AFSPA Needs Constant Reviews, Not Knee-Jerk Repeal

The recent case of December 5, 2021 where the security forces in Mon, Nagaland killed 13 innocent civilians in an ambush and subsequent unrest and resulting in death of a soldier, has renewed the demand for repeal of Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act -1958 or AFSPA. As per the presumably draconian act, Security Forces (including the para military forces of Assam Rifles and Rashtriya Rifles) and Central Police Organisations (CPOs) including BSF and CRPF, are given sweeping powers to search and seizure in civilian inhabited areas and arrest suspects without warrant for a limited period. Armed Forces can also open effective fire on terrorists or militants under this act.

AFSPA can only be applied by the Union Government where law and order has broken down and a defined area, district or the entire state has been declared disturbed, under the Disturbed Area Act, by the State Government. While the AFSPA gives special powers to the security forces and CPOs, the principle of minimum force and restraint is always exercised by commanders and troops at all levels. ‘One off’ actions like the incident at Mon happen due to the lack of judgment, scanty knowledge of the ground, and inept training at the junior level, and the actions by erring members of security forces never go unpunished.

Most of the areas where the Disturbed Area Act has been applied, fall in border areas wherein trans-border or trans-Line of Control (LoC) movement takes place with connivance of security forces of Pakistan, China and Myanmar. Immunity for acts of murder, rape, kidnapping, arson, looting or drug trafficking is not given under this Act to any security forces under the AFSPA; as is widely misunderstood by a section of the society. Because the security forces in these border areas have to intercept armed infiltrating and exfiltrating groups in real time, immunity to take action against such groups is covered under AFSPA.

In practice, invariably, the security forces are accompanied by local civil police who are handed over the captured terrorists, militants, suspects, weapons, ammunition and dead bodies after the encounters. Utmost care is taken to use minimum force against such terrorist or militant in order to avoid collateral damage. However, if some unfortunate collateral damage takes place in conduct of bona fide duty, then the security forces who had operated in good faith are immune from being apprehended by the civil police and tried by civil court. However, the actions of troops are scrutinised under the Army Act and departmental disciplinary action is taken against defaulting service persons without delay; in pursuit of justice for the innocents, as per the law of the land.

The AFSPA is required to defeat the machinations of the adversaries who sponsor proxy war on our borders in a bid to destabilise the Indian state. AFSPA has also been applied in counter insurgency operations in hinterland in our Northern and North Eastern States of J&K (now Union Territory), Punjab, Nagaland, Manipur, Assam, Tripura, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh. Without the legal shield provided by AFSPA, the security forces would be hesitant to take offensive actions against the armed insurgents and those groups may continue to operate with impunity.

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However, utmost care has to be taken to ensure fire is not opened on innocent civilians and warning and restraint need to be exercised. Normally, the security forces only open fire in self defence when the terrorists open fire on to them from the opposite direction or from a flank. This restraining action also ensures that innocent civilians are not targeted. The life of an active terrorist or militant is not more than an year after he starts indulging in violent actions against the population, civil police or security forces. Therefore, if the information about the movement of terrorists is not confirmed, they are given the benefit of the doubt with the hope that they will fall in the hands of the security forces if they continued perpetuating violence in the society.

An issue related to continuity of AFSPA in some border states is the state and quality of the civil police in that state. Due to coercion or sympathy for the terrorist groups, who may be seen as freedom fighters by a section of the local population, a portion of the civil police invariably gets compromised and may not be acting in the interest of the Indian State. There is a dire need for police reforms in the country wherein politicians are stripped from the powers of employing the civil police as per their whims and fancy resulting in employment of overwhelming strength of the police force only on protection of the VVIPs leaving a small portion of the force to do the extended police duties for the common man.

Whereas the need to have AFSPA is paramount for security forces operating in difficult terrain against armed groups in border areas, its continuation in hinterland in less disturbed areas needs to be constantly reviewed and the act should be lifted wherever semblance of normalcy start showing up. The Act was lifted from Punjab after about ten years of its imposition once the state dramatically returned to normalcy in 1995. Similarly, in the North East, the law has been lifted from Tripura and Meghalaya but continues to be applied in Nagaland from 1958 onwards. There is a case for identifying less threatened areas of Nagaland and Manipur and lift the Disturbed Area Act and AFSPA from those areas. The state governments and security forces need to be dynamically reviewing the situation every three to six months to decide if a particular area needs to be removed from the listed Disturbed area so that AFSPA is no more applicable in that area.

(Lt Gen Ike Singha was on the Kashmir desk in Military Operations Directorate from 1993 to 1997)

Gen Bipin Rawat – First Among Equals

The tragedy that occurred due to the air crash on 08 December in Nilgiri Hills in vicinity of Wellington, Tamil Nadu, resulting in death of 13 out of the 14 passengers including India’s first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat and his wife Mrs Madhulika Bipin, left everyone including uniformed men, the government and citizens numbed. General Bipin Rawat, PVSM, UYSM, AVSM, SM, VSM, a man of destiny, came from a traditional military background. His father, Lt Gen Laxman Singh Rawat got commissioned into 5/11 GR, commanded the battalion and as a Lt Gen commanded the Maharashtra & Gujarat Area in Mumbai. The son following his father’s footsteps, not only did all that but surpassed his father’s achievements, became the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) and the first CDS!

Little did I know on joining the Directorate General of Military Operations (DGMO) as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1993, that the young unassuming Major sitting opposite me would reach such amazing heights in his military career! I found Major Bipin Rawat totally grounded, quick on the uptake and possessing an analytical mind. He was meticulous in handling classified documents and would pull out the required file in a very systematic and organised manner inspite of all the ongoing chaos and confusion in our Section MO 3, during crisis management.

While Major Bipin Rawat looked after the conventional operations in Jammu &Kashmir, I was on counter insurgency desk and invariably both of us had to put our heads together and integrate our papers made for the DGMO to brief the COAS or the Raksha Mantri. Thus, we acted as a team and spent many a late nights together in the office if some important missions were going on. He always retained his positivity and demeanour and his levels of dedication and stamina to work under pressure were worth emulating. After long and grilling hours, once an operation was over, we made it a point to share a drink at his place or mine. We were both staying in NOIDA and were fortunate to have pick and drop facilities to the office at odd hours.

Over the years, in his outstanding career, Gen Bipin Rawat acquired a lot of operational experience and strategic vision which helped him in holding higher appointments very naturally and effectively. He got decorations after all his command tenures. As a Corps commander in the North East, he ordered a trans-border counter insurgency operation to annihilate terrorists belonging to NSCN-K group thereby setting a precedence for surgical strikes launched after Uri and Pulwama incidents and taking the battle into the adversaries land. As the first CDS of India, he set up mechanisms wherein his office was a bridge between the defence forces and the civilian government, thus giving a take off point to his successors who can further refine the procedures.

