Monday, July 29, 2013

Striking the Chinese Dragon

 And now my reply----

Striking the Chinese Dragon
I have read Admiral Raja Menons article and whereas I do agree with the Admiral on a host of Indian foreign policy and strategic issues which he has been raising in numerous forums and has also so succinctly been commenting on in various periodicals and journals , I do not entirely agree with the Admirals views on the raising of the Mountain Strike Corps. I shall restrict myself to certain military aspects only , countering mostly  the arguments put forth by the Admiral criticising the recent decision of the GoI/MoD. For aspects related to the Mac Mohan Line , the Simla Conference , the Great Game,the Johnson-Ardagh  and the Macartney lines - as mentioned by the Admiral , just Google Wikipedia.
    Firstly, the Admiral is right --raising the Strike Corps is not the only option.It is one of the many options which this Country is taking to neutralise the threat from China (I don't think we need to mince words here).Raising of the Strike Corps has nothing do  with dispensing with the need for another Carrier or negating the requirement of strengthening the Navy so that it can effectively interdict the SLOC with respect to China.The two requirements are not mutually exclusive.No Army can fight a successful land battle without the assistance of the Navy and the Air-force.Period . But to engage in meaningful land based operations , one must appreciate the need for a Theatre Commander to have a potent force in his kitty which is not only a threat 'in being' , but can also be applied at the time , place and ground of his choosing.  And pray what has Depsang got anything to do with the location of this Corps or the place where it will be applied. Towards the end of WW2,  it was known that the Allies will be landing on the coast of France shortly --but the question was where??? You hit me here , I will hit you there (where?). And definitely not where you are baring your dragon fangs .
   Secondly, if the Forces and the Country have not learnt anything from 1962 and if we are living in a time warp,convinced that we still are what we were in ' 62 , then we can end the discussion here itself and  go home.Lessons have been learnt in 48 , 65 , 71 , 99 and if we are going to apply that old template of 62' of how a war should not be fought, then the adversary will have again won the war, more so if we keep trashing our capability of delivering a suitable riposte,and rest easy ,  this will always be as  a three dimensional response which need not be purely defensive in nature or restricted to land warfare only.The Navy will still have an effective and major role even as the Strike Corps joins battle.
  Thirdly , the Admiral has mentioned something  about whether the  the intellectual process of our politico-military leadership (the Chiefs of Staff Committee, an Integrated Staff, a National Security Council and Adviser, and the Cabinet Committee on Security ) has been appropriately exercised before coming to this decision. Aah--- the lesser said the better.Here the Admiral scores a point .If there is a Country lacking a suitable body to plan, implement , orchestrate and conduct the higher direction of war , then it is India , the Kargil Report and the Recommendations of the Group of Ministers not-withstanding because all these August Bodies either  lack teeth or are more engaged in turf battles . So Admiral , perhaps it was good that the lumbering ' think tanks ' that you mentioned did not apply their minds or were by-passed.
     Fourthly,the Admiral mentions that the Strike Corps would be ' geographically confined to one or two axes of movement and(is) capable of being blunted'.Wrong on both counts. Put it this way , neither will it be the aim of China to reach Delhi nor will the Indian Army plan to capture Beijing.It is common knowledge that Strike Corps operations are either to capture 'some' territory for bargaining later on , as a quid-pro-quo, or to force the adversary to re-deploy or recoil there by reducing pressure on own vulunerabilities. It also forces the enemy to keep a substantial amount of its combat power in reserve for contingencies directly arising out of that 'threat in being' . Face it , the international community will no longer permit National  boundaries to be re-drawn (forget what happened in the Middle-East in 1967--it is 2013 Anno Domini now).You are not in the Sinai or the Thar, and armoured columns are not going to be racing towards  Chengdu , Xinjiang, Lahasa or Qinghai. Mountain operations  of this tailor made Strike Corps will be infantry pre-dominant with more than adequate artillery and air firepower.Also this strike force will in all probability be applied unconventionally and could be echeloned in time , quantum and space.The objectives therefore need not necessarily be in classic 'depth' and can also  be on multiple axes.
