Meet­ing Fu­ture Se­cu­rity Chal­lenges

The Kargil War was not the first time when Pak­istan ini­ti­ated a war, and we must not as­sume that it would be the last time. In­dia will re­main vul­ner­a­ble to such threats along its dis­puted borders un­less it builds a cred­i­ble will and ca­pa­bil­ity to de­ter an


ASTRATEGICALLY CON­SCIOUS NA­TION com­mem­o­rates its his­tor­i­cal na­tional se­cu­rity events for three rea­sons: to re­mem­ber and pay homage to those who sac­ri­ficed their lives for the na­tion’s fu­ture, to re­call lessons that emerged from that event and to pledge for a safer and bet­ter fu­ture. When the na­tion cel­e­brates the 13th an­niver­sary of the Kargil War, it is an ap­pro­pri­ate oc­ca­sion to re­call its im­por­tant lessons and our ca­pa­bil­ity to meet fu­ture se­cu­rity chal­lenges.

The Kargil War can be re­mem­bered for its strate­gic and tac­ti­cal sur­prise, the self­im­posed na­tional strat­egy of re­straint keep­ing the war lim­ited to the Kargil-Si­achen sec­tor, mil­i­tary strat­egy and plan­ning, in keep­ing with the po­lit­i­cal man­date, and the ded­i­ca­tion, de­ter­mi­na­tion and courage of our sol­diers and ju­nior lead­ers de­spite sev­eral de­fi­cien­cies in weapons and equip­ment. In fiercely fought com­bat ac­tions, on dif­fi­cult ter­rain that gave im­mense ad­van­tage to the en­emy hold­ing moun­tain-tops, we were able to evict Pak­istani troops from most of their sur­rep­ti­tiously oc­cu­pied po­si­tions. Pak­istani lead­er­ship was forced to sue for cease­fire and seek with­drawal of its troops from the re­main­ing ar­eas. Op­er­a­tion Vi­jay (code name for the war) was a blend of de­ter­mined po­lit­i­cal, mil­i­tary and diplo­matic ac­tions, which en­abled us to trans­form an ad­verse sit­u­a­tion into a politi­comil­i­tary vic­tory.

Sev­eral lessons emerged from the war, which re­quired a holis­tic na­tional se­cu­rity re­view as well as re­think­ing on the na­ture of con­flict in the new strate­gic en­vi­ron­ment and con­duct of wars. Some im­por­tant lessons were: There may be re­mote chances of a fullscale con­ven­tional war be­tween two nu­clear weapon states but as long as there are ter­ri­tory-re­lated dis­putes (cur­rently we have them with China and Pak­istan), the ad­ver­sary can in­dulge in a proxy war, a lim­ited bor­der war, or both. Po­lit­i­cal re­luc­tance in In­dia to adopt a proac­tive strat­egy in­vari­ably leads us to a re­ac­tive mil­i­tary sit­u­a­tion. Be­sides, no loss of ter­ri­tory is ac­cept­able to the pub­lic and the po­lit­i­cal au­thor­ity. It is, there­fore, es­sen­tial to have cred­i­ble strate­gic and tac­ti­cal in­tel­li­gence and as­sess­ments, ef­fec­tive sur­veil­lance, and close de­fence of the bor­der. Suc­cess­ful out­come of a bor­der war de­pends upon our abil­ity to re­act rapidly. The new strate­gic en­vi­ron­ment calls for faster de­ci­sion-mak­ing, ver­sa­tile com­bat or­gan­i­sa­tions, rapid de­ploy­ment and syn­ergy amongst all el­e­ments in­volved in the war ef­fort, par­tic­u­larly the three ser­vices. A con­ven­tional war may re­main lim­ited be­cause of cred­i­ble de­ter­rence and es­ca­la­tion dom­i­nance. Such de­ter­rence may pre­vent a war; it will also give more room for ma­noeu­vre in diplo­macy and con­flict. A war in the new strate­gic en­vi­ron­ment re­quires close po­lit­i­cal over­sight and politico-civil-mil­i­tary in­ter­ac­tion. It is es­sen­tial to keep the mil­i­tary lead­er­ship within the se­cu­rity and strate­gic de­ci­sion-mak­ing loop. In­for­ma­tion oper­a­tions are im­por­tant due to much greater trans­parency of the bat­tle­field. The po­lit­i­cal re­quire­ment of a mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion and to re­tain mo­ral high ground (and deny that to the ad­ver­sary) needs a com­pre­hen­sive me­dia and in­for­ma­tion strat­egy. In the last 13 years, the armed forces have fol­lowed up on many of these lessons. The war had high­lighted gross in­ad­e­qua­cies in our sur­veil­lance ca­pa­bil­ity. Some ac­tion has been taken to im­prove all­weather sur­veil­lance and closer de­fence of bor­der along the line of con­trol (LoC). This ca­pa­bil­ity along the line of ac­tual con­trol (LAC), how­ever, has not im­proved to the de­sired level. In­di­vid­ual ser­vice and joint ser­vices doc­trines have been re­vised. More Spe­cial Forces units have been added to the strength of each ser­vice.

