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Saturday, 20 October 2012

From Today's Papers - 20 Oct 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.tribuneindia.com/2012/20121020/edit.htm#10

Can india militarily take on china today ?

We look ahead and review the existing military capabilities of the two countries. On the face of it, the military balance clearly favours China, but in the improbable event of another conventional war, it would be no cake walk for the Dragon

Dinesh Kumar

 

OCtober 20, 1962 is not a date Indians would like to remember. During the 1962 border war with China, the Indian Army was far inferior and far inexperienced compared to the Chinese and also compared to what it is today. The Indian Army had then never really fought a full scale war, certainly not with a country of the size of China.

 

The Navy, equipped mostly with hand-me-down British warships, was far too tiny. Similarly, the Indian Air Force (IAF) comprised world war vintage aircraft.

 

Prior to Independence, the officer cadre of the Indian Army comprised junior officers with just one brigadier rank officer, later Field Marshal Kodanandra Madappa Cariappa, who in 1950 became the first Indian to become India's Commanderin-Chief of the Indian armed forces, a post that was later abolished. Army Chief. The Indian Army, raised entirely by the British colonialists, had fought under the command and leadership of British officers in various theatres overseas during the two world wars.

In the first 15 post-Independence years immediately prior to the Sino-Indian war, the Indian Army had only fought tactical level infantry and light artillery battles with its own breakaway faction that now belonged to a freshly carved out Pakistan over a year-and-two-month period in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The two armies were similarly trained, equipped and led and spoke the same language. Nehru's retrospectively misplaced faith in the newly created United Nations and the fact that both the Indian and Pakistani armies were commanded by British generals, a situation further complicated with India's then Governor General being a Briton (Lord Mountbatten), came in the way of the Indian Army fully testing its military prowess at that time.

 

Other Indian Army actions during this 15 year period were limited to mere force posturing in Junagadh (1947), a short 'police action' against the forces of the Nizam of Hyderabad (1948) and a limited joint services operation in Goa (1961) - all of which formed part of a post-Independence nation consolidation exercise.

 

It is with this meagre experience that India faced Mao Tse-tung's far more experienced PLA (Peoples Liberation Army), that had in 1949 succeeded in defeating the West-backed Knomintang (KMT) government after a long struggle. Only a few years earlier, the PLA had briefly collaborated with the KMT forces to repel a Japanese invasion. Soon after wresting control of the country from the KMT, the PLA had fought the UN forces in Korea. Indeed, the PLA was not just an army - it was an ideologically committed and trained movement that was synonomous with the then newly created Communist China.

 

The role of India's political leaders (notably Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Defence Minister Vengalil Krishnan Krsihna Menon), the conduct of the military leadership (notably Lt Gen Brij Mohan Kaul) and the dysfunctional state of India's higher defence management system is well known and been elaborately explained in preceding articles.

 

The issue that begs the question is whether India has learnt its lessons, and what is the state of the current military balance between the two countries in case of a future conventional and/or nuclear war between the two countries.

 

The answer is only too evident. India is far from matching China's numerically superior conventional and nuclear armed forces (see graph above). More critically, India is quite some time away from matching China in certain strategic military capabilities, especially long-range missiles, space-based military systems, nuclear-powered submarines and other nuclear warfare technology. China is markedly ahead in both information warfare and an indigenous military-industrial complex that will be there to elaborately support its war efforts and armed forces during a war.

 

The obvious conclusion would thus be that India would easily lose the next war. Such a conclusion, however, would be too simplistic and reductionist. As recent history tells us, wars are complex human activity and are becoming far more difficult to win.

 

A militarily inferior Vietcong defeated a vastly superior US Army in Vietnam during the 1960s and the 1970s. A far superior Indian Army faced considerable resistance from the Pakistani Army during the 1971 India-Pakistan war in erstwhile East Pakistan even though the Pakistani forces had been virtually abandoned by the establishment in West Pakistan as is well explained by both Lt Gen Jack Fredrick Ralph Jacob in his book, Surrender At Dacca: Birth of a Nation and by Lt Gen Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi in his book, The Betrayal of East Pakistan. During the 1999 Kargil War, a numerically superior Indian Army assisted by the IAF wrested control of the Pakistani army occupied mountain peaks in Ladakh at considerable human and financial expense over an agonisingly long two month period and with strong diplomatic support from the US. In more recent times, the world's sole superpower (the US) has had to pull out from Iraq after facing heavy weather and is slated to do the same from Afghanistan.

