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Monday, October 2, 2017

Why CHHAMB Continues To Matter: A Historical Perspective

Unless we derive lessons from our past mistakes, we are condemned to repeat those very same mistakes in future. This is what we can learn after conducting critical appreciations of the all of India’s wars and near-war situations with Pakistan since 1965. Publicly available critical literature (see the books below) now enables us to go back in time to map out as well as draw objective inferences from the past military campaigns of the subcontinent in a chronological manner with a reasonable degree of accuracy—all of which will serve to dictate the inevitable next round of military hostilities between India and Pakistan in the time to come. And these in turn will dictate the nature of India’s future war directives/rules of engagement (to be issued during peacetime to India’s armed forces by the executive branch of the Govt of India), and these in turn will dictate the articulation of both the joint warfighting doctrines and tactics of India’s three armed services, plus their respective force modernisation plans.
For any war planner to understand plan an integrated AirLand warfighting campaign aimed at liberating Pakistan Occupied Jammu & Kashmir, the first and foremost task is to study and analyse the military campaigns of the Indian Army’s Western Theatre Command that were conducted in 1965 and 1971, starting with the UN-sponsored/sanctioned 1948 Karachi Agreement and the limitations it posed on India’s military options with regard to Jammu & Kashmir, followed by an appreciation of Chhamb’s terrain/topography.
1948 Cease-Fire Line Explained
Terrain/Topography of Chhamb Sector
Military Options in 1965
Military Balance
Operation Gibraltar & Its Aftermath
Pakistan’s OP Grand Slam
Indian Army Ripostes
Awesome Power of Defence: How IA’s 2 Independent Armoured Brigade Decimated PA’s 1 Armoured Division in Asal Uttar Between September 8 & 11, 1965
IA’s XI Corps Battle Plan.
IA’s 4 Mountain Division Battle Plan.
IA’s 3 Cavalry Regiment stages forward to Chabal Kalan & moves up to Bhikkiwind/Patti at 6am on September 8.
PA 1 Armoured Division’s Battle Plan.
IA’s Armoured Outflanking Movement.
With boggy terrain to the east & the centre held by the IA in Asal Uttar, PA’s 4 Armoured Brigade had only one route open: from the west. Upon getting information of enemy MBT build-up around Bhura Karimpur, Salim selected his ‘Killing Ground’ to trap the enemy.
IA’s 3 Cavalry Regiment, deployed in two concentric semi-circles, awaits the enemy. The trap is now set.
PA’s 4 Cavalry Regiment is completely destroyed in detail.
On September 11, two Squadrons of PA’s 4 Cavalry Regiment are destroyed while the remnants are captured at Mahmudpura, including the Commandant and two Squadron Commanders. The PA’s 3 Armoured Brogade withdraws.
 The End-Result
First, it is obvious that the war directives (Higher Directions of War) were NEVER clearly spelt out by the then Govt of India. When it was the stated policy of India even then that Jammu & Kashmir was an integral part of India and Pakistan was illegally in occupation since 1948 of vasr areas of J & K, the Govt of India should consequently have directed both the Indian Army and Indian Air Force to plan their respective war campaigns in a manner that would have ensured the recapture of maximum territory within PoK, while ensuring the territorial inviolability of India against any offensive AirLand war campaigns waged by the Pakistan Army and Pakistan Air Force (see the original 3-point directive that was issued on September 3, 1965 below). 
Had such directives been issued by 1963 itself, then the Indian Army would not have been required to wage OP RIDDLE and OP NEPAL inside Pakistan, all of Pakistan’s initial military gains in Chhamb would have been reversed, and at the subsequent post-war negotiations in Tashkent India’s principled stand would have made it impossible for the USSR to demand that all captured territory by either warring side be returned unconditionally.
Second, it is evident that the UNMOGIP’s military observers had given ample advance warning to India about the Pakistan Army’s concentration of forces around Chhamb. Consequently, the Indian Army had at least 30 days of warning time to shore up its ground defences and finalise its joint warfighting plans with the Indian Air Force. The failure to do the latter cost India dearly in the early hours of OP GRAND SLAM.
Third, it remains a mystery why two of the Indian Air Force’s four Mi-4 helicopters that were armed were never used for immediate air-support on the battlefields. Had they been used, then by 1971 additional armed Mi-4s would have been available in the western front for helping India achieve the desired decisive results. Though the Indian Air Force was never found wanting when it came to providing close air-support, these were ineffectual in fluid battlefields where it was impossible to chart out the forward line of own troops (FLOT). And this is exactly why there were several blue-on-blue engagements in 1965 where the Indian Army was often at the receiving end of the Indian Air Force. Had the armed Mi-4s been fully integrated with the Indian Army’s combat net radio grid and had they been co-located as integral assets with the Army’s ground formations, then valuable lessons on the intricacies of delivering immediate air-support would have been learnt then itself, and consequently, by 1971 the Indian Army could well have possessed its own fledgling fleet of armed helicopter-gunships! 
