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MAJOR GENERAL BHUPESH KUMAR JAIN | 13 OCTOBER, 2016

Strategic Restraint to Multi Domain Battlefield


NEW DELHI: In the immediate aftermath of Uri, a Union Minister equated inaction by India with cowardice. Jingoism on electronic media with a multitude of security experts from different hues was along predictable lines. It was naturally colored by the their expertise, experience and exposure.

Everybody in India, who could get himself heard has spoken. Some of them many times and in multiple language. The nation, however, erupted and cheered one fine morning, a few days later when Lt Gen Ranbir Singh, the DGMO at Army HQ, appeared on TV to report a set of surgical strikes across the LC, previous night. Obviously, it was done on the directions of the political authority. After a long wait, finally India had decided that enough is enough.

Over the last few days a debate has been taking place over the politics of the strikes. It interestingly takes one's mind back to a debate in the British media in general and BBC in particular during the Falkland War between U.K. And Argentina. Although, the situation here may be a bit different. The Air Chief has been compelled to caution that, overall the situation is still live.

The retaliation by India is unlikely to change the conduct of Rawalpindi. Ashley Tellis, Defence Analyst of a US think tank in Washington DC writing an op ed on Oct 11, 2016 has brought out limited Indian options. He has analyzed each of these options. He has also highlighted that US is unlikely to rein in Pakistan for the present". The Indian efforts to isolate Pakistan may not be adequate to modify the conduct of deep state.

Ever since the surgical strikes, There have been incidents along the LC, in hinterland on the Army camps, PMF camps and for last 48 hours the terrorists have lodged themselves in a building in Pampore. One has seen attempts by Pakistan to also unleash its Info Operation soldiers domestically and internationally. The Intelligence agencies in India would have already issued advisories on account of the festival season.

India must prepare itself to face a multi domain challenge in the coming days. Looking at Pakistan's actions as seeking to ease pressure on LC or hinterland etc as explained by a few Indian Defence analysts may lull us in to a sense of false complacency. In sporting terms, the Pakistani conduct could be stated as calibrated "full court press". It could be not only in multiple domains but also at different levels simultaneously or near simultaneously.

India's response therefore needs to integrated at all levels, National, strategic, operational and finally tactical. Simple jointness may not meet the need of the hour. Some of the media leaks let out by the "sources" have admitted that planning for surgical strikes highlighted the absence of such structures. Those involved quickly created informal groups to tide over the absence of such structures. One such source brings out that after all the tragedy faced by the nation, different agencies had continued to guard their turf till the barriers came down in preparation for the strikes. This calls for immediate modification. The intelligence agencies need to adopt push model and as far forward as imperative.

Gen Mark Milley, US Army chief, recently in an address highlighted that soldiers would need to operate in multiple domains in much shorter OODA loops, at times of 3 to 4 hours. Decision making for such operations too would need to keep pace. Would the Indian "Jugad" utilized for the surgical strikes survive such a scenario.

A recent insider's account of hijacking of Indian Airlines plane which led to the release of some terrorist in Kabul brings out the challenges which were faced at that time. The structures for decision making, regrettably, continue to be the same. Some changes made towards redeploying assets, post 26/11 have shown up not effective largely due to lack of integration as also structures.

India can look at what a number of countries have done and can decide what suits us best. Need for integration of Special Forces of all three Services with intelligence agencies of all hues is vital. As is the case for integrating all intelligence agencies. The structures at the apex need to have their mini structure at the execution end. A sword hand can be integrated with intelligence agencies for providing them the ability to react at short notice.

There is a temptation for already overcommitted individuals to be part of such structure, obviously for status or the fear of losing authority. This would not serve the national needs. The organisation must be small and structurally relatively flat with no more than one layer between the political executive and the execution.

The terror groups in Pakistan and their affiliates are protected as prized assets for securing larger strategic objectives. Rawalpindi believes that a current geopolitical environment allows it to continue its last 40 years policy. The. current Indian government has laid a new marker for the deep state to look out for.

Appropriate and urgent reorganization would send out a clear message to the deep state. It could also send out a message to those whose help the deep state hopes to get, to seek out for themselves.

(Major General Bhupesh Kumar Jain is a retired officer of the Indian Army, writing on security issues)

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