China’s evident operational designs mean there is no better preparation for the Army than to be ready to pay back in the same kind of like-for-like retorts

by Lt Gen (Dr) Prakash Menon (Retd)

Put Finite Resources To Infinite Use

During his press conference, the COAS stated that 41 per cent of the Army’s equipment falls in the vintage category, and only 12-15 per cent is state-of-the-art: A trend he hoped will change by 2030. It is, therefore, clear that expectations of timely induction of better equipment are low. But it is not the case that the present holdings are dysfunctional. Connectivity to forward areas through road and tunnel constructions has also improved, though it is still a work in progress.

The environmental risks posed by heavy construction in the Himalayas were recently highlighted by land subsidence in Uttarakhand’s Joshimath. Such threats could impact ongoing infrastructure building. However, militarily, there is scope to put finite resources to infinite uses. It is something that can only be achieved through the power of imagination and human agency, in the form of tactics distilled through the lens of experience and leveraging accessible technology.

India More Experienced In High-Altitude Combat

The Indian Army’s experience in high-altitude warfare supersedes China’s. After all, the Siachen Glacier has provided a sustained experience for nearly 30 years. In operational effectiveness, experience matters as long as it is utilised through institutional memory. No doubt, the scale of troop deployment on the northern border is significantly greater, but learning from experience is the military leadership’s bread and butter. Devising tactics boosted by technology, harnessed indigenously, and anchored in experience is the military leadership’s primary challenge.

Innovation Will Make Up For Defects

There is nothing more psychologically devastating to forces holding ground at high altitudes than when they realise that their logistic sustenance has been cut off. Special forces and local scouts like the Ladakh or Arunachal Pradesh Scouts are especially suited for these high-risk missions. Presumably, such measures are already in place and are being strengthened. It shows that even though the Army’s equipment, supporting infrastructure, and technology lack in certain capability respects, they can be made up to a significant extent through innovative tactics.

Innovative tactics require a high quality of junior leadership at the Lieutenant, Captain and Major levels. Commanding officers in the rank of Colonels play a crucial role. Fortunately, this remains the Indian Army’s traditional strength, a point historically proven.

This advantage is also augmented by a rank and file that, if ably led, is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. It provides the sharp edge that makes all the difference in combat. If successfully managed, the ongoing induction of Agniveers could sustain a youthful profile that is a sine qua non for combat capability.

Of course, we cannot rest on our laurels and assume these as strengths. The higher leadership must strive to push the boundaries to make inadequate resources meet the requirements of sufficiency.

Human Strength: Military’s Most Potent Weapon

The top brass has its task cut out. It is a formidable challenge, but one that can be met despite the military’s material shortcomings, which are likely to endure. These problems can be resolved if it is recognised that human agency is the military’s most crucially potent weapon. Army Day is an apt occasion to remember this maxim and rededicate ourselves to the defence of our sovereign State when the war clouds get darker.

Uncertainty, danger, and threat to life and limb make up the fabric of soldiering in the Army. It is the Army that often gets closest to these hazards. As I witnessed the Army Day Parade in Bangalore—held outside Delhi for the first time—the nostalgic spirit of bonhomie with the olive green provided a particular ‘high’ that the uniform begets. May the Indian Army, in the unpredictable future, answer the call of duty whenever required with the spirit of sacrifice that is its proud credo.