In the last 48 hours, the Indian Army has lost 7 brave hearts at Nagrota. It is with deep grief, immense helplessness and cold anger that I tell you today; we will lose many more, unless we realize that our response to Pakistan is woefully short of effective; and altogether wrong. We are applying Band-Aid where chemotherapy is urgently needed. We are solving the wrong problem.
I write every week on this. And at least 3-4 times a week I go on National TV and share this anger and helplessness with my countrymen. For my sins, innumerable though they may be, I am called a warmonger. Time and again, I am told that I have a fascination for human blood. And, some of them who are a little kinder say that I am afraid of peace.
So I shrug my shoulders and go into this dark corner where it is a little quieter and the demons, a little benign.
The next day my phone rings again and the voice from the studio says, “Sir, can you join us at 6 pm, 7:30 pm, 9 pm? There has been another attack”.
The same cacophony; The same helplessness!
I have diplomats, spokespersons of political parties and an odd journalist as co-panellists. Lights, camera, action… Let the games begin! So timid are we that we can’t even be aggressive in speech, let alone in action. Words are spoken with emphasis on that great Indian virtue – “maturity”. Turning the other cheek is a sign of graciousness.
“Let us talk to Pakistan. After all, we were the same country 69 years back”, a former diplomat says. He actually wants to say that the life of a soldier is cheap.
The next day I get a call from an army friend giving me an address. We have to go and pay respects to a fallen brother officer. We reach Delhi Cantonment and climb up to this small apartment on the first floor. It is neat, freshly whitewashed not more than a week ago. The young widow is sitting in a corner. The two children look bewildered; they have never seen so many people in their house. Their mother just stares at the wall, still in shock, unable to talk. Army wives huddle in a corner. “She must cry. Let her vent”, they say. They know what they are saying. They have been through this many times. The women take the young widow to a room and hug her. They speak to her in soft tones, never leaving her alone for a second. They are very gentle, very kind.
Suddenly, there is a guttural scream of immense pain, of a shattered heart and a broken home. Loud wailing sounds of grief rush out from the room. It is like a physical force.
There is nothing to say. I ask my friend to come downstairs. He lights up a cigarette; anything to distract him from the grief unfolding upstairs. I stare at a lizard on the wall. There is something I am trying to remember. What is it? Aah yes! “Let us talk to Pakistan. After all, we were the same country 69 years back”, I remember the talk show diplomat; polished, suave with a clipped South Delhi accent. C’est la vie!
Was there a security breach in Nagrota? Yes, there was. Is the security at the army base to blame? Yes, it is. Having got that out of the way let me address a few questions that have been floating in the social media since the last two nights.
Many armchair warriors have been quick to blame the army, with a caveat “I respect the army and the martyrs but someone must pay for these lapses. There must be accountability”. There is an almost dismissive anger; the type a CEO would cower the head of sales with, for not having met targets. Well, counter-insurgency under a nuclear overhang is a bit more complicated than selling toothpaste.
The Pathankot Air Force base was attacked on 2 January 2016. The Government of India took serious note of the terror attack and formed a high-powered committee under the leadership of Lt. Gen. (Retd) Philip Campose.
It comprised of representatives of all the three services and also a representative of the Army’s Military Operations branch. The committee visited multiple locations of the Army, Navy and Air Force across India. In May 2016, the committee submitted a detailed report addressing the lacuna in security across military installations. The report was called “The Lt. Gen. Philip Campose Committee Report”, and was submitted to the Ministry of Defence.
The report is gathering dust on the table of some faceless bureaucrat in the Raksha Mantralaya. At least that is my presumption because it has not been acted upon yet.
The report deals with multiple facets of security of installations and amongst other things, biometric security, raising of walls, fences, e-fences, CCTV cameras, movement-triggered cameras, QRTs (Quick Reaction Teams), equipment for soldiers, laser walls, Night Vision Devices, watchtowers and a slew of other measures like movement protocol, threat perception management, SOPs, training, periodic audit etc. It is an exhaustive report, and perhaps the most comprehensive audit of security of defence installations in India. And what I have written here, as part of the report is not even a third of what the report recommends. I do not have access to the report, since it is designated “SECRET”, for obvious reasons. Certain parts were discussed with the media.
Lt. Gen. (Retd) Philip Campose was Vice Chief of Army Staff of the Indian Army. It’s a pretty rarified space and only the best of the best get that far. A soldier and thinker par excellence, Lt. Gen. Campose put his heart and soul into that report. He has also identified critical shortages in inventory and weaponry. That report must be adopted in letter and spirit if we want to sincerely pay homage to our martyrs. And it must be adopted immediately.
Apart from the security of military bases, it is important to understand that we are also facing critical equipment and ammunition shortage, which has a direct bearing on the security of our installations.
