‘India Checkmates America –– 2017’ by Gen S Padmanabhan

An Exclusive IDC Book Review


New Delhi, 25 January 2004


A book by a thinking General, who steered the Indian Army through Op Parakaram in 2001–2002, which makes very interesting reading indeed. The book launch is slated for early February but we give you a peek into the book.

The 2017 scenario depicted in the book is plausible. Its main theme is about how India prepares to meet aggression against her by any developed country including the USA. The propensity of the USA to act unilaterally against other countries in disregard of the United Nations, was clearly demonstrated in the Iraq War in 2003. India too could face military action by the USA, under certain circumstances.

In the book such a circumstance, a casus belli, is provided by Pakistan in 2017. A short, sharp war ensues between India and Pakistan. India wins a resounding victory. The USA, which had intervened in the war on the side of her ally Pakistan, finds itself checkmated by a completely transformed and resilient India.

This book is in three parts. The first part covers the 15 years from 1989–2003, and deals selectively with how the policy of ‘Pre-emptive Intervention’ evolved and how Iraq became its hapless victim. The second part covers the next 15 years from 2003–2017. It is set generally in a South Asian context with the USA, a ‘lodger’ in Pakistan, playing a major role. India has been portrayed as a rapidly developing country having settled its border disputes with China in a spirit of mutual accommodation. A four-sided Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Co-operation is signed by India, China, Russia and Vietnam in 2015. The USA totally unhappy with the formation of this powerful grouping seeks an opportunity to degrade the new formation. Such an opportunity arises in 2017, thanks to the J&K problem. A ‘collision’ occurs between the USA and India with Pakistan also on the scene. The third part deals with the 60 hours of the conflict and its surprising conclusion. Peace is fully restored after meetings of the Security Council and various peacemakers.

The author concludes by making a strong case for strengthening the United Nations and endowing it with the wherewithal to make its writ run. Failure to do this and more, the author apprehends, will impose on the nations of the world, a ‘Pax Americana’, which will have as infelicitous an end as ‘Pax Romana’ or ‘Pax Britannia’.

For our visitors who go and buy this book or wish to enjoy the book, we give below the ORBAT of India and Pakistan under the heading ‘The Military Dispositions’, from open sources. This is to support the present peace initiatives as war between the two countries or the involvement of USA in the sub continent, projected by Gen S Padmanabhan in the first half of his book, will be to the detriment of the progress being made by India, which we are convinced will be a regional super power in the coming decade. We hope that our Supreme Commander Dr A P J Abdul Kalam's and now PM Vajpayee's dream can be realised.

Military Dispositions of India and Pakistan (From Open Sources)

Some of the basic formations that exist in both armies are virtually identical in India and Pakistan, indeed in most Western influenced armies, and as such some generalisations can be made. India and Pakistan operate two basic types of Divisions: Infantry and Armoured. India’s Infantry Divisions are divided into plains and mountain formations, which, as their names suggest, are trained and equipped to fight in different geographic environments. India’s 10 Mountain Divisions are primarily earmarked for use against China, though they could be converted for use on the plains after re-equipment. A typical Infantry Division comprises three Infantry Brigades, an Artillery Brigade and an Armoured Regiment. Support elements include an Engineer Regiment, a Signals Regiment and an Air Observation Post flight, in addition to medical, transport, supply and repair units. Mountain Divisions lack the Armoured Regiment and tend to have smaller calibre artillery. They also have more engineering and support/logistics elements than plains formations. The largest formation of the Army is the Corps. This formation, pioneered by Napoleon, consists of three Divisions and their supporting arms. In the South Asia context, there are two types of Indian Corps –– Holding Corps and Strike Corps. The former are designed for defensive operations while the latter is the principal offensive formation of both armies.

Indian Army ORBAT

With Headquarters in New Delhi, the Indian Army presently has five Theatre Commands ––Northern Command with HQ at Udhampur near Jammu (looking after J & K State), Western Command with HQ at Chandimandir (looking after Punjab and Rajasthan States with the borderline at Bikaner), Southern Command with HQ at Pune (looking after Gujarat and Maharashtra States), Central Command with HQ at Lucknow with one Strike Corps for the western border, and Eastern Command with its HQ at Calcutta (responsible for counter-insurgency in Assam and defending the Arunachal Pradesh State border with China). In effect, Pakistan is faced with the Northern, Western and Southern Commands even though the former’s troops are earmarked as Army Reserve in both Pakistan’s Central and Eastern Commands.

The Indian Army presently consists of 13 Corps-sized formations with a total of 36 Divisions and a number of Independent Brigades. The cutting edge of the Indian Army is centered around three powerful Strike Corps –– each built around one Armoured Division. The other 10 Corps are defined as Holding Corps, though they have significant offensive potential.

There may be some minor changes to the ORBAT, but no significant changes are expected in the foreseeable future, though modernisation is the credo. The Indian Army has four Engineer Brigades and 14 Army Aviation Corps Helicopter Units. A separate Corps of Air Defence Artillery (CADA) operates six Air Defence Brigades and two Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) groups. These elements are assigned to formations on a needed basis, though, with CADA units in particular, many are earmarked for deployment and operations with specific formations. As mentioned before, the principal offensive formations of the Indian Army are the three Strike Corps –– 1 Corps, 2 Corps and 21 Corps. These are built around a nucleus of a single Armoured Division and two Infantry Divisions –– with more mechanised brigades than basic infantry formations.

The Holding Corps are not as well supplied with support, from either CADA or the Engineers as the Strike Corps, and do not possess armoured formations larger than Brigades and the Armoured Regiments attached to the Infantry Regiments. These formations have significant offensive capability, but are largely designed to operate in a defensive role. The Indian Army also possesses a fairly varied arsenal of reasonably advanced weapons.

Each combat arm –– armour, artillery and infantry –– is currently in the process of a massive force modernisation programme, which was slowed in the early 1990s thanks to budgetary constraints. However, the programme has resumed and has started to show some results, which will have a significant impact on the ability of the Indian Army to operate in a hostile nuclear environment. The pace, if monitored on a year-by-year basis, may seem slow, but in reality the Indian Army is working to a well-conceived plan.

Pakistan Army ORBAT

The Pakistan Army is organised into nine Corps and Force Command Northern Area. These contain 22 Divisions, 15 Independent Brigades (six Armoured and nine Infantry), nine Corps of Artillery Brigades, seven Engineering Brigades and 15 Army Aviation Squadrons –– including two of Bell AH-1S Modernised Huey Cobra attack helicopters. In addition, the Pakistan Army has eight Air Defence Brigades. The Pakistani Brigades and Divisions are somewhat smaller than their Indian counterparts.

This ORBAT differs to a certain extent from that normally quoted. Pakistan’s two principal fighting formations are Army Reserve North (ARN) and Army Reserve South (ARS). These are an approximate equivalent to the Indian Strike Corps in terms of size and composition. These have, as in the case of their Indian counterparts, a nucleus of a single Armoured Division and up to two Infantry Divisions with numerous Brigades.

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