Cariappa Memorial Lecture

An IDC Analysis


New Delhi, 21 October 2003

Field Marshall K M Cariappa

The Field Marshal Cariappa Memorial Lecture was held in New Delhi on 18th October 2003 to mark the anniversary of India’s Infantry –– the world’s finest –– which celebrates its birthday on 27th October. The Infantry Day celebration lecture was attended by the services’ bigwigs, who gathered to hear EAM Yashwant Sinha, a former IAS Officer, who spoke eloquently and explained that India was on the world stage. He made no policy or intellectual statements but surveyed the world like a well-informed IDSA speaker should. He confirmed that India was a recognized nuclear state. India’s Chiefs, DGF, DIA and SFC must be well up on all this. Four new missile groups with Agni-1 and Prithvis were to be set up at Secundrabad. This was all good news for India’s security. It showed that India had come of age. India’s other achievements were extolled by all speakers at the Cariappa lecture. The Guest of Honour, former PM I K Gujral, was at his frank best and covered all problems of terrorism, Iraq, the world order and recommenced his Gujral doctrine of dialogue –– without calling it so. The Army Chief stressed again like other Chiefs have done at all previous Cariappa memorial lectures that the fine Indian Army was secular and Cariappa had ensured that it was apolitical. He mentioned his trip to the Philippines. 

Recently a former CAS, ACM N C Suri (in Congress and out of it) had stated in the new glossy defence magazine FORCE, that till 1995 he was never consulted on nuclear matters or kept updated. We hope that such is not the case today, because RM George Fernandes had stated that nuclear shelters were ready and India’s second strike was in place.

We hope that when the Commanders Conference takes place in end October and KASHMIR in all its totality is presented to the PM –– as reported in the media, the Army Commanders will speak frankly and give their approach right or wrong to Kashmir’s solution (military aspects), and the cry that the PM raised on 18th October in Panipat –– (the scene of three Indian battles when India was taken over by foreigners) –– that ‘POK will be discussed with Pakistan and regained’, is given due weightage. Is it militarily possible to take back POK or will it be a trap like Iraq, or was the statement just an election gimmick? To introspect, the book ‘Parakarm’ by ex-VCOAS Lt Gen V K Sood and Pravin Sawhney, is worth reading. It tells you how great and wonderful the Indian Army is but how poorly guided it is on the politico-military front. India’s leaders have always taken the soft stand as the Pioneer’s Oxford educated Swapan Dasgupta wrote on the front page on 19th October in “Pathways of Wrong Turns”. Those in government talk tough when elections are near, and that is the art of politics but there should be near truth told to the Military commanders so they are “all in the loop”. In the light of these thoughts we survey the present Indian scenario.

In India, Election fever like Dengue, is in the air. Millions of rupees in black and white will be spent on rallies, handouts and campaigning as it is survival time for the BJP led by the wily and charismatic PM Vajpayee and the Congress led by a dedicated Sonia Gandhi, the Samata party led by George Fernandes and Railway Minister Nitish Kumar and the many other regional parties. The coffers of all parties seem to be full as seen by what BSP leader Mayawati and SP Leaders Mulayam and Amar Singh have amassed but the BJP has the edge as they have been in power at a time when India’s economy zoomed. BJP is now attempting a workable strategy and may relegate the Babri Masjid issue, for their plank appears to be to highlight security issues and bash up Pakistan. Musharraf had better watch out. The guns are out, and as Lee Kuan Yew had advised –– use every trick in the book to get elected but then do what is good for the people and they will forget and forgive your promises. Indian politicians normally forget the latter once elected, as they have to recoup what they spent both in energy and in money.

It all starts with local bodies, civic corporations and club elections, and that too is in the air in Delhi. Indians believe Delhi is the center of the earth and today India is rich to buy what it wants, even in the largest sectors of purchases i.e. Defence and Oil ($20 billion), but transparency still evades the public’s scrutiny. Tehelka, Bofors, HDW and such are history. The Public Sector is here to stay for quite some time, so nothing much is likely to change, just as Defence Agents have not been appointed. The oil sector always had legal local agents as conduits and facilitators, so defence work will continue as before. It is therefore time to reflect on 9/11 and the Iraq war, which is changing history and look at where India’s security stands today.

This is also travel time and PM returned from ASEAN energized. National security and terrorism have become buzzwords and attacks on Pakistan will definitely help incite emotive appeal in the elections. Two militants targeted the CM Mufti’s house in Srinagar and TV showed the one-day battle. It was like we see Iraq happenings on BBC and CNN where US troops are learning what insurgency is all about. EAM Sinha was in Sri Lanka, MM Joshi was in Europe and the President with a large entourage including two Ministers and 20 journos was off to UAE and Sudan. RM George Fernandes left for Germany on 18th October for a week. He has been India’s Defence Minister for four years and PM Vajpayee the de facto C-in-C of the Armed Forces via Cabinet Control for the same period. The jury is out that on Defence matters the PM has relied completely on George, Jaswant Singh and Brajesh Mishra and the Chiefs of Staff have seldom gone forward to argue out a case they felt was important, because policy has never been their call, as it should be, in a democracy, and they should never be muzzled. Their honest counsel is invaluable. All over the world the Chiefs have access to the PM and this is scripted into the system but not yet in India. A CDS was to give single point advice but the appointment of an incumbent is still hanging fire, may be for an opportune political moment.

Two years ago after studying the lessons of the Kargil war (1999) the Government of India approved the post of a CDS –– Chief of Defence Staff, and an Integrated Defence HQ as an inescapable need for management of India’s higher defence and to coordinate planning and acquisitions. The new HQ with a staff of over 300 was put in place under an interim Chief of Integrated Defence Staff (Lt Gen PS Joshi) and CIDS was equated to the Vice Chiefs of Staff. Lt Gen K Dawar was appointed as DG of the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), and thereafter Air Marshal TM Asthana was appointed as the Strategic Force Commander in Air HQ for nuclear issues, but two years down the line the large organisation is still to deliver as Gen Pankaj Joshi told Jane’s weekly and added that each service vies for the defence cake independently, so he was helpless.

In the absence of a CDS, the three service Chiefs operate independently as equals, though the Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee is first among equals and guides common issues and oversees the newly formed Andaman and Nicobar Unified Command, where now an Army Lt Gen Thakur will add new thinking after his Naval predecessor. Yet at ceremonial functions the Chairman COS’s seniority is not counted but the Army is treated as the senior Service. Therein lies the dichotomy. In UK and at Independence Day in 1947, the Navy was the senior service. Now a new CISC –– Chief of Integrated Staff to the COSC, a naval Gunnery specialist VADM Raman Puri has taken over and we predict from media analysis that a CDS could well be put in place early next year, but till then Puri will attend to Security issues. 

The Navy is an internationally traveled service and has always questioned things. The Navy had Bhagwat too, who over questioned everything! All this is good for security issues –– to be introspected by new minds, and terrorism, which is plaguing the Army needs to be addressed with some aggressive actions, as USA seems to have let India down in curbing Pakistan. 

Manoj Joshi in TOI tells us that 458 security forces died in 2003 and please add 2 more BSF jawans who died on 18th October in Srinagar, while trying to clear the Chief Minister’s house of terrorists.

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