Change in strategy

 

In 1962, India fought the war with a relatively neglected Army that was pushed into fighting with little preparation and training. The IAF was not utilised out of fear of escalation and it remains a matter of intense debate as to how much the IAF would have been able to help the Indian Army in repulsing the Chinese attack. While successive IAF chiefs and other senior officers have stated that the air force could have altered the course of the war, Chinese analysts disagree and point to the limitations of precision bombing in mountainous terrain by world war vintage era aircraft which were then equipped only with free fall bombs and cannons instead of air-to-air missiles. These aircraft had none of the precision guided munitions that were used during the Kargil War during which, again, the IAF had limited success despite being equipped with advanced sensor technology such as both laser-guided and TV-guided bombs.

 

Should China similarly attempt to run over Indian territory along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), they will find that Indian troops are deployed in far greater strength and are better equipped to repulse such an attack. There is also greater political and military resolve. For example, China's encroachment in Sumdorong Chu in Arunachal Pradesh in 1986 resulted in a swift and no nonsense Indian response that eventually (in 1999) led to status quo ante. India is now in the process of raising two additional Mountain Divisions and a first-ever Mountain Strike Corps. India currently has three Strike Corps, all of which are directed to fight a war with Pakistan.

Considering that there has been a revolution in military technology since the 1962 war, Infantry soldiers trekking up a ridge line is not going to be China's strategy in a future war. This is where the military imbalance between the two countries comes into play. China has proven long-range missiles that can target any part of India. In contrast, India's longer-range Agni series missiles are still in their testing stage and as such India cannot target China's 'centre of gravity' in and around Beijing and Shanghai (see box on missile arsenal). Similarly, China’s long-range conventional and nuclear-tipped missiles fitted on nuclear-powered submarines can strike Indian targets from anywhere in the Indian Ocean. In contrast, India is still a few years from inducting its first indigenously developed nuclear-powered submarine. India has leased a Russian Akula class nuclear-powered submarine but that is only for training. India's conventional submarine fleet is modest when compared to China as are the number of warships.

 

China has acquired its first aircraft carrier, an instrument of sea control. The Indian Navy too has an aircraft carrier, which, however, is much smaller and close to decommissioning. India's first indigenously developed aircraft carrier is another six years away while induction of the Russian-origin 44,500 tonne aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov is at least another year away.

 

India's fighter aircraft fleet is similarly modest when compared to the Chinese fleet. The IAF's Sukhoi-30 MKI multi-role fighters has a deep penetration capability and can attack targets well inside Tibet if required. But like in the case of Indian missiles, these aircraft will be unable to reach China's military-industrial complex in the Beijing region. The only advantage the IAF has is that its aircraft can take off with a higher quantum of payload (bombs) from airbases located in the plains of Assam or central India compared to their Chinese counterparts since the latter are stationed in high altitude airbases which severely restricts taking off with heavy payload.

China's communication infrastructure is considered better than that of India, which lacks an extensive road network for faster movement of troops and equipment. In contrast, China has an excellent road network on the Tibetan plateau and even has a rail network connecting Beijing with Lhasa with five subsidiary railroads under construction.

 

Of considerable importance is China's approach to Revolution in Military Affairs or RMA. China's focus is on information warfare which both includes and goes beyond cyber espionage and cyber warfare. This, according to Stephen Peter Rosen at Harvard University, will mean defeating India's early warning system, denying India the information to detect and react to Chinese movement and possibly attacking Indian satellites. In competing with the US, China has long since militarily surpassed India.

Not to be under-estimated is Sun Tzu's philosophy of ‘winning without fighting’. There is enough evidence to suggest that China has since long been engaging in 'strategic encirclement'. Based on the dictum that 'my enemy's enemy is my friend', China's friendship with Pakistan includes cooperation in a wide range of military technologies that ranges from aircraft, tanks and missiles to nuclear technology. China's deep military engagement with Myanmar, arms supplies to Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and now Nepal are only too well known.

