Chal­lenges for In­dian De­fence Forces from within the Coun­try

India Strategic - - CONTENTS - By Air Chief Mar­shal AY Tip­nis (Retd)

NEW DELHI. In­de­pen­dent In­dia was lit­er­ally born in a state of in­se­cu­rity given its vi­o­lent di­vi­sion into two dif­fer­ent na­tions; two na­tions that had con­flict­ing ide­olo­gies. Pak­istan, the re­sult of this frac­ture, sought to an­nex Kash­mir by force and con­tin­ued its mis­ad­ven­ture, even af­ter the Ma­haraja of Jammu & Kash­mir (J&K) signed the In­stru­ment of Ac­ces­sion to In­dia. The In­dian Army (IA), sup­ported by the In­dian Air Force (IAF), had suc­ceeded in push­ing back the Pak­istan­backed raiders; J&K would have been cleared of the raiders and there would have been no J&K “prob­lem”, had the IA been al­lowed to com­plete the task given to it. In­stead, the In­dian Gov­ern­ment, with a mis­placed sense of ide­al­ism, uni­lat­er­ally called a cease-fire, re­fer­ring the is­sue to the United Na­tions (UN) for ar­bi­tra­tion. Thus a prob­lem, that would have never been there, had the IA been al­lowed to com­plete its task, was cre­ated, con­tin­u­ing to re­main for 70 years, get­ting ex­ac­er­bated with the pas­sage of time. De­spite our early ex­pe­ri­ence of an in­im­i­cal neigh­bour us­ing force to achieve its ob­jec­tive, again with im­prac­ti­cal ide­al­ism, our first prime min­is­ter (PM) con­sid­ered the de­fence forces an anachro­nism in the post World War II era, be­liev­ing that a po­lice force was all that In­dia needed! Gen­eral Cari­appa, the first In­dian chief of IA, had at­tempted to cau­tion the PM about the threat that China could pose to In­dia; he was peremp­to­rily told that an army chief had no busi­ness to ad­vice the gov­ern­ment on pol­i­tics!! To drive home the point, the post of army chief, hith­erto to re­ferred as the Com­man­derin-Chief of IA, was lit­er­ally down­graded to that of a staff of­fi­cer, by re-des­ig­nat­ing it as the Chief of Staff of the Army (COAS).

Ur­gent needs of the de­fence forces, not only of weapons and mu­ni­tions, but of cloth­ing and equip­ment were ne­glected. Chain of com­mand within the forces was in­ter­fered with and in­com­pe­tent of­fi­cers given as­sign­ments be­yond their cal­i­bre. Mil­i­tary ad­vice by the Eastern Army Com­man­der on where and how to stop the Chi­nese was over-ruled. The re­sult? The fi­asco of 1962, the ut­ter rout, of what was then con­sid­ered the finest fight­ing force.

Come 1965, de­spite be­ing qual­i­ta­tively (weapon-wise) in­fe­rior to the Amer­i­canequipped Pak­istan forces, and caught of­f­guard by the Pak­istani de­sign to cut-off J&K from the rest of In­dia by sev­er­ing its only road-link, the In­dian forces not only check­mated Pak­istan, but had cap­tured sev­eral key strate­gic fea­tures (Ha­jiPir Pass should ring a bell to read­ers) in Pak­istan-oc­cu­piedKash­mir (POK). Against mil­i­tary ad­vice In­dia va­cated th­ese posts that con­tinue to ha­rass IA po­si­tions to­day.

In­dian de­fence forces’ crown­ing glory came in 1971 with the lib­er­a­tion of Bangladesh; a re­sound­ing vic­tory, ac­knowl­edged world-wide as a su­perla­tive mil­i­tary achieve­ment; yet we are hes­i­tant to give it the promi­nence it de­serves. A be­fit­ting war-me­mo­rial, to ac­knowl­edge the val­our and sac­ri­fice of In­dian war­riors dur­ing war and (so-called) peace, is yet to be es­tab­lished. The mil­i­tary vic­tory, with

93,000 pris­on­ers-of-war (POWs) could have re­solved sev­eral Indo-Pak is­sues, had the mil­i­tary hi­er­ar­chy been brought in to the loop of post-war (Shimla Meet­ing) ne­go­ti­a­tions. This look-back in to his­tory has been made to il­lus­trate how the es­sen­tial needs of the armed forces, to ful­fill their tasks, have not been ad­dressed with the se­ri­ous­ness they de­serve; pro­fes­sional mil­i­tary ad­vice is ei­ther not sought, or is left un­heeded.

