STATE OF THE INDIAN MILITARY AND RELATIVE STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES

Chairman Sir, members of this very august audience. As a rookie among the luminaries on this panel I find myself at odds addressing this most challenging subject which actually sets the tone for this seminar. For me analyzing a single theatre may have been easier but this generic subject is loaded with much ambiguity that finding my way through it has been a real challenge. While addressing the subject it is near impossible to take stock of state of the military without really taking stock of the nation per se. I am happy to say that Gen Satish Nambiar came to my rescue with a brilliant expose of the subject in Defence & Security Alert to which I will refer frequently even as some outstanding analyses have flooded the internet in the last few days, making my job a little easier.

General Situation

In the broad period of 1963-65, prima facie everything that could be wrong was wrong in India. We had lost miserably to the Chinese in 1962; in fact we were humiliated. The proud Indian military, the legacy of the British Indian Armed Forces was in a state of shock. Civil military relations were at the lowest ebb. We had ambitious plans of re-equipping ourselves which were just about fructifying. Equipment was still vintage and while formations and units were being raised integration was nowhere near achievement. The Order of Battle (Orbat) was still under discussion. In terms of personnel, there was heavy recruitment with reduced periods of training. Emergency Commission for officers, requiring three months of training, was churning out hordes of 2 Lts who were completing their on the job training at Regimental Centers awaiting induction into new raisings. Without much of a media the Nation had probably not realized the enormity of military defeat. Attempts at infusing national confidence were essentially emotive – with Lata Mangeshkar’s “Aae Mere Watan ke Logo” sung shrilly with tears and choking throats. National stock taking related to military security was yet a distance. To beat it all there were language riots in the South and a looming food crisis had forced acceptance of the US PL 480 food aid package; not something to raise national self esteem. Kashmir had undergone a crisis involving the theft of the Prophet’s single strand of hair from Hazrat Bal in Dec 1963, which had been badly politicized.

Internationally, the situation for India was at best tentative as compared to Pakistan’s bold swagger emerging from SEATO and CENTO alliances dating to the Fifties. It had the audacity to illegally cede the 5000 Square km  Shaqsgam Valley to China in the vain hope of political and military support in a future contingency.

Nehru died broken hearted on 27 May 1964  and his replacement LB Shastri inspired little confidence internationally and especially among the Pakistanis.

Pak Perception – A View from Rawalpindi

That is exactly the way that Ayub and Bhutto were perceiving India and its military on the basis of reports from Pakistan’s embassy at New Delhi.  Gen Musa may have provided them with a military statistical and organization comparison too which may have read as :-

  • Strength :  India 850,000;  Pak 269,000
  • Infantry :  India  – 9 Inf + 11 Mtn Divs (35 bdes for the western front) , mostly on reduced scales (example of 10 Inf Div); Pak – 7 Inf Divs (26 brigades), 260,000 Light Militia not to forget the Mujahid units. The demand for a 21 division Army was futilely contested by the MoD.
  • Armr :  India – 16 regts and 720 tanks; Pak – 17 regts and 765 tanks
  • Armr Fmns :   India –  One Armd Div, One Indep Armd Bde and Five Indep Sqns. Pak : Two Armd Divs ( 6 Armd Div, not known to exist  then, also had one armd bde).
  • Arty :  India 68 regts with 76 mm, 25 pounder, 5.5 inch for 10 medium regts and no 105 mm caliber guns; Pak – 44 Regts with sprinkling of 155 mm and 105 mm caliber guns.
  • Air Force :  India – 26 FGA sqns with Hunter, Gnats, Mysteres and Vampires;  Pak – 17 Sqns incl F 86, F-104 Starfighter, and B-57 bombers. Detailed characteristics in later presentations.

A brief comment on the state of ground forces. Infantry was still acquiring and orientating to the 7.62 mm SLR and 7.62 LMG. Units had one LMG per section i.e 37 per unit against Pak’s 72. The 81 mm Mortar was in transition of induction replacing the 3 inch. But the real force multiplier of the Pakistan Army was the R&S unit with each division with firepower flexibility of 48 Rcls, 48 LMGs and 24 MMGs. Each unit already had eight Rcls and eight MMGs each. The holding of Rcls and MMGs in the Indian Infantry was similarly authorized but holding was abysmally low and jeep mounts were also deficient.

In terms of the state of armr, the MBT was really the Centurion – 4 x regts, the rest of the regts had AMX-13, Shermans and Stuarts. Pakistan’s armr comprised 352 Patton tanks.