As we kept meeting at various levels, I was very happy to see that he was still brutally frank and as blunt and clear headed as he was in his younger days. Inspite of the higher and prestigious appointment that he held, underneath he remained grounded and accessible. Even as the COAS and CDS, he spoke his mind, calling a spade a spade, which sometimes did not go well with the public or powers that be. Since he meant well and spoke in the national interest, he could easily get away with it!

When we met at a wedding reception in Chandigarh sometime back, I could see the passion in him to bring in meaningful reforms and changes in the services to meet the challenges of modern day war fighting. He very swiftly took me through his plans to achieve time bound results and was aiming at making the defence forces “a lean and mean fighting machine”. Theatrisation of the defence forces by creating threat based Theatre Commands opposite our adversaries for Northern Theatre and Western Theatre was one of Gen Bipin Rawat’s pet project to achieve optimisation of all resources available in the theatre belonging to the three services.

In addition to the two geographical Theatres, Air Defence Theatre and Maritime Theatre have also been planned to be raised. This project remains work in progress. Whereas, Gen Bipin Rawat was well aware of the efforts of turf guarding by individual services, he was able to reason out the necessity of going in for these theatre commands to have better integration, synergy, optimisation and inter-operability during operations. He confided in me that he had political establishment, complete backing in what he was doing. Our northern adversary China has already raised the Theatre Commands and considering the posturing on our northern borders, it is essential that we also coordinate comprehensive national power in protection of our borders.

One is tempted to compare the journey of General Bipin Rawat with that of General Douglas Mac Arthur of the US Army. General Mac Arthur also inculcated the ethos and elan of the forces from his father who was also a General. Both were out spoken and had the convincing power to alter the opinion of their audience. Both the Generals had a personal connect with the rank and file as well as officer cadre. In different ways, both were charismatic and could influence people around them. Both were also coming into some controversies time and again, but like true fighters, stuck to their guns and had courage of conviction. Gen Mac Arthur and Gen Bipin were great orators and could articulate extremely well keeping their operational plans simple, workable and understandable by the commanders who had to get them executed. They were battle hardened and bold leaders who led from the front with personal example. They could easily read the minds and psyche of the adversaries and outperform them.

General Bipin with his great strategic vision has left a spring board for his successors to operate from. It will be an uphill task for his successor to foot the bill and move smoothly into his shoes. Above all, Gen Bipin Rawat has been the longest serving uniformed man in the history of Indian Defence Forces and died in harness by being at the pinnacle of his career!

(Lt Gen Ike Singha and Gen Bipin Rawat served together in Military Operations Director in 1993-94)

Mission Olympics: India Army Marches On

Indian Armed Forces have been in the forefront of selecting and training sportsmen of international repute right from the time of independence in 1947. Dhyan Chand, the hockey wizard who helped India win three gold medal in Olympics, the Flying Sikh Milkha Singh, Rajyavardhan Rathore, the shooter who got the first individual Silver medal in Olympics and Neeraj Chopra, the golden boy of Tokyo Olympics, are all from the Indian Army.

The boxers, shooters, wrestlers and rowers from the Army continue to give a good account of themselves and were quite close to getting medals for the country. At least three to four players from the Army including Balbir Singh (Junior) were always part of the Indian hockey team.

The Army gives tremendous opportunities to the budding sportsmen to rise, shine and zoom. The sports culture, sports infrastructure and facilities, strict regimen and discipline gives these aspiring sportsmen a head start over other competing athletes from the civil street. Having sports competitions from grass root levels of inter-company, squadron or battery.

It was Gen S Padmanabhan, the then Chief of Army Staff (COAS ) in 2001 who revived the old tradition of having boys companies for sports in various disciplines. He also started Mission Olympics to prepare sportsmen for representing the country in Olympics. As on today, the Army has 26 boys sports companies in 21 disciplines. These sports companies are affiliated to regimental centres whose troops excel in these disciplines. For example, the Rajputana Regimental (RAJRIF) Centre in Delhi had boys companies in Athletics, Basketball and Volleyball. During the rationalisation, the Athletics Boys company has gone to another regiment whose training centre is located at Faizabad.

Olympic semi-finalist wrestler Subedar Deepak Punia (middle) felicitated by Lt Gen KJS Dhillon (2nd from right) of Rajputana Rifles

Incidentally, Neeraj Chopra is from 4 RAJRIF, a Battalion with a great fighting legacy; it was awarded two Victoria Crosses (equivalent to Param Vir Chakra) and 167 other decorations during World War II. Based on its performance over the years, the unit went on a United Nations Peacekeeping Mission to Congo from 1960 to 1962. Today there are three serving and three recently retired generals from the battalion; a rare honour for any unit of the Indian Army.

The boys companies pick up promising young boys of 08 to to 14 years of age, who have attained certain levels of expertise in a particular sport for having played at district or state level. These boys are given education in a good day scholar school located close to their military hostel. The Army gives the boys free boarding and lodging as also train them to join the regular army after attaining the age of 18. The boys who show adequate talent to go higher are then sent to Army Sports Institute (ASI) Pune, where scientific coaching and diets are given to these boys and they are prepared for taking part in the Nationals and Olympics.

The ASI was also raised in 2001 and till date has produced 52 olympians. The outstanding sportsmen who qualify for nationals are then picked up by Sports Authority of India (SAI) who prepares these sportsmen for international events like Commonwealth and Asian Games and World U20 Athletics.

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Gen JJ Singh, the then COAS in 2006 introduced additional disciplines like Shooting and Golf wherein promising sports persons including the wards of servicemen were picked up at an early age and trained for Olympics in a systematic manner. Mission Olympics Wing (MOW) in the Directorate General of Military Training (DGMT) was given the overall responsibility to oversee the training of the Olympics probables. The boys companies and the ASI operate under the close scrutiny of the DGMT who also works closely with SAI and Khelo India organisation. To make it more lucrative for the promising sports persons, the Army gives the direct rank of Naib Subedar, a Junior Commissioned Officer on their joining the Army. These selected sportsmen are then prepared for Olympics by giving them training abroad under foreign coaches with the help of SAI.

The selection system of the Indian Army in various sports disciplines is very transparent and fair. Once the sportsman is selected, concerted efforts are put in to ensure that he gets international exposure and coaching in the correct environs. The levels of motivation, dedication and killer instinct inculcated in the sportsmen in the Army stands them in good stead when they compete with the best in the world. In times to come, the Army will surely raise Girls Companies in the major sports as our women athletes have shown more resolve and resilience in Tokyo Olympics and the Army is also getting girls into Sainik Schools, National Defence Academy and other institutions and the intake of officers and ranks is going to enhance for women in the Army. The ethos and elan of the Army instills in every soldier to give their last ounce of blood and sweat for the country and sportsmen are no exception!

