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NEXT YEAR IN KASHMIR

Many Indians believe that military force is the solution to the Kashmir issue. Many Indians believe that dialogue is the only way forward. Both are right. Both are wrong. Kashmir is a little more complicated than that, and the fault lies with us. We have mismanaged Kashmir for 70 years, and for the past 30 years, we have surpassed ourselves in creativity.

Whenever a population is subjected to genocide and massive violence, there is mass exodus. Syrians, Kashmiri Pandits and Rohingya Muslims have been forced to leave their homeland because the alternative was death, or worse.

In 622 AD, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) migrated from Mecca to Yathrib. Islam is a revealed religion, revealed to the Prophet through archangel Gabriel. Before Islam was revealed, Arabia was living in darkness and ignorance. The message that the Prophet carried was so radical that it upset the social order of those times. The Prophet spoke about social justice and equality. He said that in the presence of Allah, kings and beggars were equal. The tribe of Qureysh, the dominant tribe to which the Prophet himself belonged, turned upon him. He was the target of assassination, and the first Muslims were in the gravest danger. For the safety of his followers and the fledgling faith, the Prophet undertook the Hijera, or migration.

Exodus always has a trigger, a raison d’être so undeniable and powerful that a people must leave their homeland, where the ashes and bones of their ancestors are interred.

There has never, in history, been an exodus of Kashmiri Muslims from the Valley. Sure, many left the Valley, and continue to do so, to seek a better life in other states of India, but there has been no mass migration. Because there was no genocide. There was no state-sponsored massive violence inflicted upon Kashmiri Muslims. Yes, there have been human rights violations. Yes, Kashmiris have lived through terrible times. Yes, many of their complaints against the Indian state are genuine and legitimate.

Radicalization in Kashmir is not a new phenomenon. It started in the Valley in the same decade that it started in Pakistan, under General Zia ul Haq. For Kashmir to find mass resonance in Pakistan, the “freedom movement” would have to have an Islamic signature tune. Zia’s Islam was an exclusive and harsh faith, which had no resemblance to the gentle strand of Sufi Islam, which has all but died in Kashmir. Zia held non-Muslims to be “kafirs” and hence, “wajib-ul-qatl” or who’s killing was justified. And those whose killing was justified in Kashmir were Kashmiri Pandits, the land’s original inhabitants. Kashmiri Pandits were successful, organized and influential. Status quo could not be permitted.

Kashmiri Pandits migrated from the Valley because they were subjected to genocide, ethnic cleansing and rape. Their shops were burned down and they were gunned down in the streets. They were given three choices – raliv, galiv ya chaliv. Convert, die or escape. Those who wanted to go were told to leave their womenfolk behind. 19 January 1990 has been forever burned into the collective consciousness of the Kashmiri Pandits.

It was a brilliant tactical move by Pakistan. The Kashmiri Muslim had nothing in common with the Pakistani Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashtun or Baloch. Except Islam. Zia and his ISI chief Lt Gen Hamid Gul truly believed that it was Islam and its mujahideen that had humbled the mighty USSR. This was only partially true. But Zia and Gul believed with the fervor of those who had found faith. If Islam’s warriors could break the USSR, India would be a cakewalk. During the decade, Pakistan launched Operation Topac, and in 1989 Kashmir exploded in our face.

Thousands of terrorists infiltrated into the Valley from Pakistan. They walked openly on the streets carrying Kalashnikovs. They killed, raped and executed with impunity. Every week there would be a rumor that Kashmir was about to fall, and that a very public uprising was around the corner. Those days, the Indian Army was mostly along the Line of Control. The situation was so bad that something had to be done immediately, or we would lose Kashmir.

Pakistan waited with bated breath. It was only a matter a time before the mujahideen raised the Pakistani flag all over the valley, they believed. The Kashmiri Pandits had been forced to flee and saner elements in Kashmir had been murdered. Yes, it was only a matter of time.

Then, the Indian Army did what it always does. It drew upon its vast reservoir of experience in counter insurgency operation in the North East and tabled a solution in front of the central government. The clearly rattled government couldn’t approve quickly enough.

In 1990, Kashmir saw another kind of soldier, very unlike Indian Army soldiers seen earlier. He had long hair and often sported a beard. He carried an AK 47. He was differently dressed, and he operated in small teams. He hunted all day and night, never seeming to stop. To the terrorist, he was the devil incarnate…the hunter of men and gatherer of souls. He showed no mercy because he had none to offer.

This soldier was from a force called Rashtriya Rifles. And the terror he evoked was overwhelming.

I have met surrendered terrorists in Jammu & Kashmir who have been living normal lives for over a decade, doing petty businesses or jobs. But they tell me in private that even today, when they see a Rashtriya Rifles patrol pass by, they have a very strong urge to urinate.

But Kashmir is changing. Like the Rubik’s cube in the hands of an amateur, it becomes more complex with every twist and turn. The splatter of color in a Rubik’s cube is a sign of failure. Success is monochrome.

Radicalization of Kashmir was Pakistan’s idea, aided and abetted by India’s lack of imagination and unwillingness to act. Lets start with…well, a few issues.

India does not seem to have a coherent Kashmir policy. Well, if a policy is a written guideline, debated threadbare and thought through, which the state follows with at least some degree of consistency, then yes…I am right. We do not have a Kashmir policy. We are like the willow tree; we bend when the wind is fearsome. We accommodate. It is our weakness that the Chairman of the Hurriyat Conference believes that he is more powerful than the Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir. I remember the time when Hurriyat men would derisively call the CM “Mayor of Srinagar”.

