PM Modi scripts an Army reset

PM Modi scripts an Army reset

By MADHAV NALAPAT | NEW DELHI | 2 October, 2016
PM Modi, Indian Army, Uri attack, surgical strikes, Pakistan Army, Madhav Nalapat
‘GHQ Rawalpindi was informed that there was a party at the Uri Brigade Headquarters on the day of the attack and that consequently, security would be more relaxed’, in view of the high spirits common on such occasions. Who informed GHQ Rawalpindi of the party, if indeed such celebrations took place?

The removal of the Uri Brigade Commander is the start of a new accountability drive led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, senior officials say. They add that the cross-LoC post-Uri operation was from start to finish “a PM Modi initiative”. Highly placed sources confirm that the Prime Minister was emphatic from the start of the crisis that he was “not in the same pacifist mould of some of his predecessors”, and that on his watch, the Indian armed forces would need to react in a manner such that GHQ Rawalpindi finally begins to pay a steeper and steeper price for its terror operations against India. The decade when Manmohan Singh was in charge of governance was “a disaster for military preparedness in India, a fact known to the Pakistan army”, which consequently sought to unsettle the Narendra Modi government with an unprecedented series of cross-border strikes across the Line of Control as well as Punjab, 23 in total since 26 May 2014, which have involved attacks on security forces. In the process, more than 60 suicide bombers from GHQ Rawalpindi’s kamikaze squad have been sent to hell, with a further 98 despatched in a similar direction through interdiction on the LoC. This is not counting the 14 suicide bombers killed during two attacks on Indian diplomatic missions in Afghanistan. All this has taken place in the shadow of a very public outreach by Modi to his counterpart in Islamabad, Nawaz Sharif, who it is well known has less power over the Pakistan army than the donkeys used by that country for the transport of equipment and supplies along the Karakoram route.

High-level sources expect Prime Minister Modi to “enforce accountability on the highest echelons of the military” for the fact that fully 15 of the 23 security installations whose perimeter and sometimes inner line defences were breached, were managed by the Indian Army. What is termed as “Modi Luck” played a major role in ensuring that casualties and damage on the Indian side were small in almost all these security breaches. However, thus far the Manmohan Singh policy of refusing to enforce accountability on the top brass of the military had been largely continued by the present government “and this has now been replaced with a (Modivian) insistence on accountability and punishment”, a senior official opined. He claimed that “credible reports existed that GHQ Rawalpindi was informed that there was a celebratory party at the Uri Brigade Headquarters on the day of the attack and that consequently, security would be more relaxed”, in view of the high spirits common on such occasions.

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Who informed GHQ Rawalpindi of the party, if indeed such celebrations took place? There is also a report that “the brigadier in charge of the post was a golf aficionado who spent much time on his favourite game and to whom tending the golf course was a priority”. It is expected that “in place of the cover ups which took place after the Kargil infiltration and occupation and subsequent lapses in security, this time around there will be an intensive investigation into not just Uri but Pathankot as well”. Another official warned that “any slackness in bringing those responsible for security lapses to account would facilitate a fresh incursion by GHQ’s kamikaze squads. “There has to be 100% prevention of enemy breach of security at important military infrastructure, and the repeated attacks show that such a situation has yet to be ensured”, a top official warned, adding that “as yet, action on few of the recommendations made by the Lt-Gen Philip Campose April 2016 report on security in military installations have been initiated, leave alone completed”.

Under Manmohan Singh, the ratio of revenue expenditure to capital expenditure in the armed forces has risen to 5:1 in the Army, as against 1:1 in the Navy and 2:1 in the Air Force. All three are below desirable norms for the respective services in any calculation of military “tooth to tail” efficiency. During the UPA period, the War Wastage Reserve in the advent of all out conflict fell to less than ten days, as against a desirable level of 40 days, while the quantum of ammunition inducted was less than a fifth of what would be needed in order for full combat readiness. Matters have, however, improved significantly after Manohar Parrikar took over as a whole-time Defence Minister, despite the Raksha Mantri’s Antony-style weekend forays to his home state. “However, as yet the top brass has resisted the drive for greater accountability in their ranks, having gotten used to the laxity of the Manmohan period”, an official revealed.

