The Government’s ‘White Paper’ relating to India-China Boundary issue, published between 1951 and 1960, clearly indicated the adversarial bilateral relations between India and China. The increasingly acrimonious exchanges on the boundary question indicated that it could precipitate matters and result in armed clashes. The incident in Longju on August 25, 1959 and Kongka Pass on October 21, 1959 were pointers to the determination and political will of China to stake her claims even at the cost of a war. This should have been the turning point for India; she should have begun preparing for an armed showdown to secure her territorial integrity. Raising of additional Infantry and Artillery units and formation Head Quarters, raising of Headquarters IV Corps, augmenting the transport fleet, inducting additional helicopters and transport aircraft, constructing roads, and redeploying forces to meet possible contingencies should have been commenced in right earnest then. Such preparation was mandatory to support a strategic decision of the magnitude as was emerging.
“Nobody is driven into war by ignorance, and no one who thinks he will gain anything from it is deterred by fear…….when there is mutual fear men think twice before they make aggressions upon another” —Hermocrates as attributed by Thucydides
This Report was ordered by the Chief of Army Staff to record the events of the 1962 War…
After fifty years the Henderson Brooks – Lt Gen PS Bhagat Report (herein after referred to as Report) has wormed its way into the public domain through a foreign source. It is intriguing that a copy of the Report was accessed by a foreign journalist who was evidently treated to a ‘personal’ copy of a highly classified document. It may be asked whether the copy with Maxwell was a draft copy or one of the final copies. How was it accounted for? Our desperate desire to please the ‘white man’ is so very clear from this episode.
As has always been stated by the Army, this Report was ordered by the Chief of Army Staff to record the events of the 1962 War as they unfolded and analyse the details of the course of tactical level of operations to draw relevant lessons. Unfortunately, the Government of the day did not think it necessary to order a similar inquiry into the decision making process which involved the Ministries of Defence (MoD), External Affairs (MEA), Home Affairs (MHA), Intelligence Bureau (IB), Cabinet Secretary and the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). After all, the MoD or the Cabinet Secretary’s office would have had the secretarial responsibility at all meetings at the highest level of government decision making. The cover up by the Government of India (GOI) includes the arena where the National Security Strategy was formulated and the decision to firstly, draw firm lines depicting the International Boundary with China was taken and secondly, the decision to establish posts as far up to our then stated International Boundary was taken.
It is intended to study the military lessons that emerge at various levels from the War. At the same time, the aim is to assess how these have been incorporated in the military operations planning process in the current scenario to increase the level of preparedness against any misadventure by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
India should have begun preparing for an armed showdown to secure her territorial integrity…
Strategic Decision Making Process
The Government’s ‘White Paper’ relating to India-China Boundary issue, published between 1951 and 1960, clearly indicated the adversarial relations between India and China. The increasingly acrimonious exchanges on the boundary question indicated that it could precipitate matters and result in armed clashes. The incident in Longju on August 25, 1959 and Kongka Pass on October 21, 1959, were pointers to the determination and political will of China to stake her claims even at the cost of a war. This should have been the turning point for India; she should have begun preparing for an armed showdown to secure her territorial integrity. Raising of additional Infantry and Artillery units and formation Headquarters, raising of Headquarters IV Corps, augmenting the transport fleet, inducting additional helicopters and transport aircraft, constructing roads, and redeploying forces to meet possible contingencies should have been commenced in right earnest then. Such preparation was mandatory to support a strategic decision of the magnitude as was emerging. Probably Nehru’s domineering persona suppressed any urge for dissent or disagreement and therefore, his was always the last word to become ‘policy’.
In the current systemic context, due to India’s basic security stance of ‘restraint’, the armed forces are kept out of the decision making process. Though the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) is briefed, as and when required, by the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) or the Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC), decisions pertaining to military matters are taken without the presence of the COAS or COSC. As noted from the Report, it appears that the Army was only given instructions for undertaking specific operations including even tactical objectives as identified in the meetings at the highest level. Unfortunately, the system is prevalent even today under the guise of ‘civilian control’ of the Services. On the Chinese side, the PLA had a key presence in formulating Chinese strategy then and has a fairly prominent role in decision making even today.
Intelligence and Surveillance
The IB was the sole intelligence agency providing the Government all types of foreign intelligence. At the field level, the Subsidiary IB (SIB) operated in the border areas and was reporting back directly to Delhi. In the 1950s, the pent-up anger of the Tibetans with regard to Chinese occupation of their country could have easily been exploited to cultivate sources providing HUMINT. We also could have exploited the knowledge of the locals from areas opposite Tawang who had escaped Chinese persecutions, to interfere with the build-up of the PLA. However, this was not done since Nehru had recognised Tibet as being an integral part of China and his political stance of non-interference in the affairs of another country clearly ruled out such an option.