The most pressing issue that we are dealing with in Kashmir is mass radicalization of the population. This radicalization is a part of the Wahhabi/ Islamic State terror franchise. The impossible has happened. Security forces in Kashmir killed Mohammad Toufeeq, a resident of Telangana, a few days ago. He was a radicalized over social media and wanted to fight for the “glory of Islam” along with his brothers. This is exactly what Pakistan wanted all along. And we are still having debates on whether ISIS is present in Kashmir or not.

To counter this intense radicalization, we must understand that creating new Rashtriya Rifles battalions is not a solution. An idea can only be countered by an idea. This idea has two parts.

Part one is to create a narrative around Kashmir – past, present and future. This narrative must be aggressively pushed in social and mainstream media.

  1. Educate people on the truth of the UN Resolutions on Kashmir. Very few people in Kashmir (and Pakistan) have read the resolutions but everyone swears by them. This must be done through short videos in Kashmiri, WhatsApp messaging and Facebook posts. Keep telling this truth.
  2. Active counter to all bogus human-rights stories in the local Kashmiri media. This must be in Kashmiri, not Hindi or English. The local media is largely compromised, singing the Hurriyat tune. We must start local FM stations, community radio stations and local TV channels to counter them, running programs that tell the truth. Run a TV channel from inside Badami Bagh Cantt. Run community radio stations across North and South Kashmir, from Army, CRPF and BSF camps. DD Kashmir is incomprehensible.
  3. Constantly and consistently expose the lifestyles of Hurriyat leaders, other separatists and their relatives, especially those settled abroad.
  4. Let Kashmiris know what these so-called “azaadi ke deewane” do when they visit New Delhi, especially in a certain bungalow in Greater Kailash Part 2, and in a five star hotel in Gurgaon, which is bang on NH.
  5. Tell Kashmiris the truth about Pakistan and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. Also share with them stories written by Pakistanis about how Kashmiri freedom fighters in PoK are beaten to death by ISI and how entire families are “disappeared”. Tell them about the reputation of Pakistan in the Islamic world, its bankruptcy and its scant disregard of its own Constitution and elected leaders. There are Pakistani citizens in Dubai and London who have been tortured and then expelled from Pakistan by ISI for simply asking questions. Arrange for meetings between them and Kashmiri youth.
  6. Expose, with proof, the fake human rights racket that is flourishing in Kashmir and in certain parts of New Delhi. Takes names. Give addresses. Share bank account details, including photos of boarding passes of flights to Dubai and further to Islamabad.
  7. When Kashmir was forcibly partitioned after the 1947-48 war, the language spoken on both sides of the ceasefire line (LoC) was Kashmiri, at least in the Valley area. Now, the main language of PoK is Punjabi and Punjabis form the largest ethnic group. Where have all the Kashmiris of PoK gone? This must be part of the narrative.

Part two is to rapidly de-radicalize the Kashmiri youth. The following steps can be taken. This is by no means a comprehensive list. It is merely a starting point.

  1. Arrange for live debates between Kashmiri Imams/ Maulvis with Deobandi Imams. Let them know that in Islam, Jihad must be sanctioned by a state that is truly Islamic. If not, that so-called Jihad is treachery. Similarly, quote Islamic scripture to discredit Pakistan’s role in Kashmir.
  2. Send a group of Kashmiri youth to Deoband to study Islam. I have spoken to Deobandi Islamic scholars and at least three of them have told me that this so-called Kashmiri “Jihad” is a scam and anti-Islamic.
  3. The world is divided to Dar-ul-Harb (house of war) and Dar-ul-Aman (house of peace). If a Muslim can follow his religion freely, without pressure, that land is Dar-ul-Aman. India is an example. If a Muslim cannot follow Islam freely and is subjected to torture and oppression due to his religion, that land is Dar-ul Harb. China is an example. This must be explained. Pakistan, a self-professed Islamic Republic, looks the other way when Chinese Uighur Muslims are targets of state terror and killing. Pakistan does not speak for them, because it accepts money from China.
  4. Kashmiris must ask why Pakistan supports China, a country in which Muslims may not pray or keep fast during Ramzan, where beards are forbidden and Maulvis are forced to dance to retro-Chinese rock music. Offer namaz openly and you are sent to re-education camps.
  5. Start an IPL team for J&K. It will be a masterstroke, trust me. The truth is that Kashmiris are crazily talented. And they have the wrong heroes. Each town must have at least a dozen cricket clubs. Let them compete for lavish prizes. Get the teams touring all over India, playing with state level teams.
  6. Arrest and file cases against Maulvis and Imams who preach violence. The courts must punish them and the sentences must be minimum 15 years of jail outside J&K. There may be temporary unrest and some stone pelting. Understandable and acceptable. Once you have put a few dozen of these rancid Maulvis in jail, the message will go out clearly to everyone.
  7. Ban funeral of terrorists. There is no need to hand over dead bodies of terrorists to their families. No bodies, no funeral gatherings and no Kashmiri politicians to play vulture politics.
  8. Puncture this fake narrative of perceived victimhood. Healthy and gainfully employed Kashmiris have been made to believe that they are victims. This leads to greater acceptance of radical messaging.

Operation Sadhbhavna is bearing dividends, but it must be expanded through the civil administration. I suspect that Indian Army does Op Sadhbhavna in Kashmir for the same reason it builds bridges in Mumbai and pulls out little children from bore wells across India; no other department or agency can plan and execute with the speed, efficiency and transparency of the Indian Army. This is the truth. And this is also the reason why there is no incentive for others to pull their own weight. The army is happy to help and it is the army’s duty to help. But the Indian Army is a sword, not a spade or a shovel.