Subedar Neeraj Chopra with fellow Armymen of Rajputana Rifles

In Tokyo Olympics, the Army sent 16 probable from various disciplines. Neeraj Chopra got the gold medal, Deepak Punia in wrestling and Satish in boxing narrowly missed medals. The men’s 4x400m relay race team gave an excellent account of themselves by setting a new Asian record; with athletes from the Indian Army. The two rowers Arjun Lal and Arvind Singh got 11th position in the double skull event, the best that any Indians had done so far.

Most of these participants are in their early 20s and with their experience in Tokyo Olympics; they are likely to get greater number of medals for the country at Paris in 2024. We have only three years to prepare and ensure that these promising athletes peak at the time of Olympics just like Neeraj Chopra who was head and shoulders ahead of all other contestants in javelin throw. The country should also follow the model of the Armed Forces to ensure that the very best are sent to the Olympics and they do their nation proud by earning medals somewhat commensurate to our population.

Milkha Singh: As We Knew Him

Milkha Singh, the Flying Sikh, passed away at the age of 91 on night 18/19 July in City Beautiful due to the deadly pandemic COVID-19 whom he had been bravely fighting for the last few weeks. His wife Nirmal Milkha Singh, another accomplished sports person of India, who had led the Indian volleyball team in her younger days was also the victim of the same pandemic a week back. The legendary couple was the epitome of the spirit of Chandigarh which is a unique, young, vibrant and happening city. For the Tricity, passing away of a highly motivating couple almost simultaneously, marks an end of an era.

Milkha Singh rose to become an international sportsman and a legendary figure after overcoming lots of obstacles. He was a survivor of the violence that erupted after the partition in 1947 which engulfed his entire family. Determined to make it on his own, he joined the Indian Army as a soldier and his talent and potential was spotted by some vigilant eyes of the senior instructors who watched his stride when he ran in the platoon group as a recruit during morning and evening physical exercises. Rest was history. He was named as the Flying Sikh during the Common Wealth Games by the chief host of the games, General Ayub Khan, the President of Pakistan. He was the first Indian Athlete to have secured fourth position in an individual position in Olympics and the first four athletes broke the world record!

My tryst with Milkha Singh started as late as 2016 when I retired from the Indian Army and settled in the Tricity. I would meet him on the Chandigarh Golf Club at least once a week and greet him as was customary amongst the club members. Sometimes after playing the front nine holes, we would come across him in the restaurant before playing the return nine. I always found him to be warm, alert and inspiring. At so many occasions, I found him practising alone after or before a round. He walked fast and had an erect body, deceiving his 90 years of age.

Wall of Fame at Milkha Singh’s residence in Tri-City

On enumerable occasions, he would tell me, “General Sahib, I have great regards for the Indian Army who has given me everything from name to fame. I shall always remain indebted to the Indian Army.” This showed the depth of the character and humility that this great soul had. He has been a motivating factor for the youth of the country for decades till his very last moment.

When I told my wife Baljeet, for the first time, that I met Milkha Singh in the golf course, she was blown away and immediately dug out her old black and white sports album. She had played basketball for Punjab and represented the state at the nationals for seven times. There were pictures of her getting a prize from Milkha Singh. In another picture, she as the captain of the university team was introducing her team to the chief guest, Director of Sports, Milkha Singh. She recalled that Milkha Singh would always show up at their sports camps and was a favourite of all athletes. He would always be surrounded by the youngsters wanting to hear his anecdotes.

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A few months back we were sitting in the gazebo in the golf club when I greeted him. He asked me, “General Sahib, how do you spend your time after retirement besides playing golf?” I told him that I was working as a director with a cyber security company by the name of TAC Security which was founded by Trishneet Arora, a school dropout at the age of 19. He was quite intrigued and asked me how exactly we operated. I told him that we penetrate and test applications, with the prior permission of the owner or the company, for any vulnerabilities; and once we find them, we plug them. He was so inquisitive and interested at the age of 90 because he always wanted to remain relevant and upgraded his knowledge to be able to communicate with the younger generation.

Some weeks later, I again bumped into him and we got into a conversation which I always cherished. I told him that we had started a new subsidiary company to cover sports events which was called “Liberal Sports.” I quickly added that we had done features on Yuvraj and Rannvijay and he will be the next sportsman to be interviewed by the company. He immediately told me, “Anything for the Indian Army”.

Shortly thereafter, we got in touch with his manager and were invited to his house at 2 PM. I made it a point to emphasise to the media team that they couldn’t be late. Therefore, we collected them at 1 PM at the golf course and we reached his home and rang the bell exactly at 2 PM. Milkha Singha was immaculately dressed and sitting at the dining table with his wife. He was impressed that we were dot on time and took me to the two walls where I saw some rare pictures of his with very prominent national and international persons.

Milkha Singh flanked by hockey legend Dhyanchand (left) and Dara Singh

The photograph that appealed to me most was that of the trio, Dhyan Chand, Milkha Singh and Dara Singh. We were offered steaming hot coffee on a cold day and the interview would, probably, be the last one of the legendary athlete.

India has contemporary athletes who have achieved much greater heights but Milkha Singh would always remain a ray of hope and a beacon for all budding sportsmen of the country for decades to come. I am reminded of the quote used by Mac Arthur the junior, “old soldiers never die, they just fade away”. Milkha Singh may fade away as an old soldier, but his achievements in sports field will forever continue to motivate young India.

Is there an end in sight to the deadly fighting in Gaza and Israel?

In continuing unrest and exchange of rockets from Gaza and airdropped bombs from Israel, over 148 Palestinians, including several children, have been killed. On the Israeli side, more than 1500 rockets fired from Gaza onto Tel Aviv, Lod, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Sderot and other urban centres have resulted in killing of 10 persons, including a soldier, injuring a large number of Israelis and carrying out massive destruction. In all previous engagements, the spiralling of violence has been graduated but this time it has gone through the roof and only providence and intervention by US and regional players may be able to carry out the de- escalation. For lots of families on both sides of the line, this Eid would not be having any reasons for celebrations.

During the month of Ramadan and as a run up to the Independence Day of Israel on 15 May, called Al Naqba or Dooms Day by their Arab neighbours; tempers normally run high and clashes between exuberant Arab youth after breaking the fast in the evening (Iftar) and the enhanced Israeli Security forces are not uncommon. As luck would have it, this year both the events have coincided with Eid Ul Fitr being two days prior to Israeli Independence Day.

