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Monday, 6 June 2016

From Today's papers - 06 June 2016

Reducing flab in armed forces
Gen V P Malik (retd)
Modernisation and expansion can’t go together
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has set up a 12-member committee headed by Lieut-Gen DB Shekatkar (retd) to suggest structural changes in the Army, the IAF and the Navy on cutting down flab and reducing revenue (maintenance) expenditure. Its recommendations will entail doing away with posts that may have become redundant due to technology, and to ensure that addition of new equipment (modernisation) does not mean a corresponding rise in the personnel strength of the forces.

Parrikar has two important reasons for ordering this study. One is the ever-increasing revenue expenditure on manpower which leaves less than 20 per cent of the defence budget for weapons and equipment modernisation. The other is the advice from Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In his address at the Combined Commanders' Conference in December 2015, Modi had said, “At a time when major powers are reducing their forces and rely more on technology, we are still constantly seeking to expand the size of our forces. Modernisation and expansion of forces at the same time is a difficult and unnecessary goal.” Articulating global, regional and national strategic environment and politico-military concerns, the Prime Minister exhorted the Defence Minister and the military commanders to promote "jointness" across every level, shorten the tooth-to-tail ratio, and re-examine assumptions that keep massive funds locked up in inventories.

There is no doubt that budgetary constraint is the primary reason for this decision. As a percentage of the GDP, the defence budget has been decreasing over the last decade. This year there was an increase of 1.16 per cent on the basis of the budget estimate of FY 2015-16. Calculated against the revised estimates (Rs 18,295 crore was surrendered by the Ministry of Defence), it works to an increase of 9 per cent. This allocation does not cover the rate of inflation, fall in the value of the rupee against the dollar, and the sharply increasing cost of weapons and equipment all over the world.

Due to the “One Rank, One Pension” scheme, the pension bill will increase substantially. With implementation of the Seventh Pay Commission recommendations, salaries, allowances and establishment charges of all civil and military personnel, paid from the defence budget, will shoot up. Recently, Defence Secretary G. Mohan Kumar admitted to the Standing Committee on Defence that “India’s military spending for FY 2016-17 is not as per the requirements of the services.” Unless the government hikes the defence budget, which is very unlikely, the Ministry of Defence would face a serious resource crunch to make up huge deficiencies of weapons, equipment and ammunition. Any force modernisation will remain a dream.

We faced a similar situation in the late 1990s. As Army Chief, I decided to suppress 50,000 manpower (mostly from non-field force) over a period of three years, provided the money saved would be given to the army for capital purchases. D B Shekatkar, then a Major-General, heading Perspective Planning Directorate, worked on details in consultation with the heads of arms and services, principal staff officers and army commanders. There was considerable opposition within the army and outside. After obtaining approval and a written commitment on the savings from the Cabinet Committee on Security, we implemented the scheme for two years. The Kargil war put an end to that scheme in its third year.

The Indian army today is the third largest in the world with over 38,000 officers (sanctioned strength is 49,631 officers) and 11.38 lakh soldiers. Cadre reviews and implementation of the Ajai Vikram Singh report has made it top-heavy with bloated headquarters. This is definitely not in line with modern defence management to win short and swift wars.

Incidentally, India is not alone in its attempt to trim its armed forces and improve the teeth-to-tail ratio. In the last decade, all major armed forces of the world have attempted such exercises and made deep cuts in manpower — the most important and costliest military resource. In 2012, the UK announced a 20 per cent cut, reducing the strength of its army to 82,000 combatants by the end of this decade. The Russian army has done away with large size divisional headquarters to make itself a quick-strike, lean force. The US army has announced a reduction of strength by a whopping 80,000 by 2017 to “reduce the overall number of headquarters, while sustaining as much combat capabilities as possible.” China’s recently announced military reforms envisage a cut of 300,000 personnel in its 2.3 million PLA forces by 2020. The idea is to “remake the PLA from a manpower intensive force to a smaller, technologically able and mobile force capable of combat beyond its geographical borders.”