 

India's armed forces are mostly concentrated vis-à-vis Pakistan. For example, four (the North, West, South Western and Southern Commands) out of a total six operational commands of the Indian Army are Pakistan centric. Practically only one operational command (Eastern Command in Kolkatta) and partially a second (Northern Command in Udhampur) are China-focused. Of the total thirteen corps, only two-and-a-half corps (numbers 3, 4 and part of 14) are deployed along the border with China.

The same applies to India's airbases, most of which are located along the India-Pakistan border. Similarly, most of the Navy's assets are positioned with the Western naval Command in the Arabian Sea. Most military exercises conducted by the Indian armed forces have and continue to be Pakistan focused.

 

Notwithstanding the lessons presumably learnt from the Kargil War of 1999 and the large scale mobilisation of 2001-02 (Operation Parakram) and the comprehensive recommendations made by the specially constituted Group of Ministers (GoM), Indian higher defence management is still in dire need of reform. In keeping with India's strategic culture, decision making continues to be slow, incremental and reactive. Fifty years later, the Indian decision making process remains as painfully slow as the elephant.

 

Defence Minister Arackaparambil Kurien Antony’s recent assurance that a repeat of the 1962 defeat is now impossible is largely correct should China attempt the same tactics as used in 1962. For, the Indian armed forces are better equipped, the country more confident and the politicians well aware that any military defeat will not be acceptable to the Indian people who are today far more aware and conscious.

 

The fact also is that both countries have matured and shown greater restraint in the last 50 years. Sino-Indian relations have made far greater headway compared to India-Pakistan relations. The world too has changed. And so, as of now a military conflict on a scale of the 1962 Sino-Indian War increasingly seems improbable. The Clausewitzian dictum of war being the ‘continuation of politics (policy) by other means’ is unlikely to apply in Sino-Indian relations in the near future. That has since long shifted to a combination of several non-military fronts such as diplomatic, economic, political and soft power.

 

 

http://www.tribuneindia.com/2012/20121020/edit.htm#11

China modernises while India lags behind

Vijay Mohan

 

A casual glance at tables comparing Indian and Chinese military assets shows the numbers heavily stacked in favour of China, which has more of just about everything. Numbers matter, but then these are subservient to a host of other factors like doctrinal aspects, technological prowess, terrain and deployability, logistic support, training levels and leadership.

 

To get a holistic picture of the might of the nations and the effectiveness of their military machines, one needs to assess the capabilities of the assets and their ability to perform under specific conflict situations in convectional and sub-convectional environment, including indulgence in cyber warfare and psychological operations.

 

The current Chinese military doctrine, which began taking shape soon after the 1991 Gulf War is based upon "active defence" and "local wars under high-tech conditions". The Chinese believe the possibility of an all-out war being extremely low and its doctrinal approach for low intensity conflict and small local wars calls for the use of very high levels of military force, with stress on pre-emption and seizing the initiative.

 

China's National Defence, a white paper issued by the communist regime in Beijing last year emphasises the Chinese military's rapid transformation into a lean, agile and integrated force, moving away from its earlier focus on quantity and manpower to technology, quality and efficiency capable of providing a long reach in a short time. The paper also stresses upon "informationisation" or the exploitation of the information spectrum as the key to empowerment, dominance and success, both in war and peace. This not only involves secure and effective intra-nation communication, but also the ability to penetrate, manipulate or cripple hostile networks. China is also engrossed in what it calls "military confidence building", involving military-diplomatic engagement and strategic consultations with other countries.

 

Accentuated modernisation

 

In the backdrop of China's perception that international strategic competition and contradictions are intensifying, global challenges are becoming more prominent, and security threats are becoming increasingly integrated, complex and volatile, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) has "accentuated modernisation from a higher platform", strengthening the building of a new type of combat capability with enhanced fire power, mobility, protection and support.

 

In line with the strategic requirements of mobile operations and tri-dimensional offense and defence, the Chinese army has emphasised the development of new types of combat forces, optimised organisation and structure, strengthened military training in conditions of "informationisation", accelerated digitised upgrading and retrofitting of weaponry, deployed new weapon platforms, and significantly boosted capabilities in long-distance maneuvers and integrated assaults. Artillery and armoured components are developing precision operations capability with integrated reconnaissance, control, strike and assessment elements. Other arms and services are being upgraded into multi-functional support forces for use in war, peace and military operations other than war. A large component of the PLA is mechanised or motorised.

