Going by the Kargil Review Committee recommendations, what will be the fate of the Naresh Chandra Committee recommendations—it will be implemented in what measure and in which era—is anybody’s guess
THIRTEEN YEARS AFTER KARGIL, where is India? Possibility of many more Kargils apart (as voiced by Musharraf) when the recent letter by General V.K. Singh, former Chief of Army Staff (COAS) to the Prime Minister got leaked, many non-military scholars voiced fears of a repeat of 1962. The government moved on with some reports planted in the media that finally the Defence Minister has cleared some major defence acquisitions. That was the end of the story! Of course there was the Naresh Chandra Committee (NCC) with no serving military officer as a member, not even a veteran COAS. Going by the Kargil Review Committee (KRC) recommendations, what will be the fate of the NCC recommendations —it will be implemented in what measure and in which era—is anybody’s guess.
Even if the lack of strategic culture in India is set aside, application of common sense would have led us to the following facts that stared us in the face, post-Kargil and continue to do so till date: India’s higher defence set up displayed gross inadequacy in undertaking strategic appreciations and in assessing the enemy’s intentions. Pitiable state of organisation of national level intelligence, including poor surveillance capabilities across the board. Technical intelligence (TECHINT) and communication intelligence (COMINT) are no substitute for human intelligence (HUMINT). While all forms of intelligence acquisition are important, HUMINT is a vital factor that cannot be ignored. Areas of our strategic interest need continued human surveillance. Sudden politico-bureaucratic peace illusions without military advice and substantiated by hard realities, is like living in a fool’s paradise. The military-Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) calls the shots in Pakistan. They are intimately linked to terrorist outfits and are breeding and accelerating radicalism. They should not be expected to give up their anti-India policies and proxy war. Deceit and backstabbing. The mere fact that their military (under Musharraf) refused to recognise the dead bodies of Northern Light Infantry, indicates how depraved their thinking can get. Discovery of gas masks with Pakistani RPG squads and the state of some of our deceased indicates that Pakistan will have no compunctions in using chemical ammunition in future as well. The nuclear bluff of Pakistan should have been ignored to punish it adequately, given our second strike capability. The dual China-Pakistan threat will first manifest in the mountains, concurrent to the ongoing asymmetric wars including terrorism and insurgencies being fanned in India by these two countries. There are no shortcuts to undertaking periodic strategic defence review, defining a national security strategy including outlining national security objectives, making defence acquisitions in line with the national security strategy and undertaking holistic reviews periodically. Arming and equipping troops at the cutting edge cannot be ignored in the backdrop of big ticket acquisitions. Ignoring the frontline troops will cost us many lives which can be avoided. The stupidity of Pakistani troops in engaging our patrols prematurely during the Kargil intrusions was actually a blessing in disguise. Had they held their fire until the passes were snowed out, the embarrassment of India would have grown manifold. Movement of troops, guns, equipment and ammunition into Ladakh would have been possible only by air, and dislodging the enemy at those heights during winters sans adequate equipment and clothing, much more difficult.
Organisation of Defence
India’s lack of strategic culture cannot be rectified till the military is integrated into all matters security, in an institutionalised manner. Armed forces jointness simply has to become an imperative. Though it will cause unease in bureaucratic circles, the Prime Minister, the External Affairs Minister, the Defence Minister, the Home Minister and the National Security Advisor should all have individual Military Advisory Cells, comprising serving and veteran military officers. The NSA and Deputy NSA must alternate between a military veteran and the bureaucrat. A Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) (recommended as Permanent Chairman COSC by Naresh Chandra Committee) should be appointed without further loss of time. Similarly, the NSAB and NSCS must have both serving and veteran military representation. A holistic defence strategic review must be undertaken and reviewed periodically, with a national security strategy defined national security objectives outlined. HQ Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) must be fully integrated into the MoD, duly interfaced with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
Organisation of the Intelligence
Efforts to integrate all the nine major intelligence agencies and ushering accountability into them through Parliamentary oversight have been half-hearted at best till now. Our areas of strategic interest continue to be devoid of HUMINT surveillance. We not only need an Integrated Special Forces Command (also recommended by the Naresh Chandra Committee) but also a national policy for employment of Special Forces. The potential of these special troops must be optimised through their covert deployment in areas of our strategic interest. Additionally, the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) must not be stopped from its mandated task of operating trans-border sources.