Over the last decade, India's armed forces have absorbed a fair amount of technological developments, including communications and digitisation. Manpower intake is better educated, savvy on computers and smart phones. Most of them have driving licences. But the resultant organisational changes, shedding of redundant establishments and manpower savings have seldom been attempted by the army. On many of these issues, there is a lot to be learnt from the best practices of the private sector.

In the past, many units were raised to meet special operational circumstances of that period e.g. Rashtriya Rifles for Punjab. A review to examine the need or quantum of such forces is overdue.

Meanwhile, there is considerable scope for downsizing forces in areas which are not of operational importance, and to reduce the flab. Some suggestions which require further study are:

    By further improving jointness amongst the forces, there is scope to cut down duplication (sometime triplication) of logistic (medical, supplies, station duties) and security resources.
    Reducing size of headquarters, particularly of field formations, training establishments and shedding redundant establishments.
    Merger and pruning of logistic units and training facilities of the army like the EME, Ordnance, Army Service Corps, Army Education Corps, and so on.
    Clubbing of non-essential unit functions such as Military Farms and Army Postal Service, or outsourcing their functions.
    A review of all peace establishments.
    Multiple use of lands/facilities wherever units and formations are in close proximity to each other.

With the development of the automobile sector and availability of civilian repair and maintenance infrastructure in forward areas, this requirement of the armed forces fleet can be outsourced, or even better, contracted with vehicle manufacturers.

The flab is not only within the military. Civilian organisations like the ordnance factories, defence PSUs, DRDO, the MES, the Defence Estate, and the Armed Forces Headquarters Civil Services, paid from the defence budget, also need to be trimmed. With the Indian private sector coming of age and contributing more for the defence, and greater opportunity to outsource services, these organisations should be included in the flab reduction exercise.
Operation Blue Star: No winners, only lessons
Dinesh Kumar
Politicians need to take collective responsibility for Operation Blue Star. Why was the situation allowed to build up in the first place? Why was the Golden Temple permitted to be converted into an armed fortress? These are few of the many questions that need to be honestly accounted for.
Politicians and religious leaders find it easy to engage in revivalism and, then, crank up a  politics of memory. The more gory the memory, the “better” politics it makes. But more importantly, such memories are likely to find acceptance among sections of the public and makes a collectively accepted closure, all that more difficult to emerge.

Such is the case with Operation Blue Star. Even after 32 years, it continues to be a topic of discourse this time every year. Of late, Operation Blue Star has been figuring with greater intensity and even a memorial commemorating the incident has been raised in the precincts of the Golden Temple three decades later in April 2014 which was followed by a “clash” between SGPC guards and members of Sikh extremist groups in June 2014.

When viewed clinically, the Army operation ( June 5-6) was aimed at evicting 37- year-old Damdami Taksal chief Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his armed militia who had converted the holy shrine into an armed fortress from where he was running a virtual parallel government, provoking wanton violence across the state and publicly spewing venom against a particular community. Bhindranwale, who had caught the imagination of sections of the Sikh community, had come to command fear among the general public, politicians and all wings of the state government. The government chose to remain a silent spectator to reports of arms and ammunition, ranging from rifles to rocket launchers, being regularly transported in kar sewa trucks entering the temple complex.

But for a majority of the Sikh community, Operation Blue Star became an attack on their most revered and historic shrine and that too barely two days after Guru Arjan Dev's martyrdom day. Indeed when it comes to matters of faith, it is difficult to view a single action in isolation or to rationalise it.  