Fourth, as the slides below reveal, there was virtually no joint forces training between the Indian Army and Indian Air Force, as a result of which the Army was devoid of immediate air-support whenever required, while the Air Force was devoid of actionable situational awareness inputs from the Army whenever it came to mounting ‘search-and-destroy’ counter-surface force operations’ (CSFO). Actionable situational awareness inputs could have been forthcoming had the Indian Army used its covertly-inserted special operations forces (SOF) inside hostile territory for the sake of monitoring and reporting enemy logistics-related movements through major road/railway junctions.
Fifth, the infantry-heavy formations of the Indian Army were motorised/lorried and therefore could never keep up with the fast-moving armoured cavalry formations. The absence of mechanisation was galling. 
1971 Operations Conducted in Chhamb & Chicken’s Neck Sectors
The above-mentioned narrative of HQ Western Command clearly indicates that detailed war directives from Indian Army HQ were not issued till November 1, primarily because Indian Army HQ itself had not been briefed on the politico-military objectives by the Govt of India. As the pages below will reveal, the various Corps HQs and their field formations of the Western Command were busy planning their respective tactical offensives, until December 1 when Indian Army HQ issued its military directives that mandated the conduct of strictly defensive operations. This in turn resulted in the Jammu-specific formations having to conduct last-minute tactical and logistics-related re-orientations, all of which enormously helped the Pakistan Army realise its offensive war-plans for the Chhamb sector.
Chicken’s Neck Sector Operations
Analysing The Chhamb Sector Operations
The above-descriptions of the battles are official accounts that are devoid of critical appraisals. A far more objective assessment of the prevailing ground realities and shortcomings at the operational-level can be found below.
Other Armoured Campaigns on the Western Front
IAF Air Campaigns on the Western Front
Again the politico-military objectives were never articulated to the optimal-level by the Govt of India. While the eastern sector got the attention that it deserved (resulting in an overwhelmingly successful OP CACTUS LILLY), the western front was glossed over. The then Govt of India should have mandated that while the Indian Army was free to conduct minor tactical offensives aimed at straightening certain bulges (like the Shakargarh Bulge and the Chicken’s Neck), top-most priority should have been accorded to: 1) staging major armoured offensives in the Chhamb-Sialkot sectors, and 2) capturing as much territory as possible throughout northern and north-western PoK, going so far as Skardu and the Deosai Plains. In fact, the Indian Army at that time did possess enough numerical superiority and offensive firepower for achieving these objectives. Yet again, it was only the myopic political leadership of that time that failed to spell out the desired PoK-specific war directives for the benefit of the Indian Army and Indian Air Force. 
Consequently, there arose a lack of doctrinal clarity within the Indian Army, which in turn prevented the much-needed institutional re-structuring in terms of increased mechanisation and the introduction of immediate air-support rotary-winged platforms within the Army Aviation Corps.
After 1965, the Indian Air Force had greatly reformed its CSFO operating protocols and these were highly successful on the eastern front, where the Indian Army’s offensive ground formations never operated in a vacuum and always enjoyed excellent synchronisation with the Indian Air Force. This was primarily due to the invaluable actionable situational awareness inputs coming from the Bangladeshi Mukti Bahini.
As a result, the Air Force’s Su-7BMK and Hunter interdictor/strike aircraft deployed on the eastern front were each able to able to mount three CSFOs on a daily basis. However, this feat could not be replicated on the western front since, once again, the Indian Army was unable to provide actionable situational awareness inputs.
It was due to this that over a period of 12 days, the Indian Army’s 1 Corps managed to advance a bare 13km against Pakistani covering troops.
The 1972-1998 Period
Common-sense would have dictated that after 1971, the Indian Army ought to have been authorised to raise its own Army Aviation Corps that would be equipped with recce-and-scout helicopters (RSH), attack helicopters, and medium-lift utility helicopters for casualty evacuation. Instead, the Indian Air Force continued to oppose the Army’s procurement of different types of helicopters, even after the Army Aviation Corps was established in 1986. At that time, in the Joint Implementation Instructions, it was mandated that the Army Aviation Corps would operate only helicopters below 5 tonnes in weight. Since then, the Air Force has successfully cited this document to block the expansion of the Army Aviation Corps. The blame lies with the Ministry of Defence (MoD), which has consistently avoided a decision, preferring to refer to this contentious issue as being “a family affair”. Whenever the Army Corps Aviation sent up a proposal relating to aviation assets, the MoD would send it to Air HQ for comments, knowing full well that the Air Force would effectively kill the proposal.
The Indian Army’s in-house think-tanks, which after OP Parakram in 2002 had been hard at work aimed at turning the lumbering Army into an agile, lethal, versatile and networked force capable of matching the PLA’s on-going force-modernisation efforts through re-organisation, restructuring, force development and relocation (all these being based on 13 transformation studies carried out so far), had by 2011 come up with a firm plan for expansion of the Army Aviation Corps whose main elements were: Creation of integral Combat Aviation Brigades (CAB) for each of its three Strike Corps and 10 Pivot Corps over a 15-year period between (2007-2022), with each CAB attached to the Strike Corps comprising two squadrons each with 12 attack helicopters, one squadron with 10 ‘Rudra’ helicopter-gunships (for armed tactical battle reconnaissance and casualty evacuation) and five single-engined RSHs. The CABs attached to the Pivot Corps were to comprise two squadrons with 24 ‘Rudra’ helicopter-gunships and one squadron of 15 Mi-17V-5 helicopters configured for Battalion-level armed air-assaults and casualty evacuation. Even this plan has since been short-changed, with the Army being allowed to operate only the ‘Rudra’ helicopter-gunships and RSHs.
