Saturday, 16 February 2019

Uri Euphoria to Pulwama Despair: How Paralysed Security Reform Made Modi Lose Face in Kashmir

Carnage at Pulwama

Someone wise, once said, that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. 

For the ill-fated Paramilitary, CRPF men in that damned convoy, the road to Srinagar was paved with a JeM' IED. Unarmed men returning to their posts from leave, blown up in cold and wet infamy, on the Jammu Awantipura Highway.

The carnage at Pulwama was broadcast by media in a Kafkaesque image strewn with body parts and metal smithereens. The media, as is won’t made the attack spectacular, amplifying JeM (Jaish e Mohammad) Social Media propaganda. Let's add to that the mobile phone voyeurism of death, blood and gore. Lessons not learnt included convoy security protocols, intelligence and information warfare failure.

Cries of kin: widows, old parents and children in grief and mourning, are a sad consequence of the strategic policy failure in Kashmir.

Despite blunt promises of revenge by Modi Cabinet and a CCS (a Cabinet Committee on Security, bereft on any domain experts in Security or Military Uniform) there is an air of alarm. The mood of the nation is sombre as the bodies of the CRPF men arrive for cremation across India's many States. 

The Populist Mercenary Road That Lead to The Pulwama Ambush

The Indian Army' Special Forces led Surgical Strike post Uri had become an echo chamber of self-congratulation and political marketing for Narendra Modi and BJP. 

The monumental blunder of  Modi’s opportunistic alliance with soft separatist Mufti and PDP, saw anger and disaffection, in loyal Jammu and Ladakh, both key BJP constituencies, betrayed for power. 

There was an air of putting civilian casualties and collateral damage over the lives of soldiers. This reflected in mollycoddling on Terrorist sympathisers and Over Ground Workers (OGWs) by Security Forces, and Intelligence Agencies long accustomed to throwing money at both Hurriyat and other separatists in self-defeating strategy, that made Army, CAPF and Police lives dispensable, like cannon fodder, in Kashmir. 

The inexperience of a Chief Minister of non-martial State like Gujarat, propelled to the role a Prime Minister and rest of the NDA2 Cabinet, full of weak leaders without popular support or competence, in Defence and Finance, has obtained the current security scenario of impotence and public anger. This was seen post 26/11 Mumbai Attacks as well as Uri, and Pathankot.

The Modi journey from sincerity and Achhiniyat, to failure hasn't been without brief periods of luck. Despite the obvious poor judgement calls, no lessons were learnt after Uri, Pathankot and Nagrota. The Nehruvian babudom that plagued Congress, continued to resist all attempts at Police, Intelligence and Defence reform, successfully in BJP too run, directly by Modi. 

To add injury to insult, the Indian Army reputation was also tarnished in Kashmir by Ram Madhav and Mehbooba Mufti, which saw several Rashtriya Rifles (specialist counterterrorism and counterinsurgency Indian Army unit) troops doing their jobs, court-martialled, and implicated falsely in cases, which they sadly continue to fight to date. 

A political appointee, Army Chief that lowballed legitimate demands of his men in media, and an Army Commander that had to apologise, for soldiers and officers doing their job, destroyed troop morale. Brave and tough, battle hardened men of raw courage who did not balk or retreat in the face of certain death have kept Kashmir in India. This has come at the cost of huge sacrifice, lives of dependents and family destroyed, this despite the treachery and incompetence of our politicians and bureaucrats.

Defence Reform Paralysis

Defence Reform has remained paralysed in the Modi Government. Starting from the distasteful twin-forked tongue of Arun Jaitley, the patron saint of Lutyens Babudom, and points further to ineffectiveness of well-meaning Manohar Parrikar. 

The current, woman empowerment, lightening rod, Raksha Mantri (RM) in Nirmala Sitharaman, is a controversial figure, and one of the worst NDA2 Defence Ministers, in decades. She has seen huge media criticism on Defence budget, plagued yet by the non-delivery of OROP (One Rank One Pension). 

The RM has a penchant for poor decisions coached no doubt by wily MoD bureaucrats inviting controversy galore from criminal omissions like denial of NFU (Non Functional Upgradation since given to CAPFs / Paramilitary but not Military). 

The Defence Procurement paralysis has seen a chronic inability to equip the Army with an assault rifle, Infantry squad weapons, and body armour. Other apathy concerns funds for perimeter protection of military installations and garrisons, among a long angry list of unfulfilled legitimate asks. 

