Sunday, November 30, 2008

Military pressure is critical

INS RajputThe Indian Navy destroyer INS Rajput courtesy Bharat-Rakshak

In his testimony to the US Department of Defence Commission way back in 1983, Brian Michael Jenkins, a counter-terrorism expert of the Rand Corporation, said: " A growing number of governments themselves are using terrorist tactics, employing terrorist groups or exploiting terrorist incidents as a mode of surrogate warfare. These Governments see in terrorism a useful capability, a weapons system, a cheap means of waging war...."

This is what the Pakistan army has been doing against the people of India for the last twenty years. Groups like the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JEM), the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), and many others have been trained by the Pakistan army to form the alternative "army of Islam" with which they strike repeatedly in India and Afghanistan (and possibly in West Asia and Central Asia). The Mumbai terror attacks, planned months in advance by the Pakistan army intelligence (ISI), are only the most recent of these strikes.

The Manmohan Singh government can take a lesson from what the previous Vajpayee government found out in its dealing with the Pakistan army and its foreign backers: they only respond to direct military pressure.

The December 13 2001 terror attacks on the Indian Parliament came after the US had invaded Afghanistan and forced Pakistan to provide air bases for that purpose. The Pakistan army personnel in Afghanistan, and their Arab and Taliban allies, beat a hasty retreat to their country, and their enemies the Northern Alliance entered Kabul. The attack by the "army of Islam" in India, was a continuation of the Pakistan army's war against India, and an attempt to reassure its cadre that even though their occupation of Afghanistan was over, hostilities with India could continue with US support.

World leaders condemned the attack and offered their usual platitudes; but no one took any action against the Pakistan army. No one raised the issue in the UN security council nor was any diplomatic pressure applied on the Pakistanis. When India revealed that the LET and JEM were behind the attack, the Pakistan army impishly asked for "proof". And their foreign backers kept a studied silence.

Disgusted and enraged by this reaction the Vajpayee government ordered the mobilization and forward deployment (Operation Parakram) of the Indian armed forces on December 18. It was only after this massing of a large army that the visibly nervous Bush administration blocked the assets of the LET and JEM, terming them as "foreign terrorist organizations" on December 20. And even then the White House and State Department tried to cover the Pakistan army's terrorist hand by describing the LET as "a stateless sponsor of terrorism."

When India refused to budge and continued to apply military pressure on Pakistan, the Bush administration ordered the Pakistan army to close LET and JEM camps, arrest their leaders, and freeze their financial assets. The Pakistanis made some nominal moves and ultimately refused to carry out these obligations, allowing these groups to continue operating under changed names and in new locations; and the US was unable, or unwilling, to pressure their "allies" anymore. In fact they tried to pressurize India instead. Despite such pressure the military deployment remained in place until democratic elections were successfully completed in India's J&K state, blunting Pakistan's terror campaign there.

India's military response

The lesson from 2001 is that military pressure is critical to influence the Pakistan army and the US. The US State Department always knew that the Pakistanis were rogues, but pretended to look the other way while hundreds of thousands of Indians were massacred over the past two decades. They willingly swallowed the Pakistani lie that terrorists operating in India were indigenous; just because no US citizen was being killed there. The Americans also allowed Pakistan to acquire nuclear weapons, and continued arming it with conventional weapons, which it used against the people of occupied Baluchistan.

In response to the commando operation by the Pakistani terrorists from their coast, their training by the Pakistan navy, their hijacking of an Indian fishing trawler, and the naval assault on Mumbai, there must be aggressive patrolling by the Indian Navy. This patrolling must extend along the Pakistani shore and upto the Persian Gulf. And there must be search-and-seizure of ships and their cargo; any suspicious vessel heading into Pakistan must be turned back. India enjoys a clear naval superiority over the Pakistanis and any attempt by the latter to take hostile action will be crushed.

During the Kargil War of 1999, while fighting between the Indian and Pakistani armies was confined to the upper Himalayas in J&K state, the Indian Navy had forced the Pakistan Navy to stay close to its Karachi harbour. During Op Parakram in 2001-02 as well, the navy deployed over a dozen warships, including five from the Eastern Naval Command, in the Arabian Sea maintaining an offensive posture and carrying out agressive patrolling. More than 90% of Pakistan's trade, and the critical oil supply, is sea-borne.

The difference from 2001 is that the US has now fully experienced the duplicity of its ally in Afghanistan. Though we still hear the same old line from some Americans and British commentators: asking for proof, trying to limit India's military options by harping on the nuclear factor, and describing the Pakistanis as "victims of terror". There are however many western analysts who know that India is a test ground for terror actions in the west. The 9/11 hijackings were mirrored in the 1999 hijacking of an Indian Airlines jet to Afghanistan. These analysts are more willing to face facts.

