Counter-insurgency operations rely heavily on sustained intelligence efforts since insurgents are always hidden from view and embedded with the population.
The turn-around in the security situation in Jammu & Kashmir has, to a great extent, been brought about through timely intelligence inputs. The external intelligence agency, R&AW, and the army’s intelligence acquisition arm, the I&FS Group, have contributed a wealth of information on terrorist plans, infiltration routes and timings of such attempts as well as penetrated their training camps in Pakistan.
These combined efforts have resulted in a growing number of infiltrating terrorists being intercepted on the Line of Control (LOC) itself. Personnel of the Intelligence Bureau operating at great personal risk provide high-grade intelligence on terrorist gangs and overground workers through their source network. Communications intercepts supply real-time information.
A major role is played by the army’s intelligence and surveillance units. Well-equipped with the tools of the trade, they have a large number of personnel and vehicles, and are provided with huge unaccounted funds for buying information and running agents. Very good results have been obtained by them through placing overground workers, terrorist harbourers and sympathisers under electronic surveillance.
Information provided by them in real-time through electronic shadowing and observation has resulted in a great number of terrorist catches and eliminations. On the ground, the police’s ability to place agents within terrorist groups is unrivalled. Since they remain in close touch with the people, they’re able to generate a significant amount of intelligence.
Infantry and Rashtriya Rifles battalions deployed on the counter-insurgency grid maintain a vigil on villages in their area of responsibility (AOR) through low-level sources. Patrols keep an eye out for anything out of the ordinary. It could be new faces in a village, a household buying extra food, new found affluence or even extra clothes hung out to dry — all clues to terrorist presence. Painstaking and dogged pursuit by intelligence personnel has played a decisive role in the elimination of many terrorist networks.
Army pilots at risk
No one cares more for defence aviators than their wives and they have just cause for concern if their aircraft are obsolete or unfit to fly. In this context, the formation of the 28-member Indian Army Wives Agitation Group (all spouses of Army Aviation Corps pilots or engineers) is significant. Headed by Meenal Bhosale, wife of an engineering officer posted at Nasik, the group is worried about the safety of the Chetak (Aerospatialle Alouette III) and Cheetah (SA 315B Lama) helicopters which the army has been operating since the mid-60s.
A total of 191 of these helicopters have crashed in the last two decades. These machines are now outdated on account of their single engines (modern models all have two) meaning that they are unreliable in emergencies. Chetaks and Cheetahs are basic earlier generation helicopters lacking radars for detecting clouds and precipitation, automatic steering systems, computers for engine control and even duplicity of systems.
The army has been trying to replace these aging platforms for close to a decade. The cancellation of the light utility helicopter programme which envisaged the acquisition of 197 aircraft and was itself a re-tender from an earlier termination has been a big setback. The Chetaks and Cheetahs are the lifeline of army posts located above 20,000 feet in the Himalayas. High time the ministry of defence got its act together.