Despite hype of induction of Artificial Intelligence (AI) based military assets, all domain and non contact warfare Indian Armed Forces will continue to rely on the enduring fighting spirit of the soldier and use of numbers to win future battles.
Here is why-
It’s been almost a week since India celebrated the Kargil Vijay Diwas, success over Pakistan’s intrusion in the crucial Dras-Kargil sector of erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, now in the Union Territory of Ladakh. Eviction of intrusion saw some exceptional acts of courage in some of the toughest terrain in the world with names such as Tiger Hill and Tololing adding to Indian military history.
The likes of young officers and soldiers late Captain Vikram Batra and Vijayant Thapar to name just a few have also become legends along with Grenadier Yogendra Singh and Rifleman Sanjay Kumar.
Operating on a political direction which restrained tactics to virtually frontal attacks on steep features which had very narrow approaches, well covered by Pakistan Northern Light Infantry machine guns, it required supreme sacrifice by many young men of the Indian Army to force to enemy to perish or pull back.
These were stories of enormous courage in the face of all odds, willingness to sacrifice one’s life for the mission and glory of the regiment – the core driver of the Indian infantry and mass – pitching in waves of assaults by night with low visibility that finally won the day.
While much water may have flown under the bridge in the Dras River, the Indian Army may continue to rely on the familiar – Blood, Guts, Glory and Mass – formula in a future war or skirmish with the adversary.
Blood denotes willingness to sacrifice one’s life for the cause, courage - fearlessness in the face of life threatening odds, glory for the regiment and the nation and mass – numbers to overwhelm the enemy.
Two decades and more later the war winning strategy of the Indian Armed Forces may continue to rely on this time tested formula.
This was evident in Galwan in June 2020 when troops of 16 Bihar led by their Commanding officer Col B Santosh Babu once again faced off with the People’s Liberation Army which had intruded in the vital tactical feature. This loss was clearly unacceptable to the Commanding officer - galling to the Battalion – “Izzat.” The situation may have been resolved through talks, but that was not to be.
But reasons for reliance on the formula are also because the Armed Forces will be fighting with the same weapons that they did in 1999 as modernization has failed due to the single most important reason – the acquisition process.
Thus, the Army will fight with the 5.56 mm INSAS Rifle [despite a few thousand Sig Sauer rifles] and 9 mm Carbines which were used in 1999 as the much vaunted induction of an assault rifle and carbine has continued to remain in the acquisition log jam.
So is the state of the Light Machine Gun. Artillery mediumisation process has seen some accretions but these are inadequate to face an adversary on two fronts and a wider conflict that is not localized unlike Kargil.
The Indian Air Force continues to field four squadrons of MiG 21 – with the most recent crash seeing the loss of lives of two experienced senior pilots.
While the Navy is inducting an aircraft carrier which is indigenously built – the Vikrant on Independence Day this year – the pride of the Navy and the Nation will be operational only in a year or so.
The list of dated weapons and equipment in the military is long even as the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has modernized thus posing a viable challenge in the future though much of the weapon systems are untested and the soldiers lack adequate combat experience.
Cultural factors also deem that reliance will continue to be on the courage of the junior officers and men even as their numbers are in deficit as a recent response in the parliament by the Ministry of Defence indicated.
The total deficit in the forces is 9,797 officers and 1.26 lakh soldiers, airmen and sailors from their sanctioned strengths. The Army has a shortage of 7,779 officers (including doctors and nursing officers) and 1.08 lakh soldiers, Navy 1,446 officers and 12,151 sailors and IAF, 572 officers and 5,217 airmen. The deficit is in the junior ranks of Captains and Majors who will lead platoons and companies into assault.
An added factor now is introduction of the Agnipath Recruitment Scheme. How this will impact the commitment of the soldiers called as Agniveers to fight for honour of the regiment and the nation is unclear for now.
Culture in the armed forces and the civilian bureaucracy also includes lack of accountability not just in operational errors of judgement but in failure to equip the man on the ground who continues to face the prospects of fighting with what he has with an enemy who is better armed than him.
Thus those responsible for the intrusions in Kargil in 1999 or Eastern Ladakh in 2020 or the terrorist attacks in Jammu and Kashmir be it Uri in 2016 and Pulwama in 2019 continued to enjoy the perks of command and some even rose up the hierarchy without acknowledging their contribution to national ignominy.
And an inbred spirit of sacrifice rather than the famous quote by US Army General George S Patton in Second War– make the other man die for his country means that Blood, Guts, Glory and Mass will remain the war fighting strategy of the Indian Armed Forces.