Geopolitics

The Uri Fiasco and Ensuring Accountability
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 28 Sep , 2016

Pic Courtesy: ADGPI - Indian Army

While it is not known as to what conclusions the Army’s Court of Inquiry has arrived at over the Uri fiasco, it needs little intuition or professional knowledge to conclude that there were serious lapses in following Standard Operating Procedures. There can be little doubt that this has deeply embarrassed the Army, especially the battalions involved, and must be attributed to what the military terms “command failure”. If there was a shining light in this dark episode it is the fact that the PARA (SF) Quick Reaction Force that was employed neutralized the militants within 15 minutes of engaging them as per media reports.

Under no circumstances can the Army behave as if it is a victim of “terrorism”, as it seems intent on doing.

Surely, the Army is fully cognizant that in the prevailing environment its establishments are logical and legitimate targets for enemy action and must be defended as we would any other military outpost based on a clear cut and detailed operational plan. Under no circumstances can the Army behave as if it is a victim of “terrorism”, as it seems intent on doing. No other mindset can otherwise explain why the Army has meekly submitted to the Governments’ direction for the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to investigate the Uri disaster, just as the Air Force had earlier, after the fiasco of the attack on Pathankot Air Force Station.

Obviously, those dealing with the subject in the Armed Forces are not conversant with the charter and duties of the NIA and the fact that it is a police establishment meant for conducting “counter terrorism and other national security related investigations at the national level” aimed at “creating deterrence for existing and potential terrorist groups/individuals”. In simple terms this implies that after a terrorist attack they are responsible for detecting the identity of those involved, tracking them down, arresting them and then bringing them to justice.

How can suicidal “raid” on a military logistic base, to use military terminology, fall within the jurisdiction of the NIA or in their area of expertise? How can they investigate the actions of combat units during any tactical operation, whatever be its result? It is one thing for army investigators to seek for their assistance to probe involvement of locals who may have been involved or assisted in any way, but quite another to have them as the lead agency for the investigation as is amply clear from statements emanating on the status and direction of the investigation.

The truth of the matter is that the politico-bureaucrat nexus has intentionally kept the military out of national security policy making and has also willfully fooled the public on budgetary allotments for defence.

The investigation into “command failure” will obviously result in pinpointing of individuals, who by their acts of either omission or commission were responsible for the events leading to the loss of life and property at Uri. There is little doubt that those found responsible will face appropriate disciplinary or administrative action. However, one is a little doubtful if the systemic issues that have led up to this event will either be clearly brought into focus or have corrective action initiated to deal with them. The fact is that seventeen years after the Kargil Conflict the major recommendations made to enhance our combat capabilities have yet to be acted on and nobody has been held responsible for this.

The truth of the matter is that the politico-bureaucrat nexus has intentionally kept the military out of national security policy making and has also willfully fooled the public on budgetary allotments for defence. Over decades the Government’s in power have manipulated capital allotments for new equipment to meet unexpected expenses that may have arisen. With the active connivance of the MOD (Finance) all bureaucratic measures are put to good use to delay or derail the procurement process, resulting in vast amounts remaining unspent. As an added bonus these are then attributed to either failure on the part of the Services to follow laid down procedures or lack to of clarity on their part.

While that has been smart politics on the part of the government of the day, the fact that couldn’t be wished away was that the Armed Forces were increasingly burdened with obsolete equipment and huge shortages which made them increasingly incapable of meeting their constitutional obligations. Thus if troops in Uri were lacking in suitable detection equipment, proper protective perimeter fencing and were forced to stay in tents instead of hardened shelters, one does not have to look far for reasons for this state of affairs and where that responsibility lies. This, however, is a problem that can be handled over time with increased outlays.

…if troops in Uri were lacking in suitable detection equipment, proper protective perimeter fencing and were forced to stay in tents instead of hardened shelters, one does not have to look far for reasons for this state of affairs and where that responsibility lies.

There is however a bigger and more insidious problem that can only be corrected through substantive organizational changes. The political establishment has realised, much to its horror, that unlike in most matters, the Indian public holds politicians directly responsible for military reverses that impact our territorial integrity or prestige. In effect he is deeply impacted by how our military performs. As is to be expected of them, the politician has again defrauded the public and dealt with this issue by ensuring through savvy media intervention that the military is never seen to have failed.

