Monday, 28 July 2014


The Army continues to surprise you in your transfers by providing you new challenges, as I found out again in March 1991, when I was posted out to HQ 15 Corps as the Chief of Staff (COS) to succeed Major General Surendra Nath, who was promoted as the Corps Commander. The surprise was not because of the appointment, as the COS of an operational Corps is a most coveted post, but because of the timing. I had just finished 18 months of my Divisional Command, which is somewhat briefer than the normal tenure of such Command.

HQ 15 Corps was stationed in Srinagar. This was a turbulent time in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). The Pakistan sponsored insurgency was at its height, with the active support of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), the militant cadres of Hizbul Mujahedeen (HM), and the Jamait-El-Islami (JEI). Initially this was an insurgent movement[1], but by 1991 it became an entirely terrorist organization, carrying out sabotage, subversion and ethnic cleansing of the ‘Pandit’ community.

The Indian Army was deployed not only to prevent infiltration through the LOC and guard the borders of India at this crucial position, but also to conduct ‘cordon and search’ activity in the urban areas of the state, to dominate its rural hinterland, secure important installations dispersed in different areas within it, conduct operational drills for securing its highways and escort convoys travelling on them. The army had to learn some of these tasks by ‘on the job’ training. Gradually, the Para-Military forces were also incorporated in the counter-insurgency grid, especially in the measures of protecting static installations and assisting in the road-opening operations. Protective measures against grenade attacks and Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) were evolved with time, and a few vehicles were specially modified to clear the suspected IEDs. These improvisations took time and after some trial and error, we achieved a degree of success, though not without the loss of casualties.

There were many demands on the Army beyond its traditional responsibilities. In some cases it had to take on roles that were actually supposed to be undertaken by other organisations, such as the Police and the State administration. The State Police generally proved ineffective due to poor training, lack of leadership, and subversion of some of the personnel. In fact a battalion of the J&K Armed Police Battalion had to be disarmed as there were instances of serious disobedience within it. I recall the incident when the State Home Secretary (Mr Habib Rehman) and the DGP (Mr Bedi) were held hostage in the Police Control Room, requiring the Army to intervene firmly. We had to even move the Infantry Combat Vehicles to surround the area as a show of force, and we succeeded in breaking the siege and rescuing the two senior officials—without firing a single shot.  

While we could achieve these results because of our detailed planning, firm leadership and the commitment of our soldiers, such operations naturally drew on our already stretched resources. The Corps did not have adequate troops to plug the infiltration in the Uri, Kupwara, and Guraij Sectors as there were large areas being held by the units on the Line of Control. The COAS thus released 28 Inf Div ex Ladakh for deployment in the Valley sector. This involved denuding the Ladakh sector of dedicated reserves, the need for which was to be seriously felt during the Kargil War in May 1999, when we had to rush forces from elsewhere, which took time to move, acclimatise and deploy. 

However, during the time of the active insurgency in 1990 when the danger was more immediate and wide-spread in the Valley, the deployment appeared to be a sound move. Nonetheless, the reserves for the Ladakh sector should have been restored in a phased manner. This underscores the need for active vigilance and changing tactics at all times, as well as the risks of spreading a formation too thin in the mountain terrain. The Armed Forces, who are essentially trained to defend the nation from external threats, are being increasingly called in to manage internal matters for extended periods of time; it is bound to have an effect on their core tasks. This is something that the political leadership needs to be aware of and act upon, so that the Armed Forces are allowed to concentrate on the training and execution of their basic work. 

Fortunately, despite all this, we were able to bring the situation under reasonable control and apprehend a number of foreign militants—Pakistani, Afghan and a few Arabs as well. We had excellent support from the Security Advisor, Lt. General MA Zaki, the Governor, Shri G.C. Saxena (and later General K.V. Krishna Rao), and the civil administration. Additional battalions of BSF, CRPF and TA were inducted to guard installations and dominate urban areas. However these troops were not trained, equipped or prepared to fight an insurgency. The leadership of the Para–Military Forces did not understand the intricacies of operations, which often led to excessive casualties or damage on the ground to property and habitat. This in no way was due to the lack of calibre or the commitment of these forces, but due to their different orientation and ethos.

The J&K insurgency, unlike other insurgencies, has very active support from Pakistan—diplomatic, financial, political and military. Article 370, granting special status to J&K, though well intentioned, has been misused to heighten differences, and prevent its main-streaming with the rest of the country. Civil society and local media do not appear to be helping, and are visibly pro-separatists, which makes things more difficult. The vernacular media has been infiltrated by the anti-national elements and often support the militant cause. Military operations and economic development by themselves, in the absence of political initiatives to positively engage civil society, are inadequate to resolve the Kashmir issue.

As the COS of HQ 15 Corps, besides working with the civil administration and the Central Police Units, it was also essential to have active coordination with the Intelligence Agencies—IB, RAW, State CID, and Military and BSF Intelligence. The intelligence inputs were mostly out of date and inaccurate, besides being repetitive. I set myself the challenge of changing this unsatisfactory status, by introducing in the scheduled system an initiative of regular meetings at Corps HQ, with the representatives of all the key Intelligence organisations. This helped to communicate to them the focus and priority of information required by the Armed Forces, as well as increased the accountability of various organisations and speeded up both their and our responses to emergencies, since the face-to-face discussions reduced the possibility of misinterpretations that are inevitable when there are extended channels of communication.

