Time to Change

Government should implement capacity building measures to make CAPFs fighting fit

R.C. SharmaR.C. Sharma

Pakistan was unable to achieve its political goal of annexing Kashmir through conventional war and so it resorted to asymmetric war. It devised  a strategy of step by step indoctrination of Kashmiri youth to bleed Kashmir and India through this measure. Asymmetric warfare has internal and external security dimensions, encompass counter terrorism, counter insurgency and Left-Wing Extremism. External component of asymmetric warfare is military domain and internal police and Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) domain.

After the Kargil review committee report came out, the government executed one border one force concept. Assam Rifles, Border Security Force (BSF), Indo-Tibetan Police Force (ITBP), Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) were designated as border guarding forces and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) as internal security force, the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) for airport and industrial security and National Security Guard (NSG) for VIP security and anti-terrorist operations. India had insurgency problems in Northeast, Kashmir and Naxal problem in central India. The area of insurgency was vast and forces insufficient. The government devised a plan to utilise the army to fight insurgency and so, deployed it in the Northeast and Jammu and Kashmir to fight insurgency. The government later raised Rashtriya Rifles (RR) to tackle insurgency. It was a short-term measure, which gained permanency and still continues. It, however, needs reconsideration.

In the late Nineties, the BSF fought insurgency in Kashmir valiantly. Now, the CRPF is doing it with the army and police. However, after the roles were demarcated by the government for CAPFs, fighting insurgency went off the priority radar of some of the CAPFs and rightly so. There was dilution in counter-insurgency (CI) training except for the CRPF, which focussed on CI training. The hard-earned CI experience was pushed into the background, thus, affecting capability to fight insurgency. Despite the role demarcation there was no let-up in CI, anti-Naxal and internal security deployment of CAPFs. They need to revive and enhance capability by removing inherent weaknesses in their organisation structure for independently fight insurgency.

CAPFs have combined the strength of a million plus force as great national asset for internal and external security of the nation. However, despite professionally proving their worth, they have not been able to provide breathing space to the army from CI operations. The major reasons for this is the government’s reluctance to trust CAPFs and inherent weaknesses in CAPFs’ structure. The problem is also colossal. These inherent weaknesses need addressing to deal effectively with the insurgency battle. Tackling terrorism and insurgency is a long-haul battle, which can only be won through hard-hitting response by capability building. A perfunctory approach will not do. CI operations require balanced structured response. To gain permanency in CI battle, CAPFs need to ponder over deficiencies that are inherent in the structure in terms of organisation, weapon and equipment, training and age profile. The government needs to reform organisational structure of all CAPFs in the interest of operational efficiency. Let us analyse deficiencies:


Main Drawbacks

Organisation: The battalion is the basic fighting unit in a CAPF organisational structure comprising seven companies. It suffers from inherent deficiencies, which need to be removed to make it a lean and thin structural organisation. A battalion strength is about 1,200 men and contains about two infantry battalions in its structure. For a commanding officer to ensure operational and administrative effectiveness for such a large strength is a nightmare. Similarly, at the company level, there is only one officer who is authorised while the others are subordinate officers. There is a need to have at least two officers in a company’s hierarchy to make it operationally more effective both for border guarding and CI role.

Large Size: There is a need to trim the battalion from seven companies and add more teeth for fighting insurgency. The sub conventional security challenges require rapid response mechanism to deal them effectively. The current bloated structure breeds dissatisfaction, as personal grievances and organisational problems do not receive desired attention of the leadership. It leads to indiscipline, insubordination and court cases. The organisational structure is unable to address grievances in real time, thus causing stress, mental health issues which in turn lead to blunting the fighting edge. The battalion should be reduced to make it a better responsive structure. The battalion commander is an operational commander who has been reduced to be an administrator whose majority time is spent in administration with little time left for operations. With bloated battalion structures, he is not able to concentrate on man management, which breeds dissatisfaction, increases attrition rate due to poor promotional avenues and hampers capacity and capability building. It needs a detailed analysis.

Weapon and Equipment: Border guarding and fighting insurgency are different domains which require different strategies. Internal security adversary is an insurgent who is well trained, motivated and adept at using social media to attract youngsters for the cause. His equipment give him edge over CAPFs soldiers.

A CAPFs soldier has to be better in terms of weapon and equipment. CAPFs are equipped with weapons like Beretta, X-95, 7.62 mm SLR, and 9mm carbine besides 5.56 InSAS rifle. A CAPFs soldier must be provided a weapon which gives him edge over insurgent and over the enemy/aggressor. The weapon has to be compatible to the army/RR. Such procurement needs to be in consultation with the army and not in watertight compartment by forces because better weapons enhance capabilities. A common lightweight weapon system with better accuracy, high volume of fire and easy to operate with minimum/no stoppages will provide uniformity in training, enhance confidence of troops and develop better synergy amongst forces.

Brig. B. K. Ponwar, who established the Counter Terrorism and Jungle Warfare College at Kanker in North Bastar, had said to neutralise a naxal, outsmart him and be not hostage to conventional tactics. Be light without a heavy bulletproof jacket and boots and an uncomfortable dangling helmet. What is true for LWE is also true in an insurgency environment. Unsuitable equipment hampers a soldier’s capability to fight, thereby making him an easy target because the adversary has better light-weight weapon and equipment. There is a need to procure gear for CI operations which increases a soldier’s fighting capability and ultimately, augments the CAPFs’ fighting capability.

Training: This is the most important tool in capacity building for an assigned role. There is a saying that the more you sweat in peace less you bleed in war. Training is a command function. The command must ensure that all personnel go through training in a training cycle.

Personnel of CRPF during the Raising Day celebrations at CGO Complex in Delhi

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