 

The Chinese air force is working to ensure a combat force structure that focuses on air strikes, air and missile defence, and strategic projection, to improve leadership and command system and build up an informationised, networked base support system. It conducts training on confrontation between systems in complex electromagnetic environments and different tactical contexts. The navy endeavors to accelerate the modernisation of integrated combat forces, enhance capabilities in strategic deterrence and counter-attack, conducting operations in distant waters and in countering non-traditional threats. In September this year, its first aircraft carrier was commissioned into service, opening a new chapter in Chinese maritime operations and significantly expanding its capability of engaging sub-surface, surface and airborne targets.

 

The Second Artillery Corps, PLA's strategic missile component, strives to improve its capabilities in rapid reaction, penetration, precision strike, damage infliction, protection, and survivability, while steadily enhancing its capabilities in strategic deterrence and defensive operations.

 

Joint operation systems are the focal point of PLA's modernisation and it has improved joint support mechanisms, enhanced IT-based integrated support, and established a basic integrated support system linking strategic, operational and tactical levels. The PLA is also laying stress on the training of commanding officers for joint operations and under its strategic project for talented individuals, it is cultivating a contingent of commanding officers, staff officers, scientists, technical experts and non-commissioned officers as joint operation commanders, "informationisation" professionals and experts in operating and maintaining new types of equipment. Plans for wartime troop mobilisation have been improved and the reserve force has been strengthened.

 

While planning the development of future weapons and equipment, it is using advanced and mature technologies to retrofit existing systems to upgrade their comprehensive performance. It is strengthening logistics systems and revamping capabilities in managing, maintaining and supporting equipment by applying modern management techniques, integrating systems and outsourcing services. China has a large industrial base to support indigenous production.

 

The Indian Transformation

 

Fifty years after the two Asian giants went to war, the Indian armed forces have come a long way, having built up considerable force structures, absorbed newer technologies and refined operational art. Working towards a capability-based approach, the armed forces have, according to the Ministry of Defence, embarked on several transformational initiatives spanning concepts, organisational structures and absorption of new age technology, particularly in precision-guided munitions, advanced surveillance systems, space and network-centricity. Over the past few years, the three services have also been developing and validating network-centric operations aimed at seamless flow of data laterally and vertically to provide commanders access to real time information and decision-making abilities. A Strategic Forces Command has come up and is evolving to handle critical deterrent assets while joint commands for cyber war and special operations are being planned.

 

The biggest drawback in Indian defence preparedness is the heavy dependence on foreign suppliers for major weapons systems and critical components. The military industry in India is at a nascent stage and private participation in research and development is negligible.

 

A critical deficiency on the Indian side is border infrastructure which could seriously affect rapid troop deployment and movement of logistics. According to a former Army Commander, it is just about 30 per cent of what it ought to be. China on the other hand, has built up a vast road and rail network.

 

At present India has no counter offensive capability and in the event of a conflict cannot carry the battle into China. Nor will any offensive by China be a cakewalk as in 1962. While not much is known about the Chinese forces, they too are bound to have their weaknesses and disadvantages and any border conflict could well end in a stalemate.

 

 

http://www.tribuneindia.com/2012/20121020/main1.htm

Militants target Srinagar hotel, kill 1

Attack an Army convoy on highway before forcing their way into hotel; 2 employees hurt in firing

Majid Jahangir/TNS

 

Srinagar, October 19

Suspected militants today fired at an Army convoy near a hotel on the outskirts of Srinagar city killing a hotel employee and injuring two others. “Initial investigations into the firing incident have shown that the militants had planned an attack on the highway. They did not succeed and tried to enter a nearby hotel. They opened indiscriminate firing, killing Farooq Ahmad, a bellboy, and injuring two others, Anees Ahmed and Bilal Ahmed,” a police spokesman said.

 

Police sources said at least three militants armed with assault rifles attacked an Army vehicle near Nowgam on the Parimpora-Panthachowk bypass at 4.30 pm in which the vehicle was damaged.