It is important to have aircraft carriers, fighter jets and artillery guns. It is also equally important to give the infantry soldier the best equipment money can buy. Understand this; you can have space age weaponry but in the end, it is the infantryman who will wade ankle deep in blood, much of it his own.
It is the infantryman who will cross the Line of Control, who will walk through minefields and who will charge into enemy machine gun fire.
This is the truth of war. You cannot win without the infantry. Period. We need bulletproof jackets, proper helmets and better assault rifles, among other things.
The government has fast-tracked procurement of defence equipment but equipping a modern army is a continuous exercise. The last three decades have been a sledgehammer blow to the armed forces. It was yesterday, 30 November 2016 that we signed a deal for the purchase 145 medium artillery guns much needed on the China border. We should have signed this deal two decades ago. There are hundreds of such defence stores that have not been procured for the past two decades due to government apathy and bureaucratic incompetence.
We can prepare for a conventional war but the Pakistan Army has neither the funds nor the willingness to engage in a conventional war. Apart from the fact that they have lost every war that they fought with India, the Pakistan Army’s generals are in a cushy space. They live lives that the Nawabs of Awadh would have been envious of. Why rock the boat? Terrorism is a cheap alternative. The Pakistan Army does not suffer, investment is low, there is plausible deniability and life goes on as usual. Perfect, isn’t it?
What is the solution to our terror problem and how can we stop Pakistan sponsored terrorists from launching attacks on Indian soil? The answer lies in what NSA Ajit Doval has been advocating all these years, and towards which we have now been moving – offensive defence. Questions thrown up by asymmetrical warfare cannot be answered by a conventional mindset.
We have been killing terrorists since 1989, and it has not helped. It has changed nothing because the people we target are foot soldiers of Jihad. They are expendable. You can kill thousands more and they will just keep coming.
If you want to be safe, you have to target the fountainhead of terror, the Pakistan Army.
And unless you do that, these attacks will not stop. You can have the best security systems in the world and someone will find a way to compromise them. American bases in Afghanistan are regularly attacked. US bases in Iraq were attacked, too. And before you quote Israel’s example of security seriousness, let me tell you that Israel has not fought a war with another nuclear weapons state or another highly professional army. Its enemies have always been tier two forces. Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq; name your foe. They won’t last two days against the Indian Army.
The fountainhead of terror is the Pakistan Army. It is the officer corps that we must target. We do not need to use our army. Pakistan is actually an armory that looks like a nation and is floating in weapons. It is full of young men who know no other trade apart from killing. Most of them have no specific ideology. Dollars are good enough.
Pakistan Army’s V Corps (5 Corps) is stationed in Karachi. It has approximately 60,000 men, including officers. Karachi is the most violent city in Asia and it is amongst the “most armed” cities in the world. It has a violent mixture of Mohajirs, Pashtuns, Sindhis, Baloch and Kashmiris. It is an urban melting pot of armed and violent militia. It’s also the commercial capital of Pakistan. Perfect.
Target killers can be had for hire in Karachi. What we must do is route money via offshore accounts. These killers will then target Pakistani Army officers in Karachi, specifically officers of 5 Corps. They will be targeted in marketplaces and malls, outside restaurants and in roadside cafes. As we keep wiring money, Pakistan Army will keep losing officers.
Once the Karachi plan is successful, it can be rolled out in Quetta and Lahore. Peshawar will follow.
These Pakistani killers will not target infrastructure or civilians. They will not target innocents. They will simply locate, engage and eliminate any Pakistani Army, Navy or Air Force officer who steps out of the cantonment area. If the officer is moving with bodyguards, a sniper must take him out. An unseen enemy is far more terrifying than a known quantity.
I repeat – ZERO targeting of civilians, non-combatants and innocents. These are not terror strikes. These are “surgical” targeted killings of Pakistan defence forces’ officers.
India just bought 36 Rafale fighter jets at a total cost of USD 8.7 billion. We need these jets, but we may never use them in combat. Now imagine if we had bought just 35 jets, and put away the funds for one fighter jet into the program that I have mentioned above.
The Pakistan Army is an officer-led Army. The loss of an officer has a horrendous impact on morale. Once morale is shattered, nothing can compensate. That is what the Pakistan Army is doing to us. And that is what we must do to them.
Allow me to put it simply; should we make up our minds, we have the capacity to cause ten times more damage to Pakistan that they are causing us. In the end, asymmetrical warfare is also a function of money
Our annual defence budget is about USD 40 billion. Just 1% of that can seriously denude Pakistan Army’s will to fight. It can shatter morale. And that is worth the entire fleet of F-16s that Pakistan is so proud of.
For too long we have been fighting on our own soil. It is now time to take this war to the streets of Pakistan.