Every major attack or outrage by left wing extremists provokes public demand for a renewed vigour in the campaign against them, including deployment of the army. In this context, it's important to fully understand the history of successful counter-insurgencies in our country. Not for us the use of massive firepower that causes collateral damage on a huge scale, a la the US action in Vietnam, or uprooting the civilian population to deny the insurgents succour, like the British did in Malaya. The Indian model of counter-insurgency rests on four main prongs.
Saturating the affected area with security forces deployed in a grid pattern to keep violence at an acceptable level, yet benign enough not to alienate the local population is the basic measure.
Accelerating the pace of development helps in overcoming disaffection, creates jobs and prosperity which in turn weans the target population away from the insurgents' ideology and designs.
Holding talks with the insurgents, or more importantly exhibiting a perennial willingness to do so, keeps the opposition off-balance and adds to our own goodwill among the people.
Lastly, and most importantly in my reckoning, allowing democracy to take firm roots and not subverting or impeding it in any way. The strengthening of grassroots democratic institutions, allowing people to take their own decisions and involving them in development at their own level leads to the defeat of extremist ideologies of all kinds.
Mounting successes have shown that the Central Reserve Police Force has made the difficult transition from a guard force and an organisation subservient to the local police to an increasingly effective counter-insurgency force able to act independently. It may not be the best policy to deploy the army, which is going through a difficult phase of modernisation, expansion and adapting to meet new threats and induction of new doctrines. Not the least of these threats is that of a two-front war, with China acquiring new stakes in Pakistan with plans for an energy corridor through the country and over the Karakoram to obviate an increasing threat to its sea lanes of communication.
Threats from without should not preclude the use of the armed forces' expertise in counter-insurgency in fields such as the use of special forces for suitable missions, intelligence gathering and training paramilitary troops in jungle warfare.
Indian armed forces' training of foreign militaries
The passing out of legendary Northern Alliance commander Ahmed Shah Massoud's nephew Zubair along with the National Defence Academy's 124th course brings into focus another manifestation of military diplomacy as practiced by our defence services. Training imparted by them both here and through instructional teams abroad like in Bhutan, Lesotho, Zambia, Botswana, Seychelles, Nigeria, Iraq, Ethiopia and Tanzania has added significantly to the attainment of the country's foreign policy objectives. While Afghanistan has not yet asked for an Indian military team (which could be in the pipeline), we presume that the country wants more of its soldiers trained in Indian institutions.
So far, India has concentrated on using soft power in the development sector, such as constructing roads (notably the Zaranj-Dilaram highway which provides the country access to the sea), hospitals and even the Parliament building in Afghanistan. But by offering extensive training facilities for the Afghan National Army, the government has decided to notably increase its involvement. If the govt decides to accede to the Afghan government's request for military hardware, we will probably see an increased involvement of our armed forces in training the security forces in that country itself.
The expertise, experience and professionalism of the Indian military are renowned worldwide as is the excellence of its training institutions and methods. It's no wonder that many other nations want to take advantage of the benefits accruing to their security forces by getting them trained by us.
New DRDO chief
An efficient, progressive research and development organisation is always the fourth arm of any nation's armed forces. The appointment of Dr Avinash Chander as the new head of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) underlines the importance accorded to and the advancement of the Indian strategic deterrent programme. He made a name for himself while successfully developing the 5,000-km range Agni-5 ballistic missile even though he had to operate in a highly restrictive international regime. Significantly, his predecessor Dr VK Saraswat successfully steered the growth and induction of the Prithvi missile programme as its project director.
Induction of the Pilatus trainer into the IAF
A longfelt need of the IAF was fulfilled on Friday, May 31, with the induction of the Swiss Pilatus PC-7 Mark II tandem-seat basic training aircraft at the IAF Academy at Dundigal in Andhra Pradesh. Ten aircraft have been delivered, with 65 more in the pipeline. Another 37 of these planes have been ordered under a follow-on contract.