 

“No security man was injured. After carrying out the attack, the militants forced their way into the hotel premises and started shooting indiscriminately, killing the bellboy and injuring two others. After the firing, the militants fledthe hotel,” sources said.

 

Anees, who got a bullet embedded in his abdomen, was shifted to Sri Mahraja Hari Singh (SMHS) Hospital, where his condition is stated to be serious. Bilal Ahmed, who also had a bullet in his arm, was shifted to Bone and Joints hospital for treatment.

 

A hotel employee said the militants also fired at the reception counter. One report said the armed militants entered the hotel creating panic among the staff and guests. In the melee, the armed militants dragged the bellboy. Before fleeing, they shot him dead.

 

Initially, police thought that the militants had hid themselves inside the hotel and a search was launched. After almost two hours, the hotel was declared safe and the guests were allowed to move in. “Bullet marks were visible near the hotel reception. All the guests and employees of the hotel are safe,” said a hotel employee. “It was not an attack on the hotel. The militants took the hotel route to escape after attacking the Army convoy,” he added.

 

Inspector-General of Police (Kashmir) S M Sahai termed it a militant attack. When asked to clarify whether it was an attack on the hotel or the highway, he said it was too early to comment. “Nothing seemed to have been targeted by the militants in the hotel,” Sahai said.

 

Soon after the shootout, police along with paramilitary troopers launched a manhunt to nab the militants.

 

“The entire area has been cordoned off and search for the militants is on,” police said.

 

Militants had carried out an attack on CRPF at Rainawari in May-end in the heart of city in which seven CRPF personnel were injured.

Major strikes in Srinagar (2012)

 

April 20: ASI Sukhpal Singh shot dead at a market in Srinagar.

 

May 30: Seven CRPF personnel injured as the patrol party is attacked outside a CRPF camp.

 

June 28: Four rifle grenades fired at Tatoo group Territorial Army camp on the city outskirts.

 

July 18: A rifle grenade is fired at civil secretariat in heart of the city.

 

August 10: Retired DSP Abdul Hameed Bhat is shot dead outside a mosque on the city outskirts.

 

 

http://www.tribuneindia.com/2012/20121020/main5.htm

PM: Infra upgrade along Chinese border a priority

Tribune News Service

 

New Delhi, October 19

Addressing the key issue of inadequate infrastructure along the Chinese frontier, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today told the top brass of the Indian armed forces that the country has to keep upgrading its infrastructure even when it was engaged in talks with its neighbours.

 

Sources, who were privy to the PM’s talk at the combined commanders conference, said the PM stated that infrastructure building has to be a priority. However, the official statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) was silent on infrastructure.

 

The PMO, without naming the US, Iran and China, referred to the conflicts arising in the Indian periphery. It listed India’s strategic calculus

 

from the Gulf of Aden (off the horn of Africa) to the Straits of Malacca (southernmost tip of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands).

 

The statement released by the PMO quoted the PM as having said, “Very recently, we have seen precisely these areas turn once again into fresh theatres of contest.”

 

“We have consistently maintained that all issues must be resolved peacefully through dialogue. Wherever feasible, multilateral and international organisations such as the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) and the United Nations must be allowed to play their due role,” the PM added.

 

Observers see this reference in two parts. First, the reference to the IAEA and the UN is in response to the threat issued by Iran earlier this year that it would stop oil-laden ships from plying in the Strait of Hormuz. This would hit crude oil supplies in Europe and elsewhere. The US had stationed a flotilla of its warships close to the Iranian coast and the Strait of Hormuz.

 

Secondly, the PM’s words hold a lesson for the forces that safe delivery of imported crude oil supplies would have to ensured if a crisis ensues.

 

On the eastern side, the Straits of Malacca became important after the US announced a “re-balance” of its naval assets in Southeast Asia. The straits are the shortest trade sea route to China and countries on the rim of the South China Sea.

 

To bring the Services to play a role in reaching out to neighbouring countries, the PM termed the forces as “inalienable arm of our diplomatic outreach and I expect them to play an effective role in this national endeavour. We (have to) focus on establishing greater connectivity in South Asia and our expanded neighbourhood to promote the movement of goods, services, investment and technology so that we can act as a motor of growth in this region”.

