels since independence. To add insult to injury, the budgetary cut of Rs 10,000 crore imposed recently by the finance ministry will adversely impact the much-needed military modernisation. China and Pakistan must be delighted at the move by the Indian Finance Ministry that will degrade the Indian military.

Meagre budgetary allocation for defence and the bureaucratic red tape involved in the acquisition process have placed the defence services in a tight spot. In such a milieu compounded by acute scarcity of equipment and human resources, plummeting morale in the armed forces is not surprising. Today, India is in no position to deal with threat from China or fight a two-front war if imposed on it after the withdrawal of Western forces from Afghanistan.

India also should become a part of global supply chain of defence equipment by being one of the important hubs of research and development of a variety of main and sub-assemblies.

The harsh reality is that if the Indian Army is incapable of protecting the borders, the Union of India will disintegrate within no time. Another issue of concern is that the police and the CRPF cannot successfully counter the Maoist onslaught. Sooner or later, and somewhat unfortunately, the Army will be called in to take charge of the operations against the Maoists. By arming Maoists, Beijing and Islamabad want to ensure that Indian Army’s attention is diverted from the borders to handle the growing internal turmoil. This will further stretch the military which is already under considerable pressure on account of capability degradation owing to the callous apathy of the political leadership.

In order to avoid the collapse of the Union, the military capability in its entirety needs to be refurbished on a war footing. Foremost, integrate the Service Headquarters with the Ministry of Defence by posting serving officers in the Ministry to increase efficiency and knowledge base. Integrate the armed forces through the appointment of the Chief of Defence Staff and create theatre commands with integral army, air and naval elements to optimise the military punch and avoid duplication of effort and resources. Strange that New Delhi should find it a herculean task to bring about a tri-Services integration along with its MoD to enhance India’s war-fighting capability even as China and Pakistan boast of a combined military strategy against India!

The foreign policy of a country is only as good as its military and economic power. Hence it is important that the military be part of the national decision-making process in strategic and security matters. What is astounding is that the professional advice of the military is not sought prior to shaping diplomatic strategy. The nation won the 1971 War as Indira Gandhi sought professional military advice of the Generals. However, if military officers had been a part of her delegation at the Shimla Summit, wily Bhutto would not have won on the negotiating table, the war he had lost.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Bharat Verma

A former Cavalry Officer and former Editor, Indian Defence Review (IDR), and author of the books, India Under Fire: Essays on National Security, Fault Lines and Indian Armed Forces.

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28 thoughts on “End the neglect of the Military

  1. Great analysis.

    At the end of the day, a democratic society is only as strong as the unity and competence of the individual citizen in recognizing and investing in the future needs of the nation by their vote.

    Politicians may be corrupt to the core but they’re still citizens; same as most Indians. Politicians are not super-humans, they’re not demi-gods though they might in some cases be deified. They’re generally the same Indians you meet on the streets, personality, skills, culture, and all.

    Corruption and inefficiency to the point of making India a failed-state is a reflection of corruption and inefficiency in general society, of the individual citizen.

    Government is an essential tool to catalyzing some solution, there is no purely government solution to India’s critical failures as a state. It is a matter of supporting a culture of national unity and sacrifice, ridding society of superstition and religiosity, and supporting in its place a culture of intellectualism, progressiveness, and science.

    If our only solution is out-spend China’s military industrial complex to produce our own, we will fail. This is not a sustainable long-term strategy.
    Chinese citizens have much higher competence on almost all measures, they will transition to a knowledge economy long before India can as it is now.

    A democratic society is only as good as its average joe. In India huge numbers of voters are illiterate, unintelligent, suffer malnutrition lack of basic protein in diets, health issues, no hygiene, rife with tribalist, superstitious, fundamentalist mentality, and no sense of national perspective, the poorest and least competent have 4+ children per family and the most wealthy, competent, and able to provide one or two.

    Supporting the competence of the individual citizen, providing basic utilities, intellectual stimulation, challenging education, proper nutrition, health care, and sanitation and nation-wide family planning from the lowest to the highest classes.