While in May 2011 the Air Force had offered to surrender its sovereignty over the Mi-25/Mi-35P attack helicopters, this was not acceptable to the Army, which at that time also insisted on raising its integral Combat Aviation Brigades (for conducting vertical envelopment air-assault operations) equipped with armed medium-lift utility helicopters—something which the Air Force objected to. And this, despite the fact that in neighbouring Pakistan, it is the Army’s Aviation Corps that has had since the mid-1980s as its integral assets the fleets of AH-1S HueyCobra helicopter gunships, AS.350B3 armed light observation helicopters and Mi-171 medium-lift utility helicopters.
However, from in the mid-1970s till the late 1980s, the Indian Army did receive authorisation to massively upgrade and expand its land-mobile air-defence artillery network, which on January 10, 1994 led to the creation of the Corps of Army Air Defence. By the mid-1990s, therefore, the Army was well-equipped with two land-mobile Air-Defence Groups equipped with 36  ZRK-SD Kvadrat MR-SAM TELs, 80 OSA-AK and 80 Strella-10M SHORADS TELs, 96 ZSU-23-4 Schilka SPAAGs, 40 mounted ZU-23-2s (out of the 468 ordered), 200  Oerlikon Contraves Super Fledermaus LLAD-FCS, 80 Flycatcher LLAD-FCS, and 40 Reporter LLAD tactical air-control radars.
In addition, the long-overdue process of mechanisation of of the Army’s lorried infantry formations began in earnest since the early 1980s, once service-induction of the 14.3-tonne BMP-1/2 ‘Sarath’ tracked infantry combat vehicles (ICV) began. The first 700 BMP-2s were ordered off-the-shelf in 1984 from the Soviet Union and were delivered by Kurganmashzavod JSC between 1987 and 1991.
An additional 1,000 BMP-2s were ordered in 1985, these being licence-produced in India between 1992 and 2003 at the OFB’s Medak-based facility in Telengana. Yet another 123 BMP-2K ICVs were ordered in 2006 from Russia and were delivered between 2007 and 2008. Another 289 BMP-2Ks—ordered in 2009 and 2011—are now being delivered by OFB Medak. Finally, In October 2014 the MoD gave its nod to OFB Medak to produce 362 more BMP-2s, including 116 NAMICA-2 vehicles.
Against the authorisation of 2,827 and 323 BMP-2s respectively, the Mechanised Infantry and the Corps of Electrical & Mechanical Engineers are today holding only 2,521 and 170 vehicles in various versions that include the. BMP-2 ICV, the armoured amphibious dozer, armoured engineering and recovery vehicle, armoured ambulance, CBRN recce vehicle, carrier command post vehicle, carrier mortar tracked vehicle (198 units), and communications vehicle.
Earlier in 1987, the Indian Army—being acutely aware of the T-72M’s vulnerabilities, had decided to undertake Project Bison—an ambitious upgrade project in cooperation with Yugoslavia’s state-owned Yugoimport SDPR, under which all its T-72Ms would be fitted with the SUV-M-84 digital fire-control system that incorporated a Hughes-built gunner’s sight that was stabilised in two axes and included a thermal imager and laser rangefinder. The gunner’s ballistics computer—developed by Banja Luka-based (in today’s Bosnia-Herzegovina) RUDI ČAJAVEC Rudi Cajevec—was designed to automatically download cross-wind data, vehicle cant, azimuth tracking rate and range, while the gunner manually inputted the data for air-pressure, air temperature, barrel wear, barrel droop and ammunition type. Also planned for retrofit was the 12-cylinder water-cooled V-46TK 1,000hp diesel engine, that would have given the T-72M a power-to-weight ratio of 24.10 hp/tonne (thereby replacing the V46-6 engine that was rated at 780hp). A procurement contract was signed with Yugoimport SDPR in early 1989 and an advance down-payment was made as well, but by 1991, Project Bison had to be scrapped in its entirety as by then civil war had broken out in Yugoslavia, and the country was subjected to an UN-mandated universal arms export/import embargo.
Under Nuclear Overhang
When, as a consequence of the Wangdung/Sumdorong Chu Incident in 1986, the Govt of India a year later authorised the commencement of weaponisation of India’s strategic nuclear deterrent arsenal, it was also incumbent then upon the Govt of India to take the country’s armed forces in to confidence so that a comprehensive ‘Strategic Defence Review’ be conducted in order to re-orientate the military warfighting doctrines and the consequent force modernisation efforts of India’s three armed services. Sadly, this was not done (until late 2002), with the Govt of India choosing to instead rely only on the scientists and technocrats of the country’s Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and the Defence R & D Organisation (DRDO) for strategic guidance on operationalising India’s nuclear deterrence posture, little realising the dangerous consequences this was to have in future in terms of diminishing India’s conventional military deterrence—which became evident 12 years later.  