The sit­u­a­tion, in­stead of im­prov­ing, has con­tin­u­ously wors­ened. The Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser (NSA) of­fice, has never been staffed, leave alone headed by mil­i­tary per­son­nel. Sta­tus, pay & al­lowances of mil­i­tary per­son­nel see a down­ward trend. Armed forces are com­pared with para­mil­i­tary forces and the po­lice; in­sen­si­tive state­ments by politi­cians seek to la­bel na­tion’s war­riors as mer­ce­nar­ies.

Armed Forces Special Pow­ers Act (AFSPA) is sought to be re­pealed. Politi­cians and cit­i­zens do not un­der­stand and fail to get ac­quainted with rea­sons why and how armed forces are re­quired to be em­ployed in in­ter­nal se­cu­rity. When in­volved in in­ter­nal se­cu­rity du­ties, armed forces can­not and must not op­er­ate as para-mil­i­tary do; the mil­i­tary is the last in­stru­ment of ex­er­cis­ing state power, it must be al­lowed to act in the way it is meant to and trained for. If its meth­ods are con­sid­ered too harsh, the state must de­sist from us­ing it. But even more im­por­tantly, cit­i­zens have to un­der­stand that un­der no cir­cum­stance they can con­front the armed forces, for in do­ing so one be­comes an en­emy of the state.

Alas, the cussed­ness of our “shooty­our­self-in-the-foot” syn­drome does not end here: The Supreme Court, suo moto, de­clares that the guardian of our cit­i­zens, the sol­dier, will be slapped with a First In­for­ma­tion Re­port (FIR) for shoot­ing a per­son who con­fronts him. Do their lord­ships un­der­stand the term, “fog of war” to por­tray the con­fu­sion in a war-like sit­u­a­tion? Do they know the rules of en­gage­ment for Amer­i­can, Is­raelis, Pak­istani or any other na­tion­al­ity sol­dier? Ad­vanced coun­tries, not only arm and kit their sol­diers with greater sophistication, their laws en­sure im­mu­nity against pub­lic lit­i­ga­tion. Is the sol­dier ex­pected to do his duty in the field, or worry about a law­suit against him? Mil­i­tary courts are meant to try bat­tle-field atroc­i­ties; do not take away their func­tion. Are we car­ing more for an en­emy of the state than for the sol­dier who pro­tects us?!

It is cru­cial that our law- mak­ers ( par­lia­men­tar­i­ans), law- in­ter­preters (ju­di­ciary), the watch­dogs (me­dia), cit­i­zens, clearly un­der­stand the dif­fer­ence be­tween the armed forces and para-mil­i­tary, cen­tral armed po­lice, armed con­stab­u­lary, po­lice forces. Their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and their em­pow­er­ment differ vastly. Pos­si­bly be­cause their em­ploy­ments have been over-lap­ping one another’s fields, a lot of con­fu­sion has arisen; our “Tower of Ba­bel” mind­less pub­lic de­bates have only con­vo­luted the sit­u­a­tion fur­ther. Ed­u­ca­tion in this field is es­sen­tial.

A rea­son for in­abil­ity to dis­tin­guish be­tween de­fence and in­ter­nal se­cu­rity/ law en­force­ment agen­cies is the sim­i­lar­ity be­tween their uni­forms and rank badges. It is im­por­tant that the armed (de­fence) forces have uni­forms and rank badges that are dis­tinctly dif­fer­ent from the oth­ers. A war­rior’s ap­pear­ance must have a men­ac­ing look to de­ter any­one from con­fronting him; other se­cu­rity agen­cies must not em­u­late them. The chal­lenges fac­ing our forces are in­creas­ing, not de­creas­ing. No state in­sti­tu­tion or cit­i­zen should un­der­mine their power:


(Right) Su­dan Block at Na­tional De­fence Acad­emy, Pune

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