Full Throttle-January 2007
Learning from the past, army has evolved a war-winning strategy
By Pravin Sawhney
The Indian Army is passing through testing and unusual times. The issue at stake is fundamental: how much should it transform, doctrinally, operationally and in sheer size? Most experts argue that like the air force and the navy, the army should cut-down on its numbers and become lean, mean and more technology savvy. What is forgotten is that unlike the other two defence services, the army’s force levels are structured around manpower and not weapon platforms. It is overlooked that the army’s traditional tasks have been turned on its head, and also rendered complex by a series of events in last eight years. For example, it is fighting a proxy war in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) fully inspired, funded, armed and trained by Pakistan since 1990. Consequently, nearly 40 per cent of the 1.2 million (12 lakh) strong army is in the troubled border state and an equal number remains ready for the turn-around without a clear end-state in sight.

This is not all. Since the 1998 nuclear tests, the army’s traditional task has been made complex by a series of events, notably the 1999 Kargil war and the 2001-2002 Operation Parakram. What are these traditional tasks? Defence against neighbours, Pakistan and China, two nuclear weapon states bound by a strategic partnership. Both have disputed areas and hence military-held lines with India that have to be held physically. This is especially true against Pakistan where the unsaid government directive is that no land can be lost in the states of J&K and Punjab. This translates into two things: a heavy commitment of troops in counter insurgency operations, the military held lines as well as the border, and that quantity of equipment will always outweigh the quality requirement.
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