Obstacle Systems   Our ditch cum bund (DCB) came only after 1971. But Pakistan had already visualized the utility of a linear obstacle system to relieve troops and create reserves. The Ichogil Canal was a defence oriented irrigation system but this aided the offensive defence concept.

Intelligence.  Always considered the force multiplier. Little is heard of the Intelligence Bureau between 1962 and 1965. Granted that equipment and technology  were unavailable but not to pick up straws in the wind about Pakistan’s Operation Gibraltar, concentration of  armor for Operation Grand Slam were actually unforgiveable; the reach was just not there and strategic intelligence on Pak’s intent was poorly read.

Pakistan’s Follies.  Best summed up under the famous quote of Bertold Brecht –  “ Because things are the way they are, things will not stay the way they are”. Pak’s reading of the available indicators was not off the mark but in intelligence there is always something under the skin which is read by hunches, gut feelings and common sense.

  • What it did not read at all was that the Indian political leadership was listening more to the military leadership. Later PM Indira Gandhi displayed that in 1971 also, by taking the Fd Marshal’s advice.
  • Gen Raj Mehta in an analysis states – “ The steel nerved Shastriji empowered the Armed Forces to plan for war including taking pro-active action if push comes to shove …..this positively affected the mojo of the Forces and restored their self belief which reflected in the war that followed”.
  • This is an apt quote because it explains the intrinsic strength of the Indian Armed Forces. Shastriji and YB Chavan backed their military leaders quite unlike Nehru’s disdain for the military. In fact Shastriji authorized the employment of the Indian Air Force at the most appropriate time. The Indian military was strong in basics (that generation was poor in personal financial management but rock solid in section/platoon and tank troop leading tactics). This was the generation which taught many of us at the academies in the Seventies and I continue to marvel at their simplicity, discipline and dedication. Many of you sitting here are among that generation and I bow my head to you, Sirs. The officer man relationship was the core strength of the Indian Army built around the regimental system and whatever equipment that was held they had mastered and could innovate with it unlike their Pakistani counterparts who were yet struggling with western equipment. It was strange that Ayub forgot the qualities of the soldiers with whom he served 19 years.
  • Musa’s military mind had read the situation well but Ayub and Bhutto were in a tearing hurry fearing that a year more and the chances of victory against a refurbished Indian military would be much more remote. Was the information on arrival of the half squadron of Mig 21s and of T-55 tanks in future, the indicator? In the bargain they went wrong on two major counts – not preparing the ground in Kashmir for the projected Revolutionary Council (how could they imagine that the Kashmiris would support them) and being absolutely/perfectly/cock sure that Shastri just did not have it in him to fight across the IB. Even the contingency was hardly catered for.
  • Kashmir.   It needs to be noted how weak the Indian Army was in Kashmir. HQ Western Command from Shimla and 15 Corps from Udhampur over saw it. The Valley was the charge of 19 Inf Div (my division) which was strung along the CFL and in the depth we had two brigades. Counter infilt was almost impossible. If the strength of Razakars had built to the projected 30,000 it would have been extremely difficult to respond. With a division looking after the crucial  corridor of the National Highway with hardly any armor  and just a brigade in the Akhnur sector with a battalion strung along the Munnawar Tawi and a weak squadron of armor, the Indian Army was surely taking its chances,  especially with the raising of Pakistan’s 6 Armd Div just across of which it was oblivious. Luck and incompetence of the Pakistan Army contributed to Jammu and Akhnur remaining in our hands.

On victory and defeat, not my call, but what’s there in passing judgment on victory and defeat. On social media or otherwise I continue to maintain that Pakistan celebrates 06 Sep as Defence of Pakistan Day simply because it has no other event to celebrate , unlike us. We have given them the liberty it seems by never mentioning 1965 among our military successes. When you prevent your enemy from achieving his devious aims you can justifiably celebrate victory even if you gave away the gains of the battlefield on the negotiating table or went in for a premature ceasefire on wrong information about ammunition holdings.

Lastly, do you see a similarity between the situation today and that which existed in 1965 prior to the war. The same Pakistani cockiness and the same perception that India does not have the guts to respond to trans LoC incursions; that they have a nuclear umbrella etc etc. That is because once again it is their propaganda working on their people and some of our people. What we need to do is to consciously ratchet up our psy ops and perception management machinery and this seminar may just be doing that.

I thank the HQ Integrated Defence Staff for the opportunity afforded to me to present my analysis.

JAI HIND.

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