However, under a lot of pressure, the issue was partially resolved in January 2010 i.e. after about 2 years; the generals gained as Additional Secretaries had to be accommodated.
In the present defense structure, whilst all power rests with the Ministry of Defense, they have no accountability worth the name. The present defense structure has evolved not on the sacred principle of ‘national interest’, but on the demeaning principle of ‘power grab’ and keeping the Armed Forces ‘on the leash’. The disastrous results are there to see as we shall enumerate in the following chapter.
Whatever we have stated in the preceding two paragraphs does not mean that the Chinese have any great military advantage over India; they dont. In the level of performance, no soldier in the world can measure up to the Indian soldier.
We may spend a few minutes to understand China’s view of its military. Chinese communists established their rule in China at about the same time as India got its freedom. Contrary to the Indian scene, leaders of the new China were product of the ‘Long March’; all of them had seen actual field action, and watched their comrades fall on the battlefront. We may recall that the British politicians have had similar experience. Once you have seen death at close quarters, your view of military, if not of life itself, changes.
Mao Tse Dung was a military genius, who actually enunciated new doctrines of war; he took control of the Chinese State. Mao did not need any briefings from generals; rather he briefed them on the conduct of war. For the first 30 years or so, the effective power in China rested with the military. That period was enough to weave and integrate military thinking in the national psyche. Later, when civilian elements were brought in, the armed forces continued to be a player in the decision making process, if not up-front, at least in the background. That is the difference between China and India. For the Chinese, militarism is a sort of religion; for India, it is just one of the routine issues (like say minority affairs), which the IAS must deal with in their day to day routine manner. That is why the Chinese could wrap ropes around us in 1962. But Indians would not like to recognize that fundamental truth. They would like to continue to believe that we lost in 1962 because we did not have proper boots, or some such other similar silly excuse. The Chinese PLA had fought battles of the Long March either in bathroom slippers or bare-footed, in the biting and intolerable cold of China — some 50% having perished during the march itself.
The moral of the story is:
- Forces must aim, plan and endeavor to fight with adequate numbers and adequate equipment.
- However, if necessary under any circumstance, forces must be (mentally) prepared to fight (successfully), with inadequate numbers and inadequate equipment. That is what nationhood and (good) generalship is all about.
Whatever we have stated in the preceding two paragraphs does not mean that the Chinese have any great military advantage over India; they don’t. In the level of performance, no soldier in the world can measure up to the Indian soldier. All that India has to do is to incorporate changes in its mindset, and get its act together at the higher levels of military and civil leadership. If that can be done, the Indian Armed Forces can take on the ‘best’ in the world; let there be no doubt on that account.
We were defeated in 1962 due to lack of boots/socks, deficiency in equipment, may be also some shortage of food
In 2009, Admiral Sureesh Mehta was the Chief of Naval Staff and Chairman of the ‘Chiefs of Staff Committee’. On 10 August 2009, he dropped a bombshell on the unsuspecting Indian public. In a televised address, the Admiral emphatically declared that India was no match for China, and that there was no way the yawning gap between the two could be bridged. What a public statement to come from the Chairman of the ‘Chiefs of Staff Committee’. Even if there was an element of truth in this, the top Defense functionary of the land should be the last person to say that in public.
If such a situation actually exists, it has to be the result of gross all-round neglect (political, bureaucratic and military) over a 20–30 year period; it could not have emerged in a year or two. The Admiral (actually the General) should have briefed the Cabinet Committee on Security in the close confines of the War Room; not a word to come out. And that should have been done within a few months of the Admiral taking-over, and not a few days (yes days) before his retirement.
The public statement has achieved merely the following:
- It tries to project China as a huge bug-bear, whom we must fear; this is an admirable self-goal. China’s projected military advantage is largely a product of our ‘Defeatist’ mindset. Even the tiny Vietnam is not as afraid of China, as our public postures (including TV debates) make India to be. India is a huge country with humongous resources; it is no push-over. We do not have to keep harping on China; let us set our sights at a different level. What is needed is a change in mindset in the higher echelons of governance, as well as in society.
- It has dealt a mortal blow to the morale of the Indian soldier. Earlier, we had blamed the politicians and bureaucrats for not understanding the concept of ‘military morale’. We have to now admit with great regret (and some shame) that admirals (generals) may be doing no better.
The politicians would add that the Indian public knows and appreciates that they (the politicians) are fully busy (both waking and sleeping hours) in attending to the issues of terrorism. Where is the time for them to attend to the Defense issues?
The ‘earth-shaking’ (only our perception) statement of the Admiral evoked no response from the government, or the ever watchful, ever alert media. Even the main opposition party, the BJP, who claims a monopoly on nationalism, just looked on half in agreement, half in bewilderment; there was not even a whimper of reaction from them. Perhaps, they, like the government, did not understand what the Admiral was trying to say.
If the Admiral was even partially correct, the government should have been in a ‘tizzy’, and latched on to this one single issue. If the Admiral was wrong, the government should have clarified the situation at the level of the Prime Minister. The PM spoke twice in Parliament on a non-issue like Balochistan (just mention of this name in an irrelevant piece of paper, called joint statement). Why the deathly silence on this ‘life and death’ issue for the nation? This is indicative of the ‘sickening’ low level that the defense issues occupy in this woeful land. But, who are we to complain? There are very wise and prescient men in charge of the nation’s destiny. We should mind our own business, and just shut-up (which we dutifully do, except for making one last comment below).
Perhaps for the first time in the history of modern democratic nations, the top Defense functionary has informed the nation in advance of (almost) certain defeat (to us, the word ‘no match’ does not permit of any other interpretation; we use the word ‘defeat’ with utmost reluctance, and with a sense of horror). Lack of any political response, not even a ‘twitter’ or ‘tweet’, would appear to suggest the following:
- There is nothing new about it; the political class always knew about it.
- If 37 years after learning our lesson in 1962, we are still ‘no match’, why keep on pumping more and more money in Defense?
The political class appears to be of the view that we may not unnecessarily worry our head about this ‘no match’ issue. If things go wrong in any conflict, they can always explain things away. India has a ready-made set of excuses for defeat; those can be presented to the nation. Indian people are simple and trusting. They are neither prone to, nor known to object to what the government tells them. Remember, they lapped up every word that the government told them about the 1962 debacle, i.e. that the (shameful) defeat was really not our fault; some one else must have been responsible. Most Indians are still heard muttering in their sleep, ‘Oh! We were defeated in 1962 due to lack of boots/socks, deficiency in equipment, may be also some shortage of food.’ Others are convinced that we were defeated because the Chinese were just too strong. That has been our hallowed tradition from the days of Ghazni and Ghauri. The people never held the rulers accountable in the past; why would they do it now? Indians are a decent set of people; they do not believe in making unnecessary trouble; they are the accommodating type.
The politicians would add that the Indian public knows and appreciates that they (the politicians) are fully busy (both waking and sleeping hours) in attending to the issues of terrorism. Where is the time for them to attend to the Defense issues? As soon as they find some leisure, they would devote time to Defense; Insha-Allah (God willing) that should happen soon. Why make all this fuss and noise? We must have patience — another great Hindu virtue!