There were two flashpoints for the present unrest, the first being the eviction orders by court to six Palestinians families in Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem. The Arab families had been settled there after the 1948 war by United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) in the evacuee property which was claimed by a Jewish family in recent years. A crowd gathered on the appointed day of eviction  — May 6, 2021 — to restrain the authorities from forcefully evacuating the Arab families. The police had to use riot control measures to disperse the crowd.

The second flashpoint was the clashes between Arab youths and Israeli security forces in the vicinity of the Al Aqsa Mosque or the Temple Mount as Jews call it. During the month of Ramzan the Muslims carry out an additional prayer called Taraweeh prayer (night prayer) for an hour-and-a-half after breaking their fast around 7 pm. In this auspicious month the crowds swell in Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, the third most revered place of worship for Muslims after Mecca and Medina.

Therefore, the Israeli security forces have laid down a limit of ten thousand worshippers at any one time in the premises. The place is also believed to be the exact location of Temple Mount revered by the Jews and they are allowed to worship on the Western Wall of the monument. Heavy presence of Israeli security forces is ensured during the Ramazan month to avoid any untoward incidents. After the Friday prayers on the evening of May 7 as the crowds were dispersing around 9.30 pm, clashes took place between the police and worshippers.

After the clashes, the crowd chanted “Gaza! Gaza ! Come to our rescue”. Based on these requests, the leader of Hamas in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh launched 200 rocket attacks on population centres of Israel including Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. PM Netanyahu and Defence Minister Benny Gantz reacted swiftly and launched air attacks on Hamas Headquarters, Police Headquarters and the TV tower in Gaza, killing some prominent Hamas leaders, including Bassem Issa. In the collateral damage, a large number of innocent civilians, including children, were also killed and wounded. Up to two Israeli Armed Forces (IDF) brigades with tanks and other heavy weapons have been deployed around Gaza indicating possibility of a ground attack and all-out war. The clashes continue at the time of writing of this article and the end is not in sight.

For the first time in the recent history of Israel, communal clashes have erupted in all major urban areas and both Jews and Arabs are at each other’s throat. Netanyahu has stated that they are fighting on two fronts but will take all actions to quell the communal clashes and prevent them from becoming riots. These clashes do not augur well for peace in the region and Israel is seeking mediation by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and other Muslim countries.

The previous prominent exchanges of fire between Gaza and Israel lasted several weeks with the longest one in 2014 which went on for 52 days. This time the intensity of firing of rockets has been much higher. The Iron Dome anti-air defence of Israel could only stop around 90 per cent of the rockets with 10  per cent of the rockets carrying out heavy destruction at the target sites.

The clashes have taken place when there is a political uncertainty in Israel as Bibi Netanyahu, the leader of Likud party, has failed to show majority and form a government despite having largest number of legislators, and having been invited by the President to do so. As was suggested in the previous article, President Raven has now invited the opposition leader Yair Lapid to form the government in one month. Netanyahu and his supporters will now try and consolidate their position by taking a tough stance against the rocket attacks from Gaza and galvanise popular support of Israeli masses to their advantages to continue to stay in power. In fact, he has already thanked the Hamas leader for uniting all Israelis but the clashes in the streets tell a different story.

The two-nation theory forwarded by the Untied Nations in 1948 is almost derailed by the outright support given by Trump Administration to the Israeli government in the last four years wherein USA recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a fact yet to be ratified by the international community that feels Jerusalem should be an international city as per the UN plan. It may be recalled that the Trump administration also facilitated peace treaties and exchange of diplomatic relations between UAE and Israel and Bahrain and Israel. Saudi Arabia was also warming up to Israel as US had given them a common enemy in the form of Iran. The Biden administration will have an uphill task to bring back semblance of balance of power in Middle East.

The timing has also been crucial from the view of political activity on the Palestinian side as well. The Assembly Elections of the Palestinian Authority were to be held on 21 May followed by the Presidential elections after a month or so. Considering the advanced age of the Palestinian maverick leader Mahmoud Abbas, certain younger Palestinians leaders were jumping into the fray, including one undergoing life imprisonment. Political activity has been hit badly by the postponement of Assembly elections indefinitely; the younger leaders will have to wait for a little longer.

It may be recalled that Gaza is a land locked strip of 40 by 12 km having Israel on two sides, Egypt on the third and the Mediterranean Sea on the fourth. Israel vacated Gaza Strip in 2005 when the strong man Ariel Sharon was the PM. This unilateral action by Israeli leadership was the extension of “exchange of land for peace” programme of Israel that had worked well with Egypt and Jordan. The Jewish settlers were relocated outside the Gaza Strip. Israel controls the limited number of routes of ingress and egress into the Gaza Strip and the Hamas runs the Administration in Gaza since coming to power in 2006 and finds itself resource strafed, job crunched and with sheer lack of advanced medical facilities. The two million population of Gaza Strip makes it the third most densely populated urban area in the world. The people of Gaza are at the mercy of Israel which has carried out naval and air blockade of the Strip since 2006.

The UN Envoy in Middle East has mentioned that the clashes may result in an all-out war. War between Israel and Palestinians is, however, least likely as there is no parity between the two sides. The Palestinians do not have a conventional army or ai rforce. Very soon the stockpile of rockets in Gaza will run dry and the Palestinians from Gaza and West Bank are likely to launch the third Intifida, a sub-conventional form of warfare. The second Intifida lasted five years at the turn of the century. The region may remain in turmoil for some time, and it may be a long haul to normal times. The Middle East crisis is the first foreign policy acid test for the Biden Administration to bring peace to the region.

Benjamin Netanyahu Says Won't Stop Till Victory

Israeli Elections: Dwindling Popularity Of Netanyahu

The Israeli parliament was dissolved in December 2020 on the advice of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who wanted to improve his party’s position in the legislature, and the nation went for early elections in March 21, the fourth in two years. In the proportional representative system of parliamentary democracy, in Knesset, a house having 120 seats; no single party by itself has ever got 61 seats to obtain a simple majority. Likud, a Right wing ruling party has lost six seats from the earlier 36 and along with allies, has once again fallen short of nine seats by securing a total of 52 seats. The political instability in Israel is likely to continue in the near future.

Netanyahu has been the youngest ever and the longest serving Prime Minister of Israel since 2009. Bibi, as he is affectionately called, comes from an affluent secular Jewish family, and was based both in Jerusalem and Philadelphia. While he was born in Jerusalem, he graduated from high school in US and returned to Israel to join Israel Defence Forces (IDF) in 1967; after the Six Day War, and took part as a team leader in Yom Kippur war of 1973.

He was also wounded in 1972 during Operation Isotope and returned to US for doing college after his military service. He became a technocrat after doing Bachelor and Master of Science from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Benjamin Netanyahu is the younger brother of Yonnie Natanyahu, a national hero who was commander of the Special Forces in raid at Entebbe airport to release the hostages in July 1976. Yonnie was the only fatal casualty in the mission.

