The recent tragedy of INS Sindhurakshak preceded by a spate of similar incidents in the Navy has once again highlighted the utter mess in which India’s defence modernization has been neglected. What is more deeply disturbing is that Anthony as the longest serving Defence Minister and his Defence Secretary did not have the morally to share the blame and tender their resignations. Not that their moral fibre in this context was not on test earlier including when we periodically lost scores pilots in multiple crashes of the ‘flying coffins’ (the MiGs), while MoD ducked under cover of serving officers saying they were fit for combat. Interestingly, on the ongoing court case by Wing Commander Sanjeet Kaila against HAL and the MoD, the officer has submitted a 3D animation of 2005 MiG-21 crash to Delhi High Court to demonstrate how the accident took place, and how he saved a village on the ground, while the burning plane with more than 3,500 litres of fuel could have burnt off the entire village.
…CNS resigned 15 months before his due date not just because of the accidents over which he could have had no control but also out of deep frustration of not enough being done to modernize the aging and over flogged fleet.
The media is agog with both the PMO and MoD sitting over a 2010 secret navy report highlighting the aging naval fleet, particularly criticality of the Kilo Class submarines. Yet, Anthony refuses to share moral responsibility despite the fact that the CNS resigned 15 months before his due date not just because of the accidents over which he could have had no control but also out of deep frustration of not enough being done to modernize the aging and over flogged fleet.
No doubt the military hierarchy has also shown loss of spunk over the years because anyone upright would be ruthlessly done away with; Vishnu Bhagwat, VK Singh and now DK Joshi. Incidentally, former CNS Vishnu Bhagwat had disclosed in confidence many weeks before his dismissal that he would most likely be shown the door since he was pressing for joint development of submarines with South Korea whereas the bureaucracy linked arms mafia wanted to buy the HDW submarines. But hitherto something more sinister is being talked about in hushed tones. During the mishap of INS Sindhuratna in August last year where 18 officers died, the CNS had then stated that sabotage cannot be ruled out, which gave a sinister ring and air on that count has still not been cleared. What naval sources wonder is the visuals of Sindhuratna with double hulls could hardly have fire sprouting outside if the fire was inside a closed compartment. In the case of INS Sindhurakshak too, the visuals appeared on electronic media simultaneous to the accident that occurred 200 nautical miles away at sea. Who took those visuals is what naval officers are wondering.
The alacrity with which the resignation of the CNS was accepted paved the way for knocking off another equally clean officer who was to become the next CNS should DK Joshi had completed his normal tenure as CNS; another ‘line of succession’ established as was done in the Army sending Generals VK Singh and KT Parnaik packing off? Significantly, while most of the mishaps in the Navy during last six months occurred in Western Naval Command, including sinking of INS Sindhuratna where 18 sailors died, the Flag Officer-in-Chief neither resigned last year nor received admonishment from Anthony. The news of his resignation now appeared briefly and has been blacked out altogether. Reportedly, he was promoted to Flag Officer-in-Chief rank when the CNS had not recommended him for such appointment. Reminds you of the Commander-in-Chief Andaman and Nicobar Command quietly flown to Delhi in an ARC aircraft and adorned with ranks of CNS by MoD while the then CNS Vishnu Bhagwat was still in office – the power of the bureaucratic mafia!
What is even more disturbing is the manner in which national security is being played about through actions and activities that border the anti-national. There is an attempt to colour perceptions that the IM is no more linked to ISI.
What is even more disturbing is the manner in which national security is being played about through actions and activities that border the anti-national. There is an attempt to colour perceptions that the IM is no more linked to ISI. If this perception building is not under pressure from ISI, what is? We have been bending backwards in our foreign policy particularly with respect to China and the Home Minister goes soft on terror cases, revealed by a former Home Secretary, and discriminates between segments of society who should be let off early and who should not. So when former R&AW officers state that our political hierarchy is under blackmail of the ISI, nothing can be more on mark. In this context, the furore over the disbandment of the Technical Support Division (TSD) could well have been because of ISI blackmail since it had excellent capability to reach across borders.