The Sub-Area HQ at Badami Bagh Cantonment had a very important role in the Counter Insurgency operations, not only for the security of the Transit Camp, but also for the security of the Corps HQ, and that of the Detention Camp of the captured militants before they were handed over to the Civil Police. The Sub-Area HQ was also tasked with periodic search and cordon operations in the Srinagar town. During this period, we had very competent successive Sub-Area Commanders in Brigadiers NS Katoch and SPS Kanwar, who were both very successful in handling delicate missions, besides ensuring the security of the road up to the airfield.

The Commander of the JAKLI centre located adjacent to the Airfield was earmarked as the Garrison Commander for units housed around the Airfield. The accommodation for many additional units which were inducted in the Valley and 28 Inf Div was a major task. Before they could be actually deployed forward, they needed to be housed and given orientation training. This was done by getting on ground a mix of tented and pre-fabricated huts. Some were housed in schools or available government buildings. The Corps also established battle-schools to impart the Counter Insurgency (CI) training for all the incoming units. All this was possible due to commitment, teamwork, and the personal example of the leaders. It also is proof, if such proof is required, of the administrative and management capabilities of the Armed Forces, where through innovation and intelligence, resources are made maximum use of, to almost generate facilities out of ‘thin air’.

I found that my tenure as the COS was professionally very satisfying and educative. It also enabled me to interact periodically with the Governor, the Chief Secretary, DGP and other Formation Commanders. The Corps HQ received a large number of visitors, civil dignitaries, media personalities and military officers for briefings and fact-finding. An important lesson of the anti-insurgency operation was the need for clear-cut responsibilities, and the division of specific boundaries between various agencies and formations. Equally important was the principle of accountability for all the elements operating. In extended areas of responsibility, where the formations are operating in widely dispersed terrain, the timely response of anticipatory actions and delegation of authority to the subordinate commanders is of paramount importance. This needs to be bolstered by the principle of use of minimum force, and simultaneous goodwill missions for the benefit of the local populace.

We regularly undertook to translate these principles into action, later termed as ‘Sadbhavna’ operations. In this regard, the opening of schools and hospitals by the Armed Forces is an important initiative. All the formations undertook tasks like road-repairs, making culverts, apart from organizing health camps and distributing essential supplies, as the civil administration was practically non-existent. This had to proceed along with the basic tasks of guarding the borders, preventing infiltration attempts from across the LOC and training for the combat tasks—in fact, the commanders and the troops were very heavily committed in all these tasks all the time. This was also in addition to the responsibilities of winter stocking of stores, supplies, fuel and the relief of troops after their specified tenures. Provisioning for the Siachin glacier, and the winter isolated posts was another important responsibility.

 I recall an incident in the Siachin sector of 3 Inf Div when I was officiating as the Corps Commander. The Divisional Commander, Major General JS Dhillon, reported that a Pak Helicopter had violated our air-space in the central Glacier in the ‘Bahadur Complex’ and recommended that we should engage the helicopter should it repeat the intrusion. I approved the action and asked him to redeploy the ‘Igla’ missile and informed the HQ Northern Command of our plans, as it appeared a deliberate violation. The GOC reinforced the post with an ‘Igla’ missile and undertook suitable measures. The enemy helicopter came again and flew over the post and was engaged. It was shot down, and besides the pilot, we found it also had on board the opposing Brigade Commander and an SO, all of whose bodies were recovered. There was the obvious protest from Pakistan through the DGMO, and the obvious inquiries from the MoD. Since I had already informed the higher HQ of our proposed action, we were on a sound wicket within our agreement of the AGPL.

The helicopter intrusion by Pakistan had been preceded by heavy artillery fire, followed by assaulting infantry. The alertness of the post-commander and the quick retaliation by our artillery and mortar fire not only repulsed the attack, but left many of the enemy dead on the slopes. We allowed the enemy to retrieve their dead, including their Brigade Commander, once such instructions were received from HQ Northern Command and the DGMO. The Indian Army while remaining committed to the defence of the country to the last breath and to the welfare of its fighting force, is also committed to values of honour towards the foe, and this quality is something we should recognise and be proud of.

I have always maintained that a timely and firm response at all levels is a must for a fighting Force, along with proper contingency planning. Information must always be assessed, acted upon and disseminated, to everyone in the chain of command. For this, the communication equipment must be given priority; in the conditions that the Armed Forces operate at present, it is often inadequate in quality as well as quantity, and this must be an area of concern and rectification.

The units operating in the counter-insurgency operations and those guarding the LOC/AGPL in the J&K are doing an excellent job, and need to be given due appreciation and consideration. Isolated incidents of indiscipline need to be handled with maturity. The media often forgets the trying conditions the troops face and the few incidents of inadvertent damage to the civilian populace and the property are more often than not, blown out of proportion. Conversely, there is inadequate concern or empathy for the troops. There are many instances of apathy in civil society and the political leadership towards the Armed Forces, including regulations that are surprising, if not downright unreasonable. The grudging acceptance of field allowances, which we had to fight for, is another instance of such a lack of concern for the Armed Forces. 