The latest howler has been allowing civilian non-combat MoD staff in military, unit-run canteens. Telescoping of ranks and knee jerk cuts in senior fighting ranks has created a discomfort in military experts, raising questions on both competence, and intent of austerity.

In this self-inflicted injury to MoD (Ministry of Defence) image, the list of commissions that have hit Army morale is equally long starting with controversy over opening of military cantonments to civilians, creating an avoidable security crisis in peace areas. 

The degradation of Military rank, equivalent status of the fighting man, relative to the bureaucrats in MoD has only worsened under the  Modi led BJP. The HQ IDS' whitewash of Land, Air and Water Forces in jointness remains stuck in criminal indecision. 5 years of NDA2 saw zero integration of Army, Air Force and Navy, without the creation of a single Military Commander or CDS. 

The aggressive litigation by MoD against Widows, Veterans and disabled soldiers has created huge perception damage for a Government that came to power on a nationalist and security mandate. 

Tail wagging sycophants were appointed as top brass, abdicating their command for self-serving patronage, and post retirement gubernatorial largesse. This shows in bad decisions and sycophancy in a politically polarised Military brass that is unable to speak with the straight spine, required for military realism.

The debilitating narrative of Nehruvian import substitution is back in Modi's lexicon as MakeInIndia, another lemon sold to a NDA2 Government, that promised Defence Reform, but has since been paralysed in Defence Procurement, and one that saw the lowest Defence Budget since the humiliating 1962 China Debacle. 

A direct consequence of this failure of defence reform is an inability to fulfil desperate needs of a fast ageing military with 70 per cent obsolete equipment.  Indirectly, it eats up a huge pie of the defence budget, which could then be redeployed for capital acquisitions to modernise the Military. This inability to shed fat from MoD civilian bureaucracy and soviet era DPSUs (Defence Public Sector Units) and OFBs (Ordnance factory Boards) has resulted in scandalous fatalities in the Military. Defence Production is defective, poorly maintained equipment and dangerous ammunition, the bane of the fighting man putting at risk his life and limb.

Modi's Reform Blindspot called Babudom

Modi for all his canny gifts is unable to break, either by himself, or through the sizeable lateral talent base in BJP (and larger RSS organisation) the socialist mediocrity, mafia of Babudom. Generalist clerks with no accountability or domain competence- these colonial self-serving parasites have created a bureaucratic gridlock that blocks and constrains all reform, change and governance. 

A poor legacy for a man with achhiniyat but serial debacles due to bad advice and poorly thought through execution seen in Demonetisation, Fuel Price Deregulation and GST, among other big reforms. Inability to reform bureaucratic stranglehold in both MoD and MHA remains a red mark in the NDA2 report card. It has seen the image of Modi, BJP come to grief.

Asymmetric War denial

The Modi strategic security construct is practically run by a single policeman turned Intelligence Bureau veteran, in Ajit Doval, who has been appointed NSA. Doval is today the uncrowned security tsar of NDA2. While it is expected of a Prime Minister to choose his confidantes and his Security team, this is a fraud on the constitution of India. There is no legal legitimacy to the office of NSA, or its appropriation of of Police, Intelligence, Diplomacy and now strangely even the Military, given sycophant Service Chiefs and kowtowing top brass. 

A dozen Intelligence Agencies remain illegitimate entities without accountability, owing their existence to colonial executive orders and not enabling legislation, 70 years into freedom, and the Declaration of Independence. That they have no accountability beyond their political masters and are prone to be misused in intrigue doesn't inspire confidence in a Republic. 

This is a recipe for hiding failure and living in a schizophrenic echo chamber. There are no checks and balances that are a must in a democracy with a parliament. 

The brunt of Internal Security is unfairly borne by the Indian Army in counterinsurgency and counterterrorism. Left to fend for themselves without any political or bureaucratic cover. These Internal Security deputations for counterinsurgency and counterterrorism destroy both training and peacetime rotation of troops, retrofitted hurriedly, and poorly equipped into built up area warfare units like Rashtriya Rifles (RR) in Kashmir, and Assam Rifles (AR) in the North East. 

It is as if fighting the  Kashmir issue is a sole preserve of the Military and not the Central Intelligence and Security establishment of the PMO and MHA, or the self-serving MOD babudom. The life of every single soldier lost is one too many. 

