“A nation that will insist on drawing a broad line between the fighting man and the thinking man is liable to find its fighting done by fools and thinking done by cowards.”
— Sir William Francis Butler
In the past, India had borne the brunt of many Pathankot’s and Uri’s with patience and restraint. It presented irrefutable evidence of the connivance of Pakistan in those terrorist attacks. Always with the hope that Pakistan will take cognisance of India’s concern and reign in the terrorist groups who have had a free run in their country spitting venom at India, plotting and planning further attacks.
India too had the ultra-liberalists and candle light brigade who took no time to raise a hue and cry and compel the government to absorb the blow and be magnanimous. After all throughout its history India’s had been at the receiving end of more vicious attacks and plundering raids, so one more would not destroy this “ancient civilisation”!! Indian can afford to be benevolent and benign, so they said. Unfortunately, the earlier governments, with its bevy of ‘like-minded’ parties, were not in favour of a ‘hard’ option.
You can only punch if you have the will to throw out your arm at the opponent with a clenched fist at the end of it and land it forcefully and hard on his ‘bloody’ chin.
An incident in 1997 that occurred in the Army Headquarters, clearly illustrates the prevailing environment then. The Military Directorate prepared a daily situation report, a classified document, which was then distributed to a number of agencies at that point of time. The report would also record the details of cross border firing to include the type of weapons used and number of rounds/bombs fired. One such report somehow got leaked and was reproduced in totality by a particular newspaper. All hell broke loose in the South Block. The then Prime Minister accused the Army of carrying out a “private war” without the sanction of the government. These reports were being distributed to a host of senior functionaries and concerned ministries. None of them understood the import of these and did not even care to bring it to the notice of the concerned ministers. The government’s pacifism became evident. In such an environment the Army cannot be expected to deliver. Even at the pain of repetition – the military force is the clenched fist of the government. You can only punch if you have the will to throw out your arm at the opponent with a clenched fist at the end of it and land it forcefully and hard on his ‘bloody’ chin. Keeping the elbow bent and holding back the arm and fist is not restraint but cowardice – just as what was inculcated in the young NDA Cadets in his novices boxing bout. Employing ‘hard power’ effectively is a game of the ‘mind’ and accounts for the ‘will’ of the governments.
Mehmed Ziya Gokalp, a Turk who stood for nationalism, is stated to have said – “The mosques are our barracks and the minaret is our bayonet”. Pakistan has been exploiting the ‘geopolitics of emotions’ using religion as the principle component of its strategy subjecting India to repeated terrorist attacks. Political correctness and blind pacifism cannot avoid the truth staring back at India that there is an element of a ‘clash of civilisations’ at play in the South Asia Region with the fault line which is being shifted eastwards from POK spearheaded by these religious fundamentalists.
The recent strikes in retribution of the terrorist attack on the administrative camp at Uri has indicated that India is determined to protect itself and will not shy away from using all resources at its command to protect itself.
Has India truly crossed the Rubicon? The idiom “Crossing the Rubicon” means to pass a point of no return, and refers to Julius Caesar’s army’s crossing of the Rubicon River (in the north of Italy ) in 49 BC, which was considered an act of insurrection and treason. Julius Caesar uttered the famous phrase “alea iacta est” — the die is cast — as his army marched through the shallow river. India too has cast the die. The changed scenario has opened certain interesting options at the strategic level.
First, in its new ‘avatar’ is it necessary for India to continue to find an invisible sinew linking it to being ‘non-aligned’? Interestingly, during India’s war with China in 1962, Nehru got no political support from the Yugoslav President Josip Broz Tito, one of the founding members with Nehru of the Non Aligned Movement (NAM). When he was asked by Nehru for a reason for him not openly supporting India his reply is said to be that since he was ‘non-aligned so he could not support either India or China’. The world unfettered by colonialism and the cold war, which were the fundamental reasons for starting the Non-Alignment Movement, is now a world so wholly transformed. NAM is struggling to find relevance. Global terrorism is the terrible scourge engulfing all nations. This new ‘ideology’ is choking the globe in its vice like grip. The global scenario of the future will necessitate band-wagoning with likeminded countries and being prepared to have smaller countries bandwagon with India. Allies and support groups are necessary to tackle complex geo-political and geo-strategic issues. India must now state its new strategic alignment.
There are arguments in favour of India too developing low yield nuclear weapons, but there is an equally logical set of arguments which does not favour this option. The other school of thought is to give up the Policy of NFU.
Second, the ‘cold start’ doctrine which has been lying in cold storage for want of a declared intent of undertaking a pre-emptive option now becomes an option that needs to be further developed. To seriously prepare for this option the Army will need to restructure its ‘strike’ Corps and mechanised forces into battle groups on a permanent basis and not in adhoc temporary groupings of combat teams and groups as is the practice now. Taking this as a signal the Army should begin restructuring in real earnest right away. It will require nerves of steel to resistance and ward off the clamour which will inevitably rise from the regiments and battalions citing their long valiant histories and wanting to maintain status quo. To give just one example of how this change is not being enforced is the continued existence of a horsed cavalry regiment till date!! Apparently it was not the last time the like of a Don Quixote and Sancho Panza charged the windmills; the Light Brigade charged in to the ‘Valley of Death’ in the Crimean War in 1854, and even during World War I horsed cavalry charged at tanks!! Is this, Indian Army horsed cavalry regiment going to follow those examples? In my considered view it is a downright waste of the taxpayer’s money. It’s high time the Army exercises more prudent judgement and move ahead with times.