Based on his worldwide exposure and command over English language, Bibi Netanyahu was appointed Permanent Representative (ambassador) of Israel to UN in 1984 and was elected to Knesset on return to Israel in 1988. Netanyahu was appointed as Israeli’s youngest PM ever, in 1996, after he led the Likud party to power as the Chairman for three years from 1993 onwards. An articulate and wily leader, he has steered Israel through tough times, three wars and the economic boom that Israel has witnessed due to its technological prowess especially in information technology, defence industry, cyber security and drip irrigation.

Netanyahu is also the first PM in harness who has been indicted for bribery and corruption in November 2019. He was officially charged of deception and breach of trust and bribery. For the last two years, Bibi’s sole aim has been to stay in power and thereby avoid being tried by the court of law. He has been an advocate of one state theory and has encouraged new settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem thereby shrinking the areas that were to be given to the Palestinian state as per the UN-sponsored Two Nation Theory wherein equal contiguous amount of areas were to go to both Israel and Palestine with the latter having Gaza Strip, West Bank and East Jerusalem. Nationwide rallies and protests have been held urging Netanyahu to resign while his own party has held rallies to support him.

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Netanyahu had two concurrent tenures with President Obama in power in the US and both held opposing views on the modus operandi of handling the Palestinian conflict resolution. Thanks to the Jewish lobby in the US which supported the election of President Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner, an American Jewish businessman and his special envoy for the West Asia peace process; in the last four years, President Trump gave unstinted support to Israel and almost buried the Two Nation Theory, which simply means that the Palestinians will never get a separate state of their own.

Under Trump, the Israelis got a moral ascendency by US recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a fact all his predecessors desisted. As per the UN, Jerusalem is supposed to remain an international city. In 2020, thanks to Kushner again, peace treaties were signed between UAE and Israel and Saudi Arabia and Israel. Both the Arab countries have recognised Israel and have commenced diplomatic and economic relations with Israel giving a death blow to the cause of return of Palestinian refugees and formation of a Palestinian state as per the Two Nation Theory.

A large section of populace is fed up of successive elections and ongoing corruption charges and would like to see Netanyahu go. Unfortunately, there is no leader of the same stature as Bibi either in the Likud party or in the opposition. The closest who comes to fill in his place is Benny Gantz of Kahol Lavan (White and Blue) Party, the present Defence Minister who has been the erstwhile CDS of IDF and has acceptance of a large section of population who has been looking for a change in government. Yair Lepid of Yesh Atid-Telem Party who has secured 17 seats is another leader who may also lay a claim for the top job in the anti- Netanyahu camp.

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The Israeli parliament, the Knesset has 120 seats conforming to the biblical tradition of an assembly of 120 scribes, sages and prophets. The members are elected for a four-year term from a single, nationwide, electoral district. To form the government a coalition must come up with 61 seats. Interestingly, in the previous elections, both Netanyahu and Gantz (of Blue and White or Israeli Resilience Party) with allies had 60 seats each and then formed a national government that did not last long.

While Netanyahu (Likud 30) with the three religious parties with Right-wing leanings namely Shas (9),United Torah Judaism (7) and Religious Zionism (6) can muster 52 seats, he will still have to woo his old ally cum competitor Naftali Bennett (Yamina -7) and Unites Arab List (4).

The anti- Netanyahu bloc with Benny Gantz or Yair Lapid as the leader have 57 seats and they also need to get Yamina (7) or United Arab List (UAL) / Raam Party (4) headed by Mansour Abbas, to their camp.

Naftali Bennett (Yamina) and Mansour Abass (UAL) who have not shown their hand so far with 11 seats amongst them are going to be the King makers. The Arabs (UAL) in Israel are 20 percent of the population and the Ultra Orthodox Jews (Hardim) are 10 percent.

Even if Netanyahu is once again able to stitch an alliance with 61 seats, it is not likely to be a stable government and the political situation in Israeli will still be in a limbo till the next elections. A new inclusive national government with fresh leadership, new ideas and centric orientation, can only bring in political stability. It is about time Bibi Netanyahu recognises the writing on the wall and hang up his political boots with grace or whatever is left of it. Whoever forms the Govt, has to deal with post COVID-19 problems of slowdown of the economy and the loss of jobs that many Israelis are reeling under.

(Lt Gen Ike Singha was the Head of the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission between Israel and Syria on Golan Heights)

China Threat: Raise Defence Budget To 3% Of GDP

The robust and brave faceoff given to China at Galwan will send a strong message that India is able to stand up to China. However, as in 1962, this engagement with China is a wake-up call too and should herald deeper thinking about the current capabilities of India, its defence spending and the need to restart some projects that were suspended.

China’s incursion may have many reasons, but the fact is that the threat remains real. China’s words of peaceful coexistence cannot be taken at face value. India needs to increase its defence budget from 1.8% GDP to 3%. More importantly, the matter can no longer be left exclusively to the diplomats. This is a Defence Ministry issue now.

Despite the media columns and statements by some politicians, the powerful  challenge given by India to what amounts to almost an ambush, showed courage, determination and the ability to see off China.

The current ongoing Sino-Indian standoff since the last five weeks peaked in the bloody violent action in the Galwan Sector on night 15/16 June 20 at Patrol Point 14 resulting in death of a Commanding Officer and 19 soldiers on Indian side and around 40 soldiers on the Chinese side. The scuffle took place and continued till mid night in around three phases, when the Indian commander approached the Chinese troops around dusk time to exhort them to pull back their troops in conformation to the decisions taken at the Corps Commander level meeting on 06 June 20.

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This may be the tip of the iceberg as far as Chinese strategic goals along the Line of Control (LAC) are concerned. The escalation has also thrown the Peace and Tranquility Agreement of 1993 between China and India to the winds. Chinese soldiers had come physically prepared to up the ante – short of opening fire by small arms.

The June 6 meeting was headed from the Indian side by Lt Gen Harinder Singh, 14 Corps Commander, an outstanding suave officer who has effectively handled sensitive situations in United Nations peacekeeping as a Brigade Commander. The Chinese delegation was headed by Maj Gen Liu Lin. A series of talks at various levels are on, after the violent incident of 15 June resulting in death of around 60 soldiers on both sides. The Foreign Minister S Jaishankar has also spoken to his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on 17 June 20. It is in the interest of both China and India to de-escalate the situation and resort to high level peace talks. These fatal casualties have taken place on the LAC after a gap of 45 years.