Officials and citizens, who have never needed to live and work for sustained periods in the hazardous and trying conditions of field-areas, must make the effort to appreciate what this involves. I recall the time when we had to evacuate injured soldiers from forward areas to the airfield or to the hospitals periodically; this had to be done in the Air Force or the Army Aviation helicopters. One day I was informed that a soldier who had died in an inaccessible area was not being air-lifted, as the rules did not allow this. Despite repeated requests the pilot refused to comply. It took us considerable days to get the MOD to rewrite the rules for this sort of an eventuality. When this is how little a nation honours the sacrifices of its soldiers, it must be prepared for a situation in the near future when it may not have such brave-hearts to cherish anymore.

[1] An insurgent movement or insurgency is defined as a rebellion or insurrection, from Latin Insurgere, ‘rise up’; it is often a political movement with a specific aim; it need not employ tactics of terror and is not synonymous with terrorism. Wikipedia notes that there is neither an academic nor an international legal consensus for the definition of terrorism, (; however, the Chambers’s Twentieth Century Dictionary defines terrorism, as ‘an organized system of intimidation’; and a ‘terrorist’ is defined in the Oxford Dictionary, as ‘a person who uses violence and intimidation in an attempt to achieve political aims’. 

Tuesday, 10 June 2014


1.         Though there is no unanimity on the countries included in the Asia-Pacific Region (APR), this term is generally held to indicate the East Asian landmass, the South East Asian countries, the Australian Continent, and the Pacific Ocean and its numerous islands. Geographically, the Indian sub-continent’s position in Asia is such that it does not have the Pacific Region in its immediate vicinity, but is located on its periphery. It thus, may not be technically considered part of the APR. [1] However, owing to its historical trade and cultural links,[2] and its continuing substantial economic and maritime connections with the other nations of this region,[3] the Indian sub-continent is strategically considered an important part of the APR.[4] India’s location astride the shipping routes passing through the Indian Ocean makes it an important player over the entire region, and it certainly shares common security concerns and challenges with the APR. During my tenure as the Vice Chief of the Indian Army, I represented India at the Pacific Armies Chiefs’ Conference,[5] and recollect sharing some of these challenges.
The APR is economically the fastest growing region in the world and counts for more than one-third of the global population and more than half of the global foreign reserve. It also contains natural resources, which are of increasing importance in a consumption-economy driven world order. The region encompasses some very rich nations like Japan, China, South Korea, Australia, along with growing economies like Vietnam, Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, and Singapore. Just north of Japan and South Korea lies oil- and gas-rich Russia, which has a dispute with Japan over the Kurile Islands.[6] The entire seaward shipping movement east to the Pacific Ocean can be controlled by the three island chains, whilst towards the Indian Ocean region (IOR), movement can be choked at the Straits of Malacca, Sundae, and Lombok. China is now an industrial power-house and the largest trading partner for most countries. Its rapid military modernization, in response to which other nations of the region are also increasing their military expenditure, is a cause of concern. The US, however, appears to be the most dominant power in the Asia-Pacific theatre in the foreseeable future.

Review of Security Challenges in the APR

2.         The Asia-Pacific Region continues to be engulfed in conventional issues of conflict and is also exposed to various non-conventional threats and challenges.[7] The region has nuclear powered states like India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea, which are not yet recognised as part of the nuclear order of the NPT. Then, there are conflicts about the Korean Peninsula, Taiwan, South China Sea, East China Sea and several territorial disputes including those in the Indian Sub-continent. The non-traditional threats of piracy, terrorism, climate change, energy security and resource scarcity, further undermine regional peace and stability. Additionally, both the composition and manifestation of security challenges are determined by the international power politics being played in the Asia-Pacific Region.

Historic Causes of Conflicts

3.         Many Asian nations carry a historic burden of the past with bitter memories of disputes. In East Asia, memories of the Japanese colonisation of Korea and the Sino-Japanese conflict of the 1930's and 40's continue to crop up periodically, and cause intense unease between these nations. The tensions in the Korean peninsula and the sensitive issue of Taiwanese independence too, have roots going back to the past. These and other important hot-spots in the Asia Pacific are discussed in the succeeding paragraphs. However, issues in South Asia such as India’s unresolved borders with China and Pakistan, are not being examined here since these are geographically outside the APR.

4.         South and East China Sea:  Disputed claims over groups of islands, atolls, reefs in the South China Sea remain a dangerous source of potential conflict. Although China maintains that all these islands are part of its Hainan province, this claim is seriously disputed on the one hand by Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam and on the other hand by Indonesia and Brunei. After the 1974 clash between China and Vietnam, the Paracel Islands[8] are under Chinese control. The Spratly Islands[9] have been occupied by various rival claimants, with Vietnam in occupation of the largest numbers. Additionally, in the East China Sea, there are periodic tensions between Japan and China over rival claims to drill for the hydrocarbons around the Senkaku/ Diaoyu[10] Island group. Controversies have erupted in the region of late, because of the decision of the Japanese Government to nationalize the islands. While both China and Taiwan made strong protests, China also sent ships and surveillance crafts to reassert its claims to waters surrounding the islands. The recent statement by the US Defence Secretary at the ASEAN Defense Ministers Conference, that “China should have respect for its neighbours”, [11] while discussing the status of disputed islands provoked a strong reaction from China.[12] Although currently, these disputes appear dormant, there is an ever present danger of inadvertent trespass or incident at sea flaring up into a conflict.[13] In April this year, there were reports of Japan sending soldiers and radar to its westernmost outpost, the 30 sq km (11 sq mile) Yonaguni island, just 150 kilometres from the Senkaku/ Diaoyu disputed islands, which Japanese Defence Minister, Itsunori Onodera, said is part of the effort ‘to strengthen surveillance over the southwestern region’.[14]