Thus in coverage of the Kargil Conflict, for example, focus was wholly restricted to the recapture of the heights. Those responsible for their loss, especially at the higher levels, except for a couple of unfortunate officers, got away completely. The then Corps Commander was appointed a Principal Staff officer at Army Headquarters. Thus the principle of accountability at the highest levels of the military was thrown out of the door. Its impact over the past decade and a half has been pretty visible with increasing cases of corruption at the highest levels, arbitrary promotion criteria being imposed and in selection of officers for courses, quite a few of which have resulted in those deprived approaching courts for legal redress. If we are to seriously deal with the fallout of the Uri episode, this is the issue that needs to be tackled on priority.

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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

Brig Deepak Sinha

is a second generation para trooper and author of “Beyond the Bayonet: Indian Special Operations Forces in the 21st Century.” He is currently a consultant with the Observer Research Foundation.

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14 thoughts on “The Uri Fiasco and Ensuring Accountability

  1. If it is true that the police is to investigate it is a shame whatever said we have the most corrupt police force in the world and I would not let one of these guys near a army establishment. The defense minister should look into what Col J.P. Singh says below because he is absolutely right to say see the realities on the ground for the Indian army and shabby infrastructure they have and I am sure the Indian army will conduct its own inquiry and do what has to be done. All these MOD Babus must me be made to spend one month every year with the troops in the forward areas and have the same living conditions and rations and then maybe they will open their eyes.

  2. what bothers me the most is allowing police to investigate the army SHAME ON COAS toallow that to happen. This is just the start next will be to attach civil offrs at bde or div level. really guys our army cannot pin point the blame and take remedial actions. this is truly the saddest day for our great and proud army. by the way what col jp said was all real and true

  3. I do not agree with the Author that roping in NIA was a bad precedent. In fact, we should not hesitate in accepting any assistance from any org with expertise. NIA definitely has expertise, and wider perspective. It can effectively use info for subsequent trial, extraditing kingpins living abroad and get to the root of funding terrorists and their supporters in India. To carry out such anti-terror ops, the org needs legal authority and wherewithal, which Army has none. In fact, now it should be a standard practice for NIA to investigate all terrorist strikes on Army camps/ garrison. It will also bring out weaknesses in our functioning/ set up thru an external audit by NIA. Tomorrow, Army may require assistance to investigate and more critical prosecute accused, it will require assistance of Cyber Crime experts of police. Most of these issues require custodial interrogation and Army does not have legal sanctity, may have expertise.

    While in service, we talk of long perspective, broad vision but rarely practice it. Gen V K Singh to strengthen Military Int at tactical level had made a small beginning by setting up Technical Support Division org, but immediately on his departure his successors in a partisan manner winded up the org. It would have only warmed the cockles of Pakistanis heart. It may have had infirmities, but then it could be improved further.

  4. This is what I put on face book on 21 Sep.

    The Raksha Mantri says there have been lapses and he will ensure that such things don’t occur again.

    I want to ask this guy or rather tell him that the Army will carry out its inquiry and sort out those responsible – it will not be a suspension and transfer like it happens in the police force or in the IAS where nothing will happen. Somebody’s – maybe a few will have their careers sealed. That’s ok we will do it. Now comes your part. Why the armed forces are so shabby as far as their infrastructure is concerned.

    Have you gone to a post on the LOC and spent a night with the jawans there. As a defence minister it’s your bloody job to see the realities of the Indian Army on ground, and not reviewing Guards Of Honour in chappals. If you are the defence minister of this country stop sitting in the comforts of Lutyens Delhi – go on guy and see how the Indian Army lives.

    We live in shabby and pathetic conditions. Our living accommodation (on posts) is inhuman – we live in bunkers made of wood and mud and louse infected. Our trenches are unfit for fighting in. Would you care to see them? Don’t bask in your glory of being a Raksha Mantri and all the shit that goes on to look after you when you visit an Army Unit. Spend night with the troops – eat what they eat – live like how they live, starting from the morning crap. Then you will know what it is all about.