Higher De­fence Man­age­ment

Af­ter the war, the gov­ern­ment had car­ried out a Na­tional Se­cu­rity Re­view in 2002. The Se­cu­rity Re­view had rec­om­mended cre­ation of the post of Chief of De­fence Staff (CDS) to pro­vide a sin­gle-point mil­i­tary ad­vice to the gov­ern­ment and to re­solve sub­stan­tive in­ter-ser­vice doc­tri­nal, plan­ning, pol­icy and op­er­a­tional is­sues. This is nec­es­sary be­cause in In­dia, turf wars, in­ter-ser­vice ri­val­ries, bu­reau­cratic de­lays and po­lit­i­cal vac­il­la­tion in de­ci­sion-mak­ing be­come ma­jor hur­dles in de­fence plan­ning which is tardy, com­pet­i­tive and thus un­eco­nom­i­cal. Due to lack of po­lit­i­cal will and in­ter-ser­vice dif­fer­ences, this im­por­tant rec­om­men­da­tion was not im­ple­mented. Se­lec­tive and cos­metic im­ple­men­ta­tion of rec­om­men­da­tions, with­out chang­ing rules of busi­ness, has en­sured a sta­tus quo in the higher de­fence con­trol and its de­ci­sion-mak­ing pro­cesses.

In the new strate­gic en­vi­ron­ment of un­pre­dictabil­ity, en­hanced in­ter­ac­tiv­ity and much faster plan­ning and de­ci­sion-mak­ing, a face to face politico-mil­i­tary di­a­logue and its con­ti­nu­ity is crit­i­cal to suc­cess in strate­gic and op­er­a­tional is­sues. Only that can en­able the re­quired syn­ergy and op­ti­mise de­fence and op­er­a­tional plan­ning. Un­for­tu­nately, our po­lit­i­cal lead­ers re­main in­hib­ited in dis­cussing se­cu­rity and de­fence pol­icy is­sues with mil­i­tary lead­ers di­rectly. They feel more se­cure be­hind a bu­reau­cratic cur­tain and ad­vice. As a re­sult they are not ad­e­quately con­ver­sant with mil­i­tary pur­poses, ca­pa­bil­i­ties, con­straints and ef­fects; and mil­i­tary lead­er­ship in peace­time, when we have to do de­fence plan­ning and pre­pare for war con­tin­gen­cies, re­mains out of the strate­gic de­ci­sion-mak­ing loop. The na­tional se­cu­rity frame­work is not in sync with the needs of new se­cu­rity chal­lenges or healthy civil-mil­i­tary re­la­tions.

This re­al­i­sa­tion has made the gov­ern­ment or­der yet an­other re­view un­der the Naresh Chan­dra Com­mit­tee. If the rec­om­men­da­tions of this Com­mit­tee—now un­der study in the gov­ern­ment—are pro­cessed and im­ple­mented in the same old man­ner, In­dia would lose yet an­other op­por­tu­nity to make its na­tional se­cu­rity more ef­fec­tive.

De­fi­cien­cies in Weapons/Equip­ment and Mod­erni­sa­tion

When the Kargil War broke out, our hold­ings and re­serves of weapons, am­mu­ni­tion and equip­ment were in a de­pleted state due to con­tin­u­ous lack of bud­getary sup­port, te­dious pro­cure­ment sys­tem, and rais­ing of units with­out sanc­tions for weapons and equip­ment. To the me­dia, I had to say, “We will fight with what­ever we have.”

It is ev­i­dent from the let­ter writ­ten by the former Chief of Army Staff to the Prime Min­is­ter on March 12, 2012, that de­fi­cien­cies in our war wastage re­serves con­tinue. He com­plained that the Army’s air de­fence weapon sys­tems were ob­so­lete, the in­fantry was de­fi­cient of crew served weapons and lacked night fight­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties, and its tank fleet was de­void of crit­i­cal am­mu­ni­tion. He al­leged that there was “hol­low­ness in the pro­ce­dures and pro­cess­ing time for pro­cure­ments as well as le­gal im­ped­i­ments by ven­dors”. The gov­ern­ment has failed to rec­tify this chronic prob­lem which has dogged the na­tion for decades.

Mod­erni­sa­tion of In­dian armed forces con­tin­ues to lag be­hind due to in­ad­e­quate self-re­liance, fear of scams and re­luc­tance to pro­cure es­sen­tial equip­ment from abroad. De­spite a large net­work of De­fence Re­search and De­vel­op­ment Or­gan­i­sa­tion (DRDO) lab­o­ra­to­ries, ord­nance fac­to­ries and de­fence pub­lic sec­tor un­der­tak­ings, we con­tinue to im­port 70 per cent of our weapons and equip­ment. The gov­ern­ment de­sires that pri­vate sec­tor in­vests in de­fence in­dus­try and ob­tains higher tech­nol­ogy from abroad. But due to vested in­ter­est of the de­fence pub­lic sec­tor un­der­tak­ings and its bu­reau­cratic con­trol, it has failed to pro­vide a level play­ing field to In­dian and for­eign pri­vate com­pa­nies. The newly es­tab­lished De­fence Ac­qui­si­tion Coun­cil and Pro­cure­ment Board have been un­able to speed up pro­cesses for de­vel­op­ment, ac­qui­si­tion and pro­cure­ment.

Sev­eral lessons emerged from the war, which re­quired a holis­tic na­tional se­cu­rity re­view as well as re­think­ing on the na­ture of con­flict in the new strate­gic en­vi­ron­ment and con­duct of wars

Civil-Mil­i­tary Re­la­tions

A re­flec­tion on the Kargil War can never be com­plete with­out a men­tion of the bril­liant ju­nior lead­er­ship and morale that we wit­nessed dur­ing bat­tles. There were count­less acts of ex­tra­or­di­nary valour, courage and grit to achieve what would have ap­peared im­pos­si­ble un­der nor­mal cir­cum­stances. Com­mand­ing of­fi­cers of many in­fantry bat­tal­ions dis­played steely re­silience and sin­gle­minded de­vo­tion to duty. These leg­endry tales de­serve men­tion not only in our mil­i­tary his­tory books but also in the text­books

Gen­eral (Retd) V.P. Ma­lik pay­ing trib­ute to Kargil mar­tyrs at Ma­jor San­deep Shankla War Memo­rial at Panchkula

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