The response to my last article “THE OTHERS” has been overwhelming. Many CAPF officers wrote to me congratulating me on a job well done, and for putting out in public domain what has been brushed under the carpet for decades. They felt they were ready for leadership positions in their respective forces. A few however felt that getting an Army General, as the Director General of the force would do no good. I did explain to many CAPF officers that this was said in a certain context, the overall tightening of China’s claw and other direct national security challenges. If such national security challenges were not to exist, I would be very happy to step back, withdraw my arguments, and let status quo be.
Many IPS officers also wrote to me. Some chided me gently, telling me that there were many factors involved and perhaps things were not as simple as I had made them out to be. Point granted, Sirs. Some messages were extremely personal and nasty, devoid of logic and coherence. They had nothing to do with the debate at hand.
Mr. Abhinav Kumar, an IPS officer currently serving as IG in BSF wrote a “rebuttal” to my article and made it extremely personal. He pointed out to my lack of experience in the Army. He then jumped to the fact that the Indian Army has a colonial DNA, with emphasis on the “paltan”. He blamed the larger tribe of defence veterans, who he said had no other work but to pass “sweeping generalizations” about politicians, the bureaucracy and police. He also said that army officers believed that their institution was greater than the country it served.
For good measure, he asked what the Indian Army was doing to curb corruption in its various departments, thus pointing a direct finger on the integrity of a highly respected institution. This, as usual, without facts and data. Then adding controversy to bizarre logic, he wondered if my views had tacit support from a section of serving officers of the Indian Army. Mr. Abhinav Kumar, IPS went on and on for several pages. No logic. No debate. No data. Just a rambling soliloquy, bordering on the ridiculous, almost all of it personal.
Insidiously, Mr. Abhinav Kumar, IPS turned this into an Army v/s Police issue, quietly appropriating the entire police force of the nation. While I only mentioned the IPS serving in the CAPFs, he tried to deliberately mislead his readers into believing that my article was about the entire police force and that this was some sort of an inter-departmental rivalry.
Anyone who has read THE OTHERS will tell you that the article was only about CAPFs having their own cadre, in light of our current national security challenges. The part about CAPF officers resenting the presence of IPS officers is from my personal experience. The new crop of CAPF officers is highly qualified. They are from the top engineering and liberal arts colleges from across the nation. They will not be talked down to. “I will be your boss because I passed an exam many, many years back” is looking like a weaker argument with each passing day.
But if you put a 6 feet tall man in a 3 feet tall cage, after a few years what you will get is a hunchback. That is what is being done to CAPF officers.
As Twitter heated up, the IPS Association jumped in, using various platforms to build public opinion. The water was muddied, deliberately. Not one IPS officer commented about why the CAPF could not have their own cadre officer as DG of the force. They deliberately steered away from even debating this point.
It has been an interesting week.
I first thought about writing this article, THE OTHERS, a couple of weeks back when I read that Hambantota Port in Sri Lanka was on a 99 year lease to the Chinese. China is making its military presence felt in the South China Sea, flying fighter jets over sovereign Japanese territory. A port in Africa is coming up. Pakistan stands compromised, and if anyone thinks that the Gwadar Port is a purely commercial venture, we are in greater danger than we know. A railway line will soon connect China with Europe.
If India has to counter China, we must operate abroad. The Indian Armed Forces must step outside India. We must have foreign bases, or we shall become insignificant. Not going to Afghanistan was a smart move. Afghanistan is a graveyard for foreigners, masquerading as a country. But we must have a presence in Africa. We must have a base in Central Asia, and not just an Air Force base. We must have a tri-services base. Farkhor Air Base could be expanded.
What happens if we deploy the Indian Armed Forces outside the country? The CAPFs will have to step up and take charge of significant portions of the Line of Control and Line of Actual Control. This will bring them face to face with the Pakistan Army and the Chinese Army. They will need training and equipment to repel this threat. While CAPFs possess excellent manpower and leaders, they do not possess the kind of weapons and equipment needed to fight along the LoC and LAC. They must have those weapons.
If the Constitution does not mandate such a role for the Armed Forces or the CAPFs, then we must think about an amendment. It has been done before. It must be done again, keeping national security imperatives in mind. The Chinese will not shy away from squeezing us just because we have laws that mandate a certain charter for a force. The Chinese don’t care about our laws. The truth is that the Chinese nation moves like lightening. We, on the other hand, quote laws, paragraphs and sub-sections and find emotional sustenance in intellectual gymnastics.
It was in this context that the posting of an Army general to CAPFs was suggested; NOT to boss over a force, but to train and lead them for a fixed period of time so that they can hold their own against the Pakistan Army along the LoC and the Chinese Army along the Line of Actual Control. I personally dislike the Pakistan Army but my dislike is not based on illogical emotional bearings. The Pakistan Army is a professional army. Its shenanigans are many, and its coups, legendary. It lacks morality. But it is a professional army. And only a professional army can counter another professional army.
England was perhaps the size of present day Uttar Pradesh, when it ruled over much of the known world. Had they stayed inside and not ventured out of that island that they call home, they would be as significant as The Democratic Republic of Congo. Every militarily powerful country operates outside its geographical borders. There is no other road to military power. We cannot hope to sit at the high table of the United Nations Security Council and be inward looking, at the same time. That table is for warriors, not saints.
It is unfortunate that some IPS officers who wrote to me couldn’t look beyond conspiracy theories of turf and influence. I was speaking about national security, not about who could get a plum posting.
I have the greatest respect for the IPS. As I mentioned before, my father is an IPS officer, now retired. I have grown up seeing khaki. But what is right is right. And what is wrong can never be right. I also hold that the Home Secretary of a state must be an IPS officer, but that is a debate for another day.