The Indian Army entered Kashmir because the local administration had failed. For normalcy to return, locals must have faith in the local administration and police. For that, urgent structural reforms are a must. J&K Police is a highly effective force, but poorly paid. Their officers are brave and regularly display commendable leadership. They live in the shadow of danger, but they are amongst the most shabbily treated. This must be the first thing to change. Finally, law and order is a state subject and the J&K Police can only step up if we support it. Housing, proper pay, pensions, social recognition, medical and life insurance, decent uniforms, training, documentation and morale building are immediate requirements. Policemen must know that in the event they are martyred, their families will be taken care of. They must believe that the color of a martyr’s uniform is irrelevant. They must believe that they are not expendable.

Finally, we must have a robust and time bound plan in place to bring back Kashmiri Pandits to the Valley. Without them, Kashmir would be like a body without a soul. It is hypocritical for people of the Valley to seek justice, when they would deny the same justice to the Pandits. To do so would be “munaafqat”, expressly forbidden in Islam. I am against Pandits living in fortified camps, which are just better jails. The perpetrators must be punished, not the victims.

The exodus of the Jews took place 2500 years ago. For two and a half millennia, Jews would gather every Yom Kippur in whichever corner of the world they were, raise a toast and take a vow “Next year in Jerusalem”.

No one should suffer like the Jews did. And Kashmir will never be paradise without the Kashmiri Pandits.

With all humility, I raise my glass in a toast, “Next year in Kashmir”.

Major Gaurav Arya (Veteran)

17th Battalion, The Kumaon Regiment

Indian Army

#MajorGauravArya #NextYearInKashmir #IndianArmy #adgpi

OPEN LETTER TO THE PRIME MINISTER

To,

Sri. Narendra Modi

Prime Minster, Republic of India

7, Lok Kalyan Marg

New Delhi

 

 

Respected Pradhan Mantri ji,

 

As I write these lines, I am fully aware that you may never read them. Also, I have nothing new to say. You have the nation’s intelligence services at your beck and call. The Director Intelligence Bureau briefs you every day. The Secretary R&AW awaits your command. The NSA is on speed dial. A phone call with the three Service Chiefs along with ISRO, and you have access to the kind of information daily, that all the news channels of India combined, will not have in a lifetime.

At the snap of your fingers, India can launch a nuclear strike from the unknown depths of the oceans. Or, you can send flowers of peace to an adversary. What you do is your decision. But as an American author once said about India’s missile program… Agni does not mean Chrysanthemum. It means fire. Dr. Kalam knew exactly what he was building.

So, what can a former junior army officer tell you that you don’t already know? Absolutely nothing. But it is this very insignificance of mine that makes this letter different. I see dark clouds above and difficult times ahead. I seek your intervention.

And this is why I say this.

To our East, Xi Jinping has probably been crowned Emperor of China, even if they still call him President. They say that he will rule till he breathes, with all the power of the Party, Politburo and the PLA concentrated in his hands. This simply means a far more aggressive China led by a man who, in real terms, is not accountable to anyone. While we are still figuring out how to respond, China’s encirclement of India is complete. From bases in South China Sea to the 99-year lease of the Hambantota Port, from PLA warships in Gwadar to the One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative, we are hopelessly surrounded.

To our West, we are dealing with a rouge nuclear-armed army that actually owns a nation of 200 million luckless souls. This army is not accountable to anyone. In 1999, it launched an attack on Kargil, without so much as informing its own Prime Minister. In 1965, it did not deem it necessary to inform its own sister services, the Pakistan Air force and Pakistan Navy that it had launched Operation Gibralter and attacked India in Kashmir. Both the Pakistan Naval and Air Chiefs suspected something was wrong, but their worst fears came true when they heard Madam Noor Jehan singing patriotic songs on radio. That, in Pakistan, usually means war. Or a coup.

Pakistan will supposedly issue, though some say it already has, tens of millions of long-term visas to Chinese nationals to settle in Balochistan for the China Pakistan Economic Corridor projects. According to the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI), by 2048 the majority population of Balochistan will be Chinese. Mandarin is already being taught to Pakistani children, not that they were learning anything useful earlier…and the Yuan will soon be legal tender in Pakistan.

Earlier we had China to the East and Pakistan to the West. We now have China to the East and China to the West. The dragon is moving its tail.

Closer home, there is massive radicalization in Kashmir. From the pulpit of mosques to social media accounts, the Valley is turning Wahhabi with a fierceness not seen earlier. ISIS flags are waved at funerals and clashes.

“Is ISIS really present in Kashmir?” a publisher asked me recently.

“Islamic State is an idea, not a car dealership”, I tried to explain. There may or may not be physical manifestations of this vile idea, but to assume it does not exist just because you can’t see it, would be a gross miscalculation.

If terrorists repose faith in an idea, it is real. Lets not look for overt signs. No one is going to put up neon boards in downtown Srinagar. Its in the speech in the mosque, the terrorist raising his index finger on video, the sign of “Tawheed” or oneness of God, the central monotheistic concept in Islam, it is in the flags draped over terrorists bodies in funerals. Seek, and you shall find.

A good part of the battle for mind-space in Kashmir can be won if we have a narrative. Pakistan has a Kashmir narrative. Hurriyat has a Kashmir narrative. Terror organizations have a Kashmir narrative. All of them push their narrative everyday. And India, which has the most powerful Kashmir narrative based on the absolute truth, is reluctant to even tell its side of the story. So, in the absence of our truth, their lies flourish. Kunan Poshpora. 700,000 troops in Kashmir. Genocide. Disappearances. Mass rapes. Unknown graves. Braid chopping. Flying saucers. Its like Sydney Sheldon has started writing in Kashmiri.