The Home Ministry with its CAPFs remain only in charge of Maoist operations, where they fare poorly with mass casualties from repeat ambushes, given a divorce between parent cadres, and generalist IPS Babudom, foisted on top, as colonial brown sahibs. The resentment in the CAPFs lowers morale and results in headquarter mentality resulting in dangerous decisions far from the ground situation, that cause bloody carnages like Pulwama. 

Bureaucrats, who have not grown in parent organisations are also given to surrendering to the feckless opportunism of their political masters. A surrender of the kind that allowed diluted Security protocols that results in Convoys like the ill-fated CRPF one getting bombed and ambushed. This political appeasement render roadside security barricades, and the anti-infiltration grid ineffective against distributed asymmetric warfare attacks.

Weapons, Gear; RR Beggared to Fight Like Fidayeen

The troops of RR and AR remain poorly equipped with small platoon level weapons, troop transport and body armour, Helicopter as well as aerial intelligence support remain a missing piece, with Army Aviation facing rivalry from a turf conscious Air Force. This forces counterterrorism units to fight with worse weapons and resources than the suicidal Fidayeen they are tasked to kill in Kashmir. Same applies to other counterinsurgency operations in North East. 

Infowar, Abdication of Cybersecurity in Kashmir

That India despite its technology prowess fares badly in cyberwar shows the apathy and insolence of bureaucracy and politicians who don't do the dying or killing in Kashmir but whose incompetence and administrative mismanagement that bring about such scenarios in the first place!

Cyberwar as a component is a missing piece in Kashmir, with encryption based messaging being used to channel propaganda and Jihadi content, employed by ISI propped Tanzeems.

As Social Media fuelled information warfare is waged by the Pakistan Army and its proxies, generating and disseminating Jihadi propaganda, the security bureaucracy has no effective answers in either containment or denial of service, besides ham handed, Internet shutdown, outage that creates resentment in the population. 

The Wisdom of Crowds; Elections and Warmongering

It is a curious sight to see Government sponsored unrest on Television. The Modi led BJP is riding a tiger called outrage, this is the tiger that eats you when you try to get off its back. Between now and the 2019 General Elections, the Modi Government and Security establishment will play a game of chicken between votebank polarisation and limp retaliatory measures amplified by a phalanx of media hype, military brass making agreeable noises, and  select leaks to keep the pot boiling. The opposition despite the initial show of solidarity, has begun its own polarisation campaigns leading to the polls. 

The lack of defence reform and building of covert and subconventional warfare infrastructure, forces the non-choice of answering of asymmetric warfare defeats such a Uri, Pathankot and horrendous multi casualty Pulwama car bombing, by conventional warfare actions. This is along an already hot border that risks escalation and creates misery for populations living along the LoC due to indiscriminate shelling and firing .  

In the heady election jingoism on social media and the lazy war cries of myopic politicians to satisfy the blood lust of television talk show revenge, there are sobering realities. Realities like the fact that India has no Special Forces Command or covert cross border resources to prosecute such a campaign of righteous wrath. 

This sabre rattling without asymmetric war capability makes a long term policy of deterrence against subconventional war toothless. The escalation cycle up the nuclear bluff and the current geopolitics of US withdrawal from Afghanistan, and Chinese colonisation of Pakistan make all retaliatory options uncomfortable. 

The JeM claim to Pulwama is blunt and aggressive and represents a trend in escalation of Terrorism in Kashmir and points further. As America begins its military withdrawal from Afghanistan, it will be chary to support an Indian retaliation against Pakistan, its key blackmailer in the region controlling the Taliban. This is a return to the pre Musharraf days, and India is unprepared, its guard down! 

The retribution against the Pulwama provocation in the current state of preparedness scenario risks becoming a mass media whitewash just like the post Uri Surgical Strikes. This much hyped action has since proven inadequate messaging of intent for creating deterrence against the Pakistan Army deep state, now grandfathered by a revisionist China. 

Modi had the mandate, the money and the opportunity to prepare for such an eventuality but this was whittled in a lack of strategic realism and poor babudom advice. India remains at risk. Modi will not be able to shed the continued taint on security failure unless the future of Bharat gets emergency legislative Administrative, Police, Intelligence and Defence Reform. The rest is politics!

Last Updated: 21 February, 2019

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