I left the Indian Army in 1999, but I still owe my loyalty to that institution. If there are a few people who know my name today, it is only because of the Indian Army. Yet, I would never say, “Make an Army General the DGP of a state police force”. That would be an unmitigated disaster. There are far easier ways of committing hara-kiri. The Army is a force created for offensive operations. The police are required to be more contained, as they handle mind-boggling day-to-day issues of law enforcement that an army officer may not be fit or trained for.
Mr. Abhinav Kumar, IPS mentioned that IPS officers created all CAPFs. He took the names of the legendary Mr. KF Rustamji and Mr. Ashwini Kumar, saying that without them the BSF would not have been what it is today. I agree. They were giants. They created and led the finest and the single largest border guarding force on earth.
But what I am saying is totally different. I am a Defence Analyst and crystal gazing is part of my job. “If” forms a very large part of my vocabulary, as it should. When that “if” becomes a reality, then I start getting very worried. China surrounding India has already happened. Should we keep fighting turf wars and saying khaki is better than Olive Green? Or vice versa?
Recently, China officially announced that it has “created” 290,000 square meters (72 acres) of land in the disputed South China Sea area. Mostly it is land reclamation. It has installed advanced radars and built an airstrip. According to The Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FPCCI), by 2048 Baluchistan will become a Chinese majority province. Baluchistan is 44% of Pakistan’s landmass. In simple terms, it means that the next three decades, almost half of Pakistan’s landmass will have a majority population that is Chinese.
Gwadar is about 800 kilometers from India. We are going to have Chinese nuclear submarines and the Liaoning, China’s aircraft carrier in our neighborhood. The Chinese Yuan is set to be legal tender in Pakistan. Media in Pakistan says that each day, thousands of long-term visas are being issued to the Chinese. By some Pakistani media estimates, over 20 million long-term visas will issued to Chinese nationals by 2020. That is about 10% of Pakistan’s total population.
Yesterday, we had China to the East and Pakistan to the West. Today, we have China to the East and China to the West. If we continue to be spectators, we will get the reward most spectators do – a ringside view and popcorn. And we would have asked for it.
Mr. Abhinav Kumar, IPS says that I am calling for the “militarization of police forces”. This is distilled hogwash. I have done no such thing. The state police, the actual police force, are a matter I never broached. Militarization of CAPFs is something that will have to be done, IF the Armed Forces increasingly operate outside the country. If the army substantially withdraws from the LoC, who will fill the vacuum?
BSF guards India’s international borders. A vast majority of its weapons, at the battalion level, are exactly like those of an Indian Army infantry unit. Its organization structure – section, platoon, Rifle Company, battalion – is almost a mirror image of an Indian Army infantry battalion, with minor differences. Its training précis are mostly Indian Army, the Dogra Regiment précis being the most popular. Their officers and men attend a variety of army professional courses. The BSF holds ground, both tactically and strategically. During war, it fights alongside the Indian Army. Ditto for the ITBP. And these forces have Acts & Rules, which are far closer to the Army Act than Indian Police Act of 1861. If the BSF still looks like a police force to anyone, then I tender sincere apologies.
My point is this – CAPFs are very different from the police, and while till the battalion level they may seem, at least structurally, similar to Indian Army, they are different. Hence, they deserve their own identity. Their identity cannot, and should not, be linked to the army or police.
CAPFs must have far better infrastructure and facilities than they currently do. Forces like the CRPF have roles that are mind-bogglingly complex. Yet, they are treated like stepchildren. CAPFs must have a structured promotion policy, without the pressure of “stagnation”. You can’t have a 55-year-old Inspector leading a platoon, or a Deputy Commandant waiting for 12 years for a promotion. It defies logic. Those who don’t make it to the next rank must be sidestepped into other services where they can contribute. Otherwise, they must retire. CAPFs need to be all lean muscle. For that they need massive support. CAPF officers and men need to be given pensions. Their pay and allowances are below par. That must be rectified. They must be publically honored and acknowledged.
Rather than an undue reliance on CAPFs during times of crisis, the state police must work on realizing the vision of Mr. Prakash Singh, IPS and also the 2006 landmark Supreme Court judgment on reforms in the police. The Indian Police Act of 1861 belongs in the Jurassic Park. It has no place in modern India. Perhaps when the center and the state wake up and decide to get their act together, the local police will actually depend significantly less on CAPFs. At least that should be the aim.
Finally, about my having a short stint in the army and hence not being “fit to comment” on big issues; well, I have interacted with Chiefs of Army Staff, Army Commanders, Corps Commanders and good old Sepoy Bhoop Singh. This issue never came up. In the Indian Army, if you speak logic and can back up your arguments with facts, no one looks at the brass on your shoulder. If you speak hogwash, no amount of brass on your shoulder will save you from contempt. We are like this because the difference between the lies and truth is often the only difference between life and death. Such is our trade.
Thank heavens Mr. Abhinav Kumar, IPS and Capt. Liddle Hart have lived in different times. Otherwise, Capt. Liddle Hart would have been asked to “shut up” because he had very few years of service, and “would have at best commanded a company”.
Now, if there has to be a rebuttal to this article, let it also contain a roadmap on how the CAPFs can finally have a Director General from their own cadre. If that elephant in the room is not addressed, then what remains is Nitrous Oxide. I believe it is also called laughing gas.
My roadmap, for whatever it is worth, is on record.
Major Gaurav Arya (Veteran)
17th Battalion, The Kumaon Regiment
#MajorGauravArya #Riposte #adgpi #IndianArmy