Linking it with the import of mobile interceptors, which was undertaken by the DG DIA (not under the Army but directly under the Defence Minister) was deliberately created. But even if served the purpose of vilification of VK Singh, there was no reason to disband the TSD as such capabilities are required along borders with both China and Pakistan. Past two years, the PMO-NSA orchestrated the India-Pakistan Track II dialogue in making the veteran military heavy Indian delegation propose that we withdraw from Siachen, all under aegis of the Atlantic Council of Ottawa that has nothing to do with Ottawa University but inexorably linked with Atlantic Council of the US, latter being a Pakistani think tank. Fortunately, the cat was out of the bag last moment revealing that the strategic importance of Siachen was sacrificed, as was Chinese presence in Gilgit-Baltistan, Chinese designs in eastern Ladakh, lack of fall back defence line and opening the floodgates for infiltration. For first time readers, none in the nine military members of the Indian delegation had ever visited leave aside served in Siachen, more importantly not even visiting the area despite months of parleys in exotic locales abroad. Neither did they make any efforts to get briefed at HQ Northern Command, the Corps HQ at Leh or the Siachen Brigade HQ. When questions were raised post exposure of the plot, the strategic importance of Siachen was grudgingly acknowledged.
Interestingly, the proposal to withdraw from Siachen was concluded in the last meeting at Lahore, none of the meetings having held in India by design to keep the plot under cover. Apparently, something similar is again brewing; similar dialogue with Pakistan under the mysterious title of ‘Stabilizing the LoC’, whatever that means. Significantly, of the military members on this dialogue, only one has served on the LoC. No other military member has been anywhere close the LoC and four of them are those who had also signed on the proposal to withdraw from Siachen, three out of whom were reportedly personally briefed by the NSA. The current dialogue meetings have already been held at Bangkok and Colombo. The underlying need is for the Indian public to know what is brewing (meaning and scope of ‘Stabilizing the LoC, why such composition of military veterans, why no meeting in India, what is being shielded from the public etc) especially at a time when radicalization is reaching its nadir in Pakistan, rabid mullah Masood Azhar of JeM has re-emerged in Pakistan holding open anti-India rallies akin to his equally jaundiced bedfellow Hafiz Saeed, Pakistan is training some two score Mujahid battalions to operate like and in conjunction Taliban besides increasingly inducting drugs, fake currency etc into India.
Take the Army, no worthwhile artillery or air defence equipment for decades, infantry without modern and adequate weapons, night vision, surveillance equipment, communications or even bullet proof vests to name a few, accumulated equipment and ammunition shortages standing at an incredible Rs 1,41,000 crores.
The fact that Anthony as the longest serving Defence Minister has brought the armed forces equipping at its lowest ebb is no secret, sitting on proposals, banning firms at the drop of a hat and presiding over scams galore without a single bureaucrat ever punished. Why our indigenous submarine plans have been glutted were well explained by Manibhai Naik headin L&T in a letter to the Prime Minister in 2011 saying, “Defence Production (MoD) Joint Secretaries and Secretaries of Defence Ministry are on the Boards of all PSUs — sickest of sick units you can think of who cannot take out one conventional submarine in 15 years now with the result that the gap is widening between us and China and bulk of the time we resort to imports out of no choice. The defence industry which could have really flowered around very high technological development and taken India to the next and next level of technological achievement and excellence is not happening.” Then take the Defence Acquisition Council. It is chaired by the Defence Minister and manned by his brood of MoD bureaucrats.
The finances are completely controlled by bureaucrats. Services Chiefs are only advisors in case of procurements and service officers only members. The Services keep projecting needs but in face of inordinate delays, have no option but to risk lives of their command with obsolete and worthless equipment. Take the Army, no worthwhile artillery or air defence equipment for decades, infantry without modern and adequate weapons, night vision, surveillance equipment, communications or even bullet proof vests to name a few, accumulated equipment and ammunition shortages standing at an incredible Rs 1,41,000 crores. The common man asks why Chiefs not representing. Well they do so very periodically, the leaked letter of VK Singh to Manmohan Singh being just a small glimpse. But when it comes to taking responsibility, the Defence Minister, the Defence Secretary and their brood are God’s own. Anthony’s monumental culpability in degrading the Navy’s capability and equipment in sitting on every proposal, not acting despite being constantly reminded by the Chiefs about the state of readiness of the armed forces to meet the challenges confronting the nation can hardly be denied. About time the self installed impunity of bureaucrats is discarded. The immunity against questioning bureaucrats by intelligence agencies only ‘with’ government approval needs to be equally discarded as it leads to more corruption, as has apparently happened in the case of the Augusta Westland helicopter deal and even the BAE Systems M 777 howitzers, latter on the verge of collapse.