However, the standoff this time has been different from the previous ones including the Doklam standoff in 2017 in terms of force levels used and the areas addressed. The Chinese in a diversionary action, probably to test the waters, crossed the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in North Sikkim at Naku La on 05 May 20 and Fingers 4 West of Pangong Tso Lake. There were violent actions between the two sides but there were no fatal casualties.

One week later they came into Eastern Ladakh at four carefully selected sectors in Galwan, Hot Springs, Demchok and Fingers Area. India built an axis from Darbuk to Daulat Beg Oldie via Galwan, Gobra Post and Demchok to support the Sub Sector North last year. This axis enables the Indians to cover a distance that was being covered in two days, just in six hours. The axis was very close to the Karokaram Pass and touched the sensitivities of the Chinese as it is part of the BRI and China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). As the road axis passes through the Shyok and Galwan Valleys, the Chinese have crossed the LAC from the North and North East and occupied higher reaches along the axis in order to be able to interdict any movement along the axis. China has also stoked trouble for India by enticing Pakistan and Nepal in their favour.

A large number of reasons can be attributed to the ongoing standoff. There are voices of dissent within China pointing at the manner in which the COVID- 19 was handled by President Xi Jinping. Some writers even stuck their neck out to suggest that he takes the responsibility of mass scale deaths and steps down. It is felt that the recent intrusions in Ladakh and Sikkim were undertaken to divert the attention and galvanise the domestic public opinion against India.

Another reason speculated is that since US has asked WHO to carry out an honest investigation on the origin of Corona virus and India has just taken up the leadership of WHO for the next two years, China wanted to pressurise India to play ball and not go too Thoroughly into the issue to blame China for the spread of COVI-19.

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Abrogation of Article 370 and converting Ladakh into a Union territory by the Indian Government has also been objected by the Chinese as they feel New Delhi will now control this contested region directly.

Where does the violent action of 15/16 June lead to the already building tension in the sub-continent? India has political, diplomatic, economic and military options which can be grouped into the long and short term options. It is accepted fact that Indian Army has stood its ground and has challenged and checked the ongoing incursions from the Chinese side.

The protocols and methods of patrolling and domination of the LAC are very unconventional and un-military like. The Peace and Tranquility Agreement of 1993 states that neither sides will fire, cause explosions or bio-degrade the area along the LAC. The deployment of regular troops will remain in deeper territories of each but patrols can be sent from both sides to dominate their side of the LAC. There are varying perceptions of the LAC on both sides and at times the difference may be upto ten to fifteen kilometres. Whereas these protocols were sufficient to diffuse the situation in the past; use of caveman like sharp tools as weapons, to cause fatal casualties, has been resorted to for the first time.

First at the diplomatic and military levels, the rules of engagement need to be refined. Two nuclear powered professional armies cannot continue to use cave man tactics to enforce their will on each other. During peacetime, border management is the responsibility of ITBP under the Ministry of Home (MHA) and the regular troops only do periodic patrolling at the LAC. During hot war, the Army formations are tasked to move to the forward defences and the operations are controlled by the Ministry of Defence (MOD). The peace talks are generally steered by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This complex and multi ministry control needs to go; and operations must be controlled by MOD. The MOD needs to be in control of the situation now.

The short term Military options include staying put at the forward positions and creating habitat, infrastructure and logistic bases for the forward troops prior to setting in of winters.

Importantly the raising of the Mountain Strike Corps that was to be completed in eight years, but was put on the back burner by the present Govt, must be completed within two financial years.

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The Armed Forces need to deploy drones, long range radars and aerial reconnaissance to dominate the LAC. We cannot patrol a threat simply with binoculars

For the long term measures, Defence Budget needs to be enhance from 1.8 percent of the GDP to 3.0 percent for the next two five year plans. As in 1962, India needs to wake up to the threat. It is real and could escalate over the years as China tries to assert its power.

Procurements as per the Joint Long Term Perspective Plan for all three services needs to be stepped up for capacity building. While indigenous production should be encouraged, Transfer Of Technology (TOT) must be included in all big ticket acquisitions of aircrafts, ships, guns and anti-aircraft systems.

The infantry has been neglected for a long time as the infantry acquisitions are not considered big ticket procurements. It is high time to equip the ground soldier with a lighter and more effective weapon system and equipment.

Resource integration must be ensured in utilisation of all intelligence resources of the country as was practised during the Surgical Strikes after Uri incident and at Balakot after the Pulwama incident.

Diplomatically, we need to steer international opinion against China as the aggressor. The Quad including US,Japan, Australia and India, must carryout greater number of Joint Exercise and enhance interoperability of their armed forces. Armed forces of Taiwan and South Korea should also be included in these exercise to isolate China regionally and internationally.

India needs to revisit it’s No First Use (NFU) Nuclear Policy and make it clear like its adversaries that it retains the right of first use of tactical nuclear weapons on the lines of its adversaries and we must stabilise our Triad capability of delivering these weapons by air, sea and land.

Our successful missile technology should be further enhanced for over 95 percent accuracy at long ranges. The bottom line is that any emerging economy can only prosper when its defence forces are strong and they have adequate dissuasive and deterrent capabilities to check mate its adversaries.

India must take a leaf from China’s book to enhance its comprehensive national power in a peaceful manner without any fanfare. China kept on growing peacefully for nearly forty years before taking an aggressive posture in the South China Sea, Indian Ocean and land borders with India and Bhutan two years back. Hopefully, China has learnt from the stiff resistance given at Galwan and understood that India is no push over and is a regional power to coexist with rather than mess with.

Kashmir Headed For A Hot Summer

While the nation including the politicians, bureaucrats, police, public and last but not the least Corona warriors that include doctors, nurses and hospital staff are busy combating Covid-19, militancy in Kashmir is picking up with the onset of summer months. India need to remain vigilant.

Traditionally, there is a spurt in infiltration attempts with the opening of passes but the last month has seen unprecedented bloody encounters resulting in the death of 22 security personal including Col Ashutosh Sharma, Maj Anuj Sood and three other brave hearts. The tracking down and final elimination of a prominent leader of Hizbul Mujahideen Riaz Naikoo, is a shot in the arm of security forces, but should not be termed as retaliatory or revenge operation as covered by the mainstream media.

While the world is desperately fighting against the global Coronavirus pandemic, Pakistan has been continuously perpetuating proxy war. It is reliably learnt that Pakistan is motivating Covid-10 affected terrorists to infiltrate and carry out violent actions against Indian security forces so that they can go to heaven after their martyrdom. While Hizbul Mujahideen, Jaish-e-Mohammed and Ansar Ghazwat-Ul-Hind remain the main active Tanzeems, Lakshar-e-Taiba leadership in Pakistan has floated a new outfit called The Resistance Front to give an indigenous look and ward off the pressure from Financial Action Task Force.