By 1989 India was buffeted by economic crisis, political and social demoralisation, and communal polarisation, while Punjab was still gripped by an active rural insurgency/urban terrorism, while Pakistan was then of the firm belief that the fruits of the decade-long Afghan Jihad could be replicated with success inside Jammu & Kashmir (J & K) by whipping up revisionist/distorted religiosity. Consequently, after the V P Singh-led government was sworn in on December 2, 1989, the kidnapping of 23-year old Rubaiya Sayeed (daughter of the then Indian Union Home Affairs Minister Mufti Mohd Sayeed) by the Pakistan-based Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) took place on December 8. This incident, along with overt Pakistani raising, funding and arming of various Pakistan-based terrorist ‘tanzeems’ (like the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen or HuM) opened the floodgates of terrorism inside J & K. By January 1990 a concentrated and venomous campaign by the JKLF and HuM was initiated against J & K’s minority Kashmiri Pandit community throughout the Kashmir Valley through toxic hate-preaching systematically emanating from several Mosques inside the Valley, This on January 18, 1990 reached a fever-pitch, which in turn led a day later to the mass-exodus of some 300,000 Pandits from the Valley to safer areas in Jammu and elsewhere outside J & K. On February 5, (when the then PM of Pakistan and Benazir Bhutto and the then Chief Minister of Pakistan’s Punjab province Mian Mohd Nawaz Sharif were trying to outdo one another when it came to supporting the ‘Kashmir cause’) a thousands-strong crowd of Pakistanis tried to forcibly cross the LoC and they were fired upon by India’s Border Security Force, which led to several casualties. A few days later, yet another attempted crossing was also fired upon. On March 13, at a rally in Muzaffarabad, Benazir spoke about waging a 1,000-year war for the sake of Kashmir, while India retorted by stating that if it came to war, Pakistan would not last for even 1,000 days. While Benazir was dismissed as PM in August 1990, the V P Singh-led government fell in November 1990. In February and late March 1992, attempted crossings the LoC—this time by the JKLF—was thwarted by Pakistan’s then PM Nawaz Sharif. In mid-October 1993 a group of terrorists holed themselves up inside the Hazratbal Shrine in Srinagar (a similar incident had taken place in 1963) along with 150 pilgrims who were held as hostages, and demanded safe passage, threatening otherwise to kill the hostages, blow up the mosque and destroy the relic of the Holy Prophet that housed inside the shrine. Though this crisis was resolved peacefully by mid-1993, India clearly interpreted as this as being nothing but an overt re-enactment of 1965’s OP GIBRALTAR.
This was what made India undertake a national endeavour on February 22, 1994 when India’s Parliament unanimously adopted a resolution that firmly declared that the State of J & K has been, is and shall be an integral part of India and any attempts to separate it from the rest of the country will be resisted by all necessary means, and that Pakistan must unconditionally withdraw from PoK, which it had forcibly occupied through military means. This parliamentary articulation of a position hitherto implicit or left understated was, in fact, a tectonic change that many ar that time had failed to grasp. But the Indian Army had grasped and understood the full politico-military implications of this resolution, and therefore it began the process of revisiting its force modernisation plans. Consequently, in March 1994 Army HQ formulated its GSQR for tracked self-propelled howitzers (T-SPH) SP by using the 152mm 2S19M1/MSTA-S T-SPH as the baseline performance parameter benchmark. In response to a subsequently-issued RFI, proposals were received in December 1994 from five OEMs and subsequently, field mobility-firepower trials on a no-cost no-commitment basis of four different hybrid T-SPHs (from France, the UK, Russia and South Africa) were conducted between April and July 1995. During these trials, the option of using the T-72M hull for mounting the turret-mounted howitzer proved to be a failure due to powerpack-related mobility deficiencies and thus IA HQ rejected all four offers.
What was required at this stage from the P V Narasimha Rao-led government were new war directives that emphasized the importance of waging limited high-intensity conventional wars of limited duration under a nuclear overhang, which would have replaced the then warfighting doctrine of all-out wars based on overwhelming retaliation—which was conceived in the early 1980s and was based on Gen Krishnaswami Sundarji’s  (who was the Army’s COAS from February 1, 1986 till April 30, 1988, or 820 days) Combat Papers I and II (that were published when he was Commandant of the College of Combat in Mhow in 1980-1981).  In fact, Gen Sundarji himself revisited his classic expositions of the Army’s thinking on this subject in his novel, titled ‘Blind Men of Hindoostan’—a suggestively fictional account of his own thoughts on the subject—in 1993. However, India’s ruling political elite at that time had no stomach the glaring objective ground realities, and instead continued to repose more faith in the country’s scientists and technocrats, while totally ignoring the well-meaning operational inputs from the armed forces. Due to this, the end-users of military hardware were forced to accept what the DRDO had to offer, such as liquid-fuelled rocket artillery assets developed by the DRDO’s Hyderabad-based  Advanced Systems Laboratory (ASL) Research Centre at Imarat (RCI). Subsequently, the Indian Army raised its 333 (in June 1993 and commissioned in October 1995), 444 (raised in October 2003) and 555 Missile Groups (operational by January 2005), each equipped with a total of 60 liquid-fuelled, conventional warhead-armed, 150km-range Prithvi SS-150 surface-to-surface battlefield support missiles (SSBSM), including reserve rounds.