The finances are completely controlled by bureaucrats. Services Chiefs are only advisors in case of procurements and service officers only members.
Then is the question of border defence, which is in atrocious state. If some 400 square kms of territory has been lost in Ladakh over the years over and above Aksai Chin, we have not learned any lessons. The President has recently hinted at the business of ‘Paid Media’. But then MK Dhar, former Joint Director IB wrote in his book ‘Open Secrets – India’s intelligence unveiled’, “The susceptibility of the fourth estate to the intelligence community had tied our hands down. They are one of the too many holy Indian cows. Some of them, as described by a senior member of the fourth estate, ‘taxi on hire.’ any paymaster can hire this particular brand.” The question here is who can most optimize this paid media if not the ruling dispensation especially when they have no compunctions in using the intelligence agencies to blackmail heads of various political parties to remain in tow other than doing down the opposition. A glaring example was the brashness of former diplomat KC Singh revealing openly in a TV debate that the five trashy articles in a Chandigarh daily denigrating VK Singh were approved by the PMO itself, significantly while VK Singh’s case was still sub-judice in Court. So the rot of the mafia is resident in the PMO itself and therefore the President at best can make perfunctory remarks. Then was the famous case of the purported ‘army coup’ where the concerned editor’s misdemeanor was not even inquired into because the journo was obviously briefed by the mafia himself. The fact remains that a plan to target the armed forces through media has been in place since past so many years and nedds to be undone by the next government.
The fact remains that India’s Defence is in dire straits. The chinks and fissures have come up time and again in various forums and media. Yet, the Defence Minister goes on record to say all is well and the serving Chiefs can hardly repudiate him in public. The paid media is used for fruitless debates, cutting off speakers when it starts hurting and the lid of ambiguity remains in place. So where do we go from here and what should a strong Prime Minister and his government do? A few recommendations in this regard are given in succeeding paragraphs.
By their own admission, bureaucrats of MoD admit it is only in their second or third tenure in MoD that they come to grasp of matters military.
National Security Strategy. By all indications, we do not have a National Security Strategy (NSS) even after 67 years of Independence. In 2005 the CISC in HQ IDS was briefing the NSA as to how the Military can help NSA draft a National Security Strategy (NSS). After one hour of briefing, the NSA says forget all this but tell me what should be done about Nepal with the royal massacre having taken place. The CISC told him that a Net Assessment Study on Nepal had been sent to him two months back covering the massacre and how events in Nepal will likely unfold in five phases. The NSA said he was not aware of any such study. Two years later, the next NSA was briefed by the Net Assessment in HQ IDS again on a Draft NSS. Rather than commending the effort, he retorted who had asked them to work this out. He said there already is a NSS which is known to required people. He was either lying (emperor’s clothes) or if there is an NSS then it is grossly inadequate as indicated by our response to external threats.
Rules of Business. GoI Rules of Business are a British legacy saying Defence Secretary is responsible for “defence of the country” and that Services Headquarters are “attached offices”. It suited the British because their Defence Secretary indeed was the Defence Minister. The Services Headquarters were kept as “attached headquarters” because of distrust of majority Indians in the army of British India. Now if we are to have the Defence Secretary responsible for defence of India then what pray is the Defence Minister supposed to do – check cleanliness of toilets of South Block? The Defence Secretary in any case is imported from sundry ministries and has to learn from a scratch what military and security is all about. By their own admission, bureaucrats of MoD admit it is only in their second or third tenure in MoD that they come to grasp of matters military. Then our Armed Forces are all Indian and patriotic to the core, so there is no reason for Services Headquarters to continue as “attached offices” even if the bureaucracy wants so to keep their control and the mafia and ISI are blackmailing the political bosses.