5.         Taiwan: The issue of Taiwanese independence, although, termed an internal problem, continues to be a potential flashpoint with international implications. China considers reunification of Taiwan with the mainland, as an unfinished civil war issue. The US is committed to a peaceful resolution of the status of Taiwan, and deploys maritime forces whenever there is a perceived threat or tension in the Taiwan straits.[15]

6.         North Korea: Technically, a state of war has continued to exist between North Korea, the USA and South Korea, since the ceasefire of 1954 came into being. Today, North Korea has developed nuclear weapons and significant missile capability under its despotic ruler, despite its poor economy. Its unpredictable family rule and political conduct, along with its high level of militarisation in the peninsula, spells danger not only to South Korea, but to Japan and to other countries in East Asia.[16]

7.         Maritime Security:[17] Freedom of navigation at sea and Security of SLOC is vital to the nations of Asia Pacific Region (APR) for trade, access to energy markets, raw materials and exports. In the case of China, 78% of oil, and in the case of Japan and South Korea, most of their energy needs are transported through SLOC passing through maritime choke-points of South China Sea (SCS), and the Straits of Malacca, Sunda and Lombok in the South East Asia. Access to the north-eastern APR can be controlled by the three Japanese controlled Straits of Osumi, Tsushima and Tsugaru. Two major  SLOCs are: SCS to the Indian Ocean and beyond to West Asia;  and East China Sea (ECS), Sea of Japan to Pacific Ocean, USA and Canada. The disputes in the SCS and ECS have the potential to escalate into conflict situations, and disrupt the sea-borne trade to a vast area beyond the region of the immediate conflict. Any unilateral action to convert the SCS into territorial waters will have serious ramifications on freedom of navigation at sea for the international community. Thus, it is in the common interest of the entire region to ensure both security and freedom of navigation in this region. In addition, the threats of sea piracy and maritime terror have to be jointly tackled.

8.     Non Traditional Security Threats: Terrorism is a threat to the security of the region. Regional countries have adopted some measures to prevent terrorism. However, anti-state elements still continue with occasional bomb attacks. Drug trafficking, proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), piracy, environmental degradation and resource scarcity including food and water, and climate change, are other challenges, which have serious consequences effecting the security environment of the region. These have to be addressed collectively by all the nations of the region. Major Powers of the region, i.e. US, China, Japan, India and ASEAN, must take the initiative to resolve these.

Towards Stability and Security - Future Trends And Implications
9.             Emerging Power-Play in the APR
         China-US Relations continue to be seen as the most important element shaping the power balance and security architecture of the APR. In the globalised world there is more inter-dependency, especially in economic terms. Clashes of interests amongst major powers, therefore affect the economies and the security interests of the wider region and the regional countries, which might be drawn in the competition. The Sino-US relations in the APR are both competitive and cooperative. The Chinese President, Xi Jinping’s description of this kind of relationship, is that with "no conflict and no confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation".[18] The US, although facing difficulties in economic development and witnessing a consequent relative decline of its strength, is still the superpower of the world and the most dominant military power. It has substantial capability in force projection. On the other hand, China's economic rise and military modernization has been rapid, making her the biggest challenger in the region. Thus, while the US presence, along with its allies like Japan, South Korea, Philippines, Thailand and Singapore provide maritime security of the SLOC, the rebalancing of strategic posture undertaken by them has to be transparent and not seen by China as a containment policy of the US and its allies.

10.       China-Japan relationship: is another important factor for stability of the region and must be managed with balance rather than provocative nationalistic sentiments by the two. The emphasis should be on politico-economic engagement and strategic interests of the region.[19]

11.       Regional Cooperative Framework: It is felt that APR is too large and too diverse for an effective regional security system, and that there are distinct sub-regions within the region with their own security problems and differing standards of economic development. However, there are also cultural and civilisational similarities, common environmental problems, and inter-dependence for trade, commerce, water, and energy. There are also common issues of population migration, threat of terrorism, drug trafficking and poor water-management. These factors call for a regional framework which mandates mutual cooperation and restraints disagreements while dealing with each other.

It is possible to establish complementariness in the approach to intra-state security problems. The ASEAN, SCO, East Asia Summit (EAS), ANZUS, ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), the Asia Pacific Rim Economic Cooperation (APEC) are good examples of regional grouping in this regard. Such multilateral institutions and groupings provide a mechanism in resolving contentious issue by bringing various stake-holders together. Thus, Declaration on Code of Conduct (CoC) of parties in South China Sea by ASEAN and China is expected to prevent conflicts in the SCS.

