Insurgencies have existed for centuries. In recent decades however, the easy availability of machineguns, rocket-propelled grenades, RDX explosive with hi-tech remote-triggering devices have made dealing with terrorists and insurgents stressful and painful.
India’s experience in Kashmir and Sri Lanka, France’s experience in Algeria, Russia’s experience in Chechnya and America’s experience in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq bear testimony to the reality that troops armed with hi-tech weapons and trained for conventional war are at a triple disadvantage when deployed against insurgents and terrorists:
To minimise stress and sustain high morale, what should be the ratio between deployment time and rest- recovery time? In Iraq, two ratios seem to have emerged. Reportedly, the American Army needs two brigades at home to sustain one in the war zone.
- Stress levels rise abnormally when coping with ingeniously-improvised bombs in the hands of insurgents who are supported by the population and not distinguishable from innocent civilians.
- Secondly, since freedom struggles go on for decades, there is little respite from repeated tenures of such stressful counter insurgency deployment.
- Thirdly, it is unreal to expect troops trained to fight an identifiable enemy in high-intensity battles to be equally proficient in low-intensity conflict involving inadvertent harm to innocent people, and when patriotism and national acclaim the driving force to sustain morale.
Some recent inputs are relevant to this often-discussed dilemma.
- To minimise stress and sustain high morale, what should be the ratio between deployment time and rest- recovery time? In Iraq, two ratios seem to have emerged. Reportedly, the American Army needs two brigades at home to sustain one in the war zone.1 Oddly enough this 2:1 ratio is the same as that used by Navies – to be able to keep one aircraft carrier continuously alert and ready on station, you need three – less than three leads either to reduced alertness or unpredictable readiness or both. The other ratio, reportedly in vogue with the British Army is 5:1 – two years at home for 6 months deployment.
For the present, regiments of the Army provide a trained battalion on “rotational ““ Extra Regimental Employment (ERE)” basis to the Rashtriya Rifles who, along with the para military forces, are being progressively better equipped for low intensity conflict.
- The second aspect is the repercussion of such ratios on sanctioned levels of manpower. If the levels already sanctioned are sacrosanct, then the number deployable is derivable from the ratio. Any additional deployment becomes sub optimal in terms of mental health disorders, morale and eventually decreased effectiveness.
India’s problem of “prolonged low intensity conflict within her borders” is not analogous to the problem being faced by America and Britain in Iraq of “how much they can deploy overseas?” America, (progressively over-committed in Iraq), is worried about the erosion of its capability to counter other crises that threaten its global national interests. India has to remain ready to counter a ‘conventional’ military attack by its adventurous neighbour.