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A lid was kept on the internal security situation with a heavy hand by overwhelming deployment of security forces ever since article 370 was abrogated in early August 2019 but the dissatisfaction and disenchantment amongst the Kashmiris was brewing over time. Come November and as winter set in, the infiltration from across the Line of Control (LoC) came down to a trickle.

The central government thought that the security forces were on top of the situation; but it was the combination of the curfew, crowd control measures, uncertainty, prolonged house arrest of political leaders, blocking of internet and social media and the inclement weather that did not allow terrorists groups to reorganise and operate freely during the winter months. This period also witnessed a reduction in number of stone throwing incidents as the locals were not sure whether the security forces will continue to show restraint or use adequate requisite force.

At the beginning of this year, schools and colleges in Kashmir started reopening, internet was restored and the situation appeared to be inching towards normalcy in the Valley. Ironically, as the 70-odd Kashmiri political leaders including Abdullahs were released in March from house arrest, the rest of the nation was confined to homes due to the threat of Covid-19 and Kashmiris came at par with the rest of the countrymen. The security forces in Kashmir had to have a balancing act of fighting on two fronts, militancy and Covid-19. That is not an easy task.

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A few questions have arisen as to why the armed forces are facing so many casualties including those among senior officers. The answer lies in the ethos of the officers of the Indian Army.

The Indian Army has a tradition of officers leading from the front. This was evident during the various wars fought after Independence. Officer casualties have been proportionately higher than the other ranks.

This is also true for some other armies of the world. Israel is a shining example. In the Armoured Corps Memorial and Museum at Yad La-Shiryon, Latrun, there are over two thousand names of officers and enlisted men who have died between the age of eighteen to twenty years.

It was heartening to see that one section of the museum in Israel is dedicated to an Indian army officer; Lt Gen JFR Jacob, a Jew who was the brain behind the meticulous planning of operations in East Pakistan, later Bangladesh, in Indo-Pak War of 1971. Incidentally, in the 1971 War a large number of casualties were officers from the batch that got commissioned on 13 November 1971, from Indian Military Academy, barely three weeks prior to the war.

In Kashmir, Handwara has traditionally been a hot bed since it has thick forests around it like Machipora, Kainyar, Kandi, Harfudda, Saren, Dalar, Surhalu and Galganjan. Its proximity to the LoC gives it the correct positioning for reception areas after the infiltrations. Infiltrating groups come to these forests, have their rest and the recoup and plan operations using these forests as bases.

Invariably over the years, there have been bloody encounters with security forces. The army has always had one to two Special Forces teams operating in these areas alongside the Rashtriya Rifles and regular infantry battalions operating in a grid pattern in the hinterland.

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Detailed analyses of the counter insurgency operations in J&K since 1989 reveal that the maximum casualties to own troops are either at the beginning of the operation when the exact location of the terrorist is not really known to the troops and they are fired upon by terrorists hiding in houses or under natural cover; or at the end of the successful encounter when own troops in a rush of adrenaline, close in to mop up the operation but some half dead terrorist opens up at close range knowing fully well that he is going to die. In both cases, the officers are generally leading and have greater chances of becoming casualties.

The 15 Corps Commander, Lt Gen BS Raju in a recent interview claimed that the leadership of various Tanzeems active in the Valley and named above; has been eliminated. Basu says local recruitment has come down by 45 percent. However there are further dangers.

The US pullout from Afghanistan will give Pakistan leverage over Afghan terror groups who can be easily diverted to Kashmir. The foreign constituents of terrorist networks would substantially be increased. Regarding the leadership, most of these Tanzeems work in cellular system and there is always a standby leader who takes the place of the slain leader. Sometimes the same alias like Abu Bakker is also inherited by the new leader.

Since Pakistan was not able to get adequate traction and leverage in its relentless diplomatic efforts to isolate India internationally after the abrogation of Article 370, it is likely to push a large number of terrorist groups into the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir this summer. Our brave officers and jawans are having to fight on two fronts, the Covid-19 pandemic and the terrorist escalation from across the border. The launch pads and training areas as per the Corps Commander, are working at full capacity and therefore we need to be fully prepared for a hot summer in the Kashmir Valley. Ready the Indian Security Services will be.

An Independence Day Gift To Defence Services

Having announced the welcome post for a Chief of Defence Services, the Prime Minister must now integrate the Services HQs with Defence Ministry wherein officers and bureaucrats will sit side by side as equal partners

From the ramparts of the Red Fort in his 92-minute Independence Day speech, the Prime Minister has finally announced the appointment of Chief of Defence Services (CDS) post for the three services. The crying need for the post was felt after the 1971 Indo-Pak War wherein with the consent of the Indira Gandhi Government, Gen SHFJ Manekshaw performed the duties of the CDS for the duration of the war. He was also promoted to Field Marshal, a Five Star General on his retirement. This much-awaited appointment is a welcome step for deteriorated civil-military relations wherein the three services are denied direct access to the Raksha Mantri (RM) and they have to pass through the tinted filters of an under equipped and qualified bureaucracy.

Based on the arrangements in most of the democracies of the world, it was always felt that a single point advisor to the government representing all the three services for all aspects of operations, training and procurement was paramount. The CDS had to be senior to all the serving Chiefs to be effective and as such should be a five star general who would have a direct access to the Raksha Mantri (RM). The bureaucrats in the Ministry of Defence (MoD) were always wary of this arrangement and were against the appointment as their implied authority over all the three services would be diluted. Although, the Chairman Chiefs of Staffs Committee was the right man to perform in absence of the CDS, in various UPA Government tenures, the Defence Secretary, who is lower in status to the three Chiefs was performing this task by default; without adequate in-depth knowledge of the three services, only because he had direct access to the RM.

Successive governments continued to defer the appointment of CDS on the ill advice of the bureaucracy. Thanks to the then BJP Government headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee to have formally identified the need of having a CDS after the Kargil War. The Group of Ministers in the Kargil Review Committee recommended that a Five Star General should be appointed as the CDS. The appointment was related to the integration of services headquarters with MoD as is prevalent in most of the democratic countries of the world.

It is to the credit of the three services that they started preparing the framework of the CDS Secretariat and integration of the services headquarters with MoD. The services set up a joint integrated Headquarters named the Integrated Defence Staff (IDS). IDS has been effectively and efficiently functional for over a decade now and is headed by Chief of the Integrated Defence Staff (CIDS); an Army Commander level Officer in rotation from the three services, who would eventually be the deputy of the newly appointed CDS. Presently, the CIDS reports to the Chairman Chief of Staff’s Committee who is the senior most services Chief and holds two hats in this rotational appointment. The newly appointed CDS will just have to walk in and “plug and play“the role as he already has an effective team in place.