Reorganization of MoD. 67 years India’s defence has suffered at hands of bureaucrats sans military background and knowledge ruling the roost, hiding their ineptness and incompetence in respective cocoons and remaining without accountability, making money through scams and appeasing their political bosses. They may slyly propose few military posts in MoD to the new government. There have been write ups as to why the Secretaries of Defence, Defence Production and Defence Finance cannot be military officers, which should have happened decades back and is at best significant patchwork. However, the state in which the country has come up to, patchwork is not the answer. What is required is a complete overhaul. Indian Railways is almost as large as our Army and the former is managed by the Railway Board, which is manned exclusively by railway officials. This needs to be followed in reorganizing the MoD. MoD should be exclusively manned by military officials with advisory civilian cells in Defence Production and Defence Finance only. Headquarters Integrated Defence Staff should be merged into MoD, providing wherewithal for institutionalized strategic planning, operations etc. A CDS with full operational powers should be appointed without further delay.
MoD should be exclusively manned by military officials with advisory civilian cells in Defence Production and Defence Finance only.
Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA). The Prime Minister should himself hold the honour in steering the much needed RMA in India, akin to what Jiang Zemin did in China. This should be promulgated through an Act of Parliament like the Goldwater Nichols Act of the US and Berlin Decree of Germany to modernize respective militaries. The draft for such an act could be worked out by MoD and Services in conjunction suitable think tanks in time-bound fashion. RMA should encompass all facets of modernization including, restructuring, equipping, modernization, synergizing, R&D, technology leapfrogging etc.
NSA. We have precedence of NSA former police or IB officers. There is no reason why a former military officer cannot be appointed as NSA. The charisma of an IB officer having served abroad can hardly match military and national security knowledge of a Brigadier equivalent officer of the military albeit the latter would not have helped the political dispensation to do down their political opponents. An NSA with military background would actually provide much needed synergy with the reorganized MoD and help in speedy execution of RMA in conjunction MEA and MHA.
Border Defence. Border defence must be solely the responsibility of the Defence Minister, not as per existing arrangement partly under Home Minister with latter arrangement facilitating smuggling of narcotics, fake currency, goods and even illegal immigration with indicators that some of this is institutionalized. Few months back, Headlines Today aired a sting operation on the Indo-Bangladesh border, filming illegal infiltration into India and a BSF officer in uniform stating they have orders not to interfere. Within an hour, this news was taken off the air. While paramilitary and central armed police forces may well be deployed to guard borders, all such forces along land borders and sea borders should be directly under command the Army and Navy respectively. Despite signing of BDCA, Chinese intruded into Depsang and Chumar on December 19-20, 2013. In first week January 2014 intrusion took place in Takdip area, same place incursions had been spotted on December 13 as well. Such sensitive areas should have Ladakh Scouts deployed, not ITBP especially when the DG ITBP tells army authorities that “the ITBP has a different agenda from the Army”.