Operation Blue Star, the name given by the Army, will remain a tragic event in India's post-Independence history from which no winners emerged. It neither ended terrorism nor religious militant politics, which in fact manifested itself in horrific proportions thereafter. In a series of revenge killings, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated (October 1984), followed by horrific reprisal anti-Sikh violence (November 1984), two hijackings of Indian Airlines aircraft (July and August 1984), downing of an Air India Boeing 747 in a mid-air explosion caused by Canada-based militants killing all 329 on board (June 1985), the assassination of General Arun Shridhar Vaidya (August 1986), who was the Army Chief during Operation Blue Star, and the knifing of Lt General Kuldeep Singh Brar in London (September 2012), who as major general, led Operation Blue Star.

Historians are still divided on whether the operation could be conducted differently. And, more pertinently, whether we have learnt any lessons. A professional, apolitical and secular Army was asked to undertake a severely traumatic and thankless mission on the directions of the government. Lt General Brar, then a major general commanding 9 Infantry Division, was given just 48 hours to draft his plan for an unprecedented operation of such magnitude and sensitivity. It was first discussed on  June 3 and then finetuned before embarking on the operation, which began at 10.30 pm on June 5. Unprepared troops with no training of close quarter battle warfare in built-up areas and having no inkling of the operation were moved at short notice from Meerut.

The only troops which had undergone prior training for such an operation was a Company strength (about 125 soldiers) of the Special Frontier Force about which Brar was informed a day earlier (June 4). As both Brar and then Western Army Commander, Lt General (later General) Krishnaswamy Sundarji, were to later say, intelligence was limited and the impression given was that they were a motley bunch armed with antiquated rifles, an assortment of pistols and revolvers and only a few machine guns.

Tanks were ordered to fire from their main cannon after receiving a clearance from Delhi only at 7.30 am on June 6, a full nine hours after facing stiff resistance from approximately 100 well-armed militants entrenched in the heavily fortified Akal Takht building of which all openings had been closed with bricks and sandbags, with specially created small loopholes and pill boxes to tactically well site 31 machine guns (of a total 51 later recovered), two rocket launchers, innumerable rifles, grenades and other small arms. The Army, which was engaged in a suicidal frontal attack, had by 7.30 am lost over 50 soldiers (of the total 88 killed), with over twice that number wounded (of the total 248) in the vicinity of the temporal seat alone.

 Operation Blue Star is an event for which politicians at the Centre and the state need to take collective responsibility. Why was the situation allowed to build up in the first place? Why was the Golden Temple permitted to be converted into an armed fortress? Who promoted and mollycoddled Bhindranwale and why, are some of the many questions that need to be honestly accounted for. The then politics at play is what needs to be severely condemned and never repeated. To some extent the government has learnt its lessons by exercising restraint during Operation Black Thunder-II in Amritsar (May 1988) and the almost month-long Hazratbal crisis in Srinagar (October-November 1993). Above all, this much should be clear: religious leaders must ensure that places of worship are not misused and politicians must never play politics with religious sentiments.
Lashkar Gets A 'Calculator', Adds Offline, Subtracts Surveillance
A new app 'calculator' has been found on smart phones of terrorists infiltrating into Jammu and Kashmir which helps them to remain in touch with their handlers in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK) without being detected by technical surveillance mounted by the Army.

With the number infiltration from the PoK showing a steep rise this year, the Army found that terrorists carried a smart phone with no messages stored in it.

The Army's signal unit, which relies mainly on technical intercepts like usage of wireless and mobile phones by infiltrating terror groups to track them, is burning midnight oil along with National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) and other agencies to crack this mechanism used by the terrorists.

The technology was first used by a US-based company during Hurricane 'Katrina' so that the affected residents could remain in touch with each other.

During interrogation of some of the terrorists of Lashker-e-Taiba (LeT), the agencies came to know that the terror outfit had modified it and created an application 'calculator' which can be downloaded on smart phones attached to the off-air network created specifically for them.

The technology is based on the concept of 'cognitive digital radio' that enables users to turn their smartphones into peer-to-peer, off-grid communication tools.