Military modernisation must take into account envisaged threats and war making potential of our adversaries. Undertaking modernisation in isolation and without basing it on a national security strategy is dangerous. Considering the increased potential of irregular, non-traditional and asymmetric threats; upgrading, arming and equipping frontline troops must be given due priority. The Indian Military desperately requires a revolution in military affairs (RMA). The government and the military would do well to appoint permanent bodies within the government and HQ IDS to specifically look at RMA holistically in all its manifestations. MoD should also outsource refining the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) to a team of experts to include the military, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), the private sector and think tanks instead of making annual cosmetic changes internally.
The debate between defence expenditure and finding money for other expenditures is endless, but considering the snowballing pension bill—every year some 60,00070,000 personnel proceed on pension, the fact remains that there is very little of the defence budget for modernisation. The KRC had recommended that after reduced colour service of seven years, military personnel be absorbed laterally into the Central Armed Police Forces but that is never going to make the political dispensation happy. So what should we do for generating more money for defence modernisation? While we should not emulate China and Pakistan in permitting the military run commercialised ventures, we could perhaps de-link pensions from the defence budget and bring it under respective state budgets, as in Pakistan.
Development of technology must be focused, integrating national talent and resources to cater to five dimensional conflicts (aerospace, land, sea, cyber, electromagnetic), all operationalised forms warfare (information warfare, C4I2 warfare, electronic warfare, cyber warfare) and new forms of combat; space combat, cyber space combat, radiation combat, robotic combat, nano-technology combat, etc. Spacebased laser and plasma weapons overtaking nuclear weapons is not a utopian fantasy. Besides, robotic wars and mind controlled zombie wars are fast developing into realities while technologies for capturing satellites and high-tech drones are also being developed. Without focused national effort, our chances of winning future conflict may be little. We need fully-networked forces, better precision guided munitions (PGMs) including high energy lasers, plasma, electro-magnetic, ultrasonic, DEWs, long-range strategic aerospace platforms, improved intelligence surveillance reconnaissance (ISR) and communications systems, stealth and smart technologies, compact nukes, nano weapons-equipment, micro UAVs, ant robots, cyber warriors, worms, virus and cy-bugs anti-satellite weapons (ASATs), etc.
India has been at distinct disadvantage in dealing with non-traditional threats. We have not created adequate deterrence to trans-border asymmetric threats and the security sector at home is not organised. The latter is evident from the manner in which the Maoist insurgency is being handled. The fact that the Home Minister himself recommends a separate Ministry of Homeland Security indicates the MHA is not adequately organised to meet current and future challenges. The National Counter terrorism centre (NCTC) appears getting diluted even before establishment and the required state level SCTCs are yet to be conceptualised. The national intelligence grid (NATGRID) is still some way off. The CAPF units need reorganisation on lines of the Rashtriya Rifles and Assam Rifles units.
The KRC Report stated, “A Kargil-type situation could perhaps have been avoided had the Indian Army followed a policy of Siachenisation to plug un-held gaps along the 168-km stretch from Kaobal Gali to Chorbat La. Look at this irony and the recent clamour to demilitarise Siachen itself on the mere utterance of Kiyani and Nawaz Sharif.
There is a crying need to grasp the above lessons of Kargil in their true perspective and initiate remedial measures speedily. The military and security interests need to be recognised and not treated as clashing with national interests, failing which there can be more Kargils. This is all the more important with the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) warning of emerging conflict situation vis-à-vis China.