Each SS-150 Missile Group was made up of two Sub-Groups that in turn were made up of two Troops. Each Troop had two SS-150 mobile autonomous launchers (MAL). Thus, each Group had 8 launchers and almost 24 support vehicles (including the Fuel Carrier, Missile Transporter, Oxidiser Carrier, Warhead Carrier), while the number of MALs was then expected to eventually treble to 24. In times of hostilities, the missiles were required to be pre-fuelled (the shelf-life of the liquid propellant while in storage was 10 years) before being deployed to their launch sites where only three vehicles—the MAL, power supply vehicle and one Mobile Command Post (MCP)—would need to be employed. The Prithvi SS-150—officially described by the DRDO as a tactical surface-to-surface missile and by the Army as a battlefield support missile--was fuelled by a liquid propellant (a 50:50 combination of isomeric xylidine and trimethlyamine), with the oxidizer being inhibited red fuming nitric acid (IRFNA). The propellant had a 260 specific impulse—as specified by the Army, which required a range fluctuation between 40km and 150km—and this, according to the DRDO, could only have been achieved by a variable total impulse best generated by liquid propellants. When it achieved operational status, the SS-150, equipped with a strap-down inertial navigation system, had a CEP of 300 metres. Warhead options for the SS-150 included the standard high-explosive unitary warhead (weighing 1,000kg), pre-fragmented and cluster munitions, an incendiary warhead, and a fuel air explosive warhead.
Following its launch, the SS-150’s semi-ballistic trajectory took it to an altitude of 30km following which it adopted either a steep downward trajectory at nearly 80 degrees, or a lift-augmented descent trajectory. As far as the latter option went, there were six flight-path variations available (which were pre-programmed prior to launch) in order to defeat or confuse hostile air-defence systems. It is evident from all this that the SS-150, during, hostilities, was envisaged by the DRDO to be meant to be employed for massed, but not effects-based, fire-assaults against largely static targets like troop concentrations, plus railroad and POL junctions, this being done in order to severely degrade the hostile force’s theatre-level conventional force reserves before they could become effective in the forward tactical battle areas. The Indian Army, however, never intended to use the SS-150 in such a manner simply because its warfighting formations were required to have situational awareness only out to a distance of 50km within the tactical battle areas.
Similarly, the Indian Air Force too was forced to induct the liquid-fuelled, single-stage, 250km-range, 8.56 metre-long Prithvi-250 into service in 2003. The SS-250 was first test-fired on January 27, 1996 and again on March 31, 2001. Subsequently, the DRDO and the MoD unsuccessfully tried their best to force the Air Force to view such SSBSMs as substitutes for interdictor/deep-strike combat aircraft and induct the 350km-range Prithvi-2 (test-fired on  May 23, 2008; October 12, 2009; March 27 and June 18, 2010; June 9, 2011; December 20, 2012; August 12, 2013; and December 3, 2013) and the 600km-range, solid fuelled, RLG-INS-equipped Prithvi-3 (test-fired on May 19, 2016; November 21, 2016; and June 2, 2017) into service, along with the  150km-range, solid-fuelled Prahar SSBSM (developed in a span of less than two years and test-fired only on July 21, 2011). Such SSBSMs simply had no operational value-addedness, given their inability to deliver actionable, high-accuracy fire-assaults and their large, on-ground deployment footprints.
As a result of these above-mentioned mis-steps on the part of successive governments since 1987, when India conducted the Shakti-2 series of weaponised nuclear devices on May 11 and 13, 1998 (which were followed on May 28 and 30 with similar tests being conducted by Pakistan), the conventional warfighting strategies of the Army and Air Force were totally out-of-touch with the new emerging ground realities, which have since then meant that: 

1) Neither India nor Pakistan could any longer wage all-out AirLand wars of overwhelming conventional retaliation deep inside each other’s sovereign territories, since both possessed the type of nuclear WMDs (with yields not exceeding 4 kT) that could be used defensively within each other’s own territories in order to blunt large-scale conventional AirLand offensives.

2) This consequently will henceforth render the Strike Corps formations of both countries largely ineffective all along the international boundary (IB).

3) Waging limited high-intensity conventional warfare became a distinct possibility for as long as such campaigns were conducted within disputed territories, since this does not constitute any violation of international law.

4) Such warfare has be initiated at relatively short notice by India, since Pakistan is geographically linear (with its north-to-south roads and railways running close to the IB) and therefore the latter can mobilise and deploy its warfighting formations using solely its interior lines of communications within 48 hours.

5) The Indian Army, whose offensive strike formations are located deep in the hinterland, is therefore required to restructure its warfighting formations in such a manner so as to keep them permanently deployed at forward locations (within 100km of both the IB and LoC).

6) This in turn requires the pre-positioning of war-waging hardware and their end-users in up to 10 newly-built cantonments close to both the LoC and what Pakistan refers to as the Working Boundary (WB).

7) The Indian Army’s restructured integrated manoeuvrable battle groups ought to be highly mobile, possess far shorter teeth-to-tail ratio, and possess force-multiplier assets when operating in a fluid battlefield where the operational plans are based on real-time situational awareness.
