Stop these attacks on the Indian Army

Those who lack knowledge on a subject should avoid commenting.

 |  5-minute read |   23-03-2018
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In a recent article in the Business Standard, Abhijit Iyer Mitra commented that while the Budget this year has little for defence modernisation, the fault lies with the Army. He defended his argument with examples, most of which were misplaced and ill-founded. In fact, the entire piece appeared to be written without any tactical or strategic knowledge, inputs based on incomplete data and complete lack of understanding on military matters.

The only portion which makes sensible reading is his assessment of the present government’s attitude to matters pertaining to national security. The fact that the nation has had four defence ministers in as many years, with the finance minister holding the portfolio twice, yet ignoring defence preparedness, appears inexplicable.

His contention that the Army should be downsized quoting the example of China is again ill-conceived. China as a nation has no neighbour seeking claims on its territory, on the contrary it seeks to reclaim from all its neighbours. Thus, no nation threatens Chinese mainland unless China takes the initiative and launches operations. India on the other hand has hostile neighbours on both its major borders, seeking to grab territory. Pakistan claims Jammu & Kashmir while China claims Arunachal Pradesh and minor pockets in other sectors.


Both India’s borders are earmarked as Line of Control and Line of Actual Control. This implies, if not strongly defended they could be up for grabs, by the enemy. India holds its defences generally along the watershed, implying holding the heights, which benefit the defender and put pressure on the attacker. India’s recent actions of raising a mountain corps has sound logic.

Until recently, India only believed in defending its borders against China. Hence any success by them would remain to their advantage. No matter how many attacks are repelled and how strong is the defence, the attacker would achieve success somewhere, despite disproportionate losses.

By raising a mountain corps for offensive operations, it seeks to also capture some territory, which could then become a bargaining chip on the table. Anyone who has pursued history would know that discussions post 1965 and 1971, territory captured were bargaining chips during the final peace talks. Further, the threat of Indian troops moving into Tibet could cause concern to China and thus be an element preventing an all-out conflict.

Abhijit Iyer Mitra raised an issue on the Army permitting shortfalls of ammunition to accumulate. He is definitely unaware that every year the Army has been raising the state of its ammunition holdings to the government. This is easy as it controls all depots which house them. Reports of stockholding flow at very frequent intervals and these are timely projected to the MoD. The delay has been in the inking of contracts at the MoD and shortfalls in manufacture by the Ordnance factories. 

The armed forces always need to cater for the worst, while seeking to prevent that. For India, the worst is a two-front offensive, which it would always seek to prevent, but needs to be prepared for. Hence, all senior officers keep mentioning this fact. Active Army strength is evaluated based on deployment on borders, troops for offensive operations and those who would still be battling militancy while the Army fights a war. The tooth would need to remain strong, while the tail (supporting echelons) could be reduced. This is in progress at present.

He quoted Pakistan’s example of employing cheap anti-tank missiles to thwart Indian armour advantage. Again, a case of poor understanding of military tactics and strategy. Cheap anti-tank missiles are never an answer of which even Pakistan is aware. Any tank warfare specialist would clarify that tanks have greater range and accuracy as also better protection. Missiles are mainly a deterrent and have limited value. Pakistan fears Indian armoured thrusts. Hence, it has manufactured tactical nuclear weapons as a deterrence. It has also in its nuclear strategy delegated its employment to lower levels, enhancing risks of nuclear proliferation.

He goes on to criticise the Army’s version of futuristic combat vehicles, without even considering the terrain on which they would be employed. Indo-Pak borders where armour operations are envisaged range from riverine in Punjab, multi-obstacle systems in plains and semi-desert, and open deserts. Thus, one type of vehicle should be capable of multiple employment. This would be economic in manufacture and maintenance in the long-term.

His logic behind the Vice chief of staff's comment on one-third of state-of-the-art category,one-third in current category and one-third in vintage is again warped. While every nation would desire to have all its equipment in state-of-the-art category, changing them at the drop of a hat is illogical. Thus, to be financially prudent, the concept of one-third is considered as a norm the world over. As the state-of-art category commences induction, the vintage is withdrawn and the current moves into the vintage category.

Thus, modernisation is a continuous process. In case the Budget is hampered as has been happening, the vintage would increase while the state-of-the-art would reduce, impacting preparedness. As Punjab CM Amarinder Singh stated about his own battalion, now deployed in the Valley, soldiers prefer AK series of weapons to Indian manufactured INSAS rifles. 

His concept of remedies is way from the truth. While it is always the man behind the gun which counts, but the man cannot hold vintage weapons which fail at periodic intervals. Disposal of lands or reducing a few facilities which exist in cantonments would not change its operational efficiency. The Army is aware of the environment in which it would be required to operate, has hence changed its strategic and tactical aims and is prepared for their implementation.

The Army’s domination of its adversaries and denying them the ability to damage national pride is solely because of its awareness of the scenario and preparedness to counter.

While it is for the government to allocate funds for defence preparedness, as it remains responsible for national security, the Army being the force on ground has a right to raise its voice. Ultimately, as the Army chief, General Bipin Rawat stated, the Army will fight with whatever it has and would never let the nation down.

Those who lack knowledge on a subject should avoid commenting as once corrected would indicate their shallow understanding. Further, it would convey post-truth rather than reality.

Also read: How JNU administration launched a targeted attack on anti-sexual harassment watchdog




Harsha Kakar Harsha Kakar @kakar_harsha

The writer is a retired Major-General of the Indian Army and author of the book, Harsha Kakar writes.

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