12. Bilateral Partnerships: The US strategic primacy in the region and its bilateral relations with Japan has ensured a measure of peace, stability and economic prosperity in the region. Its military presence in the region, such as in South Korea, has allowed East Asian countries, including China, to devote their energy to economic development, as no country felt threatened by Japan. It also enabled stability in the Korean peninsula, by keeping a despotic North Korea under restraint. Similarly the US bilateral ties with Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand and Singapore have contributed to maritime security of the SLOC. However, due to its economic difficulties, the US now wants Japan and South Korea to share greater defence responsibility. In the broader context, the US strategic partnerships with China, India, Vietnam and Australia have helped to balance the strategic equations in the region.

13.       The Chinese are also practicing bilateralism, by development of close relations with its neighbours and the ASEAN countries individually; by capacity building in infrastructure projects; and through economic assistance and military cooperation. In the Indian subcontinent, it has developed close relations with India's neighbours and acquired maritime facilities in Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan, to additionally secure its SLOC through the Indian Ocean. India is also forging strategic partnerships and economic relations through its Look East Policy with Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Japan, and Singapore. Similarly Japan, in addition to its traditional ties with the US, is also seeking new bilateral relations with countries like Vietnam and India. These new ‘bilateral partnerships’ would help improve the security architecture of the region by confidence building measures, economic and maritime cooperation and mutual assistance in times of need, along with the existing multilateral groupings. China and India, in particular need to put to constructive use their historical mutually beneficial cultural and trade relations, and remember that even till around 1750, both these countries together accounted for some 73% of the world’s total industrial production—without the attendant ills that routinely accompany today’s industrial economy.[20]


13.       To re-emphasize, the US is and will remain the predominant power in the short and medium term with its significant military presence across the region. Second, China’s rise and its implications for the Asia Pacific remain daunting, given the wide gap in perceptions about its security strategies and growth. However, despite the overwhelming disparity between the US military power compared with China and any other nation across the Asia-Pacific, it may be foreseen that the US ability to influence outcomes will continue to diminish relatively. Third, the larger trend of globalization will continue to erode the power of state and make non-state actors and agencies far more influential in local decision making. Fourth, multilateral arrangements, like the ASEAN, SCO, EAS, APF, to deal with the old and new threats will play a significant influence in resolving the old disputes and the new non-traditional threats. Fifth, a resurgent Russia, along with its powerful military will continue to attach great importance to its far Eastern policy in terms of energy exports, container trade and access to export markets for its goods. Sixth, a more assertive Japan and a growing maritime power like Australia would like to be counted in the emerging power balance in the region. Finally, India’s growing economy, its significant military and its strategic location dominating the Indian Ocean, impacts the SLOC (Sea Lanes of Communication) traversing through IOR.

14.       To sum up, the Asia Pacific Region is experiencing major security re-balancing. The unsettled disputes, potential security hot-spots and lack of trust have contributed to the rising defence expenditure in the region. However, a visionary leadership and the desire for a peaceful and stable environment for economic growth, will hopefully bring countries of the region together for continued discussion and dialogue, and preclude large-scale conflict or mutual rivalry. Since freedom of navigation through international waters is of paramount concern for all the nations, security of SLOCs is most important for sustainable trade and commerce. Thus, safety of choke-points and elimination of sea-piracy should be undertaken through joint and cooperative efforts by all the major economies of the region. Development of regional cooperative frameworks for conflict resolution, and for engaging common non-traditional threats, along with bilateral economic cooperation are steps in the right direction, and should be followed seriously by all states. Simultaneously, all the states of the APR must recognise that we live in a world of finite resources, and possession of oil and mineral-rich areas is not a long-term solution for energy or economy problems. This would require a sea-change in current mainstream policy, but it is vital to a climate of long-term peace and trust in the APR, as for all other parts of the globe. The US and China, as large and influential economies need to set an example in this context, and foster economic development that is egalitarian and equitable, and does not involve a never-ending search and mastery for resource-rich areas. Such an approach along with mutual recognition of each other’s interests and concerns, and an avoidance of overt strategic ambitions, are absolutely essential for the peace and prosperity of the APR.

Bibliography and References:

Trade, Commerce and Security Challenges in the Asia Pacific Region, Ed. Maj. Gen. Y. K .Gera, Proceedings of Seminar on National Security, USI of India, Nov 2012, New Delhi; Vij Books India Pvt. Ltd, 2013.

Indian Science and Technology in the Eighteenth Century, Dharampal, Collected Writings, Vol. I., Other India Press Goa, in association with Society for Integrated Development of Himalayas (SIDH), Mussoorie, 2000; First published by Impex India 1971

SYNERGY, Centre for Joint Warfare Studies, New Delhi, Jan 2010.                         

[1] The component countries included in this term often change as per context. Thus, Wikipedia’s list for Asia-Pacific, includes India along with other SAARC countries, while the Asia Pacific Centre for Security Studies specifically includes India. However, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) 2012  data, the list of countries in Asia Pacific by GDP does not do so. See:

China's Ambassador to India, Ambassador Wei Wei calls for reviving maritime and land silk roads, April 14, 2014-04-18

[3] Maj. Gen. B. K. Sharma (Retd.), ‘Asia Pacific – Future Security Challenges and Opportunities’, p. 136, in  Trade, Commerce and Security Challenges, in the Asia Pacific Region, ed. Maj Gen Y.K. Gera (Retd.) USI of India, Nov 2012, New Delhi

