Lumbering Intelligence. The Kargil dispute was the outcome of intelligence slip-ups. The army was caught off guard, as we did not know about the presence of the invaders in Kargil, till May 1999. Regardless of India’s well-organised intelligence set-up, Pakistan shocked us in the 1999 Himalayan violation. It was an absolute intelligence failure.
We did not know of their identity, dispositions and actual numbers inside the Indian Territory. The Indian situation is characteristic of a highly politicised external control of the intelligence agencies. There are instances of intelligence failures of such magnitude in the developed nations also. However, they have all been thoroughly enquired into, responsibilities fixed and remedial measures taken. This has affected the armed forces too in a number of ways. An unpleasant rivalry between the Research and Analysis Wing and Military Intelligence has cost the Indian Army many lives. 17.
The coordination of military intelligence has also been insufficient in terms of producing effective and timely output. For example, during Kargil, the aircraft which was meant to remain stationed and gather information, was deputed on a separate tasking. It was the ‘Bakerwals’ who gave the information that armed men were sitting on the top. Indian officials and security experts are of the opinion that if a structural change, ensuring the correct representation of the armed forces at the apex level existed, the weakness of the security apparatus could have been overcome.
Further, attitudinal changes in the Indian polity, especially military, are also required to avoid future surprises like Kargil. 26/1118. The terrorist attack on Mumbai once again brought the issue of weak decision-making of Indian political and military leadership to fore. Nearly 200 people lost their lives and the nation was humiliated. The mistakes were all similar and again only a repetition of what we failed to learn from the past. 19. Disregard to Intelligence Warning.
In the months leading up to the terrorist attacks that struck Mumbai, the signs of looming catastrophe were unmistakable. The Mumbai police had learned of warnings of planned attacks on the city’s major landmarks, including its high-end hotels and passed the information to Indian intelligence. The CIA was a primary source of these tip-offs and had a source inside Lashkar-e-Taiba.
According to intelligence provided, Mumbai’s attackers were likely to arrive by sea. Yet when the DPC was approached for a relevant port security strengthening, it was indicated that funding was lacking. The Mumbai Police Commissioner also wrote to the Commandant Coast Guard, identifying obvious vulnerabilities. Nevertheless, despite all intelligence, a few months later, ten Lashkar terrorists sailed the Arabian Sea from Karachi to Mumbai. They strolled ashore armed with AK-47s, pistols, ammunition, grenades, and explosives. Their ensuing three-day chaos is one of the worst terrorist attacks in India’s history. A coordinated and deliberate debate regarding the threat, ordered by an appropriate service head may have prevented the attack at a preliminary stage. Even a repeated notice by the IHQ to the Home Ministry may have resulted in actions to avert the attack.
20. Uncordinated Assets. Even after the Anti-Terror Squad (ATS) had managed to intercept the phone conversations between the fidayeen and their handlers, the apprehending of the terrorists, was hampered by poor organisation, mismanagement, and a general lack of preparedness. It took twelve hours for the National Security Guard, whose members are trained in rescuing hostages, to get to the Taj Mahal hotel. Firstly, they didn’t receive the official green light to mobilise from Delhi for several precious hours.
Further, they were impeded by transport blunders and faulty, outdated equipment and protective gear. The decision to send the MARCOS was being debated fearing that they were ‘the wrong dog for the fight’. Eventually, it was only by the next day that fewer than twenty MARCOS were deployed. A singular apex authority to decide and further direct the available forces, including issues of transportation etc, would have ensured a better response. PRESENT STATE OF AFFAIRS21. Higher Defence Organisation Reforms in India have been recommended by various groups, committees and eminent strategists from time to time. The perceived average performance of our defence and security machinery can be invariably attributed to lack of these reforms.
In 2001, the Kargil Review Committee while examining the pitfalls, was of the view that the “political, bureaucratic, military and intelligence establishments appear to have developed a vested interest in the status quo.” It recommended the creation of the appointment of a Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS). The CDS concept is understood to have worked well in most modern armed forces.
Given India’s need to overcome lack of inter-service coherence, have single point advice, coordinate joint planning, carry out joint training and streamline the procurement process, there is obviously a strong case for a CDS. However, there is need but a greater reluctance as well, maybe that is the reason why even after a decade of deliberation we have not executed the obvious ‘YES’. The ignorance of the recommendations of these committees has become a norm.22. Secrecy in defence related issues and the limited freedom of speech to a soldier are the alibis for skirting professional concerns and keeping them under the wrap at the cost of the national interests. The Daulat Beg Oldie incident exposed the dilemma of the Ministry of Defence. MoD panicked and handed over the situation to the China Study Group (CSG), when 30 Chinese soldiers came into our territory, pitched up tents and decided to stay on. The reluctance is partially from the military’s side as well, based upon the confusion regarding the nature of the role of the CDS.
It is uncertain what role the three Services themselves wish to assign to a future CDS. India hopefully is nearing the end of this dilemma. Imminent defence reforms ushered in by the government initiatives, appear to be heading towards a clear and goal oriented direction.CONCLUSION23. Till now having three equally ranked Service Chiefs and each service having its own set of commands, which are not even co-located, may have been a compulsion considering the geography/ terrain, peculiarities of borders, conventional and sub conventional challenges.
In the future with extension of domain of warfare, there is a need to objectively look at reorganisation of top military hierarchy.24. It is somehow clear that coordination is not our strength. One way or the other we have to be marshaled towards a common good rather than having the individual shortsightedness. We have to possess synergised planning and have a seamless coordination amongst our services. A CDS beyond doubt will streamline not only our existing resources but also the planning in terms of future acquisitions would be unbiased and fair. Armed forces do not fight wars every day and neither are they involved in crises so frequently, it is the preparation for crisis that is as critical.
For that there is a need to go beyond the single service needs of ego and one-upmanship. Even if we adopt meaningful reforms today, it will take at least five years for the idea to sink in, in the minds of junior leaders, commanders and the troops, thus it is in our best interest that we take that step sooner rather than later. RECOMMENDATIONS “Act as if it is impossible to fail.” – Carl Jung 25. Structural reform of our armed forces is a necessity.
Our basic structure, with the exception of a few tepid changes, remains what we inherited from the British close to 70 years ago. Turf protection and sharing or reduction of power is alien to any military force and the Indian Armed Forces are no exception. At the same time, major changes largely occur due to political acceptance of the necessity for reform for improved performance in the national security requirements. The Goldwater Nichols Department of Defence Reorganization Act of 1986 was enacted primarily to improve the ability of U.S. armed forces to conduct joint and combined operations in the field, and secondarily to improve the DoD budget process.
The Navy and Marine Corps had vehemently objected to this reform but the act was deemed necessary for cohesion and was thus passed. 26. On the same lines, it is strongly recommended that the present political dispensation takes a decision to reform the military without the so called ‘political consensus’. The demonitisation decision demonstrated the political will to take a decision without resorting to political consensus, so for national security, a similar decision is justified.
The CDS will bring greater synergy, coordination and integration to the forces, provide valuable advice to the political leadership and develop jointmanship to deliver better outputs.