By Colonel, Awadhesh Kumar, Veteran, Special Forces
Army Chief General Bipin Rawat recently met the Commanders of the Southern Army, Western Army, Eastern Army,Central Army and the South Western Army. VCOAS along with the General Commanding the Training Command were also there. The top 7 advisors namely the Adjutant General, Quarter Master General, Master General of Ordnance, Engineer-in -Chief, Director General Military Operations and the two Deputy Chief of Army Staff also must have been in attendance. The Chief had gathered his War Council to brief them about the overall aim of the four Study Groups, which has been quietly carrying out very detailed studies aimed at restructuring the Indian Army into an effective force to fight current and future Wars.
South Block grapevines were abuzz that the BJP led NDA Govt is determined to cut down the Army’s strength by 150000 and accordingly a directive has been issued to the COAS. However every one should remain assured that the BJP or the present Govt formed by the BJP has nothing much to do with this ongoing study being done to “ trim the tail” and for turning the Forces into a “ lean, mean, fighting machine”. War is very dynamic in nature. Operational plans are made by the staff to the minutest details humanly possible, documented and orders issued to the last man. However, it has been seen most of the time, that within no time of the first contact with the enemy all plans go for a “ six”.
So the only thing constant in any good Army is the CHANGE. Loud thinking going around since years / earlier half hearted attempts have suddenly found impetus with the present Chief. However certain news paper articles written by So Called top strategists have been suggesting that reduction in size is a must, to enable the Country to equip its Army with the latest equipment. Though to me at least, the argument that Indian Army needs to be reduced in size in order to buy sophisticated arms sounds a bit gross if not outright funny. In no other Ministry / Department of the GOI, such philosophy is ever even considered. Otherwise CAPF, some of the PSUs and the Ministry of Defence itself ( with nearly 400000 civilians of various shapes ) would not have reached the present size.
Size of the Army will depend on the overall task, War Strategy and battle tactics, weapons will have to be provided keeping in mind factors like what the adversary will be able to field against us, what is available in the market, the latest in technology and our affordability. Short comings have to be met through adequate funding or by ensuring through diplomacy and alliances that we do not have to fight a War or fight it at our choice of time and place.
Presently we are certainly not spending on defence what a nation with our GDP should be spending. Next within the foreseeable future we are aiming to increase our GDP to take it to the third place in the World pecking order, still we are crying / feeling shy of matching the defence expenditure to the GDP. Why not take it to 3% of the GDP?
The Western Armies lack manpower and per force they have become highly mechanized. We need to think as to why one of such top Army is so eager to get India involved militarily in Afghanistan, is it not because of our manpower? A vast pool of military manpower is our asset and we do need to use it adequately and go for mechanization where needed and required and not ape the west blindly.
Precision weapons and what not should have resolved the Afghan issue and the Middle East crisis long long time back …but it is still there because of the inability of the mighty USA to deploy enough manpower. They just do not have it. So a few years after the current study and may be even after implementation of some of the proposed reductions hastily accepted, suddenly we may see raising of a few more Divisions / Corps in order to plug holes in the Himalayan Defences, dormant borders ( eg Indo Nepal) turning hostile, intervention in lands near and far to help friends or defend interests. As jungles of Vavunia demonstrated to the IPKF that such places have a habit of swallowing battalions by the dozens. So is the case with mountains and we have the Himalayas itself to contend with, what to talk of the lesser ones like Karakoram etc.
For now, the Army Commanders will go back to their Command HQ and carry out a very deep analysis of the reports of the four Study Groups and prepare their own recommendations. They will meet again in October for the Formal Army Commanders Conference where all the inputs, hopefully will be disected to the last cell and final decision taken. This will be sent to the Raksha Mantri for obtaining the approval of the Cabinet Committee Security.
The four studies are Restructuring the Army Headquarters itself, Re Organising the Field Formations for the futuristic War, Cadre Review for attracting the best talent to the Army and Review of the terms and conditions of Service of the Junior Commissioned Officers and Other Ranks. Over all aim of the studies are to provide the Army with better combat capabilities to meet current and future requirements.
As part of the study on restructuring the headquarters, it has been reported that the office of Director General Rashtriya Rifles is likely to move to Northern Command wherein all the 65 battalions are currently deployed for counter terrorist operations.
This move is akin to location of DG Assam Rifles in the North East. Thus DG Rashtriya Rifles can contribute better to the administrative, logistical and weapon requirements of his troops. What is required to be studied is the futuristic deployment and employment of this by now highly experienced CT Force. The day the train KANYAKUMARI BARAMULLA EXPRESS commences to ply, it will be remembered as the last nail in the coffin of Pak Sponsored Terrorism.
Hence study is required to be done now, for incorporating the Rashtriya Rifles under our existing Area HQ and Sub Areas in such a manner that it becomes the most effective force to provide aid to civil authorities during Law and order crisis, during natural calamities and of course for CT operations. Rest of the Army can then train peacefully and also enjoy the much deserved peace station tenures.
It is also being said that certain departments in the AHQ are going to be removed or downsized. All very fine but please no attempt should be made to have a COCKTAIL drink. Thus say the working of a Directorate General like Military Training should not repeat should not be ever confused with the Working of the Army Training Command. ARTRAC is for working out Doctrines,Philosophies, control and management of training establishments, where as DGMT is for purely advisory role and General Staff Duties with respect to COAS, VCOAS and the DCOAS.
Mixing the two is asking for super trouble and I am stating it with first hand experience of three and half years. Otherwise why not shed all Operational and Intelligence Duties too to all the Command HQ and just retain over all logistic planning, Weapon procurement, Manning etc.
History has a very nasty habit of repeating itself. So it needs to be ensured that Army remains an effective force. Any reduction in size should not reduce its effectiveness. Otherwise, later on in haste we may have to raise not one but several Divisions.
Therefore instead of treating this as a departmental matter the CCS will have to take a holistic view. To reduce the size of the Army, it must be ensured beforehand that firstly all 186 battalions of BSF and all 239 battalions of CRPF become as effective as a standard infantry battalion.
Secondly there should be a fine tuned mechanism in place for these CAPF units to come under total command of the Army whenever required.
Some thing unconstitutional like the UNIFIED HQ (as in Srinagar and Guwahati) will not do, as it is in total violation of military principles, Laws on Military Aid to Civil Authorities, AFSPA, Army Act or even the provision of Martial Law in our Constitution.
In the end a food for thought for the CCS. Please get the CDS earliest to receive the Single point advice on Matters Military.
Even if War is continuation of politics by other means, both Political Science and Military Science may be treated as parallel lines. Therefore just as parallel lines do meet mathematically but only at INFINITY, Similarly Politics and Military must meet but only at level of GRAND STRATEGY.
Taking military advice from a non military person as was done by the top member of the CCS some 50 plus years back had led to a super disaster and the Chinese have not stopped knocking at our doors.