Monday, January 10, 2011

Armed Forces: 2011 Year of Reckoning

The Tribune Sunday, Janaury 9, 2011
Focus on reform, refurbishment
India’s military strategies and doctrines must be flexible, capable of rapid application in any unforeseen circumstances and ready for the entire spectrum of conflict by Gen V. P. Malik (retd), Former Chief of Army Staff.

An important assumption in military strategy is that "Despite whatever effort there may be to prevent it, there may be a war!" This assumption is neither provocative nor a justification for the existence of the armed forces. History tells us that nations that neglect this historical determinism make themselves vulnerable to military surprise, defeat and ignominy.

Security threats, challenges and vulnerabilities that face India in the foreseeable future are border and territorial disputes, hegemonic and power politics, resources and financial crises, failed and failing states, crossborder terrorism and other crimes, and spread of weapons of mass destruction. In addition to these external challenges, there are grave internal security challenges such as insurgencies in the Northeast, J&K and the Maoist movement.

The emergence of China as a major power, and territorial disputes with China and Pakistan coupled with the nexus between these two nations have politico-security consequences for India. India’s economic relations with China may be improving but its security relations are not. With faster economic, technological and military modernisation, China is likely to become more aggressive and be in a position to create pressure points on the border and other strategic issues.

If India can maintain an adequate level of nuclear (for which development of Agni 3 and the nuclear submarine are essential) and conventional deterrence, then there are two strategic conditions which can escalate a military conflict between India and its neighbours. First: Border disputes where a serious skirmish can lead to a conventional military conflict. Second: Proxy war which may lead to a limited conventional war.

With our present capabilities, it is not possible for China to capture Arunachal Pradesh or large chunks of territories elsewhere. However, they do have the capability to intrude and capture small parts of territory where we have the problem to reach fast and deploy our forces. Our capability to react quickly and counter-attack is weak. Also, we will not be able to lift additional forces from the Pakistan border. Therefore (a) against China, it is essential to create integrated rapid reaction forces and ground infrastructure capable of joining battle at short notice, particularly along the disputed areas on the LAC, and (b) against Pakistan, we have the ability to hit back and carry out similar intrusions provided we maintain the present level of conventional weapons superiority.

Our persistent problems with regard to modernisation of the armed forces are (a) ad hocism in defence planning, (b) complicated procurement procedures, (c) political and media witch-hunting and scare of getting involved in scams. But fundamentally, it is our inability to develop and produce bulk of the required weapon systems and equipment indigenously. Our decision-making in defence planning is an ultimate case study in negative processes. Unless the political and bureaucratic establishment in the government focusses on reform and refurbishment in the process of planning and decision-making, modernisation of the armed forces will remain a nightmare. It is time for a more calibrated application of resources for modernisation plans at the national level, in accordance with assessed inter se priorities in respect of land, maritime and air power assets. Determination of these priorities will be the acid test of a mature and responsible defence leadership.

In the current strategic environment, we have to be ready for the entire spectrum of conflict. India’s military strategies and doctrines must be flexible, capable of rapid application in any unforeseen circumstances. The focus will have to be on deterrence, a conventional war below the nuclear threshold, as well as on the low-intensity conflicts and counterterrorism. Important requirements are:
1. Building strategic infrastructure along the northern borders: road axes, laterals, helicopter and logistic bases.
2. Raising integrated rapid reaction forces capable of military operations in high altitude mountains.
3. Capability to locate and engage ground targets in the mountains by the air force.
4. Substantial improvement — both defensive and offensive — in cyber and electronic warfare.
5. Extensive use of space technology, satellites, and night vision capabilities for surveillance, communications and real time location of the adversary.
6. Making up voids in big ticket systems like the medium artillery, multi-role fighter aircraft and submarines.
7. Ensuring a higher degree of jointness in defence and operational planning. We need to reorganise the networking system of the armed forces within, and with other government agencies that have an important role to play in a future conflict. Jointness must also apply here between the Defence and Home ministries.
8. A Chief of Defence Staff is essential to be able to contribute to the long-term strategic planning, coordination among the Services, and for calibrated resource allocation for balanced defence capabilities.
9. On the internal security front, Home Minister Chidambaram must take further steps to make police forces less political and more professional. Tribal areas in the country need faster development and improved governance.

Shortage of officers
Despite the implementation of the last Pay Commission, cadre reviews, extension of colour service and retirement age done in the past, shortage of officers in all three Services continues. It is necessary to appoint a high-level committee to review the terms and conditions of the armed forces holistically. Keeping in view the large base of young officers and restricted opportunities for promotion, the officers need to be given opportunities to go up or peel off at different levels of service. The government could work out a suitable monetary and re-orientation package for each exit point. When this is ensured, there would be less frustration and insecurity among officers.

Image of the services
The image of the armed forces has taken a beating recently in public and within the Services due to land scams and several cases of indiscipline. Also, it is observed that the VVIP culture, ostentatious celebrations and event management, alien to the armed forces’ ethos, are overtaking the old Cantonment culture and military sociology. Such a conduct at senior levels is likely to affect professionalism, morale and confidence in the military leadership. Perhaps the greatest single task facing the Service Chiefs will be to ensure that the Services’ value system and ethos — integrity, loyalty, discipline, courage and honour — and the implicit faith and trust with which the junior ranks looked up to their seniors, where dented, is quickly restored. They must watch this carefully and deal ruthlessly with those who display a lack of probity and sound judgment in the chain of command.
Armed Forces: 2011 Year of Reckoning

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