  2. You have apparently forgotten that our Govt is functioning under INSTRUCTIONS FROM HIS MASTER’s VOICE ; Remote-Controlled eversince UNO passed the famous Resolution on 31 Dec 1948 , when POK made an appearance on our soil.

  3. India at present does not have leaders like Indira Gandhi or Atal Bihari Vajpayee. It has some advisor or babu level leaders who cannot mobilize this country at the time of need. The so called leaders try to save each other’s back from corruption and misrule levelled against them. To regain our position in the world affairs and to talk to the international community from position of strength,we have to change our system and elect a leader who is honest,democratic(not dynastic),development oriented and who can bring up the defence of this country to the level so that no neighbour can venture to take us lightly.

  4. As always, a very well written article on the pressing subject of the moment. Indian leaders responsible for the national defence must present a strategic direction for the nation. Enough of the dithering and the nation cannot simply go on with life while China continues to move stridently forward in encircling India in North, South, East and West. India needs reliable friends and Russia cannot be counted upon. That leaves NATO and USA. Does the government have a better idea?

  5. A well analysed & thought provoking article-There is a shakespearen quote ” Something is Rotten in the the state ” Is it our Pacifist nature,Our culture of Polemics,Hairsplitting,Rhetoric,Lawlessness & Drama or is it our individuality culture or is it our extreme love of money, our superstitions & habit of sweeping things under the carpet or our habit of Shirking from the hard truths ? As Warren Hastings wrote in his despatches ” Indians have no concept of nationhood-They have only family & caste affiliations “. The Armed Forces also come from the General population & share many of such tendencies-Eg Army against declassification of the Explosive Hendersons Brooks report of 1962 war.,Army burns Kargil records to protect the Army High command from blame in Kargil lapses etc etc.Perhaps the Author-a Armoured corps officer needs to do a survey of the Cadets Ist preference in NDA & IMA..When i was In Army Public School[ & subsequently in AFMC[pune] ]my classmates would give 1st choice for Arms-ie Armoured & infantry..The toppers in NDA got Armoured corps & infantry & bottomline cadets got Army Supply corps & Ordnance.Today, it is just the reverse.The result is poor quality of Commanding officers of Battalions & Regiments & overall a deterioration in the level of the Army High command. The Armed forces are also neck deep in corruption-Walk for a few days in the Bazars of Jammu or Srinagar & one can buy almost every army article in the black market.-even arms & ammunition.Petrol/Diesel /Kerosene tankers moving from Ambala to supply troops in J& K are replaced by water & many officers of 2 corps [A stike corps ] including higher ups are in the Take..Many of my colleagues & seniors in Army have given me lots of startling information about the murky goings on in the army..Therefore,it would also be in the fitness of things if the armed forces do a thorough house cleaning of their own-Starting with the selection boards & bring better people at the top in the armed force.

  6. Thank you for writing this article. Unfortunately the people who matter in terms of decision making have other priorities of which national security is not in the list. Hope India gets better leadership.

  7. What if the military felt, as do people towards them? They seem to be interesting, because they are actually not so, but the military is. I mean, what if they felt this way, about themselves? It seems, that being a soldier must not be effortless. It also appears, that one must exhibit this effort to the self, and in a measure, to be a soldier. I mean, if this is true, then the soldier must only communicate to the establishment of the armed forces, and mostly, people aren’t interested in military matters.

  8. The army is the country’s last bastion…the actual steel frame. Rightly brought out that ` if the Indian Army is incapable of protecting the borders, the Union of India will disintegrate within no time’. About time powers to be realised this and met the army’s genuine requirements.

  9. It is the same Mr Bharat Varma who said in 2010 that China will attack India in 2012. While it is good to bring to the notice of the public about the aspirations of the armed forces and the country, it is not good to be an alarmist. While the modernisation may be slow, the army remains well trained and motivated. It is seen from the fact that they have been responding to every call of duty. Time and again they have brought back normalcy and proved that they have the mettle to keep the country safe from external threats. Kudos to the soldier. We really need to salute him than keep crying wolf.