The NDA.1 government identified the need to have a CDS and the late Manohar Parrikar on taking over as RM had promised the services that he would soon get a CDS appointed. However, the three services Chiefs were not on the same page as IAF opposed the idea. The IAF and Indian Navy, because of their smaller sizes, were always scepticle that this post would generally be held by an Army Officer and their priorities of modernisation and acquisitions may be relegated or kept on the back burner. In the Israeli Army in the 2005 war with Lebanon the CDS was from the Air Force and Israeli tanks suffered heavy casualties due to an unorthodox use of missiles fired from basements and windows of houses by Hizbulla. It was then decided that CDS would always be appointed from the Army and is usually from the Special Forces.

Due to his proximity with the PMO, NSA Ajit Doval has been willy nilly performing the duties of the CDS from Pathankot Incident to surgical strikes to Balakot and now abrogation of Article 370. While it may be acceptable for internal security situations to have an ex police officer taking charge of the situation, for an external threat he would woefully fall short. PM needs to be congratulated for not succumbing to the suggestion of a four star general to the job because Chairman of Chief of Staff Committee, a four star General is presently performing the duties and cannot be very assertive on the other two chiefs of the same stature.

Ideal choice for the first CDS are two learned and very well read Generals who have retired in the last two years and are still current. The first one is Lt Gen Praveen Bakshi who was wrongfully denied the appointment of the COAS in spite of being capable, and the second choice is Lt Gen DS Hooda who was at the helm of Northern Command during the launch of surgical strikes. Otherwise, a serving Chief may be promoted and another chief appointed in his place. The front-runners amongst them are the Air Chief BS Dhanoa after Balakot and the Army Chief Bipin Rawat. Government will do well if they appoint the first CDS who is a visionary and acceptable to all services. 

The new RM Mr Rajnath Singh needs to be congratulated on rolling back of income tax levies on disabled soldiers and announcement of appointment of CDS within three months of his taking over. He needs to restore the confidence of the serving military soldiers in their government who has been systematically relegating their rightful stature in NDA 1 period. Since the Central Police Forces Officers have already been granted Non Functional Financial Upgradation (NFFU) and the services have been denied the same; the elite defence services have for the first time in history of India been relegated to a position below the CPOs. This does not augur well for the morale and motivation of the defence forces of a country which aspires to be a regional power within a decade.

The modernisation and acquisition plans of the defence services need an immediate impetus with infusion of necessary funds. This is also the ideal time to integrate the services headquarters with MoD wherein services officers and bureaucrats will sit side by side as partners and MoD will stop pretending to be a higher Headquarter. Lots of overlapping will be removed with savings to the defence budget and efficiency and accountability would be ensured.

Indian Army Is People's Fauz, Not Modi Ji Ki Sena

Indian Army Is People’s Fauj, Not Modi Ji Ki Sena

Time has come for a public outcry in support of no politicisation of the armed forces

Prime Ministers will come and go but Indian Army will remain the final bastion of this nation. Our defence forces have a long track record of being apolitical and are respected worldwide for their professionalism. Indian Army is the army of its people and has always acted to save its citizens from external aggression and internal disturbances or insurgencies. 

Insurgency in Punjab was controlled largely due to the fact that Indian Army under their Chief General Bipin Chandra Joshi had cleared all rural areas of militants and had left the populated urban areas to the Punjab Police. The Chief had decided that the army would not take any credit but would continue to provide area security and actionable intelligence to the state police, allow it to take the credit and re-establish its credibility. That is the mettle Indian Army is made of and the politicians of all hue and cry must adhere to the opening sentence of the code of conduct laid down by election commission that clearly states that politicisation of the army should not be resorted to.

The fire brand Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adityanath in an election rally has remarked that Indian Army is Modi Ji Ki Sena. It is a well-known fact that this CM also had an army of his own. Indian Army is an instrument of the state and does not belong to any political party in or out of power. The credit for giving a political clearance for operating across the Line of Control should rightly go to PM Modi. Again, the credit of placing all instruments of intelligence gathering or monitoring the movement of inimical forces as also tracing the moment of own troops in territory controlled by the enemy must go to the National Security Advisor Ajit Doval.

The credit of planning and coordinating operations goes to the Director General Military Operations acting in behalf of Army Chief and the Northern Army Commander. The Corps Commander was responsible for coordinating and provision of all resources at his call to support the operation. The actual credit of launching the surgical strikes across the enemy lines goes to the Commanding Officer, the team commanders and the troops of Special Forces who went across and risked their lives and the pilots of Indian Air Force and their base commanders. If the PM, NSA, the then Army Chief or the Army Commander take credit for launching surgical strikes, then they are far from the truth. Unfortunately, for this nation, they are all taking credit, time and again, to gain votes or favours for plum appointments within and outside the country.

Number of movies and web shows like Uri and certain others have misguided the nation in showing that the operational and tactical wisdom flowed down from the PM and the NSA. The PM and NSA have had no formal training in military matters and are not well equipped to lay down operational plans. Such operations had been done earlier also but in a covert manner to impose your will on the erring opponent. The difference is that this time it was made public and the surgical strikes are being milked time and again to score browning point against political opponents. It is but natural that when corned in this issue, the opposition starts doubting the veracity of the claims and starts asking proof of these operations. Both the ruling party and the opposition have done ample harm to the credibility of our armed forces as also the confidentiality of the operational plans.

The time has come when there needs to be a public outcry in support of no politicisation of the armed forces. When you talk to the common man on the street he has a lot of respect for the armed forces. The best way to build nationalism is to have conscription wherein every abled man and woman does military training for a specific period. USA and some European nations have had conscription from time to time. Israel and some of its Arab neighbours still have conscription. It will be argued that India, because of its burgeoning population, cannot afford to have conscription. Shall we then lay it down as a legislation that all individuals aspiring for government jobs and public life must have a compulsory two years military training? That will cover all future politicians and bureaucrats.

Very systematically, the bureaucrats and the politicians over the last seven decades have been bringing down the status of the premier institution of defence forces, in successive pay commissions. The biggest user of the pay commission, the defence forces never have had a representative in the pay commission. The Ministry of Defence has not been integrated with services Headquarters like in all modern democratic nations and behaves like a higher Headquarters without having any practical knowledge of matters military. No modernisation has taken place either in the ten years of UPA government or in the last five years. The civil military relations in the county are at its lowest ebb under the present government. Although in principal, this government has given One Rank One Pay in the beginning of their tenure, the bureaucracy has successfully insulated the politicians from the services and have ensured in holding the government from completing its promises. The rapid changes of Defence Ministers who have been political light weights shows that the PMO has little time for ensuring true national security except for resorting to rhetoric and pushing agendas in the name of national security. This must change with the new government in office this summer otherwise we will get a rap on our knuckles again like 1962.