Force Magazine
Guest Column - Force Magazine
Arms and the Men
Modernisation of the defence forces is critical to maintain stability in the subcontinent
Lt Gen Dalip Bhardwaj (Retd)
By Lt Gen Dalip Bhardwaj (Retd)

The strategic environment in the subcontinent and the emerging security challenges to India’s rising status as a regional super power make it imperative that the armed forces are ready at all times to ensure stability in the region. Stability can only be guaranteed if the armed forces are suitably equipped and trained and have the ability to demonstrate their capability to maintain peace by deterrence, failing which, by the inevitable use of force.

Geo-Strategic Environment
Despite 66 years of Independence, India has yet to demarcate its borders with China and resolve the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) issue with Pakistan. With collaboration between China and Pakistan becoming stronger by the day, there is a high possibility of India being faced with a two-front war with the breakout of hostilities originating in the North and expanding to the Western front. The challenge is further accentuated with the US troops being pulled out from Afghanistan by the end of this year, thereby freeing large numbers of Taliban fighters who would then be diverted to the J&K region.

For the armed forces, ensuring sanctity of our borders and furthering our national interests in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) are of primary importance. The armed forces must also be capable of undertaking tasks for out of area contingencies (OOAC) which could be preventive, supportive or interventionist in design. Hence, the need to evolve a strategy and force capability for the mechanised forces to remain ready and relevant to further our national aspirations.

Operational Scenario
The current armed forces’ doctrine of conducting operations from a ‘cold start’ can only be successfully implemented if the mechanised forces, which will spearhead the multiple thrusts in the plain sector, are suitably equipped and trained to undertake such operations. Along the northern front, the armed forces at present have only dissuasive capability. This needs to be converted to a deterrent capability which would need an augmentation in the capability and versatility of the equipment.

Along the western front, the areas on the border where the battles are likely to take place are being converted into ‘green belts’ quite akin to the developed sectors. Hence, the mechanised forces would need to adapt to fighting in built up areas where the density of vegetation and water channels are high. Therefore, the present and the future generation of Armoured Fighting Vehicles (AFV) would have to be equipped with urban fighting and survival kits. For operations along the northern borders, the AFVs need to have greater strategic and tactical mobility to be able to speedily induct and retain the ability to switch axes along the valleys which have no lateral connection.

The northern border areas are synonymous with poor infrastructure development and it is a logistician’s nightmare to deploy main battle tanks (MBT) there at short notice. As large numbers of tanks cannot be deployed ab-initio too far forward, and thereby, restricting their employment, there is an inescapable need of deploying a limited number of tanks, preferably light tanks, which have greater tactical mobility and can be initially employed to blunt any offensive, thereby gaining time for the heavy forces to build up. Light tanks can also be gainfully employed for operations in OOAC as well as defending our island territories.
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