[5] Held at Singapore in September 1999
[6] The Kuril Islands also known as the Northern Territories dispute is a dispute between Japan and the Russian Federation and also some individuals of the Ainu people over sovereignty of the South Kuril Islands. The disputed islands, which were annexed by Soviet forces during the Manchurian Strategic Offensive Operation at the end of World War II, are currently under the Russian administration as South Kuril District of the Sakhalin Oblast  but are claimed by Japan, which refers to them as the Northern Territories or Southern Chishima , arguably being part of Hokkaidō Prefecture.
The San Francisco Peace Treaty with Japan from 1951 states that Japan must give up all claims to the Kuril islands, but it also does not recognize the Soviet Union's sovereignty over the Kuril Islands. Furthermore, Japan currently claims that at least some of the disputed islands are not a part of the Kuril Islands, and thus are not covered by the treaty. Russia maintains that the Soviet Union's sovereignty over the islands was recognized following agreements at the end of the Second World War. However, Japan has disputed this claim.

[7]  Swaran Singh, ‘Deconstructing Future Security Trends', in Trade, Commerce and Security Challenges, in the Asia Pacific Region, USI of India, Nov 2012, New Delhi, pp. 79-83.

[8] The Paracel Islands, known in Chinese as the Xisha Islands literally "Western Sandy Islands") and as Hoàng Sa Archipelago in Vietnamese is a group of islands in the South China Sea whose sovereignty is disputed by the People's Republic of China, the Republic of China (Taiwan) and Vietnam. Divided into two main groups, the Paracel Islands comprise the Amphitrite group in the northeast and the Crescent group in the southwest located about 70 km (43 mi) from one another. Subject to a hot and humid climate with abundant rainfall and frequent typhoons, the archipelago is surrounded by productive fishing grounds along with potential oil and gas reserves.
The islands include over 30 islets, sandbanks and reefs over a maritime area of around 15,000 square kilometres (5,800 sq mi) with less than 8 square kilometres (3.1 sq mi) of land. The archipelago is approximately equidistant from the coastlines of Vietnam and China: 180 nautical miles (330 km; 210 mi) southeast of Hainan Island, and about one-third of the way between Central Vietnam to the northern Philippines. Chinese and Vietnamese forces both occupied parts of the Paracel Islands before 1974, when the Battle of the Paracel Islands occurred, after which the former took control of the entire group. All of the islands are currently part of China's Hainan Province, which in July 2012, established Sansha City to administer the three townships under its jurisdiction. There are no permanent human residents except military personnel and fishermen.

[9] The Spratly Islands (Chinese name: Nansha islands, Vietnamese Name: Qun đo Trường Sa, Filipino Name: Kapuluan ng Kalayaan) are a disputed group of more than 750 reefs, islets, atolls, cays, and islands in the South China Sea. They are one of three archipelagos of the South China Sea, which comprise more than 30,000 islands and reefs and which complicate governance and economics in that region of Southeast Asia. No native islanders inhabit the islands, which offer rich fishing grounds and may contain significant oil and natural gas reserves. Named after a British explorer, Richard Spratly (c.e.1806-1866) who sighted them in 1843, they contain less than 4 square kilometres (1.5 square miles) of land area spread over more than 425,000 square kilometres (164,000 square miles) of sea. Such small and remote islands, though with little economic value in themselves, are important in establishing international boundaries.
About 45 islands are occupied by relatively small numbers of military forces from the People's Republic of China, Republic of China (Taiwan), Vietnam, the Philippines, and Malaysia. Brunei has also claimed an exclusive economic zone in the south-eastern part of the Spratlys, encompassing just one area of small islands on Louisa Reef. This has led to escalating tensions between numerous countries over the disputed status of the islands. accessed 8.04.2014

[10] The Senkaku Islands dispute concerns a territorial dispute over a group of uninhabited islands known as the Senkaku in Japan, the Diaoyu in China, and Tiaoyutai Islands in Taiwan. Aside from a 1945-1972 period of administration by the United States, the archipelago has been controlled by Japan since 1895. The People's Republic of China (PRC) disputed the proposed US handover of authority to Japan in 1971 and has asserted its claims to the islands since then. Taiwan (Republic of China) also claims the islands. The territory is close to key shipping lanes and rich fishing grounds, and there may be oil reserves in the area.
Japan argues that it surveyed the islands in the late 19th century and found them to be land belonging to no one; subsequently, China acquiesced to Japanese sovereignty until the 1970s. The PRC and the ROC argue that documentary evidence prior to the First Sino-Japanese War indicates Chinese possession and that the territory is accordingly a Japanese seizure that should be returned, as were the rest of Imperial Japan's conquests in 1945.
Although the United States does not have an official position on these competing sovereignty claims, the islands are included within the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan, meaning that a defence of the islands by Japan would require the United States to come to Japan's aid.
In September 2012, the Japanese government purchased three of the disputed islands from their "private owner', prompting large-scale protests in China. As of early February 2013, the situation has been regarded as "the most serious for Sino-Japanese relations in the post-war period in terms of the risk of militarised conflict." On November 23, 2013, the PRC set up the "East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone" which includes the Senkaku Islands, and announced that it would require all aircraft entering the zone to file a flight plan and submit radio frequency or transponder information.