It is now important to understand the various territorial boundary/frontier references. The State of J & K has 734km of the LoC running through Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh regions from Kargil to Malu (Akhnoor) in Jammu district, while it has 190km of IB from Malu to the Punjab belt running through Jammu, Samba and Kathua districts. The IB between India and Pakistan spans 2,175km. The WB spans 202km, the LoC spans 797km, and the Line of Actual Contact (LAC)—which India calls the Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL)—from map-grid reference NJ-9842 till Indra Kol—spans 108km. The LoC runs from a place called Sangam close to Chhamb (which lies on the western bank of the Munnawar Tawi River) all the way up north to NJ-9842 in Ladakh, following which the AGPL takes over. The WB lies in Jammu Division between Boundary Pillar 19 and Sangam i.e. between Jammu and Sialkot, which was part of the erstwhile princely state of J & K. It is this stretch that Pakistan refers to as the WB, since it maintains that the border agreement of 1947 (the so-called standstill agreement) was inked between the princely state of J & K and Pakistan, and not between India and Pakistan.
Even if the then NDA-1 government had by May 1998 publicly announced its intention to conduct a comprehensive strategic defence review aimed at restructuring India’s three armed services in order to address the new ground realities associated with the conduct of limited high-intensity conventional warfare, the chances of Pakistan launching OP BADR against India in northern J & K would have been slim. Given the total ratio of land forces of India and Pakistan, which then was about 2.25 : 1.2 the Pakistan Army’s Military Operations Directorate had then concluded that the initial Indian military reaction would be to rush in more troops inside J & K, thereby further eroding the Indian Army’s offensive capabilities against Pakistan. As a consequence, the MO Directorate concluded that India would not undertake an all-out offensive against Pakistan, since by doing so she would run the risk of ending in a stalemate, which would be viewed as a victory for Pakistan. It is for this reason that the Pakistan Army had then concluded that war, let alone nuclear war, was never a possibility. The Pakistan Army’s consequent operational plan envisaged India amassing troops along the LoC to deal with the threat at Kargil, Drass and Batalik, thereby resulting in a vacuum in the rear areas. By July, the Mujahideen were required step up their sabotage activities in the rear areas, thereby threatening the Indian lines of communication at pre-designated targets, which would have helped isolate pre-determined pockets, forcing the Indian troops to react to them. This in turn would have created an opportunity for the Pakistani forces at Kargil, Drass and Batalik to push forward and pose an additional threat. India would, as a consequence, be forced to the negotiating table. While it is useless to speculate on whether it could in fact have succeeded, theoretically the plan for OP BADR was faultless, and the initial execution, tactically brilliant. But at the strategic-level the Pakistan Army was caught totally off-guard by India’s vertical escalation (by involving the Indian Army through OP VIJAY and the Indian Air Force through OP Safed Sagar) that lasted from April 29 till August 3, 1999.
However, what totally bemused Pakistan’s military leadership at that time was the totally defensive mindset and a total lack of strategic visioning on the part of India’s then ruling political leadership. This was subsequently articulated by none other than Lt. Gen. Javed Hassan—who as the then GOC Force Command Northern Areas (FCNA) had played a key role in commanding both Pakistan Army and the then paramilitary Northern Light Infantry (NLI) forces during OP BADR in 1999. He had in the mid-1990s been commissioned by the Pakistan Army’s Faculty of Research & Doctrinal Studies to produce a guide to India for serving officers of the Pakistan Army. In ‘India: A Study in Profile’, published by the military-owned Services Book Club in 1990, Lt Gen Hassan had argued that the ruling Indian ‘baniya’ is driven by “the incorrigible militarism of the Hindus.” “For those who are weak,” he had gone on, “the Hindu is exploitative and domineering.” A highly intelligent and well-read officer, he was more of an academic than a commander, and bore that reputation. He, therefore, was the best-placed with a point to prove in a subsequent military appreciation of OP BADR—this being that OP BADR had provided India with a splendid opportunity to enact its February 22, 1994 parliamentary resolution by embarking upon a prolonged high-intensity AirLand offensive across the LoC that could eventually have resulted in the capture of almost the entire district of Baltistan (inclusive of Skardu and the Deosai Plains) at a time when both the Pakistan Army and Pakistan Air Force were clearly unable to give high-intensity battle for more than a week, since the US, by invoking the Pressler, Glenn-Symington and Solarz Amendments since October 1990 had stopped providing product-support for all US-origin military hardware in service with Pakistan’s military, and also because Pakistan was holding only 48 hours worth of military POL stockpiles at that time.    