    • An email to BV from Canada may answer the question raised:

      The latest situation in Asia (NK) is quite interesting. I generally support your views about Chines intentions in India. The only area I differ from you is on the question that the Chinese intentions in South Asia are part of a strategy. I believe any Chinese action in South Asia will be more of taking advantage of the available opportunity. The reason for this is that India would not serve as a distraction to sway Chinese public opinion or for that matter international opinion (as is evident from the Mumbai attacks). Another important factor that would push the Chinese leadership in action is internal rivalries within the ruling elite. Anyway, two alarming things have happened that puts your 2012 prediction close to realization. One, China has a new President and he needs to consolidate his hold over the ruling elite. Two, NK attack on SK (the only possible target NK can handle) will distract the western powers and they would be focused on protecting Japan. This would open up an opportunity for the Chinese. This situation is equivalent to the 1962 Cuban crisis which had western powers focused on the crisis, while China ventured into Indian territories. Thirdly, the Chines are not happy with the Japanese and the increase in the US troops in Australia. All these conditions would not persuade China to join NK in any military adventurism but it will offer China the opportunity to settle matters with India with a lightening military action and at the same time win some concessions from the western powers. So may be your prediction is about a year late but I think very plausible in the present situation. The only issue of concern for the Chines would be the summer conditions which give India greater mobility. But hey you may be proven right!

  10. The defence forces of India especially the Army has demonstrated time and again that they are more than capable and willing when it comes to a crunch. Whatever be the occasion their morale has been high and performance higher. thank god for them

  11. The Army differs from para military primarily due to its training philosophies. As far as the Maoist threat is concerned, Army is already involved in imparting training to para military. There have also been cross attachments of Para military officers in regular infantry battalions in counter insurgency role to impart real time experience to them. The Army also has a primary role of defending the nation’s borders. Hence the question of Army getting involved in direct operations does not arise.

  12. Though one would agree to a large extent on your analysis and the nexus between Pak and China, to infer that the Army is in dire straits may be overstating the case.
    Yes we do need to keep pace and modernise our forces but then we cannot have our entire Army equipped with ultra modern equipment. Any Army has a mix of cutting edge, modern and obsolescent equipment in reasonable proportions.
    I am reasonably sure that the current initiatives by the leadership would cater to the emerging requirements

  13. Your story contradicts a large chunk of stories that keep coming up in papers where the new developments in the modernization of our military are highlighted. The defence budget is a substantial part of our national spending and we recently have agreed to raise a new corps in Panagarh. The condition today is certainly better than what was there during Kargil. While our soldiers deserve even better, I am sure that they are capable and armed enough for the current threat.

  14. Some of the points in this article need some good thought but it is surprising that you claim indian army is incapable to guard the borders. If there is someone who can keep us protected even in the harshest of conditions, it is the indian army. Their hands may be tied in some issues but this does not undermine their capabilities. We should work towards strengthening them even more and give them a place they deserve. JAI HIND

  15. The author talks about lack of youths interest to join Indian military service. I don’t think we need to stress too much on “Quantity”. Our focus should be on quality. That means we need modernization of Indian military and reestablish its role in shaping India’s foreign policy as well as Domestic policy.

    Anyway, something i like to comment on making the military service attractive to youth and generation of India. The author talks about giving variety of perks, bonuses, lucrative packages and pay hikes to make the military service attractive.

    Its actually a national shame that we have to offer lucrative packages to attract young generation to join military service. As if serving Indian Military wasn’t an act of pride and honor. The military service, an opportunity to serve nation is lucrative package in itself. The situation when youth have lost interest in serving Indian military and we have to offer monetary gains to make service attractive is a low point of our nation.

    Though i agree that there are some reforms that are needed in Indian military service. But basing Indian military just on lucrative packages is not the right thing.

    The author doesn’t mention about the problem of Globalization and cultural drift of India’s young generation. Young generation is dedicated to make money money and more money. They happily take BPO jobs in transnational companies which offer lucrative packages. Youth is adopting the western culture and western lifestyle. The trait of materialism is all time high in our people. Youth no longer becomes inspired by our real national heroes and their sacrifices that built this nation. Rather, youth is inspired by Bollywood and Hollywood actors and singers. Youth is more interested in Media gossips rather than issues of national concerns.