Among them the obvious fact that the "Marriot bombing" was not an attack on Pakistanis but on the westerners who stayed there. It was a message from the Pakistan army to the west, and the message was received loud and clear by the British. Immediately after this the British commander described the war in Afghanistan as unwinnable, and British intelligence organized "peace talks" with the Taliban (i.e. the Pakistan army). But just as the the creators of Pakistan were soon disillusioned and their descendants in the UK now live with the ugly reality of Pakistani terror centers thriving in their midst; so too the modern-day British negotiatiors have returned with empty hands.

The revivalist Islamic movements of the 19th century; call them Wahabis, Deobandis, or Salafis, only contain all that was bad in medieval Islam. Their followers do not know how to live and let live, they cannot embrace other cultures, or adapt to change. This is what that the Indians have seen in all their futile talks with Pakistan, this is what the Israelis have learnt in their peace talks, and this is what the British intelligence personnel got into their thick skulls last month.

Military pressure is critical in crushing state-terrorism and Islamic revivalism.
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Friday, November 21, 2008

Indian Navy takes on Somali Pirates

INS Tabar escorts the MV Jag Arnav to safety after rescuing it from a hijack attempt.

On November 11 marine commandos (marcos) of the Indian Navy operating from the INS Tabar, a Talwar-class frigate patrolling near the Gulf of Aden, repelled attempted pirate attacks on the Saudi-registered merchant vessel MV Timaha and the Indian-owned bulk carrier MV Jag Arnav. Piracy in the Gulf of Aden, one of the world's busiest sea routes, has surged this year and last weekend pirates captured a Saudi supertanker carrying $100 million of oil, and are demanding $25 million in ransom. The Indian Navy also tasted blood in its first hostile action against Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden.

The Indian Navy's stealth frigate INS Tabar, which so far has escorted 35 merchant vessels passing through the region, on Tuesday night engaged the pirates for the first time and sank a "mother vessel" that had two speedboats in tow. Pirates use mother ships, generally hijacked trawlers or deep-sea dhows, to tow speedboats from which they launch their attacks.

"INS Tabar retaliated in self defence and opened fire on the mother vessel," the navy said in a statement. "As a result of the firing by INS Tabar, fire broke out on the vessel and explosions were heard, possibly due to exploding ammunition that was stored on the vessel."

Naval oficers on board the warship said they spotted pirates moving on the deck with rocket propelled grenade launchers. "On repeated calls, the vessel’s threatening response was that she would blow up the naval warship," the navy said. India deployed the frigate INS Tabar to escort Indian ships after the country’s shipping firms said they were losing $450,000 a month on cost overruns and delays in meeting deadlines.

Noel Choong, head of the piracy reporting centre at the IMB in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur, said "the situation is already out of control," but praised the Indian navy for striking the mother ship. "We hope more navies will follow suit and stop suspected pirate boats," he added.

The Gulf of Aden is vital for the trade and economy of India and the rest of the world as it provides access to the Suez Canal through which ships transit between Europe and Asia without having to take the longer and more expensive route around the southern tip of Africa. It is a crucially important route for oil tankers. Industry experts say the alternative trade route, round South Africa's Cape of Good Hope, would add some three weeks or more to a typical journey, pushing up costs for goods. The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said a total of 199 incidents of piracy or attempted piracy were reported worldwide during January-September, of which 63 were in the Gulf of Aden and off the Somali coast.

The Gulf of Aden is located in the Middle East with Yemen to the north, Somalia to the south and the Arabian Sea to the east. It is connected to the Red Sea by the Bab el Mandab strait. Somalia has been stuck in civil conflict for 17 years. Somali pirates are currently holding 13 ships captive in the Somali ports of Eyl and Hobyo in the Gulf of Aden.

Somali pirates, most of whom are based in the northern Puntland region, have forged links with criminal networks in Yemen during years of people-smuggling. "Now we are seeing Puntland essentially breaking down as an entity," said Rashid Abdi, Somalia expert at the International Crisis Group thinktank. "You're seeing a gradual takeover of the state by criminal gangs."

Combating piracy in the region requires "phenomenal efforts" as it covers an area of 2.5 million square nautical miles, the naval officer pointed out. "Currently, three groupings, including the US-led Combined Task Force-150, a NATO grouping and a European Union grouping, is patrolling the region. But, the task of coordination is not clear and thus operations become more complex.

A Delhi class destroyer, INS Mysore will replace INS Tabar in the Gulf of Aden, a Navy official told IANS on condition of anonymity. He said the destroyer will set sail from Mumbai soon. The 6,900-ton Delhi class destroyers are the largest indigenously built warships till date and pack more fire power in them than frigates.