This inexplicable defensive mindset of India’s ruling political elite was again in full display during OP PARAKRAM, which was launched in the wake of the December 13, 2001 terrorist attack on India’s Parliament, and was the first full-scale mobilisation since the 1971 India-Pakistan war. It began on December 15, 2001 after the Cabinet Committee on National Security’s (CCNS) authorisation and was completed on January 3, 2002. It finally ended on October 16, 2002 when the CCNS belatedly recognised that the law of diminishing returns had been operative for many months already. In the snow-bound areas of J & K the Indian Army had by then relatively few options to launch offensive operations across the LoC, while in the plains of Punjab and Rajasthan the climatic conditions were ideal, but the nuclear overhang became the inhabiting factor. By that time, approximately 52,000 hectares of land along the IB, WB and LoC had been mined with about 1 million landmines. Till July 2003, the Indian Army had suffered 798 casualties due to mishaps in minefields, mishandling of ammunition and explosives, and traffic accidents. The cost of sustaining OP PARAKRAM was pegged by India’s National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) at Rs. 7 crore a day. This worked out to approximately Rs.2,100 crore over 10 months and did not include the cost of mobilisation and de-induction. India’s Parliament was informed in October 2002 that OP PARAKRAM had cost Rs.6,500 crore, excluding the Rs.350 crore paid as compensation to people residing in border states where Indian troops were deployed. The Army was the biggest contributor to the expenses. Figures collated by Army HQ indicated that the cost of mobilisation of 500,000 troops, including pay and allowances, field allowance for one year and transfer grant alone was Rs.700 crore. The wear-and-tear cost of equipment added up to Rs.1,300 crorem while the depletion of mines, ammunition and warlike stores was around Rs.550 crore. Transport and fuel costs together added up to Rs.850 crore.. The total figure for the Army stood at Rs.3,860 crore and did not include the cost of withdrawal of troops (estimated at around Rs.500 crore) and the cost of demining one million mines for which new demining equipment had to be bought from Denmark. Nor did this figure include the cost of deploying (and redeploying) the Navy, the Indian Air Force and the Coast Guard, which was estimated to be another Rs.1,000 crore.
The only one to voice the Indian armed forces’ intense frustration over the continued myopia of India’s then ruling elite was none other than Gen. Sundararajan ‘Paddy’ Padmanabhan, who had served as the Indian Army’s Chief of the Army Staff from September 30, 2000 till December 31, 2002. Going on-the-record on February 6, 2004 (see:, he explicitly stated that problems with India’s then prevailing (or obsolete) military doctrine and a lack of clarity within the then Union Cabinet and on its war objectives had undermined OP PARAKRAM at the very outset. Gen. Padmanabhan argued that significant military gains could have been achieved in the first quarter of January 2002, had India’s ruling politicians made the decision to go to high-intensity limited conventional war. These objectives, he said, could have included the “degradation of the other force, and perhaps the capture of disputed territory in J & K. They were more achievable in January, less achievable in February, and even less achievable in March. By then, the balance of forces had gradually changed.” Pakistan, the Indian Army planners had then believed, had an interest in taking the conflict towards a nuclear flash-point as soon as possible. The Indian Army on the other hand believed that the best prospects of avoiding such a situation was having forces in place that could rapidly secure limited war objectives across the LoC. “If you really want to punish someone for something very terrible he has done,” Gen Padmanabhan said, “you smash him. You destroy his weapons and capture his territory.” “War is a serious business,” he continued, “and you don’t go just like that.” Doctrinal baggage, he accepted, had crippled India’s early options in 2002. “You could certainly question why we are so dependent on our strike formations,” he said, and “and why my Holding Corps don’t have the capability to do the same tasks from a cold start. This is something I have worked on while in office. Perhaps, in time, it will be our military doctrine.”
From India’s perspective, the most important lesson that emerged from this standoff was that political and military instruments of national power must work together in a synchronised manner. Deciding to adopt a pronounced forward and aggressive military posture to coerce/compel Pakistan was basically a political decision, and India’s armed forces, excluded from the decision loop, could not immediately adopt the posture its political masters desired. Admiral Sushil Kumar, the Indian Navy’s Chief of the Naval Staff till December 30, 2001, later opined that OP PARAKRAM was the most punishing mistake for the armed forces because the government of the day then lacked any political aim or objective for deploying the Army along the India-Pakistan borders. “There was no aim or military objective for the OP PARAKRAM. I don’t mind admitting that OP Parakram was the most punishing mistake for the Armed Forces. When the Parliament strike took place, in the (CCNS) board-room it was a super-charged atmosphere, as you are aware in the CCNS board-room, the three Service Chiefs sit opposite the Union Cabinet. In the end, PM (Atal Bihari) Vajpayee turned to me and said ‘aap khush nahi lag rahe hain Admiral Sahab’ (You don’t seem to be happy). I said I beg your pardon, Sir, can you give us what is your political aim? We need to derive a military aim from it. That is the whole principle of war. What is the aim, you need an aim and military objective.”
Holding that little attention was paid to the maritime dimension during the Kargil conflict in mid-1999, Admiral Kumar said: “There was no focus on the maritime dimension and the focus was only on the LoC. I had said that Kargil will once happen in the sea and nobody believed me. Eight years later 26/11 happened, but we have never learnt from our mistakes.” Referring to nuclear versus conventional war fighting capabilities, Admiral Kumar explained that nuclear deterrence should not be considered as the replacement for conventional warfighting capabilities of the country. “The problem is that the nuclear mindset we have is a false sense of security. Nuclear deterrence is required but it does not replace conventional deterrence. Conventional deterrence is the real deterrence, it gives you a credible response capability,” he said.