 

 

 

http://ibnlive.in.com/news/pm-manmohan-singh-to-address-armed-forces-conference/301153-3.html

PM Manmohan Singh to address armed forces conference

New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will be addressing the Armed Forces Combined Commanders' Conference on Friday. The Indian armed forces are mulling the creation of three unified commands to effectively tackle security threats and challenges in the fields of space, cyberspace and special operations. The efforts are part of increasing significance being given on jointness among the three Services by the Defence Ministry and to avoid duplication of their resources.

 

The three Services are discussing the format of the new commands to look after space, cyberspace and special operations and are expected to raise it in the Combined Commanders' Conference, Defence officials said. Defence Minister AK Antony and Finance Minister P Chidambaram are also scheduled to address senior commanders of the three Services at the bi-annual conference.

 

The proposal for creation of an aerospace command has been there for the last few years but it is stuck as the three Services have not agreed over the structure of the new

 

formation and the force which will head it. At present, the three Services have separate space cells.

The creation of a Special Operations Command has also been recommended by a government-appointed Committee. The idea behind raising the Special Operations Command is to put the special forces of the three Services under one formation and use them for strategic roles.

 

The need for a separate command to tackle cyberspace has been felt because of the recent surge in attacks on government and military networks by hacker groups and non-state actors. At present, the armed forces have three tri-services commands in place which are commanded by the three armed forces in rotation. At the Defence Ministry-level, the tri-services Integrated Defence Staff headquarters controls Strategic Forces Command and Andaman and Nicobar Command in Port Blair.

 

 

http://www.ndtv.com/article/india/for-first-time-soldiers-who-died-in-1962-indo-china-war-to-be-honoured-282062

For first time, soldiers who died in 1962 Indo-China war to be honoured

New Delhi: For the first time ever in fifty years, India will officially remember and pay homage to the soldiers who fought in the 1962 India-China war. Defence Minister AK Antony, Marshal of the Indian Air Force and the senior-most living officer Arjan Singh, and the three service chiefs will be at the Amar Jawan Jyoti in New Delhi today to honour the martyrs.

 

The nearly month-long war with China, in which about 4000 soldiers and officers lost their lives, began on October 20, 1962. The 4th Division that had fought admirably during World War II was demolished, and the Indian Army was forced to retreat from Arunachal Pradesh, then known as NEFA.

 

Despite the humiliating defeat, the war is strewn with stories of individual valour. For instance, at Walong in Arunachal Pradesh, the Chinese were held back by the Gurkhas and Sikhs despite heavy odds. On the other hand, Major Shaitan Singh Bhati and 114 of his gallant men of the 13 Kumaon held back the Chinese at Rezang La. Nonetheless, the Ministry of Defence (MoD), in particular, and the Indian establishment, in general, have consistently ignored the 1962 India-China war and its martyred - until now.

Ending this five-decade-long neglect, Defence Minister AK Antony will lead the wreath-laying ceremony, remembering the martyrs, followed by the Field Marshall of Indian Air Force Arjan Singh.

 

"There is no record of any such function to mark the occasion in the past 50 years," an official of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) told NDTV. The MoD couldn't come with a clear and reasoned answer for a sudden shift in stand. It just maintained that "soldiers who died for the country need to be remembered on the 50th anniversary of the war". The decision to honour the martyrs appears to have less to do with the years and more to do with the fact that as a nation, India appears to be more matured and prepared to deal with the trauma of 1962.

 

Earlier this week, speaking to reporters after addressing the Navy Commanders conference, the Defence Minister said that "the infrastructure in the North-East is not up to our satisfaction", but he went on to stress that India had moved on from the earlier belief that building roads and infrastructure in the North-East could help the Chinese advance faster into India territory. He said that India is a peace-loving nation but will develop its roads and infrastructure and the capability to deal with "any eventuality". "We are now capable of defending every inch of our country," Mr Antony said.