[11]US faces Chinese ire over disputed isles’, Saibal Dasgupta in Times of India, New Delhi, Wednesday, April 9, 2014

[13] 'India's Role in An Emergent Asian Region', Admiral (Retd) Arun Prakash, SYNERGY, Centre For Joint Warfare Studies, New Delhi, Jan 2010, pp. 4-6.

[14] ‘Japan to arm remote island, risking more China tension’, Nobuhiro Kubo, Reuters, published in Mint Lounge, April 19, 2014, p. 12
[15] Ibid.
[16] Ibid.                                             
[17] 'Maritime Challenges In The Asia Pacific', Vice Admiral A.K. Singh, Trade, Commerce and Security Challenges, in the Asia Pacific Region, USI of India Seminar, Nov 2012, New Delhi, pp. 53-54.
[19] Dr Elichi Kathera, 'The New Strategic Context', Ibid. pp 132-133
[20] Claude Alvares, p. x, ‘Making History’, in Indian Science and Technology in the Eighteenth Century, Dharampal, Collected Writings, Vol. I.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Command of ‘The Battle-Axe’ – the 12th Infantry Division

As the GoC 12 Inf Div, Jaisalmer 1989,
with Lt. Gen V K Sood (VCoAS) and Cdr 45 Inf Bde, Brig Pritam SIngh

In January 1988, after my one year course at the National Defence College (NDC), I was appointed the Deputy Military Secretary (A) and given additional charge of the Deputy Military Secretary (Brig) at the Army HQ. I had also been selected for promotion to the next rank. I opted for the command of a Division in any Field–Station so that the education of my children would not get disturbed, since the family could move into the separated officers’ accommodation at Delhi. In the normal course, this would have been possible without any problem, since Field Station postings do not really occupy the top spot in the wish list for postings.

However, I was destined to command a Division not in a Field Station, but in the deserts of Rajasthan. This, after the initial turbulence of putting my children in suitable accommodation at Delhi, turned out to be a unique experience. The command of a Division in the desert terrain was a new experience for me, as most of my earlier service was in the mountainous and riverine terrain. Professionally, there were many new experiences for me to learn from. Additionally, since the area of my command included the states of Rajasthan and Gujarat, my wife and I had the opportunity to see and imbibe the spectacular historical grandeur and varied cultural heritage of this part of our country.

The command of a Division is something special, as components of ‘All Arms and Services’ are integral to this Formation. This is the first opportunity in the Army where the Formation Commander gets to train, administer and plan the concerted application of all arms and services in the battlefield. Our Division had the integral Armour Regiment and the better part of the 4(1) Armoured Brigade allotted for operations. This added greatly to my professional learning and understanding of mechanised force and concepts of operations in the deserts, with their vast spaces, open flanks and sand dunes as part of the terrain.

The Division was entrusted with the operational responsibility of the Rajasthan desert sector, which is commonly known in the military as a tactician's dream but a logistician’s nightmare. Navigation in a terrain devoid of land-marks, water management, and the need for detailed administrative planning, were some of the imperatives of this region. The Division was dispersed in the peace-time locations of Jodhpur, Jaipur, Nasirabad and Udaipur, with some units at Jaislamer and Barmer. This large spread entailed frequent visits to these stations, both by road and helicopter. It also involved refining our battle drills to cut down the longer turn-round time for move and deployment to the borders, and the administrative responsibilities of the spread-out cantonments. It took me some time and effort to acquaint myself with the peculiarities of desert terrain, to understand the ‘mechanics’ of mechanised warfare, and the employment of armour. The Commander of the Armoured Brigade, co-located with us at Jodhpur, Brig ‘Maggu’ Nair, a very fine and forthright professional, was of great help in my education and orientation in this aspect.

Driving along the border in a cross-country mode was an interesting experience in more ways than one. As the sifting sand-dunes deposit considerable sand on the border pillars, the problem of navigation increases—and as we experienced, straying across the border occurs if we are not sufficiently careful and vigilant with the navigation drills. Once I experienced this even while travelling by a helicopter. The pilot lost radio contact and we failed to recognise the ground location as there was only a vast tract of desert, and no habitation in sight. Ultimately, we did a few circuits keeping in mind our fuel availability, and landed near a “dhani” (village) to get our bearings. During night marches, the problem gets further compounded. At these times the compass, and a knowledge of night navigation by stars, is of immense value. The camel patrols remain the most dependable allies in the desert not only because of the endurance of the camel, but also its remarkable stealthy gait and navigation skills, as it can retrace its path without guidance. Survival in the desert is not easy and takes considerable time to acquire. I was very impressed by the 10 Para Commando personnel in their ability to withstand the harsh desert climate, travel long distances, and perform special missions. One of the contributing factors in their performance was their expertise in the local terrain as they were recruited from the adjoining areas and were permanently stationed at Jodhpur. The present policy to shift them around various locations has resulted in the loss of this important asset.

HQ 12 Corps, our Corps HQ, was newly raised at Jodhpur and was still in the process of settling down during the tenure of my Command of the Division. Thus, the Division and the 4 (1) Armoured Brigade had to share assets with the Corps till such time as the permanent assets of 12 Corps were established. This was not the most comfortable of situations. It is a fact that each Formation has a distinct identity which requires some amount of independence to flourish. Being co-located together with superior headquarters means that the potential of generating misunderstandings is always latent, and my staff had to show considerable maturity and generosity in dealing with the occasional unreasonable demands emanating from above.