It is important that an urgent narrative around Kashmir is created and pushed. There are a lot of fence sitters in Kashmir. They overtly support the terrorists, but privately hate them. Such is the cost of living in Kashmir. We must give these fence sitters a story; a narrative so powerful and true that it blows away everything in its path. This narrative exists. It is structured around the truth of the UN Resolutions of Kashmir, the truth about the Hurriyat, the truth about the lavish lifestyles of those who scream “azaadi”. Shopping malls, private jets, luxury hotel stays, foreign holidays in Spain and Malaysia…while the hapless population is mired in misery, Asiya Andrabi’s son is found in a 5 star resort in Bangkok, posing for photographs with Hulk Hogan. For the separatists, the blood of the Kashmiris is a credit card with no limit. Keep swiping. Keep killing.

Many Kashmiris support the Hurriyat not because of love or respect, but because Kashmiris have a long history of supporting whoever they perceive as the victor. Kashmiris see Hurriyat winning against the Indian state. They don’t care to know or acknowledge that the Hurriyat exists because the Indian Constitution allows space for dissent. Had Hurriyat tried in Pakistan, a minuscule percentage of what it does in Kashmir, Geelani would have disappeared and the Mirwaiz would have been found under some culvert in a very small gunny sack. In Kashmir there is a very fine, almost invisible, line between fear and respect. Some say there is no such line at all. We must understand these nuances.

Geelani and his cohorts are doing a very fine balancing act. They are indispensible to the Pakistanis and have, somehow, convinced the Indian government that they speak for the Kashmiri people. That credibility must be damaged, not just by NIA raids but also in the heart of the Kashmiri people. This is not difficult to do; the Hurriyat’s credibility is based on falsehood. All we need is to be constant and consistent in cracking the mirror, with truth.

India is plagued by many other challenges. The North East is still simmering. The Left Wing Extremism (LWE) areas, or the Red Corridor, are perhaps India’s greatest internal security challenge. This is a long list. The list will remain long because the people responsible for shortening of this list are bureaucrats.

Your greatest initiative to push India to industrial superstardom, “Make In India” is sputtering to a halt. And the people who are spiking it are your own bureaucrats. Not just the elite of the bureaucracy but the middle and lower level functionaries, too. The entire structure is rotten. They derive their power from stopping progress and denial of permission. They have created these rules and laws to buttress their arguments. Sir, if India has to progress, its bureaucracy must be cut to size.

Before asking countries to invest in India, we must take a step back and take the surgeon’s knife to India’s “babudom”. Let a committee for reforms in bureaucracy, be constituted; a group with wide ranging powers. At the very top, we need technocrats. The miracle of the Delhi Metro happened because of E Sridharan. Had there been a senior bureaucrat in charge, the Delhi Metro would have gone the way of the Tejas LCA.

Our issue is not whether we have meritorious people at the top, or not. The issue is that we have wrong people at the top. And they decide sensitive policy, without having a day’s exposure to the practical aspects of the issue. We have a veritable galaxy of “Paper Tigers” running the administration of India.

When we put the right people at the top, magic happens. ISRO is a miracle because, scientists lead it. The day a senior bureaucrat is appointed Chairman of ISRO; you will receive a beautiful presentation on why ISRO can no longer launch satellites.

It is these very bureaucrats who are killing Make In India, especially in defence manufacturing. May I submit the following process?

Firstly, we must redefine the entire process for selection and purchase of any weapons system. Each item takes decades to order and then decades to reach the soldier. By that time, it is obsolete. Sir, you are aware that two-thirds of all Indian Army equipment is obsolete. Our artillery is 35 years old, simply because we did not order, manufacture or induct a single artillery gun for past 35 years.

Secondly, no one is going to invent any weapons system just for us. All weapons systems that we are importing are being used in some armed force of the world. It should not take more than five years to import even something as sophisticated as a fighter jet. The Air Force knows what it wants. Let them know the budget. They will figure out what they want, test it and then make recommendations to the government. Ditto for other services. But importing is not Make In India, right?

Thirdly, execution is the key. Let us assume that Indian Army wants a new assault rifle. Army knows what it wants, because technical evaluation happens everyday in the Indian Army. It’s not a one-time process for them. Let them shortlist 5 rifles, globally. Let them test all of them simultaneously. Why should rifle trials take a decade? It’s a rifle…just a collection of metal moving parts. In a few months, they should shortlist 3 rifles. Let the negotiations begin. Again, this must be completed in a stipulated time. The selected vendor should be partnered with an Indian company to start manufacturing in India. By the time factory starts production, 15% of rifles can be directly imported. Yes, there has been a greater push for transparency. There should a similar push for speed.

Sir, in the end, they key is not global weapons manufacturers making weapons in India. It is our investment in R&D. We must have an indigenous manufacturing base, which is the result of Indian minds and Indian sweat.

The sooner we shut down our Ordnance Factories, the better it would be for our manufacturing and also the lives of our soldiers. Overpricing and pathetic quality are their hallmarks. In fact, some of their products are so bad that Nepal refuses to take them for free. Yes, Sir. Nepal refused to induct the 5.56 mm INSAS rifle. The rifle is so bad that even if given free, it is too expensive a deal.

India is marching towards global super-power status. But we are like an athlete who runs with an iron ball chained to the feet. Everyone wants the athlete to run faster, but no one is looking at the iron ball. That iron ball is India’s bureaucracy. Unless we hack away at that ball and chain, we will keep dragging out feet. We will keep losing.

