Delhi, 24 March 2002
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
is Serious Business
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.
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.
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
Coordination & Control
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.
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.
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
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.