    The issue is about the defence budget – we may be the third or fourth largest army in the world – but we are poor in infrastructure. We don’t have the basics, right from the clothing of a soldier to his basic equipment. Our rations are substandard. Our Boots don’t last 6 months – so we buy them. The army blanket – my dog also refuses to sleep on it. You have created a life cycle system to provide replacement clothing and equipment to a soldier – some SOB sitting in Delhi in the MOD decides how long my boots should last. I don’t have my ass plonked in cushioned chair in an AC office which is carpeted. Do you know how much an Indian Army Jawan spends on buying his clothing and equipment? Actually you know f-all in army parlance.

    We don’t have defence stores – the URI garrison has a lousy barbed wire fence – I saw it all when I was around there in 1985 and it hasn’t changed. Is that the improvement in the Armed Forces in the last 30 years? Who is responsible for that and whom are you going to sack for that? Troops are living in tents – man this is the 21 Century – this isn’t a Safari Park – these are Army Establishments – Permanent ones and troops still have to live in tents.

    Mr Defence Minister I can give a list of 1000 things of what is wrong with the system and not the Army. If you are worth your salt and not a Goa frilly willy as people think you are you will get your ass hauling and give the Armed Forces their due in basics including a good pay package. The defence budget is a paupers budget. Get your DIGs who get 50000- 70000 as allowance to sit on their chair in Shillong, Srinagar and Guwahati to fight the war – we can pack our bags and go home. Thank You .
    Now you have the NIA investigating the Army – might as well get your police forces to fight Pakis.

    • Your rant is not a worth penny, if there are lapses which could be avoided. The Defence Minister is not in the picture, if a single sentry was not posted where the entry happened in Uri or Pathankote. That is Army commander’s lapse.

      • mr sud, the col is not ranting but simply stating facts, if you do not beleive him go dn and see for your self. army COI are not shams the fix blame and punish pl in timely manner not like civil courts.armed forces are the last good institution left all the rest are gone so leave them alone. by the way what do you think of them after x border raid by para cdos. what a great come back

  5. THE ARMY IS FATIGUED DEGRADED DEMORALISED OUTRIGHTLY AND DOWNGRADED . THE SERVICE CHIEF WHO COMPARES HIMSELF TO THE CABINET SECRTARY SHOULD BE ASHAMED THAT HIS FRONTLINE LINE SOLDERS ARE EQUATED WITH ACIVILAN GUARD EARNING 15000 PM . A ARMED GUARD GETS PAID 25000 PER MONTH . THE ARMY SYSTEM OF SUPPLY LOGISTICS ORDNANACE RUNS ON COLONIAL FEUDAL LINES . GENERALS SENIOR OFFICERS FED GOOD QUALITY FRUITS VEGETABLES BUT LANGAR FOR JAWANS AND OFFICERS MESS CATTLE QUALITY FOOD . KARGIL HAPPENED 17 YEARS AGO DASHING YOUNG COLS BRIGS AND OTHER OFFICERS MUST HAVE HIGHLIGHTED DEFECIENCIES OF MODERN RIFLES CARBINES PISTOLS COMBAT CLOTHING NVJS 4TH GEN BULLET PROOF HELMETS JACKETS , TV LASER IR SENSORS FOR PERIMETER FENCING EMBEDDED SENSORS RADARS AND CLIMATIC HARDENED SHELTERS FOR TROOPS . WHAT DID THE ARMY OR ITS FORWARD BASES GET ZILCH ZERO NOTHING . THE FILES ROT EITHER IN AHQ , MOD MOD FINANCE , CABINET SECRETARIAT PMO AND GATHER DUST . ACCOUNTABILTY MUST BE FIXED AT ARMY LEVEL AND CIVILAN MOD LEVEL . SACKINGS OF SECTION OFFICERS UNDERSECRTARIES , DEPUTY SECRATARIES , DIRECTORS JOINT , ADDITIONAL DG AQUISITIONS IFA FROM SECRTATARY FINANACE TOGETHER WITH THE MAN RESPONSIBLE FOR THE DEFENCE OF INDIA THE DEFENCE SECRATARY MUST BE DONE . THE ARMY MUST SACK THE DIV CDR THE BRIG AND COS OF THE TWO REGIMENTS . COMPANY CDRS SECTION PLATOON CDRS PUNISHED AND DUTY JCOS NCOS ON DUTY SACKED . A INDEPENDANT INQUIRY BY THIRD PARTY AUDITORS FROMREPUTED DEFENCE MNCS BANKERS , INTELLIGENCE AND AUDIT FIRMS MUST BE THERE . IF THIS INCIDENT IS NOT APPROPIATELY INVESTIGATED ROOT CAUSE ANALYSIS DONE PUNISHMENTS FOR LOSS OF LIVES NOT APPROPIATIONED , THE UNACCOUNTABLE IRESSPONSIBLE BABUS WILL GET AWAY , THE ARMY MUST DO INTERNAL SOUL SEARCHING COS , BRIGS MAJ GENERALS PROMOTED ON BASIS OF REGIMENT AFFILIATIONS SONS OF EARLIAR BOSSES , COLOUR CASTE CREED , SCHOOL; NDA , IMA BASIS WILL ONLY KEEP GETTING THE CHIEF EMBARRASSED . THE ARMY CHIEF MUST NOT BE ON THE PROMOTION BOARDS OR APPROVING THE SELEC

