Deft diplomacy working patiently and paying no heed to shrill calls for upping the ante has resolved the tense situation arising out of the Chinese intrusion in Ladakh. To back up the diplomatic initiative, the military subtly flexed its muscles. The army presented the government with a number of options, including a show of strength, if necessary, implemented in a regulated manner to apply pressure.
XIV Corps consisting of an infantry division, a mountain division, certain specialised troops, an artillery brigade and an armoured battle group maintained a high level of operational readiness to meet any possibility. Long-range observation systems and UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) were used to keep a track of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) movements and build-up.
The pattern of Chinese behaviour means that we can expect more posturing on our borders. What are our options in strategic terms to deal with intrusions and nibbling away at our territory? While there has been a significant addition to our defence post-62, they need to be further strengthened in the view of increasing Chinese capabilities. However, the greatest truth in warfare is that a purely defensive strategy never works in the long-term.
We, therefore, need to build an offensive wherewithal with the capacity to strike deep into enemy territory while keeping our own base intact. The raising of mountain strike corps for the northern and eastern theatres with lightweight artillery, heavy light helicopters and bold, new concept of aggressive action can no longer be delayed. We also need to build a limited offensive capability for the central sector as well as in all defensive corps.
Ongoing progressive development of strategic weapons adds significantly to our deterrence potential. The naval and air force modernisation programmes, including acquisition of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines, need to be accelerated.
Deploying and sustaining a large offensive force in the mountains entails a major improvement in infrastructure all along the 4,057-km Line of Actual Control. Upgrading of strategic roads, activation of airstrips near the border are just some of the progressive steps required to thoroughly overhaul our border communication network so as to be able to permit reinforcement, switching of forces and sustain an offensive capability. This needs to be given the priority it currently lacks.
Lastly, and most importantly, the country as a whole needs to recognise the Chinese penchant for psychological warfare and not rise to their bait. Only then will we acquire the trappings of a great nation.
Scouts: light infantry with a difference
Scouts battalions are light infantry specialising in mountain warfare. They are special to area units located permanently in the region and recruiting their manpower from the same territory. Officers are all drawn on deputation from other units of the army.
Heading the list are the doughty Ladakh Scouts known for their good performance at Siachen and Kargil in 1999, who celebrate their golden jubilee next month. We also have the Dogra Scouts, the Kumaon Scouts and the Garhwal Scouts affiliated to the Dogra and Kumaon Regiments and the Garhwal Rifles, respectively, for recruitment, basic training and administration. The Arunachal Scouts with two battalions maintains vigil on the sensitive frontiers in their state.
In peace time, scouts patrol the boundaries, maintain a presence in forward areas and undertake hazardous reconnaissances to give early warning of enemy movements. In defence, they man screen positions, provide stay behind parties and stay ready to move out at a minute's notice to face any emanating threats in the classic role of light infantry.
In attack they do scouting, infiltrate behind enemy lines and patrol gaps with the benefit of their knowledge of the terrain. In fact their usefulness lies in their being locals permanently based and training in their areas of operation with all advantages that entails. Light, mobile, fast moving and hard hitting they're specialised units with a difference!
The Sikkim Scouts were raised on May 24 with their flag being unfurled by army's vice-chief General SK Singh at the 11 Gorkha Rifles Regimental Centre at Lucknow. The battalion will be permanently based in the high altitude and craggy topography of the Himalayan state. The Sikkim Scouts will guard key passes and sectors, apart from likely routes of ingress and jumping off points for offensives.
General AK Bakshi takes over Vajra Corps
Lieutenant General Ashwini Kumar Bakshi took over the command of XI Corps at Jalandhar on March 13. The formation raised on March 1, 1950, with the Vajra (thunderbolt) as its formation sign by Lieutenant General Kalwant Singh, defends most of Punjab from Dinanagar in the north to Jalalabad near Ferozepur. It had the honour of humbling Pakistani armour at Khem Karan in 1965. General Bakshi commissioned in June 1975 into the Bihar Regiment was last posted as military secretary to the President of India.
Please write in with your feedback, comments, suggestions and personal narratives of war and military service to email@example.com or call on 093161-35343