The day the top employee and decision maker of every government department is an experienced and qualified subject mater specialist who is duly empowered, things will improve. For you, it’s just a snap of your fingers, but for India it will change everything, just like appointing Sridharan changed the face of Indian urban mobility. We have many Sridharans, impatient to give wings to their dreams of India, but held back by the ball and chain.

Dreams float on an impatient wind

A wind that wants to create a new order

An order of strength and thundering of fire

Dr. APJ Kalam, perhaps India’s greatest ever Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces wrote these lines. It is his dream that we must impatiently pursue, with vigor and renewed resolve.

In Hindi, Agni does not mean Chrysanthemum. It means fire.

The ball and chain must go. Dr. Kalam would approve.

Warm Respects & Regards

Major Gaurav Arya (Retd)

17th Battalion, The Kumaon Regiment

Indian Army

#OpenLetterToThePrimeMinister #IndianArmy #adgpi #MajorGauravArya

 

SOLDIERATHON

He is a doctor. And a power lifter. And a public speaker. And a Limca Book record holder. But ask officers from the Para Regiment and they remember him as a Special Forces officer. All identities have merged into one. Sometimes I feel that he values the Balidan badge more than his MBBS degree. He never speaks about his days at AFMC, Pune. His batch-mates do. Well, you have to be pretty smart to get into AFMC. You would normally associate a geek with such a career option.

What happens when you go to a doctor complaining of a stomachache? The last thing you expect is for the doctor to prescribe a 5 km sprint with 200 push-ups. Not unless you happen to be in Special Forces. And not unless your doctor happens to be a crazy fitness freak who spent his time in operations in Kashmir, rather than some sterile OPD.

Major (Dr.) Surendra Poonia is remembered in his regiment for many things.

“Sir, what about a marathon?” asked Sunny suddenly. We were sitting down at a coffee shop somewhere in New Delhi after attending a veteran’s function in which both of us were invited.

“Well, what about it?” I asked, going for the third large slice of pizza.

“Soldiers are heroes. There must be something by which we can remember them and something that allows an Indian to be a part of their lives”, Sunny said.

“Great idea”, I said, disinterestedly. To be honest, Sunny’s idea of fun is to run 15 kilometers, swim for an hour and then do weights. While I have lots of friends from SF, two of them are especially close to me. The other guy climbs mountains for recreation. This other friend has climbed Mt. Everest twice. Or it is thrice? Well, both my friends are from the same state and the same regiment. Too much of a coincidence!

I, on the other hand, am a bookworm. Eliot, Shelly, Gorky, Dostoevsky, Milton, Dickens, Homer, Verne, Steinbeck and Masters are my companions. I live in the past.

Soon, coffee and pizzas were gulped down and we, with the warm embrace of soldiers, bid goodbye.

Weeks flew by and I was busy traveling for Patriot. My flight landed at T3 in New Delhi and I switched on my phone. Hundreds of WhatsApp messages streamed in. There was just one message from Sunny.

“Jai Hind, Sir. We will call it Soldierathon”.

Suddenly it hit me. The marathon bug had bit deep. It was a reality.

Sunny and a small team of volunteers have worked like people possessed. Content, permission, website, social media, finances…the never-ending cycle of crafting what they want Soldierathon to be; India’s most different marathon.

Soon, serving soldiers joined in. And celebrities. And the not so famous. The sheer pull of Soldierathon is just too strong.

You don’t have to wear a uniform to be a soldier. It’s an emotion. Some have it, some don’t. Those who turn up for Soldierathon on that day are those who wear that emotion on their sleeve.

I will be at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on 11 March 2018, cheering the runners as I gobble up a few miles myself. I have another responsibility, too. I will have to keep reminding Sunny that he is the creator and organizer of Soldierathon, and not just a participant. He has called a few of his Para SF friends to take part in Soldierathon. Yes, the same guys who run miles and climb mountains for fun. With them, you never know.

See you there, friends. And there is still time…you can register here http://www.soldierathon.com/register/

Jai Hind.

Major Gaurav Arya (Veteran)

#Soldierathon #MajorGauravArya #IndianArmy

 

52 SECONDS

We must learn to separate the government from the nation. While our relationship with the government may be transactional, our relationship with our nation is anything but. The ashes of our forefathers are part of the heat and dust of India. The symbols of this nation are our roots that bind us, mostly with love and sometimes with duty. And trees with the weakest roots fall first.

Like it or not, this is a global world only on social media. You might use terms like “global citizen” for yourself, but that just means you have more frequent flier miles than the next person. You still need a visa to enter a country. We have borders. You may not like it, but those borders must be guarded. That man who guards the border believes in a cause. And he believes in it deeply enough to stand in harms way while I send a Tweet in the middle of a debate, or you snuggle up with coffee and sit in judgment.

A soldier is not better than a teacher or a trader. But he is equally important. And so are the values he holds dear.

Where the anthem is played is something that the courts or the government will finally decide. That is not up to us. But when the anthem is played, we must stand. That is our duty. Our anthem is a potent symbol of a living nation. It is the soul of our nationhood. It is the very definition of our freedom.

And freedom is not free.

Read full article here: http://www.republicworld.com/s/19569/if-you-cant-stand-for-the-national-anthem-dont-expect-me-to-stand-for-youMajor Gaurav Arya

#52Seconds #MajorGauravArya #IndianArmy #adgpi

RIFLES AND SHOES

There was a time when the British Army used the SA80 (L85A1) combat rifle. So terrible was the rifle that they called it The Civil Servant. Well, it wouldn’t work and you couldn’t fire it. And in this humorous anecdote, there are stories within stories.