  6. Nonesense that political – bureaucratic has kept Army out of national security.

    At Uri, it was a complete failure of Military Intelligence, missing perimeter security, and insiders who knew each and every mine and where it was, hence they bypassed it.

    Army officers are throwing up their hands and saying that blame anybody but us.

    Pure nonesense!

  7. India should finish Pak first ,bomb nucluer ,deploy troops .India should work on for this plan continiously so dat this is achieved soon..India ,Israel &US should work on this plan profusely. Jai Hind

  8. Author has identified the fault lines on MOD and army very well.. Inability to react and identification of security gaps against fidayeen attack rests with the local army commanders. But the bigger issue is structural security, electronic security and hardened shelters that is a basic requirement that rest with MOD (Political and bureaucratic leadership). I do remember that intruder alarm and TI night sight is a long pending issue and being delayed and deferred since 2003. I wonder when did a bureaucrat went to forward posts and leave aside staying there for the night, these new bred of bureaucrats would not have even visited these posts. I know no commander can afford to sleep in these posts even for two hours. He is awake night after night and months after months. He gets one signal every day that his post will be attacked tonight. yet he not only keep the area under control but also fight the proxy war during day and night with very high intensity.

    Army certainly will fix accountability but will a bureaucrat be fixed for his dereliction of duty towards nation and soldiers. It is the responsibility of the Def Secy to ensure that Army is fully equipped to discharge the duty. PM and Def Min should ask the Def Secy why no boundary wall, why no TI Sights, Why no shelter? There is system in the army to feed forward. Combat soldiers dont’ fall back to get logistic supply he is required to be fed forward. How many times the concerned bureaucrat visited the forward areas. At least a Bureaucrat must visit field formations once in six months. It is not difficult for Def Min to enforce this rule. Instead of sending the bureaucrats to carry out study tours abroad, please see to it that they do field visit to study the requirement of the soldiers first before they go for so called study tours abroad that has no relevance to Indian soldiers. Rather most of the armies world over want to come to India to study our models of CI/CT conflict and training of army for conventional and sub conventional war preparations. We need to introspect at MOD level and at Army level.

  9. The author has hit the nail on the head with public fixing responsibility on politicians for Army failure , it becomes imperative Army’s mistakes are hidden through pliable media. How 4 jihadies can think of attacking a Brigade hqtrs with nearly 12000 men who are highly trained .shows the thinking of the Jihadi handlers especially after the Pathankot and now URI attack.I hope the security of our Army ordnance depots and Nuclear assets re full proof. The enemy will attack when he sees an opening.

  10. This has been the bane of the policies made by us. From 1962 to date the top brass always were promoted in spite of their being defeated, I can give one example of Battle of Chhamb 1971, where the Brigade Commander who was responsible for the loss retired as DD Military Training, the GOC as Deputy Chief of Army Staff.
    As long as The people of this country treat the Armed Forces as The Holy Cow, fine but this time the public is asking, How could this Happen. The baboos and netas can be sorted out in one go, provided the senior officers have the balls to stand up. The days of “no Problems Sir” is over and now the forces have to take the (cows) by the horn

  11. You may blame politico-bureaucrat . But it is a fact that this is a “command failure”. How can a Brigade command allow to grow grass in a sensitive area? Why is the Army not using trained dogs to alert the Jawans guarding the post? The dogs would have prevented the attack. Dogs are more reliable than modern surveillance equipment , particularly in the night. It is very difficult for the people to watch the surveillance monitor without any break.

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