In the current systemic context, due to India’s basic security stance of ‘restraint’, the armed forces are kept out of the decision making process…
In the present context, the Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW) is responsible for gathering foreign intelligence, the IB for Counter Intelligence, the State CID for criminal Intelligence within the State and Military Intelligence exclusively for intelligence for military consumption. With the Indo Tibetan Border Police also now deployed all along the Northern border they would have also established their own network for their task of policing the border.
In these far-flung areas, a quaint situation manifests in that with limited number of persons operating as an intelligence source it is often the case where the same source works for two or more agencies. He judiciously manipulates the information into bits as exclusive ‘bytes’ to his controller. With these inputs ‘serious’ intelligence assessments are generated by each intelligence agency which, in turn, form the basis for formulating national security strategy. Often, the source is compromised and allowed to operate only if he provides the other side information too; such double agents are a reality. Thus, it is axiomatic that all information is counter checked and verified. Induction of technology in through ‘spy’ satellites, monitoring electronic and cyber communications and deployment of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are now being co-opted to verify the HUMINT as also confirming inputs garnered through other technological means.
The creation of a Multi Agency Centre (MAC) has been a positive step in the direction of intelligence sharing and to identify aspects that requires further inputs as also to optimise effort. This has created a more robust format of intelligence assessment. However, technology needs to be further exploited to compensate for the lack of HUMINT sources in the India-China context.
Military Planning Process
As understood from the Report, the Army was not briefed of the political objective to be achieved by military means. Instead, they were merely given tactical objectives to be captured by the forces available. At no point does the Report mention of the Army asking for additional resources outside the services, for example, projecting a case for requisitioning civil aviation resources for move of men and material. Furthermore, while tactical objectives were being specified by Army HQ, commensurate resources were not made available even when XXXIII Corps was asking for it.
The Report brings out numerous occasions where command channels were blatantly by-passed…
Similarly, dates for commencement of operations were arbitrarily set. It is rumoured that the date for attack to recapture Walong was fixed such that its successful capture would be announced as a gift to the beleaguered Prime Minister (PM) on his birthday to lighten the prevailing gloom in the environment. It speaks volumes of the attitude of the some senior Commanders of that time who were trying to reach out to the political masters. The trend can be attributed directly as a fallout of the favours received by Lt. General B.M Kaul due his intimate connections with the PM and Defence Minister.
The Report brings out numerous occasions where command channels were blatantly bypassed. Often Army HQ completely sidelined HQ Eastern Command and passed orders directly to IV Corps. Similarly, it is noted the Army Commander Eastern Command and the Corps Commander also bypassed Division HQ and even Brigade HQ in passing orders. All limits were crossed when the IV Corps Commander spoke directly with the PM and the Defence Minister. India’s China war became private social ‘drawing room’ affair between the PM, the Defence Minister and Lt. General Kaul.
Ostensibly, in Counter Insurgency/Counter Terrorist (CI/CT) operations there are times when the HQ has to reach out direct to the Division or even Brigade HQ to get inputs on an incident which is being flashed on the ticker of a 24×7 news channel. Improved communications and availability of mobile phones with high levels of penetration to even remote areas have led to an unhealthy trend in the form of ‘paid news’ by all and sundry. The military reporting chain is being short-circuited to respond to ‘Breaking News’ flashing on TV sets. The Army has to report authentically with every aspect needing to be verified. While the News Channels do not shoulder any such responsibility, the Army is pushed into breaking norms of functioning. There, in my view, is this questionable trend of placing TV sets in offices which are be beaming news round the clock. Military Intelligence, certain sections of the Military Operations Directorates may require them but not every office in the Service HQs. This trend must be reversed and curtailed expeditiously.
At no point does the Report mention of the Army asking for additional resources…
Network Centric Warfare, propounded as the future form of warfare, is a brazen technologically enabled form of bypassing channels in the command and control chain. It makes no sense for a soldier deployed in a section post getting information of the ‘goings on’ in the neighbouring Brigade defended area. It makes the Section, Platoon, Company and even Battalion Commander irrelevant in the orchestration of the lowest level tactical battle. A tactical engagement is not about physical casualties and capture of ground but of defeating the enemy in his mind. Contrary to our thinking, the Chinese have always emphasized on deception, subterfuge, cunning and guise in their war-fighting techniques. It thus needs to be appreciated that every target appearing on a conventional battlefield is not to be eliminated. Tactical acumen, deception, cunning, training, leadership and tactical operational plan – all have a bearing on the outcome of a tactical battle.
The Army’s Battlefield Information System (BIS) is all set to severely disrupt this. The Battalion, Company, Platoon and Section Commanders will be forced only to react to situations as being played out by the enemy instead of executing a pre-prepared operational plan. It replicates the situation similar to the one prevailing in 1962. We need to harness technology to suit our existing organisations, procedures and terrain rather than blindly induct technology for the sake of technology. The “shooter to sensor” concept has its origins in CT operations undertaken by the US in Afghanistan. In the Iraq War, even the resource-rich US Forces could not wallow in the luxury of “shooter to sensor” across the board for all forces. In a conventional war, India cannot ever muster such resources as would be required for executing such an impractical concept by any stretch of imagination.