The Indian Army is suffering from crippling shortages of ammunition, equipment and weapons, and frankly the backlog is so huge that the government will take many years before things are right. Its not that we don’t have money; we do. But we also have the most inefficient bureaucracy in the world, which we have inflicted upon ourselves. Read the recent CAG report tabled in Parliament and feel those little things crawl up your arm. Our “babucracy” has not just destroyed the past; it has cast an eclipse upon the future, too.

Lets look at the government’s Make In India program. It’s a powerful initiative. Not only is it expected to generate millions of jobs; it also aims to make India self-reliant. So, why can’t a nation, which is a three trillion dollar economy, the fastest growing economy on earth and the third largest economy globally, provide good shoes to its army? Or a decent helmet? Or a bulletproof jacket? Or a good rifle? Or a decent disruptive uniform that does not differ from unit to unit, trouser to shirt?

The defence budget is touching almost USD 50 billion a year. We have another USD 500 billion lined up for modernization of the armed forces. As the Americans would say, “we have enough money to float a boat”.

Here is some information with you. The Ordnance Factory Board, a group of 41 factories, which are responsible for manufacturing weapons, ammunition, large trucks and thousands of types of equipment for the Indian Army, have a land bank of thousands of acres (by some estimates 80,000 acres, though this is unverified). It has tens of thousands of employees. It is the largest government operated production organization in the world. And it almost always produces third-rate weapons and equipment. OFB manufactured mosquito nets wont sell in the market, and the blankets will give you rashes. The quality of ammunition is pathetic and the Nepal Army has junked the INSAS 5.56 mm rifles. They don’t want it, even for free. And the INSAS 5.56 mm, my dear readers, is the main battle rifle of the Indian Army.

Many Indian Army soldiers and officers buy their own shoes, because the quality of shoes made by OFB is so bad that they fall apart in some time, after having substantially damaged your feet. I met a Para SF officer wearing high, thick-soled beige shoes, very similar to what US Navy Seals wear. I asked him, “Is the supply getting better?” He smiled and responded, “Sir, they cost me a lot of money. I asked my friend to get them from US. If I am going to be operating across the LoC, I want to be thinking about the mission, not my shoes”. Touché.

Quite frankly, the Ordnance Factory Board is a basket case. Had it been a private company, it would have shut down long back.

There are two keys to this entire enterprise. One, rather than focusing on Make In India, the government should focus primarily on removing red tape, with a military-mission like focus. Because with our kind of bureaucracy, there will be no Make In India. If it needs an Act of Parliament, so be it. Be ruthless with red tape and bureaucrats. Start sacking those who don’t deliver. Revisit each and every process and align it to the Indian Army, who is the customer and end user. The army moves at blinding speed. It needs a partner who can keep pace. A Cheetah’s racing partner cannot be an overweight snail.

The second key is best illustrated with an example. Lets assume that the Indian Army wants a new assault rifle. The process for acquiring the new rifle should be this:

  1. Indian Army to prepare detailed specifications for the rifle, but from existing rifles, already in the global market. No demands for interchangeable barrels to be entertained. Go with a fully automatic 7.62 mm assault rifle.
  2. Call the world’s top 5 weapons manufacturers who can meet the specifications.
  3. After checking weapon against specifications, ask companies to send rifles with ammunition, for trials to Infantry School, MHOW. Trails to last for 4 months only.
  4. Indian Army will be required to shortlist 3 rifles from the 5 that are under trial. These 3 shortlisted companies will submit their quote.
  5. The army will negotiate the best deal from the three vendors. However, in the end, the clear directions will be to give the contract to Q1 and not L1. Meeting cost targets does not mean compromise on quality.
  6. This entire process must be completed in 6 months and the Purchase Order given. 15% of the rifles to be fully imported and 85% to be under the Make In India program with a local Indian partner.
  7. The first set of imported rifles must land in India (part of 15%) by the end of the 8th month, from the day the specifications were floated. It may be a small number initially, but it must be handed over to the army.
  8. By the end of the 8th month, physical work on ground (factory construction) must start. Government must ensure ready land availability, in advance.
  9. With high-end pre-fabricated structures, the factory can be completed in 6 months time. Another 6 months for finishes, equipment & machinery.
  10. Shift in machines, raw material and equipment and start production.

We can start production in 18 months from the date the initial specifications for the assault rifle were given. Fairytale? No. China does this everyday. We have the same capabilities as China and far better engineers. But what China has, and we don’t, is intent and discipline. And that cannot be purchased with all the money in the world.

Any purchase process must bring the best equipment at the lowest possible rate and as quickly as possible, to the soldier. Any other process or rule contrary to this must go.

Back to the OFB, what business does the government have making quilts, mosquito nets, water bottles and shoes? Or for that matter artillery shells and tanks? Lockheed Martin makes fighter jets and is not a government organisation. Huntington Ingalls Industries is not a government company and it makes the biggest aircraft carriers in the world. This is true for rifles, tanks and…socks. We are still following the old Soviet model, long after the demise of the Soviet Union.

Make In India will only be successful when we are brutal in cutting away flab and bureaucracy. That has to be step one. The structure has to be lean and mean. It has to move fast and be nimble. OFB is a dinosaur. The Indian Army buys from OFB because it has no choice. If the army selects a rifle from an international vendor, the OFB steps in saying, “We can make a better rifle which is much cheaper”. That is often the end of the Indian Army’s foreign adventure. That rifle which OFB promised to make never sees the light of day. And if it does, it’s called an INSAS.

