An IDC Analysis


New Delhi, 24 March 2002  

The Indian army will have its biggest peacetime challenge when it is asked to clear the 
thousands of mines it has laid along the border on World War two lines

Raksha Mantri George Fernandes who is supposed to look after the safety of the Nation and its Armed Forces made a statement in Parliament that some 150 deaths occurred in the mobilisation of the Indian Army now three months gone. The figure is exceptionally high and the majority, it is stated were due to the mine laying operations.

Bar mines are laid by the Engineers to retard the advance of Armour, which India feels may be Pakistan’s forte in its war plans in the plains. They have the M1 US built tanks and the T 80 Ukrainian tanks ready for a thrust –– though Muslims by religion have a fear of dying by fire in a tank.

Defensive anti personnel mines are also laid by the Infantry units in their area of operation and many it is reported were laid at night in a hurried manner. Thousands of mines have been laid. There have also been odd media reports about defective mines and with the scandals surrounding some defence supply deals this could be possible, as mines need to be tested from time to time and certified for their integrity. The antiquated procedure of laying mines and poor training may also have contributed to the deaths, as today most of the troops are employed in prolonged anti insurgency operations.

Media reported rightly that the Indian Army soldiers are in danger of accidentally killing each other in mine clearing operations unless they were better trained in the art of laying mines. The positions of the mines also have to be accurately mapped for removal.

What Mobilisation Means?

Life is not considered dear in India and the fine Indian soldier will do anything including die for his regiment. Yet technology, GPS and advanced equipment are available for safer methods of laying mines and their removal is the more dangerous operation. When the Army demobilizes it will be obliged to give certificates that the mines have been removed before the civilians uprooted from their lands are permitted to go back This could take time and more lives.

The Indian Army is a huge one million strong force. Three attack Corps and the Armoured Divisions have moved to their holding areas as per their planned operational orders and two more Corps have moved from the North East.

Brigades from the North East have occupied Brigade HQs like Jammu. In the mobilized state telephone facilities are restricted to the troops from the borders. The harvesting season is coming up and many troops take leave at this time to help with the harvest at home, but leave will also be restricted. This is bound to affect morale and needs to be studied. Morale is what makes Armies fight and win.

The beauty of the loyal Indian army senior officer is that he never questions his superiors orders. One of them who tried to be more astute was unceremoniously removed from his post. Media reported that Lt Gen Kapil Vij was removed as Corps Commander for being too proactive. MOD said it was a routine move. The entire mobilisation too is being treated as a routine activity, with the Army lives on the line and the political masters busy playing political and election games.

Whether it is Op Pawan or Kargil or anti insurgency operations it is but natural that the Navy and Air Force will also fall in line. In the Navy the sailor never sees the enemy and navies fight from long ranges. Pilots love to fly even across borders during peacetime so they love mobilisation and the flying rate has been very high. This will tell on the Op state of the machines in due course.

Mobilisation is Serious Business

Mobilisation it must be understood is a serious pre war activity. In most responsible countries the political masters take a great interest in the war plans of the nation and the overall operational plans and Op orders that every professional service keeps ready to execute. The Government is duty bound to specify the national objectives. All these must be updated as technology changes. Factors affecting War, the Principles of War and Rules of Engagement dynamically change. Terrorism has forced many changes in warfare.

Mobilisation is the ultimate pre war activity involving the whole nation and the steps to be followed are written in the War Book, which must be updated in preparation for war. When the Government gives the Order to mobilize it must also give the Aim to the Service Chiefs, through the Chiefs of Staff Committee for the final Ops orders to be framed. There is no half-hearted mobilisation.

To give an example, the Navy off loads practice ammunition from ships and embarks full war allowance. Selected officers study the OPS ORDERS and clarify doubts from the Cs in C and Fleet Commanders. Ships, submarines and aircraft go into serious exercises and the Rules of Engagement are issued and submarines put on war patrols. Blood banks are established, readiness is enhanced, refit programmes are changed and full war outfit of missiles loaded and a fusing policy is brought into force as D-Day and D-hour are expected. Most factors are dependant on the Operational Orders given down to the few Commanders. In many cases these have been practiced in Naval Tactical Trainers ashore. The same happens in the IAF though in their case it is only the pilot that fights the war. The Army moves forward.

Tri-Service Coordination & Control

Mobilisation also requires a great deal of coordination among the three services. Unfortunately tri-service thinking is not a strength of the Indian Armed forces as the three services write OPS ORDERS, procure and operate, mainly on their own –– and guard their own turfs in compartmentalized spheres. An agitated Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat harshly and brashly tried to get the three Chiefs to think together but he was rapped on the knuckles. Air Marshal Katre a forceful personality and a rare thinking pilot in 1985, made an observation that there should be more cross pollination between the three services. He was on a path to hone the three services but he died prematurely in harness as Chief of Air Staff, before he could become the Chairman Chiefs of Staff. In 1971 Manekshaw did some plain speaking to Mrs Gandhi about mobilisation and war. He took more than six months to mobilize, but the younger officers hardly know about him as he was made a Field Marshal and sent to pasture.

Need For CDS

Today since there is no CDS with operational authority per se and will not be one even in the new set up there is a grave lacuna in the higher defence management structure of India. The Government leaned on Arun Singh to do the paper work for the impending CDS structure but he was a flash in the pan and in any case he is not accountable. In the 21st Century the IAS controllers of MOD and the politicians like George Fernanades cannot be expected to give direction to Battle Strategy. They may be good but they lack experience and are too politically motivated for their own survival. The IAS are good at paperwork and politicians good at politics and both have little place in mobilisation and War planning. The MEA also works in a compartment.

The last major battle the Indian Army fought was in the plains in 1971 when Gen S F Manekshaw took months to hone the Ops Orders, battle readiness and the three Service Chiefs presented their overall strategy to the PM and the RM in some detail. IDC hopes the same has been done this time and the Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee given similar powers to hone the three services Operations and their Orders.

The fine Indian Army has a serious task on their hands and we hope the Nation understands this as they enjoy the cricket series and Lagaan.

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