In the Army, due regard to seniors is an inherent and well-accepted part of our training. However, sometimes the Senior HQs tend to impose their authority even in matters regarding social activities. In particular, the demands of the senior ladies from the junior ladies in Ladies Club and Welfare Functions are often a test of patience. This creates avoidable friction. Fortunately for us, with some effort we had established a healthy mutual understanding with the senior HQs under the two Corps Commanders I had the privilege to work with—initially under the very competent and professional Lt. General Narasimhan, SC, AVSM, and later under Lt. General Y N Sharma, AVSM, SM.

My wife, Aruna Shekhar, with the ladies of the Div

General Sharma was a tough, no-nonsense and professional Corps Commander, who set us an example about personal and professional behaviour. He used to cycle to his office on the weekly maintenance day, when all transport was under maintenance. I also followed his example and took to using the bicycle to my office on the maintenance day. That senior officers should do so, is a fairly rare occurrence. Lt. General Y N Sharma also tasked me to write a ‘Desert Doctrine’ as a guide on operational concepts, and gave me a very competent team of ‘all arms’ to assist. He took considerable personal interest in its evolution, and we were able to produce a document as the ‘Bible’ for desert warfare. Many years later, it was satisfying to learn from Lt. General Panag, GoC-in-C Northern Command, that while he was the GoC 21 Corps and was searching for material on desert warfare, the only document he could obtain was the one produced by my team from HQ 12 Corps.

The kind of challenges this terrain generates, is still evident at the site of the famous ‘Battle of Longewala’ of the 1971 Indo-Pak War. The heroic action of the Punjab Regiment and in particular, that of Major Kuldip Singh Chandpuri, MVC, at Longewala continues to inspire the Indian Army, and other visitors too. Field-visits to the scene of the Battle still form part of the training of the Officer-students of the Higher Command Course of the Army. The deployment at Longewala sand-dunes was limited to one company of infantry supported by a section of mortars, and two detachments of 106 mm RCL guns. They beat back the assault on the location by steadfastly defending their positions and swiftly engaging the enemy, who was also handicapped by the difficult terrain and lack of logistics support. The company defences were well prepared, with a minefield and a field battery in support. The enemy column led by tanks was sighted by the patrols as soon as they crossed the border. The information was passed to the battalion HQ and through them to the IAF and the Army Air observation flight. The IAF responded quickly to this armour threat and engaged the advancing tank column by destroying the bulk of enemy tanks and the vehicular column. The timely engagement of the IAF on the Pakistani tanks, are still visible on the battle field with abandoned tell-tales of Pakistani armour. The few tanks that had closed in to the defences of Longewala were engaged by the RCL detachments of the Punjab Regiment and destroyed.

Today, the road network and tourist infrastructure in this region has been augmented considerably. The oil and natural gas finds in the region have also brought material prosperity and increased the density of this otherwise sparsely inhabited area. In the late eighties, when I was commanding the Division, although the quality of the roads was good, there was little infrastructure development; the population centres were few; and the Indira Gandhi Canal was still on the drawing board. I enjoyed travelling by road, and insisted on good maintenance standards so as to economise on vehicle-utilization. I also discontinued the system of the follow-up vehicles that were the norm for Commanders, although at times it meant delays in my schedule due to break-downs and no back-ups.

While on our road travels and frequent inspections in the Corps sector, my wife and I were able to squeeze in some time to see some of the justly famous historical monuments and sites, such as the Nathdwara Temple, Chittorgarh Fort, Udaipur Palace and the temples of Mount Abu. In the neighbouring 11 Inf Div sector, my visits to the temple at the historical site of Dwarka and the Rann of Kutch were most memorable. As the chairman of the Sainik Schools at Alwar and Chittorgarh, I was also required to visit and interact with the schools and their faculty. I was much impressed by the standards. However, I was surprised to learn of the low rate of selection of the Sainik School cadets to the NDA. Their communication skills in English were perhaps not good enough, and may have led to them not meeting the selection criteria. While it is true that knowledge of English is practically essential to communicate with the larger world today, we should be cautious in not ascribing too much importance to fluency in English. There are other criteria such as integrity, intelligence and courage which are of more importance in a military career than fluency in a particular language. In any case, most of the teaching in NDA is of such a high standard that any gaps in one’s knowledge are swiftly filled in, and any rough edges polished off.

While serving here, I also had the honour of a visit by the Chief of Army Staff (CoAS) Gen SF Rodrigues and the then Army Commander (later CoAS), General B C Joshi, to my Division and the forward posts. During my visits to Jaipur, I took the opportunity to meet Lt. General Sagat Singh, one of my predecessors in the 50 (I) Para Brigade and the illustrious Field Commander of the 4 Corps in the 1971 War, besides meeting Brig Bhavani Singh, MVC, another paratrooper and the Maharaja of Jaipur. However, my very satisfying command of the 12 Inf Div came to an end all too soon. Eighteen months after taking over the Command of the Division, I moved on to HQ 15 Corps as the Chief of Staff (CoS) in June 1991.
As GoC 12 Inf Div with General Roderigues (CoAS) 1989 

With General and Mrs.Roderigues 
Receiving General BC Joshi at Jodhpur (1990)