We will be militarily sovereign when we do not depend on any nation for the most advanced weapons systems. I refuse to believe that Indians who power the global engines of Google, Microsoft, Apple, SAP Labs and almost all the world’s top technology companies, do not have the capability to design defence software. Or that a country that can send a mission to Mars in its first attempt, finds it beyond its capacity to design an armed drone. Or a shoe.

The problem with OFB is that it knows it is assured of business even before the demand is placed. They make an extremely shoddy product and they get paid. Aren’t you envious of this business model?

What we need is an increasing participation of private players in defence manufacturing in India. We don’t have the technology, but we can get it through technology transfer. We need to achieve critical mass in defence manufacturing. We cannot achieve it by continued reliance on the Ordnance Factory Board. Make In India can make our nation a defence export powerhouse, but we need to get rid of red tape and needless bureaucracy. We have too many rules in India. And we have too little to show for them.

Sure, the culture is changing for the better, but it is not changing fast enough. Our obsession with bureaucracy and red tape is exposing our national security to flanking attacks. We have two choices; we either become as invention-centric as the Americans or as disciplined as the Chinese. There is no third way. It has been done in India before. The Delhi Metro is an example of what we can do, once we make up our minds. So is ISRO, and to a large extent, DRDO. Lets look deep within us. There is a Sarabhai, a Sreedharan or a Kalam somewhere, straining at the shackles that tie him down…straining to break free. Sometimes I imagine Dr. Kalam speaking to India…

Dreams float on an impatient wind,

A wind that wants to create a new order,

An order of strength, and thundering of fire.

– Dr. APJ Kalam, Supreme Commander of the Indian Armed Forces.

If we want to sit at the high table of the United Nations Security Council, we must start acting the part. Superpowers think big and act bigger. Global projection of military might is a large part of being a superpower. For too long we have hankered for global respect, but respect is not enough. The world must fear us. For that, we must first put our house in order. Anything that stops us from becoming a superpower must be rejected. Mammoth bureaucracies like the OFB are some of the many roadblocks on our road to superpower status. They must go, and they must go now.

It is then that we will be able to look that Para SF officer in the eye and tell him, “Defend the nation. Do your duty. And don’t worry about your shoes.”

Major Gaurav Arya (Veteran)

#MajorGauravArya #SubmarinesAndSocks #adgpi

Disclaimer:

I have not discussed WWR, weapon induction or other technical issues, as I believe that they are not something that is meant for the public domain. Recently, the CAG put up a comprehensive report on the floor of Parliament and pointed a direct finger at the gross inadequacies of OFB, and the media covered it. While the Parliament must be briefed on all issues by CAG, inviting the media was a mistake. These are sensitive national security issues.

I have refrained from commenting on issues that IAF and IN may have.

OFB exports to a few countries, but those exports are a minuscule part of its revenues. My view is that Indian diplomacy must be commended substantially for this, rather than OFB quality.

Land bank and employee strength of OFB remains unverified. At some places, the employee strength is stated as 83,000 and at others, 164,000. I am not aware of the truth.

MAD. QUITE MAD.

Legend has it that a peculiar case of a maverick British army officer was brought to the notice of Field Marshall Montgomery, during the Second World War. Monty, as he was known, saw the file and smiled. “Mad. Quite mad”. This officer was of Scottish descent, and that, to many, seemed like explanation enough. The matter ended there.

David Sterling was “mad, quite mad”, and from this madness, or genius, there being marginal difference between the two, sprung the idea of a small group of men, vehicle mounted, who would drive into the desert shooting up German aircraft, while they were parked in the airfield. The Second World War was raging, and ideas were in short supply.

Claude Auchinleck, the then Commander-in-Chief of the British forces, blessed this mad enterprise. A small unit was born. It created merry hell for the Germans. Sterling would appear at airfields riding Jeeps, shoot up many aircraft as he and his men could, and vanish. On a warm July night of 1942, his team drove 18 Jeeps to the Sidi Haneish airstrip in Egypt, and destroyed 37 aircraft, all in one night. Ervin Rommel, the Desert Fox, called him The Phantom Major. The legend grew.

David Sterling was the father of the elite SAS or the Special Air Service. And the SAS is the father of modern Special Forces. In the world of motion picture driven, testosterone fuelled Special Forces narratives; people throw about names like Seal Team and Delta Force. Not many realize that in many ways, when it comes to good old killing, there is still no one better than the SAS. In public imagination, SAS loses out; one of the many disadvantages of not being from the Hollywood country.

Lt Col Megh Singh was an Indian Army officer who was once Court Martialed and demoted to the rank of Major. After successful raids into Pakistan in September of 1965, he was again promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Originally from 3rd Battalion, Brigade of the Guards, he strongly believed that a small group of men, highly trained, motivated and equipped could create absolute havoc inside enemy territory. He believed in this theory so much that he walked up to Lt. Gen. Harbaksh Singh and presented him with this proposal. Soon, Lt. Gen. Harbaksh Singh also believed.

Since the force was ad-hoc, it was named after its founder Lt. Col. Megh Singh. It was called “Meghdoot Force”. After the war, the government was so impressed with the performance of this ad-hoc unit, Lt. Col. Megh Singh was directed to raise a special mission unit. On 1 July 1966, 9 Battalion (Commando) was raised in Gwalior. In June 1967, 9 Battalion (Commando) was split into two, and 10 Battalion (Commando) was raised. In 1969, both these units were re-designated as 9 Para (Commando) and 10 Para (Commando).

1978 saw another addition to the roll of honour. 1 Para (Punjab) was converted to 1 Para (Commando).

As the Para Commando battalions grew in stature, they grew in numbers. Today, Indian Army Para Special Forces stand at nine battalions strong. 1 Para SF, 2 Para SF, 3 Para SF, 4 Para SF, 9 Para SF, 10 Para SF, 11 Para SF, 12 Para SF and 21 Para SF complete this pantheon of devils.

