Modi scripts an Army reset – Madhav D. Nalapat

Uri Army Base near Srinagar

Narendra Modi chairs meeting on air strikes against Pakistan terrorists

Prof M. D. NalapatGiven the complete support that the Pakistan army is getting from its Chinese counterpart, senior officials expect that PM Modi will follow up his bold decision on Uri by enforcing accountability mechanisms and procurement systems that ensure that the military in India is made fully capable of “offensive defense” in case of need. – Prof Madhav D. Nalapat

The removal of the Uri Brigade Commander is the start of a new accountability drive led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, senior officials say. They add that the cross-LoC post-Uri operation was from start to finish “a PM Modi initiative”. Highly placed sources confirm that the Prime Minister was emphatic from the start of the crisis that he was “not in the same pacifist mould of some of his predecessors”, and that on his watch, the Indian armed forces would need to react in a manner such that GHQ Rawalpindi finally begins to pay a steeper and steeper price for its terror operations against India. The decade when Manmohan Singh was in charge of governance was “a disaster for military preparedness in India, a fact known to the Pakistan army”, which consequently sought to unsettle the Narendra Modi government with an unprecedented series of cross-border strikes across the Line of Control as well as Punjab, 23 in total since 26 May 2014, which have involved attacks on security forces. In the process, more than 60 suicide bombers from GHQ Rawalpindi’s kamikaze squad have been sent to hell, with a further 98 despatched in a similar direction through interdiction on the LoC. This is not counting the 14 suicide bombers killed during two attacks on Indian diplomatic missions in Afghanistan. All this has taken place in the shadow of a very public outreach by Modi to his counterpart in Islamabad, Nawaz Sharif, who it is well known has less power over the Pakistan army than the donkeys used by that country for the transport of equipment and supplies along the Karakoram route.

High-level sources expect Prime Minister Modi to “enforce accountability on the highest echelons of the military” for the fact that fully 15 of the 23 security installations whose perimeter and sometimes inner line defences were breached, were managed by the Indian Army. What is termed as “Modi Luck” played a major role in ensuring that casualties and damage on the Indian side were small in almost all these security breaches. However, thus far the Manmohan Singh policy of refusing to enforce accountability on the top brass of the military had been largely continued by the present government “and this has now been replaced with a (Modivian) insistence on accountability and punishment”, a senior official opined. He claimed that “credible reports existed that GHQ Rawalpindi was informed that there was a celebratory party at the Uri Brigade Headquarters on the day of the attack and that consequently, security would be more relaxed”, in view of the high spirits common on such occasions.

Lt Gen Philip CamposeWho informed GHQ Rawalpindi of the party, if indeed such celebrations took place? There is also a report that “the brigadier in charge of the post was a golf aficionado who spent much time on his favourite game and to whom tending the golf course was a priority”. It is expected that “in place of the cover ups which took place after the Kargil infiltration and occupation and subsequent lapses in security, this time around there will be an intensive investigation into not just Uri but Pathankot as well”. Another official warned that “any slackness in bringing those responsible for security lapses to account would facilitate a fresh incursion by GHQ’s kamikaze squads. “There has to be 100% prevention of enemy breach of security at important military infrastructure, and the repeated attacks show that such a situation has yet to be ensured”, a top official warned, adding that “as yet, action on few of the recommendations made by the Lt-Gen Philip Campose April 2016 report on security in military installations have been initiated, leave alone completed”.

Manmohan SinghUnder Manmohan Singh, the ratio of revenue expenditure to capital expenditure in the armed forces has risen to 5:1 in the Army, as against 1:1 in the Navy and 2:1 in the Air Force. All three are below desirable norms for the respective services in any calculation of military “tooth to tail” efficiency. During the UPA period, the War Wastage Reserve in the advent of all out conflict fell to less than ten days, as against a desirable level of 40 days, while the quantum of ammunition inducted was less than a fifth of what would be needed in order for full combat readiness. Matters have, however, improved significantly after Manohar Parrikar took over as a whole-time Defence Minister, despite the Raksha Mantri’s Antony-style weekend forays to his home state. “However, as yet the top brass has resisted the drive for greater accountability in their ranks, having gotten used to the laxity of the Manmohan period”, an official revealed.

Among the many issues unaddressed by Manmohan Singh was the fact that the orange stock and butt of the INSAS rifle make it easy to spot by terrorists armed by GHQ Rawalpindi with night vision goggles. Also as yet, the need for 200,000 more 7.62mm assault rifles has not been met, while in sectors of possible future action such as the Northeast, even sand bags are in short supply, not to mention body armour, air defence systems, night vision equipment, artillery and ammunition. Bureaucratic objections by babus, who cannot recognise a rifle from a golf club, have stalled the induction of critically needed equipment such as 4,000 light machine guns and 40,000 carbines. Manmohan Singh left office leaving behind an Army with a shortage of 31,000 soldiers and 9,000 officers, and a sniper force of only 3,000, a third of what is needed. Apart from the fact that not even a single new artillery gun has been inducted since 1987, the crucial Arjun Mk-II tank program is lagging dangerously behind schedule, as are other DRDO procurement programs because of laggard implementation and superfluous changes in specifications masterminded by those secretly in the pay of international arms cartels. Even an item as needed for combat as bulletproof jackets have been pending procurement since 2008, with less than 50,000 available against a need of 400,000, while A. K. Antony’s much touted 17 Mountain Strike Corps remains a dream, rather than an operationally significant reality.

As for the Air Force, the Rafale has had a chequered record in Libya, although the IAF version is considered better, while the Navy needs many more platforms than it has at present. Given the complete support that the Pakistan army is getting from its Chinese counterpart, senior officials expect that PM Modi will follow up his bold decision on Uri by enforcing accountability mechanisms and procurement systems that ensure that the military in India is made fully capable of “offensive defense” in case of need. – Sunday Guardian, 2 October 2016

» Prof Madhav Das Nalapat (M. D. Nalapat) is an Indian academic and columnist. Currently Editorial Director of The Sunday Guardian and ITV Network (India), Vice-Chair of Manipal University’s Advanced Research Group, and Director of the Department of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Karnataka.

Narendra Modi