Assam has become Bangladeshi Muslim predominant because of the mischievous IMDT Act instituted in 1995 which the SC scrapped 10 years later in 2005. There appears to be a conspiracy…
Internal Security. Chidambaram as Home Minister, stated in 2010 that the Maoist problem will be over in next 2-3 years but we obviously have no cohesive policy and more importantly the will, terrorism and insurgency having become an industry and its exploitation to retain power. The NIA reported last year that some Rs 600 crores have been pumped into J&K for terror by diverting collections and donations meant for other purposes. Rs 95 cores were diverted from the J&K Affectees Fund in one single year. JKART has helped infiltrate over 1000 terrorists into J&K over the years. Goods sent by trucks from J&K to Pakistan are overpriced three times and the incoming money is diverted to terrorist organizations. Then is the issue of criminalization of politics and the creation of armed groups under political direction through intelligence agencies; LTTE, Bhindranwale group, ULFA, Bodos etc. Incidentally, MK Dhar former Joint Director IB writes that Zail Singh as Home Minister was entertaining and arming terrorists from Punjab in his residence, so the government promoted him President and kept his telephones tapped inj Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Assam has become Bangladeshi Muslim predominant because of the mischievous IMDT Act instituted in 1995 which the SC scrapped 10 years later in 2005. There appears to be a conspiracy to subject more of our states to similar fate by facilitating rapid illegal Bangladeshi immigration. Significantly, Sheikh Mujibur Rehman authored a book prior to formation of Bangladesh, in which he wrote, “Because Eastern Pakistan must have sufficient land for expansion, Eastern Pakistan must include Assam to be financially and economically strong” . The perpetrators of the IMDT Act appear to have worked to realize the dream of Mujibur Rehman. Presently, the Kerala headqurtered Popular Front of India (PFI) apparently has the blessings of the mafia because they are not banned despite having armed, uniformed, running terrorist camps, media citing R&AW and IB the organization has links with Al Qaeda and LeT , and four of their cadres killed in Kupwara (north Kashmir) four years back exfiltrating into POK. What India should also be ready to face is the next level of terrorism in the near-term; a weapon of mass disturbance like a radiological device, the recovery of a 1.5 kg Uranium mine by Army in Assam during 2013 and theft of 15 Uranium isotopes from Steel Authority of India in 2011 being pointers. Presently, we have no response mechanism. The NDRF is sans any specialization in this context with police personnel providing manpower on three year deputation forces.
Not only have we failed to see the connection between economic security and national security, our interpretation of economic security appears to be ‘individual economic security’ (read individual prosperity) of a few that have sucked the nation dry.
Asymmetric War. India has a strategic asymmetry in the sub-conventional; both China and Pakistan have advanced sub-conventional capabilities but India is lagging behind woefully. This needs to be corrected expeditiously. Asymmetric war is waged against a nation, not against the military alone. Therefore, the response too has to be at national level. Such threats are the order of the day with even powerful countries like US and China using proxy forces. The response matrix therefore needs to be synergized together by MEA, MoD and MHA, in concert with the NSA, military and intelligence agencies. In this context, the PM, EAM and HM require dedicated cells for military advice headed by senior level military officers. For creating deterrence to sub-conventional threats including proxy forces, our existing policy of conventional response has been utterly ineffective. Basing it on idealism as a standalone factor implies an inward looking policy that is not only more expensive in the long run but damaging to national security interests and in turn adverse to our economic prosperity. On the other hand, taking hard realism as standalone factor can land us into a situation like Pakistan; implosion. Special Forces should be central to asymmetric response but that does not imply physical action alone, physical action being the last resort. There is urgent need for creation of a Special Forces Command directly under the highest political authority (Prime Minister) comprising select teams of operatives focused on specific regions, to be employed on politico-military missions at the strategic level. Concurrently, an advisory group comprising serving and veteran Special Forces officers and representatives of intelligence agencies needs to be established under the PM, parallel to the PMO.
Comprehensive National Security. Comprehensive National Security (CNP) has multiple constituents; military security; political security; economic security; food security; personal security; health security; environment security; energy security; community security etc – all intertwined. Logically, any country must focus on each of these components to facilitate continuous and balanced growth of the CNP. What we have been doing is to address these issues in patchy manner including military security, which is hardly adequate.
The present NSA speaking at the 3rd International Studies Convention held at JNU recently called for an “Indian Derived Theory on International Relations. This is obvious admission that we have been following all along a faulty Foreign Policy without any theory, in addition to an absent NSS. Why it is relevant here is because present and future security threats need synergy between the Foreign Policy, NSS and Internal Security Strategy. The new government and the Prime Minister in particular will need to examine all the above issues in focused fashion. Speaking at the Security Conclave at the Delhi Gymkhana Club last year, Gautam Thapar, the only member of NSAB from the private industry, stated that for any country to have inclusive national security, a sustained economic growth of 8 to 10 percent is essential. Not only have we failed to see the connection between economic security and national security, our interpretation of economic security appears to be ‘individual economic security’ (read individual prosperity) of a few that have sucked the nation dry.