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June 13, 2020

India: a prisoner of history - Part III


June 13, 2020

The writer is a freelance contributor.

India for decades, more so with its pre- and post-Covid-19 economic downturn, has critically lacked resources to modernize its forces. This is compounded by severe equipment shortages.

In 2012, General VK Singh, the then Indian chief of army staff, wrote a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, asserting that the Indian Army could not fight a war beyond three days’. It went on to say that "India's security may be at risk as tanks are running out of ammunition; air defence is 97 percent obsolete and the infantry lacks critical weapons".

General Singh also revealed India's Chanakayan duplicity about the formation of a China-specific top secret military force in Northeast India at a time when the then Chinese president Hu Jintao was a state guest in New Delhi. The same general is quoted in Myra Macdonald's 'Defeat is an orphan' while talking about the 1874 non- combat Indian casualties in the post Mumbai attack 2001 Operation Parakram troops buildup on Pakistani borders. The general says: "After a while we seemed to be at wars with ourselves"; sane generals and analysts insist that things are far worse now.

In an August 2009 address on National Security Challenges organized by the National Maritime Foundation, the then Indian naval chief and chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee, Admiral Suresh Mehta said: "India needs to grow out of its Pakistan-centric approach when it comes to strategic planning. Common sense dictates that cooperation with China would be preferable to competition or conflict; the gap between the two is just too wide to bridge and getting wider by the day.''

On July 21, 2017, India’s comptroller and auditor general (CAG) presented a report in the Indian parliament raising serious concerns over India’s defence abilities. It stated that the air force required 42 squadrons of jets (around 750 aircraft), to defend against a two-pronged attack from China and Pakistan but “with the bulk of obsolete jets like MiG-21 (flying coffins) due to retire soon, India would only have 22 squadrons by 2032”. The CAG report found that "out of 80 missile systems received from Bharat Electronics Limited, 30 percent failed the basic tests”.

The report went on to note that “India had announced in 2016 that it would deploy Akash missiles at six designated sites near the Indo-China border; it has failed installation at even a single site". On the other hand, China has deployed the latest missile systems at 39 locations aimed at the north Indian heartland targeting Delhi, Kolkata and other major Indian cities with no counter-measure deployments to counter it as major Chinese cities remain impenetrable for India.

A report submitted by Major General (r) BC Khanduri (BJP MP and senior member) in March 2018 to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence also exposes the fallacy of India's misplaced jingoistic military might. It states: “[the] Indian army has enough stocks to last for only 10 days of fighting ... there are huge deficiencies and obsolescence of weapons, stores and ammunition with 68 percent of the (Indian) army inventory as obsolete”.

A former Indian naval Chief Admiral Arun Prakash drew attention to the existing rules of business in the government of India, wherein "the service chiefs are three invisible men and the responsibility of the defence of India is vested in the bureaucracy".

Within India too, the much vaunted Indian military superiority is largely deemed an accounting subterfuge. Lt-Gen DS Hooda, former Northern Army Commander, recently said: “We need to first address our current hollowness in depleting war wastage reserves and ammunition shortages". On the other hand Pakistan, battle-hardened by years of sacrifices in fighting militancy, has excelled in logistic supply chain, missile delivery systems, nuclear technology, equipment and spares along with latest cyber and drone warfare – the hallmark of Pak China friendship and cooperation.

Moreover, decades of mutual cooperation with China in terms of technology transfer, training (starting aggressively in 2004 with the first Pak-China joint military exercises in Xinjiang), equipment sales, and a common bellicose adversary in India, has entailed our classic military interoperability with China – the capability of the Pakistan Army and PLA to execute joint missions against a common target.

India has not even been able to integrate its three services; an imperative of effective modern warfare. Ghazala Wahab and Praveen Sawhney are the authors of Dragon on our doorsteps: Managing China through Military Power’, an excellently researched book that covers virtually every aspect of India’s post-independence defense policy. It states: “Military power is an important part of the mix of any country’s geopolitical perspective but India has diluted this aspect and suffered the consequences and will continue to do so till it changes its approach”. It warns those who advocate a two-front war with China and Pakistan (or a two and a half one) that "even a one-front war is not an option”.

Another sobering analysis sees military power heavily stacked in favour of China as it dwarfs India in all military aspects. China has nearly one million more troops than India, five times as many tanks and submarines with state of the art and more than double fighter jets (including 5th generation stealth capable J-20) and navy. China also has three times more nuclear warheads than India and a $178 billion defence budget against India’s $57 billion. Pakistan too has transformed all its defence capabilities by continuously upgrading its missile system along with heavy armour and producing the JF-17.

Having said that, wars and battlefields are glorified by only those who have never seen the horrors and brutalizing events first hand. The two World Wars saw over 107 million perish, over 50 million were civilians; since then at the turn of the millennium, wars have taken over 215 million lives. A nuclear war spurred by any Indian mis-adventure could unleash far greater horrors.

Rudyard Kipling, whose poem ‘The White Man’s Burden’ was about British racial superiority and their ‘responsibility of civilizing the savages’ has since been dubbed as a 'vulgar rabble rouser' and 'mouthpiece of the (British) empire'. The New Yorker remembers him as "an imperialist zealot who prostituted his prodigious genius for propaganda and politics". At the outbreak of the First World War his son, John, failed to clear the army medical examination because of poor eye-sight. Kipling, the youngest Nobel Laureate, was a celebrity and a friend of Lord Roberts, Chief of the British Army and colonel of the Irish Guards. Using his influence, Kipling ensured that his son got commission in the Irish Guards.

The Battle of Loos was a major Allied offensive against the Germans on the Western Front. Among those killed in action, was Second Lieutenant John Kipling. The remains of Kipling’s ‘dear boy’ were not officially discovered until 1992. His death left Rudyard Kipling an utterly devastated man. In his 'Epitaphs of the War', a couplet reads: “If any question why we died, tell them, because our fathers lied”. He also wrote: “To be blanched... by fumes, to be cindered by fires/ To be senselessly tossed and re-tossed in stale mutilation/ From crater to crater, for this we shall take expiation/ But who shall return us our children?”

This is the question Indian jingoes need to ask themselves over and over again – 'who shall return us our children'? The 'Histories of Herodotus' speak of the agony as war reverses the order of nature: "Croesus, who told you to attack my land?' The King replied, 'It was the fault of the Greek gods, who with their arrogance encouraged me to march onto your lands. During times of peace sons bury their fathers, but in war it is the fathers who send their sons to the grave”.


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