Among the many issues unaddressed by Manmohan Singh was the fact that the orange stock and butt of the INSAS rifle make it easy to spot by terrorists armed by GHQ Rawalpindi with night vision goggles. Also as yet, the need for 200,000 more 7.62mm assault rifles has not been met, while in sectors of possible future action such as the Northeast, even sand bags are in short supply, not to mention body armour, air defence systems, night vision equipment, artillery and ammunition. Bureaucratic objections by babus, who cannot recognise a rifle from a golf club, have stalled the induction of critically needed equipment such as 4,000 light machine guns and 40,000 carbines. Manmohan Singh left office leaving behind an Army with a shortage of 31,000 soldiers and 9,000 officers, and a sniper force of only 3,000, a third of what is needed. Apart from the fact that not even a single new artillery gun has been inducted since 1987, the crucial Arjun Mk-II tank program is lagging dangerously behind schedule, as are other DRDO procurement programs because of laggard implementation and superfluous changes in specifications masterminded by those secretly in the pay of international arms cartels. Even an item as needed for combat as bulletproof jackets have been pending procurement since 2008, with less than 50,000 available against a need of 400,000, while A.K. Antony’s much touted 17 Mountain Strike Corps remains a dream, rather than an operationally significant reality.

As for the Air Force, the Rafale has had a chequered record in Libya, although the IAF version is considered better, while the Navy needs many more platforms than it has at present. Given the complete support that the Pakistan army is getting from its Chinese counterpart, senior officials expect that PM Modi will follow up his bold decision on Uri by enforcing accountability mechanisms and procurement systems that ensure that the military in India is made fully capable of “offensive defense” in case of need.

There are 14 Comments

Fact that it took 2.5 years for an Army reset is hard to believe given Modi's focus from the start and the strong presence of Doval and Parrikar. Secondly, how on earth a Brigadier who spent more time golfing was allowed to stay there in the first place? It took 20 lives and humiliation to realise that and then remove him? It just doesnt tie up! Thirdly, why are you still talking about MMS? A year into office is sufficient to identify all loopholes and start corrective measures. So lets just focus on failures from 2015 onwards please! To say that after Pathankot no strengthening was done is utter failure across the board. Apparently, Modi's directives arent being followed up with strong action on the ground! Folks are just not able to keep up with his speed and deliver quality work whether its security or other initiatives like Jan dhan, electrification, etc. Modi needs to establish a proper mechanism to verify execution and put a system in place that regularly audits the outcomes on the ground!

Sir - with due respect, have you lead any organization of 5 people before? For such a large force, it takes time to set things right. One cannot set 10 years (And I would say even more) of neglect in 2.5 years.

Precise analysis by the author . While China is helping modernize the Pakistani army not much attention was given by previous UPA govts. We need to catch up fast else face more Uri like attacks.

The need of arms and eqpt are based on environment around us, our defence policy and military doctrine. Do the last two exist? Experience in South Block will frustrate the best, proficient and motivated military man. A Desk or Section officer will put numerous spokes to justify his existence over the existence of the need and throw the file on the face of us who liaises wih Babuji......leaving him frustrated and embarrassed. The attitude is the same at all altitudes of bureaucracy in MoD. This dense, wide and deep rooted lantana needs to sorted out. George Fernandise did it when files on Snow Mobiles was frozen in South Block harder than the ice in Siachin. It's arrival in glacier was welcomed next to the oxygen soldiers breath there.

This is the first time one is hearing of senior army officers playing golf within shelling distance from Pakistani posts. See the price India has paid for sloppy behaviour.

I agree with Madhav that accountability should be fixed. This is the norm in the Indian army. There are exceptions though. At times, rather too frequently, accountability is taken to the extreme. Commanders are punished for acts of their subordinates at locations far away from where commanders are located. This happens only in the armed forces. It would not be incorrect to say that the armed forces have a ruthless, somewhat perverse, sense of accountability. Have you ever seen a police officer being punished for an infraction by his subordinates? There have been numerous cases in the past when soldiers have been court martialled but police men and civilians just getting transferred for the same offence committed jointly . This is the reason why command of troops which was once considered a privilege and pleasure is now seen as a burden and officers keep their fingers crossed wishing for early deliverence and posting to routine jobs. Insofar as the Uri incident is concerned there has definitely been a security lapse and wrong siting in the camp. This could not have happened in a combat unit. Parting and get togethers are a part of a drab and isolated field life and are a must but do not adversly affect security unless there is an inside job.

Irrespective of all the hullbullah about lack of equipment et all its sheer poor soldiering in this case. this should have been responsibility of a camp commandant overseen by a colonel rank deputy commander. In most cases these appointments are tended by officers overlooked for further promotion and thus a state of neglect. Exceptions do abound. clearly brigade commander ought to have been more responsible given hightened political overtones post 15 August.

It is understandable if war related reserves reduced to 10 days level under the leadership of an Italian lady . Past is past. one or two suicide missions out of dozens may succeed. But the persons responsible for leaking inside information must be punished by not less than death. . create a situation that they died in terrorist attack.