While the conflict in mid-1999 led to the death of 527 Indian soldiers, shockingly, without going to war, 798 soldiers were killed during OP PARAKRAM. In the initial phase itself, around 100 soldiers were killed and 250 injured during mine-laying operations. In the armed forces, there was seething anger against the then government having achieved so little with so much. Hollow now sounded Vajpayee’s rhetoric of “aar paar ki ladaai” and several such allusions to a decisive battle. Those with a sense of history had then asked: is 2002 to Vajpayee what the 1962 debacle with China was to Nehru? Vertical escalation, it calibrated and maintained, would not have spiralled out of control. But after the initial weeks, the strategic surprise was lost by early February 2002. Matters were imprecisely conceived, and that there was no clear political objective to the mass military mobilisation. The subsequent military deployment became a losing gamble of meaningless brinkmanship. No informed cost-benefit analysis about the contours of the available military responses was undertaken. Nor were they preceded by politico-military war-gaming. It came about suddenly, and reeked of ad hocism. In developed countries, such war-gaming is a continuous process, enabling military planners to factor in the strains the political system could come under during wartime, and ways in which it could affect the operation. Of what use then was New Delhi's bluster and sabre-rattling?
The verdict: the 2001-2002 total military mobilisation was a disaster, perhaps the biggest since 1962. Political masters of that time never issued orders to realise any tactical objective, thereby underlining that the military mobilisation was never intended to launch attacks against Pakistan. But this inactivity ultimately extracted a tremendous price. Firstly, it bolstered the assiduously-cultivated Pakistani myth that strategic deterrence has worked for it. Secondly, India’s armed forces seriously degraded their operational reserve of combat hours. What would have happened if India was faced with a repeat requirement in three months? New orders for weapons had to be placed, with consequent lag-times in terms of delivery schedules. Thirdly, as a consequence, India would have had to open herself to new strategic vulnerabilities, thereby getting squeezed in the process. Fourthly, since all combat and support equipment, especially air-defence hardware and precision-guided munitions, have a defined storage life that is measured in terms of hours, once taken out to the field and exposed to uncontrolled environment, such hardware quickly begins to degrade and become useless for combat purposes. This applies across the board, which if kept revved up for 10 months in the desert, would have had their functional abilities impaired.
And what about the alleged overhaul of the national security system post-Kargil and the then Defence Minister George Fernandes’ tall claims of India’s ability to wage a limited war? In reality, what the country got from the ruling political class since then has been a dubious result of less than pyrrhic value. For instance, sample the so-called Cold Start warfighting doctrine of the Indian Army, which was vaguely explained by the then COAS of the Indian Army, Gen Nirmal Chander Vij, on April 28, 2004. According to Army HQ, the reconfigured ground combat formations at each level will be task-oriented in terms of varying composition of armour and infantry elements, with integrated attack helicopters of the Army Aviation and the Air Force, besides battlefield air interdiction (BAI) support coming from the Air Force. Also, there was then much hype about integrated Army Aviation surveillance helicopters, plus command-and-control helicopters.  As per Army HQ, the future battlefields along India’s western borders would involve the use of eight permanently forward-deployed ‘integrated battle groups’, meaning Brigade-sized integrated armoured/mechanised infantry forces with varying composition of armour, field/rocket artillery, infantry and combat air-support that are available to the Army’s Pivot (Holding) Corps-level formations. These ‘integrated battle groups’ would be mobilised within 48 hours and will be operating independently and will thus have the potential to disrupt or incapacitate the Pakistani leadership’s decision-making cycle. As per this school of thought, when faced with offensive thrusts in as many as eight different sectors, the Pakistan Army would be hard-pressed to determine where to concentrate its forces and which lines of advance to oppose. In addition, having eight ‘integrated battle groups’ capable of offensive action will significantly increase the challenge for Pakistani military intelligence’s limited exploration/exploitation assets to monitor the status of all the tactical battle areas, thereby improving the chance of achieving surprise. Furthermore, in a limited war, India’s overall politico-military goals would be less predictable than in a total war, where the intent would almost certainly be to destroy Pakistan as a functional state. As a result, Pakistan’s defensive ripostes against Indian attacks would be more difficult because the military objectives would be less obvious. Lastly, if Pakistan were to use nuclear weapons against the advancing Indian ‘integrated battle groups’, such dispersed formations operating over narrow frontages would present a significantly smaller target than would Corps-level formations.
In reality, the Indian Army’s declared ‘Pro-Active Strategy’ involving the cold-starting of the forward-deployed ‘integrated battle groups’ WRONGLY PRESUPPOSES that in the next round of military hostilities with Pakistan, the politico-military objectives will be clearly spelt out far in advance. And there is no credible evidence on the ground about this being the case as of now. Any military offensive strategy hinging on high-intensity limited war can only be successful if India’s political leadership at the given time of operational execution of this strategy has: the political will to use offensive military power; the political will to use pre-emptive military strategies; the political sagacity to view strategic military objectives with clarity; the political determination to pursue military operations to their ultimate conclusion without succumbing to external pressures; the political determination to cross nuclear thresholds if Pakistan seems so inclined’ and the determination to not shy away from enunciating India’s national interests from which flows all military planning. If any of the above are missing, as they have been from 1947 to till now, the Indian Army’s ‘Pro-Active Strategy’ will not add up to anything.

So, how does go about enunciating India’s national interests vis-à-vis Pakistan? For that, one needs to develop a deep understanding of the nature of the beast. Sample these:

(to be concluded)