INS Mysore carries on board two Sea King helicopters, along with a Cheetah or a Chetak, and stock 16 Uran missiles, 100mm AK 100 Gun, four multi-barrel 30mm AK 630 gun. With Marine Commandos, INS Mysore is said to be a potent force to patrol the Gulf of Aden to stop the pirates from attacking or hijacking merchant vessels.
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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Jadunath Sarkar on military developments in India

war elephant from KotaWar-elephant and cavalry from the Rajput Kingdom of Kotah

Decrying the chest-thumping and vain boasts of various communities in their military skill and relative importance in history, Jadunath Sarkar wrote cut-and-dried accounts of the military developments in India. In the medieval era, and upto the 18th century, Sarkar says that the dominant military formations were the Mughal and Rajput cavalry.

Jadunath Sarkar writes, "The tumultuous rush of a horde of Rajput desperadoes or a regular charge by the heavy armour-clad Mughal cavalry, used to sweep away every obstacle from before them."

However by the 18th century, these two were a thing of the past, their military value gone except in very rare and accidental combinations of favourable circumstances. Sarkar writes, "Sindhia's general De Boigne by his two victories in 1790....had proved beyond doubt that the bravest Rajput cavalry was powerless before quick-firing guns and disciplined musketeers."

On the Marathas and Sikhs who rose to power at this time, Jadunath Sarkar writes:

"The chief characteristics of the Maratha cavalry were that they moved in large bodies, and they could cover long distances very quickly, being unencumbered with artillery, baggage, munitions, and even food supplies, as they and their ponies lived on the country.

When forced into a battle in the open, their plan was to ride down the enemy by a tumultuous charge, enveloping him from all sides at once....but against artillery and walled posts held by trained musketeers, the Deccani cavalry was powerless."

"The strength of the Sikh army, before it was Europeanized by Ranjit Singh, lay in its predominance of cavalry and preference for offensive tactics. A body of their cavalry was known to make marches of forty or fifty miles, and to continue the exertion many successive days. They also carried a matchlock, a sabre, and a spear.

The food of the Sikhs was of the coarsest kind; their dress is extremely scanty: a pair of long blue drawers, and a kind of chequered plaid."

On the drawbacks of the Sikhs, Jadunath Sarkar writes, "The Sikh sardars when not engaged in war or raids, spent all their energy and resources in ceaseless mutual hostility. Even their misls were not patriachally ruled clans, but merely confederacies. Outside their own possessions, the Sikhs used to go forth for collecting blackmail (rakhi) from every village."

The result of the raiding by Maratha and Sikh cavalry bands added to The Great Anarchy across most parts of India.

Rise of infantry formations

"In the wars of Aurangzeb's heirs artillery, gradualy coming under command of Europeans, was the decisive factor. Then musketry made a rapid advance. Nadir Shah's success showed the irresistible power of mobile musketry.

Even swift-rushing infantry, called barqandazes, firing their pieces and acting in concert, had proved victorious over superior bodies of extremely light cavalry armed with the old sword and lance."

This fact gave importance to the following communities in recruitment for infantry formations: Ruhelas, Berads, Jats, Purbias, Bundelas, and Telingas. However under their own rulers, the drawback for each of these, Sarkar writes was the lack of officers with, "intelligence and power of coordination, which modern warfare requires."

And even the Sikhs, who had by this time converted into good infantry, and the Gorkhas and Dogras, suffered in this aspect. Jadunath Sarkar writes, "The officers were the weakest elements in the Sikh army, so that in their struggle with the British, the Khalsa proved an army of lions led by asses."
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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Careers in defence science

Defence is not just about soldiers braving the enemy in battle tanks, fighter planes or battleships, scientists and engineers have an equal contribution towards making our borders and our soldiers that much safer. A number of scientists and technicians work day and night in laboratories to make life less difficult for the man behind the machine.

Warrior Science
Kanika Tandon

Says Dr G. Ilavazhagan, Director, Defence Institute of Physiology and Allied Sciences (DIPAS), New Delhi, one of the life sciences lab of DRDO, "Soldiers have to perform under high mental and physical stress. Our aim is to make sure that they not only survive those harsh conditions, but also sustain themselves and perform well in such extreme situations."

The field of defence research calls for capacity-building in design, development and delivery of military systems and critical defence equipments like missiles, Light Combat Aircrafts (LCA), Main Battle Tanks (MBT), armaments and so on.

But that’s not all. Defence research could get you working on how to create a superior missile or naval system. Or, you could be sitting in a laboratory and working on how to prevent frostbites so that the defence personnel posted in Siachen or Leh can be saved from its ill-effects. You could also be devising psychological tests to help decide who would better suit a particular post in the defence services.

Candidates are hired through a UPSC exam to undertake ordnance production that itself has undergone a sea change with the changing requirements of defence services. To become a research and development professional in the defence sector, you need a first-class master’s degree in any subject of science or technology. Candidates are selected on the basis of the Scientist Entry Test (SET) and Registration of Students With Scholastic Aptitudes (ROSSA). DRDO has special tie-ups with the IITs and major universities all across the country for campus recruitments. Starting monthly salary is around Rs 34,000 in the government sector. In the private sector, you could be making Rs 1-2 lakh per month in a two-five years’ time frame.
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