Sir, I find your article more on the hearsay rather than solid research when it comes to certain aspersions on Army. Firstly, the Uri Brigade Commander was visiting his forward defences for last two days when the incident took place. Secondly, he doesn't play golf. The golf course in Uri is there at least since 1981 or much before, when I was posted there. Thirdly, if we believe GHQ Rawalpindi then let's also accept the farce of surgical strikes as per them. Fourthly, if there was some accountability in any of our National Institutions, it was the Armed Forces. They do not need political leaders to enforce it. From Krishna Menon to Amit Shah downwards I can list out the stories of accountability. Very recent being that SSP of Punjab Police. What actually the present Government is doing is tempering with the military ethos and tradition, the strength which leads them into war and frontal assaults on Kargil heights. The episode of Kargil was immensely failure of Political direction and RAW. Yet, the military honoured suicidal diktat from political masters whose integrity is shameful. Your anology of a donkey to Nawaz is applicable in India as well except that they wield power as well. With due regards I follow you like a student and respect your intellect immensely. This article had ruffled my conscience.

One should accept your corrections on Uri brigade and its brigadier.But please accept the fact that 23 attacks have taken place on army camps since May 2014.How this has happened? Is it true that soldiers were sleeping in tents against standard procedures ? Was the diesel dump maintained close to the camp as per standard procedure? Are not soldiers and officers trained to fight a war or a battle with whatever they have? and whatever may be the political or bureaucratic set up? Consider the state of our armed forces in 1948 and consider that they thwarted the enemy attempts to take over Kashmir.Our armed forces are much better off than in 1948.What has changed?

If we leave out the Modi rhetoric, this is a fairly good over view of our lack of preparedness. Again, this is not the first time that the Army has enforced accountability. It happens all the time. Senior ranks have been removed for much lesser slip-ups. In fact, Modi would do well to establish accountability in the civil services, where in the words "accountability" and "good governance" still do not exist.

Accountability must be across the board and must be backed up by benchmarked deliverables. Otherwise, the beurocratic style of throwing a spanner in the works and twiddling thumbs thereafter will become the norm.

I agree with one of the commentators that the author has not done research and written the article in a hurry. I also smell some preconceived notion about the Army on the part of the author. If at all there is any organization in the country which respects accountability then it is the Indian Army. Justice is delivered swiftly. I do not understand why in this country every body expects the very best only from the Army and not anybody else like political leaders, bureaucrats et al who in fact shape the destiny of this nation. Why the nation is not expecting any actions against the people of the previous dispensations who have taken this country to where we are today. When it comes to giving the Army its due in terms of pay and parity with chair borne soldiers why the voice of army men is never heard and the matter is unrelentingly suppressed. High time Mr Modi showed equal fervor in holding others who are more powerful than the Army accountable.

I have had professional regards for Mr Nalpat, especially for his analysis of geopolitical & strategic security issues. In this article however, he had done grave injustice to himself by allowing himself to be an outright 'Durbari' of the ruling political dispensation. His theme has been to sing paeans of Modi & Pariker by reviling the predecessor govt and surprisingly, even the Indian Army. He credits Modi for shifting of Uri Brigade Commander and seeking accountability of senior army officers. Firstly, let it be clear that decision to shift the Brigadier was purely of the Army authorities ratified by Army Chief - Modi had nothing to do with it. Next, it has become most safe fashion of 'intellectuals' (mostly babus & netas or their henchmen) to demand or claim to impose 'greater accountability' from Army. Let it br clear to the author that accountability at each level of command is ingrained deeply in Army's system. These are in form of disciplinary & administrstive powers under Army Act as well as stiff promotability criteria which ensures large numbers of Army officer being deprived of promotion at each stage for even minor lapses or acts of ommission or oversight (questionable acts of commission are dealt through court martial). Yes army personnel are susceptible to lowering guard, mostly out of sense of frustation seeing that 'no other agency of govt or political class gives a damn'. Mr Nalpat should research the accountability regime that exists for IAS, IPS & other Group A services. How many of them do not reach ranks of Additional Secretaries or IG Police? Very fact that Army is called out in aid of civil authorities some 30 times every year, should indicate to him that at an average, there are 30 incidents of failure of neta-babu-police combine. How many heads roll of this combine called Govt? The author should resist making the army into punching bag. Indian Army does not require his or Mr Modi's advice or directions to learn accountability. The babus have continuously planted stories in the media to undermine army, oft using the 'beating sticks' of golf, subsidised (?) canteen facility, free (?) liquor, mess parties, misuse of helpers et all. Is it too much to expect Mr Nalpat not to yield to such false & ill intended narratives?

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