Para SF battalions operate in the shadows. Very rarely do we hear their names mentioned in the media, unless the government specifically wants to drive home a message, like in the case of the surgical strikes.

Para Special Forces are the best of the best of the Indian Army. They are truly unique. Each man is selected because he fits a certain groove that the unit has created and nurtured. When officers undergo probation, they do so with Other Ranks. There is no difference, during probation, between officer and soldier. They shed the “same blood in the same mud”, as the marines would say. When an officer is selected (less than five percent make it), everyone has a say, including the NCOs and jawans. In Para SF, the men have a right to choose who will lead them. If an NCO who is already in Para SF (and is part of the team conducting the probation) feels that the officer who is under probation does not fit into the unit, he can voice his opinion and his opinion will be honored. The officer will be sent back to his parent unit. Very few are worthy of the BALIDAN badge.

Why is the Para SF different in terms of the way they approach army hierarchy? Simply because they operate in small teams and officers and men spend days on end in operations, cheek by jowl. There is no space for ceremony or rank. Para SF units are also unique in that the NCO is an independent leader. He leads a squad of 5+1 and can direct and lead an operation by himself. He is professionally competent to manage the “fog of war”. Special Forces seek Officer Like Qualities in NCOs; qualities like leadership, initiative, operational integrity and commitment, to name a few.

But this article is not about how good the Para SF is. It is about how badly they are equipped and used.

Unfortunately, our own understanding of our Special Forces capabilities is limited. Many a time, Para SF is used in a tactical role. They are strategic assets. They should not, and cannot be used tactically. You cannot have a Para SF house entry in a CASO (Cordon and Search Operation). That is something that infantry Ghataks must do. Keep Para SF out of day-to-day Counter Terror operations. They are the nations’ trump card. To use them tactically would be to blunt their edge. We have never nurtured our Special Forces, and our attitude is like having a Katana and using it to adorn a wall. Quite frankly, we don’t know what to do with them most of the times.

Special Forces have very little in common with the Para Airborne units, except that they are part of the same regiment and jump out of planes. They need to be de-hyphenated. In fact, I would go so far as to say that Special Forces should not be considered a part of infantry at all. It must be recognized as a separate Arm of the Indian Army, like the infantry, armored corps or artillery.

In the current scenario, and with the Special Forces Command still a few years away, the Para SF battalions, clubbed together as a singular operational entity, must be headed by a Major General rank officer, who must have a direct line of reporting to the COAS. He can have a dotted line reporting to the DGMO.

Another issue that plagues the Indian Army Para Special Forces is the lack of equipment and weapons. They still use the Maruti Gypsy. They use the 7.62 mm Galil sniper rifle that cannot kill beyond 800-1000 meters. They have most of their kit supplied by the Ordnance Factory Board. I don’t wish to dwell upon the OFB, because that needs another article altogether. Their main weapon is the TAR 21 Tavor, a 5.56 mm Israeli assault rifle. It’s a fine weapon, except that it does not have the punch of a 7.62 mm. And that punch is needed. They need good anti-material rifles and long range sniper rifles. They need world-class communication equipment. Best in class mini-subs and underwater demolition technology must be put in their hands. In essence, they need the technology of tomorrow.

We need to free the Para SF from the mind-bending bureaucracy of the Defence Ministry. They need to be able to purchase their own weapons at short notice. It should not take two years for a new rifle to be inducted. It should take two months for the first lot to be inducted. A Para SF unit should be able to order weapons and equipment off the shelf. They should be using modified Land Rovers for movement, and not Maruti Gypsies. The list is long. But know this…if you want our Para SF to perform like the SAS or Seal Team 6, you have to treat them like that. Forget about dedicated satellites and combat drones. I am just asking for the basics.

Special Forces should ideally work in very close coordination with RAW. If they are indeed to be truly successful, the lines between special ops and intelligence must be blurred. SAS works hand in glove with MI 6 and Seal Teams work very, very closely with CIA. In India, we are unfortunately busy with bigger things like turf wars.

While they do go for foreign training, it must be substantially ramped up. Para SF must train regularly with US Army Special Forces, Navy Seals, Sayeret Matkal and with the granddaddy of them all, the SAS. The Spetsnaz is again gaining momentum after a few decades of flux. We could learn from them and also teach them a trick or two.

Para SF needs dedicated airlift capability and helicopters on standby. The Indian Air Force has the capability. All we need is better coordination. The list is long and perhaps endless, because new technology keeps entering the battle-space. They will need to keep upgrading.

If we do this much, India will have a tremendously potent weapon in its hands. It will be like the legendary “Brahmastra” from Hindu mythology. All the Prime Minister of India will have to do is pick up the phone and approve a mission. And Indians will no longer ask questions like, “Why can’t we take out Hafiz Saeed and Dawood Ibrahim?” And the answer to the question, “Can we get Kulbhushan Jadhav back?” will then have been answered. Special Forces can plan and execute at a ghostly pace.

It will not be long before a senior general from the Indian Army looks at the plan and smiling gently to himself, says “Mad. Quite mad.”

Major Gaurav Arya (Veteran)

#MajorGauravArya #MadQuiteMad #adgpi #IndianArmy

Disclaimer: This article does not discuss other special forces like MARCOS and Garud. Till the time the Special Forces Command is formed, such a discussion is of little use. NSG is under the Home Ministry. SFF & SG are under the Cabinet Secretariat, and function in another orbit. While Indian Army personnel staff them, they are not under command the army.