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The Rediff Special/ Wg Cdr C M Jaywant (Retd)
Braggadocio can never substitute for professionalism
No one in India has any doubts about the capability of the Indian army and air force to evict all the infiltrators and Pakistan regulars from occupied areas in the Kargil sector. This isn't merely a patriotic hope but a fact, as India has proved time and again it's capability to sustain operations in the Leh-Siachen sectors.
But one cannot expect miracles and expect to "remove the infiltrators in 24 hours!" The terrain is most inhospitable as is evident from the fact that the troops withdraw at the height of winter. It might call for a lot of resources and time to evict the mercenaries, who are backed by regulars well-entrenched in bunkers at commanding heights that dominate the avenues of assault.
The operation should be planned with least attrition to our own troops, using a combination of isolating and encircling, weakening the intruders with artillery shelling and firepower from the air. Then, when conditions become favourable, the positions can be occupied. The aim should be relentlessly pursued but without any hasty action being taken.
Simultaneously, there is a need to maintain a status quo in the valley and any more troops brought in should come in from outside rather being drawn in from those currently established in anti-insurgency operations in the valley. Acclimatisation of such soldiers cannot be hurried.
The need to use air power has been accepted by all. However, there seems to have been haste in starting operations. A little more thought in the type of attacks, the weapons to be used, and a better assessment and intelligence of the likely defences, could have helped avoid the loss of two aircraft and a helicopter.
In fact, the single major failure seems to be on the intelligence front. Such a large-scale operation must have the tacit approval at the political level in Pakistan and the ISI's active involvement. If camps were set up in Skardu and Gilgit areas, and if about 1,000 infiltrators were trained, the fact should have been known to Indian intelligence and their intentions anticipated.
Similarly, if the infiltrators and regulars moved onto Indian territory with sophisticated arms, including shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, snow scooters, stores and ammunition and if they could build bunkers, surely our intelligence agencies should have been aware.
What is the use of the "Kasturirangan magic" or the various awards given to our space scientists if advances in technology aren't used for intelligence-gathering? The primary focus of such technology, in fact, should be military applications and with civilian applications as the spin-off. We seem to miss that point completely.
There is a tendency to look at military expenditure as wasteful till the armed forces are required to defend the nation. When genuine demands are made for equipment, aircraft, tanks, guns, decision are taken to put off the expenditure or to ensure that someone gets the maximum 'cut'. The decision on the AJT is a case in point.
Also, money required for realistic training and the losses of expensive equipment like aircraft are considered a waste in peacetime. There is a need to anticipate the kind of flying operations that were required in Kargil and to impart pilots more training in similar areas. Carrying out attacks in hilly terrain and at high altitudes is extremely tricky, with regards to both manoeuvrability and engine performance, and calls for lots of practice.
Apparently some time was lost in getting political approval for the use of air power. This should be a purely military decision, and advice should be accepted from people who have spent a lifetime learning the art of war. And then, when the decision was finally taken, it appears that pressure was brought on to show immediate results.
Civilian control over the defence services should be limited to ensuring that the services don't interfere in politics or nurture political ambitions. Thereafter, they should be left to do their job as they see fit.
All war is dirty, and what is important, in the final analysis, is winning. There should be a constant and serious effort to anticipate enemy moves, to outsmart them, both diplomatically and militarily, and to be prepared for the unexpected by expecting every eventuality. Arrogance and braggadocio can never substitute for professionalism and commitment.
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