    The truth is that we have gone through a major phase of cultural Subversion. As a result we now have a population which thinks little and cares less of our national interest and problems.

  16. Mr Bharat Kumar’s observations and comments come not a day too soon.

    There is no time to lose if we are to deal with the weak military situation. All the happenings on our borders are glossed over and covered up by the weak kneed politicians and babus. The babus have lost the military’s trust as they suck the very blood of our country and the people in connivance with the netas, give the military a raw deal in their pay and allowances, under the guise of civilian control! Every military deal is suspect as the netas take their pound of flesh–crores are stashed away in Swiss accounts. All the gains made by the military have been frittered away. The military has become the last choice of the young looking for a career—-gone is image of the military—- its elan and its uniform charms.

  17. The author made quite a number of points. Some things i agree with. Some concerns are valid. But there are somethings which don’t make sense.

    Author calls for Privatization of state defense units. I think author has been a big fan of ManMohan Singh so he wish to bring the Mantra of Privatization and FDI in Defense industry. Maybe the author sees America’s Military Industrial Complex as an inspiration for Indian defense industry. A model in which private think tanks and corporations steer the foreign policy of nation by owning big part of defense Infrastructure.

    Does author has some ideas of carrying this strategy of FDI and Privatization of defense units? Who do we sell our National defense units? To foreign corporations like Raytheon and Lockheed Martin? Or Indian corporations like Reliance industries and Bharti? Or shall we trade stocks of Indian defense industry on Bombay Stock exchange?

    Whereas the concerns of author about stagnation of India’s defense units is real. The privatization and FDI are not the solutions. We have witnessed scams where our national assets like Oil fields, Mines, mineral reserves etc were sold for pennies. Where our Politicians acted like pimps in backroom deals and received paybacks from special interests. Privatization and FDI of state defense units will open a new Pandora’s box of scams and scandals. Only this time we will be putting our national security on the risk.

    I am sure there are foreign corporations who will happily buy state defense units to gain influence over our sovereign defense industry. There are Politicians who will be happy to take commissions and kickbacks in selling our defense units. And there are people who lobby to promote this idea of Privatization of defense industry in India.

  18. India has time and again had the Ghost of Menon ( of the Nehruvian era) resurfacing. Yet the irony is that, that there is no Carriapa, Maneckshaw, Sunderjee in making.
    The state of affairs of the armed forces are due to the IAS and political class that are too embroiled in their own agendas and clueless of military strategy and needs. YET their cluelessness to disarm the armed forces and use them as fodder( No trainer for the IAF inspite of decades of void of them, or the INSAS jamming more than firing or enforcing and endorsing the strategy of the IAS and pilitical class of sending the lower echelons of the armed forces into battle like kargil with a self destructive strategy of not crossing the LOC, lies SQUARELY ON THE SHOULDERS OF THE CHIEFS!
    Why couldn’t the the Chiefs put a foot down! when the Govt said that the IAF cannot have the trainer , what would happen at most, even if the bureaucracy threatened him, he could have said that he is not willing to use a fighter a/c as a trainer as it gets pilots killed, gives a bad name t the a/c and aids in the IAF becoming staff crunched even more. Who would have objected to this truth and if the MOD did,let him not resign but ask the president to intervene and to let the nation know. With support of all the personnel ( who would disregard his own right to safety and right equipment) the bureaucratic and the political class would have had to give in, the veterans could have played a role of disseminating news of the suicidal arrogance pushed in by the neta babu. The names of the neta/babu opposing right equipment should be disseminated.What would have happened if Malik would have rejected the strategy of not crossing the LOC in Kargi,what woudl have happened if he told the babu neta to fight on their own with their experience let the army fight with its own? would he have been dismissed, not a chance, infact kargil was the right time for the chiefs to assert their position occupied. Chiefs cannot go scot free

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