 

 

http://www.dailypioneer.com/columnists/item/52673-air-chief%E2%80%99s-hindsight-wisdom-based-on-misunderstanding.html

Air Chief’s hindsight wisdom based on misunderstanding

 An impression is sought to be conveyed today by some that Nehru and Menon, by asking IAF to stand down in 1962, had paved the way for defeat. But truth be told, it was the only wise decision taken by the architects of the Himalayan blunder

 

In his statement on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the 1962 war, Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne remarked that India had erred by not using offensive air power in the 1962 Chinese war and the outcome of the war would have been different had the role of the Indian Air Force been expanded beyond merely providing logistic support.

 

Perhaps the Air Chief is totally unaware of certain home truths about that conflict. On September 18, 1961 Krishna Menon, the then Defence Minister, convened a meeting of the officers of the defence forces, Intelligence community and civil authorities to appraise the prevailing situation arising out of the impending Chinese attack in NEFA and Ladakh. The Defence Minister asked Army Commander Daulat Singh to explain his plan for the defence of North-East and Ladakh. The Commander advocated that due to chronic shortage of of troops in Ladakh, he could not defend any position outside the Ladakh valley. He suggested the withdrawal of troops from forward posts and concentrate around Ladakh.

 

The IB chief, along with other representatives, strongly protested this strategy because that meant India surrendering 2,000 sq. miles of territory to the Chinese without a fight. This territory was taken into control after suffering untold hardships by the IB and police officials. Air Marshal MM Engineer too strongly opposed any withdrawal from the Ladakh frontier. He said that the IAF had built the Chushul airfield with great difficulty, and it was better than the field at Leh.  Air chief Engineer admitted that IAF was capable to attack the Chinese troops concentration in West Tibet bordering Ladakh from Chushul airfield. He also assured that IAF was prepared to fly any reinforcement and equipment to Chushul as the AN-12 plane could land and take off from this airfield easily which was effectively done subsequently for the army. The Chief of Army Staff also did not support the proposal to withdraw without a fight. True to the admission of Air Marshal Engineer, IAF thereafter, lifted all enforcements and equipment not only to Chushul but to the forward posts of Daulat Beg Oldi, Koyul and even to Leh.

 

The IB was asked to give its assessment of the Chinese Air Force which could be put into action against India. IB briefed that the Chinese Air Force was rated as the third strongest air force in the world after the US and USSR. IB opined that their bomber planes could attack as far as up to Madras without any hindrance as there were no night interceptors available with the IAF. IB too informed the presence of more powerful Mig-17, Mig-19 and Mig-21 in the Chinese Air Force in comparison to our Canberra fighters which were no match.

 

Though Krishna Menon disagreed over the presence of the Mig-21 in the Chinese Air Force, the assessment was bang on. IB informed that they had reliable information relating to the locations of Chinese airfields in Tibet, Sinkiang and Yunan provinces bordering India from where the Chinese Air Force could attack Indian territory. After prolonged discussion in this meeting, it was decided that any air attack would endanger our civil targets in India because IAF had no strategic targets in Tibet. Mainland China was far beyond the range of IAF’s existing fleet.

 

Therefore, a conscious decision was taken to stand down IAF, or at best limit it to the role of transporter throughout the length of the conflict.

 

When the Chinese attacked in NEFA, the Indian Army retaliated on the first day on the Sela front but there was no fight put up by the Indian troops in the Kameng Division due to the heavy deployment of the Chinese army from all sides. The Chinese had encircled

 

the Indian troops behind the Indian lines in thickly forest areas in the deep ravines and the fight continued face to face. The Indian Government and the then Chief of Air Staff discussed the air option to support the Indian Army in NEFA. After due

 

consideration, it was decided that air bombing in these areas where Indian and Chinese troops were in close proximity could lead to Indian troops falling to friendly fire.

 

Besides, since weather conditions in NEFA were unpredictable, a sustained air support was not feasible. Even the safety of the air planes was also considered vulnerable in the fight in this difficult terrain.

 

In view of this reality, it is unfortunate that Air Chief Marshal Browne has unnecessarily reopened an old sore. His attitude reflects chip old airmen carry on their shoulder. Does he want to give the impression that the war strategists, including political heavyweights of that period, were so incompetent that they would not have weighed the option of use of IAF in the 1962 war? The Air Chief is advised to put his records straight so that no other incumbent of this post could sensationalise this matter in the future.

 

 

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