The network generates its own signal through proprietary adhoc networking protocols and automatically coordinates with other units within range which enables users to send and receive text messages, share their GPS locations on offline maps regardless of access to WiFi or cellular service.

The terrorists apprehended had their phones paired with the radio sets along the border and were receiving instructions about the route and terrain, official sources quoting interrogation details of some apprehended militants said.

In a related development, the Army is trying to plug the holes in the anti-infiltration grid and has already started redeployment of troops.

The infiltration of terrorists from across the border by end of April this year stands at around 35 in Kashmir area.

All the security agencies were unanimous about infiltration from the Jammu side where they claimed terrorists made three infiltration bids which were foiled by troops. According to the sources, the terrorists, who infiltrated recently, have already gone to higher reaches of Bandipora from where they have moved towards central and south Kashmir.

During winter, infiltration is always low. However, this year, winter did not last long and terrorists are suspected to have taken advantage of the favourable weather conditions, sources said.

There were 121 infiltration attempts along the border in Jammu and Kashmir in entire 2015 of which 33 were successful. In 2014, there were 222 infiltration attempts in the state of which 65 were successful.
Kupwara martyr Santosh Mahadik's wife Swati set to join Indian Army - See more at:
Six months after the death of martyr Santosh Mahadik, the commanding officer of 41 Rashtriya Rifle who battled to safeguard the country from terrorist, his 35-year old wife has geared up and has cleared all five rounds of Services Selection Board (SSB) examination. - See more at:
As soon as the medical fitness report is received, she is set to be undergo a training to serve the Indian Army.

38-year-old Colonel Santosh Mahadik, commanding officer of anti-terror force of 41 Rashtriya Rifles (RR) was on mission of Kupwara operation died in a gun battle against terrorist in Jammu Kashmir's Kupwara District on November 17, 2015. He hailed from a small village Pogarwadi in Satara. A son of a milkman, he was adopted by his maternal grandmother who changed his surname from Ghorpade to Mahadik. In 2003, he married Swati and they have two children - six-year-old Swarajya and 12-year-old Kartiki.

Swati who has a masters degree in Master in social work (MSW), has also done her course in Teaching and was a teacher at Kendriya Vidyalaya.

Swati wished to join the Army and has said that her two children will also join the force mid-day had spoken to her in November, 2015.

She had said, "My husband's first love was Indian Army and despite being a couple, I never became his first love and his first love took him. In order to maintain the love of my husband I wish to join the Indian Army force as this will help me to light the candle of my husband presence and his love."

Despite repeated attempt to contacted Swati she remain unanwered as she is undergoing medical test for SSB and cannot carry mobile handset

Col Mahadik’s mother Kalinda (68) Ghorpade said, "I lost my son and did not want to lose my daughter-in-law. I was upset a bit about her decision as I wanted her to take care of the children but my son was passionate about Indian Army and that spark was reflecting in Swati's eyes. I have finally agreed to it and she has really made me a prode. But I do not want to lose Swati who is like my daughter."

Col Mahadik brother Jayant Ghorpade who runs milk business said, "Soon after the death of my brother, Swati had made up her mind to join Indian Army and we supported her. A month after the death of my brother she shifted to Pune and started gearing up to crack the SSB examination. We supported her and took the responsibility of her children. Her daughter Kartiki is in standard six and she has kept her in Deharadun school while her Swarajya is studying in Panchgani school."

He added, "Swati took up class in Pune and started preparing for it. Gaining and learning from the inputs by Col Mahadik’s friend she prepared herself. She joined classes in Pune and also daily for physical exercises she use to give three to four hours of exercise. On May 25 she was called for interview and now she has cleared all five rounds. Now only medical examination is left after which she will be selected. We are confident about her selection."

When contacted Swati’s class Apex careers Lt Col (Retd) Pradeep Brahmankar said, "Swati was brilliant and her passion to join the defence has made her reach to a pinnacle. Within six months tremendous effort, hardwork and willingness have paved her."
- See more at:

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