     Fifthly ,the Admiral mention about the' asymmetric power vis-à-vis the huge People’s Liberation Army (PLA), whose defence budget is thrice ours'.History is replete with examples when smaller Nations with smaller Armies and indifferent equipment/ war material have stood their ground . Great Britain fought it out against vastly superior German forces because of good leadership and good generalship. Vietnam held of the might of the United States and then China and with what??And later on we saw how Rommel orchestrated his meagre forces in North Africa with brilliant military planning and leadership.Look around , where all do you think this vast arsenal of China is deployed?? Divided around its land frontier of more than 22,000 kms looking after the East China Sea , the South China Sea,the Pacific,the Taiwan Straits , the Phillipines , Australia, Malaysia , Japan , Brunei, Russia , Vietnam , India and the Indian Ocean to name a few.I agree, they do require to have a defence budget at least three times ours!!
     Sixthly , the Admiral says ' its army reforms have converted its land forces into a large armoured and air mobile force capable of rapid redeployment'. Large armoured forces--yes , but to be deployed where and in what quantum??? Conversely , this Country too has a fairly large modern  armoured force and has battle experience of armoured warfare. What is the point in having thousands of tanks when you can use only a fraction??And ditto for air mobile forces and the vaunted 15 Airborne Corps of the PLA.At best they can be used for trans-regi0nal air movement within the hinterland The high altitude of the Himalayas precludes the effective and large scale employment of para/airborne forces. The Chinese also know that any air assault operation in depth requires a linkup and fast. And what could be the objective--Guwahati? Tezpur? Siliguri Corridor? , Paro? Tawang? Leh?Too deep for a linkup , the troops will be annihilated.A shallow bridgehead  by air assault/airborne forces without a key military objective furthering the overall military plan is a waste of effort, so why worry about combat power which cannot be applied or is only partially applied. If they want to do an Arnhem , they are welcome. May I also add , the IAF will be operating from bases which are closer to the Tactical Battle Area(TBA) and which are at lower altitudes thus enabling more fuel (Radius of Action) and weapons load. Our adversary has to operate mainly from high altitude bases in Tibet complementary with weight and weapons load penalty.Advantage India.The depth interdiction and the degradation battle by the long range Artillery and Air forces of both the sides as well as   the Nuclear paradigm are not forming part of this rebuttal.
    I will now take on the last two points of the Admiral  , the Acclimatization factor first.  Unless our intelligence agencies and our strategic think tanks are in deep slumber , we should get adequate time for acclimatization of troops .In all probability there will be enough battle indicators that the balloon is about to go up.For any large scale operations aimed towards the Western , Central or the Eastern sectors, the Chinese have to cross the River T'Sang po.This is the trigger for our actions or reactions and a political decision as advised by the military hierarchy has to be taken at this point of time. Other than minor skirmishes, wars are generally escalatory in nature and 14 days is what it takes for trained troops to be able to join battle in high altitude from mean sea level . It is also reasonable to deduct that some of the troops of both the sides will always stationed in places where they are pre-acclimatized. As far as the role of Army Aviation is concerned, in no way is it involved in movement , transportation , logistic sustenance or air mobility operations. Neither is it tasked for this nor has it the capability to do such operations.It is the Airforce with its strategic air transportation fleet and its rotary wing assets that will take on this job.And it has the capability and the resources to do so.As far as the choice of aircraft for close support missions is concerned , this again has nothing to do with the ArmyAviation and is best left to the Airforce which has to dedicate resources ab-initio in furtherance of land operations ,which without guaranteed and earmarked aerial platforms,will always be doomed.
   To conclude , it can be debated whether it is better to have a flotilla of nuclear submarines and a three carrier air group in the Indian Ocean as recommended by Admiral Raja Menon or is it better to have a multitude of accurate long/medium range missiles stationed on the peninsular tip of India which can dominate the Indian Ocean from the Horn of Africa to the Western sea board of Australia. Or is it worth buying 126 Multi role jets instead of latest Artillery guns or should it be butter and not guns??!!Holistically viewed , we require the Strike Corps , we require the Submarines and the Carriers as also the Jets and the Guns . But why one at the cost of the other?The three  services have to work in syn and seamlessely ,for there is no point in having the latest jet or the best submarine returning to base to find that the enemy is waiting at the gates,  all because the Army could not fight its battle for want of support from the Navy or the Air force.

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