Third, the ‘pre-emption’ option will perfectly suit India’s operations against China too. Potent reserves could be placed well forward at all tactical and operational levels as soon as the situation indicates deteriorating bilateral relations. These forces can be launched for pre-emptive attacks to degrade/destroy the enemy preparation for war which will effectively thwart the possibility of any such major offensive being launched by China. Thereafter, in the wake of these pre-emptive operations the Mountain Strike Corps would have taken under command Army Headquarters reserve formations then can come into play in a more meaningful way by exploiting the favourable operational options which would have thus opened. Without India exercising the pre-emptive option against China this Corps will remain a force in being waiting to happen.
Fourth, there is much debate in the strategic community and discussions in the think tanks on finding a viable counter to Pakistan’s low yield nuclear capability (colloquially referred to as Tactical Nuclear Weapons – TNW’s) and retaining the option of a conventional war. India’s declared policy on use of a nuclear weapon is dictated by its ‘No First Use’ (NFU). There are arguments in favour of India too developing low yield nuclear weapons, but there is an equally logical set of arguments which does not favour this option. The other school of thought is to give up the Policy of NFU. Such a move would put India’s strategic policy decision making in extremely poor light. However, in the changed pro-active scenario post retributive raids in POK, it would be in order to consider applying this to the nuclear policy too. In that if India assesses that the adversary is poised to use a nuclear weapon, of any yield, India should take whatever steps it deems necessary to protect its citizens – even if it would mean the need to launch a nuclear weapon ‘first’. In the nuclear weapons arena, a second strike is an action too late. So while triads and mobile launchers will remain in vogue in the scheme of things, by declaring that if India has ‘confirmed’ intelligence that it is going to be targeted by an adversary with a nuclear weapon then it will unhesitatingly execute its nuclear option by using the weapon first. Such a declaration will be a game changer and would alter the current unfavourable scenario of use of nuclear weapons that exists.
Fifth, round the clock surveillance of the adversaries and monitoring every electronic signal being emitted, penetrating into the enemy’s computer networks and being prepared for defence and offensive cyber network operations are the order of the day. The US and Israel are doing so to protect themselves, India’s level in this arena has to match their level. Internally too, all measures should be adopted, opposition by ‘privacy intrusion’ defenders not-with-standing, as national security is paramount. Pre-emptive operations depend entirely on actionable intelligence. In the case of this recent strike, the pinpoint intelligence of these small groups of terrorists moving into launch pads would have involved a monitoring process of at least a week to follow the terrorists preparations for the launch and then accurately identify the locations and more so the time of their launch. It is a truly remarkable achievement of the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO), Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) and other agencies that were operating in the hinterland. It is a small but outstanding beginning and this capability needs to be developed further with full backing of the government.
Also, to ensure integration of all the uniformed forces, all those selected into the central services should mandatorily serve in the army – two years for the IAS and IFS, three years for other central services and five years for IPS probationers.
Sixth, modern fighting has acquired a specialised dimension particularly in relation to the terrain and the enemy. Fighting in the mountains and in the plains or obstacle riddled terrain and deserts require ‘domain’ expertise. Every time an infantry battalion moves from one such theatre of operation to another it has to practically re-equip, reorient and retrain. It is time the Army looks at dividing the Infantry into Mountain and Plains Infantry. Consequently, units of the mountain infantry will always serve in the mountains and the plains infantry in areas other than the mountains. The administrative issues arising in implementing such a change should not be a stumbling block.
Seventh, the Indian Army has an excellent well trained and honed Special Force which is capable of undertaking missions of strategic import. These are pre-positioned in the theatres of their specialisation. For a pre-emptive launch against a likely terrorist plot in the making or even a quick reaction for retribution against a terrorist action, quick mobilisation and launch into action are imperative. To enable such a mission to be undertaken the Army Aviation Corps needs to be suitably upgraded and should be authorised helicopters of requisite capability.
Eighth, as has become apparent, that to achieve India’s strategic objective, orchestration of the employment of all elements of national power to generate the requisite synergy is necessary. The recent action was a ‘tester’. To professionalise perfunctory governance lateral induction into the executive body is undeniably essential. Also, to ensure integration of all the uniformed forces, all those selected into the central services should mandatorily serve in the army – two years for the IAS and IFS, three years for other central services and five years for IPS probationers. Alongside, the lateral induction of officers, Junior Commissioned Officers and Other Ranks from the Army into the Central Armed Police Forces should be institutionalised. This format is the norm worldwide except in India. It has ever so often been quashed by the bureaucracy because of obvious very petty parochial reasons which are well known. It is time to put the Nation first and set aside these group egos in the nation’s interest.
India will now on be looked upto expectantly by the comity of nations for standing up and support major issues globally. There may be a need to deploy military forces overseas, a possibility which probably comes with the new stature acquired. These may be the first small tentative steps into regional power arena before India breaks out into a jog on the global scene. Rash, hasty or an egoistic reaction will be degenerating. India today is also the ‘inflection point’ with regards to military modernisation. Along with modernisation, the ‘hollowness’ often spoken of, needs to be addressed on a war footing. Since ‘hollowness’ does not involve big ticket defence imports or purchases the DRDO and Defence Public Sector Undertakings which are solely responsible for this sorry state of affairs have to be made accountable and explain publically if they fail to address the ‘hollowness’ issue in full measure. The security of the country cannot be hijacked by trade unions and an irresponsible workforce.
Strategically these are exciting times. India is at the cusp of steering over the horizon on to its greater destiny. May its resolve not dither.