BATTEN THE HATCHES

The surgical strikes on the terror camps in POK by the Indian Army post the Uri terror attack came as a shot in the arm, not only for the armed forces but also for the people of India.Post Independence, Gandhi’s path of non-violence (an effective tool under very different circumstances) and Nehru’s concept of Asian solidarity, became India’s instruments of foreign policy, to address India’s security concerns. The notion that peaceful co-existence would prevail and dialogue would ease tensions amongst states, was misplaced, and sadly did not take into account the reality of real politics. India was perceived as a soft state and treated as such, despite its growth as an economic power, it’s incredible and acknowledged technical capability, its acquisition of sophisticated armaments and its nuclear capability.

That image invited foreign aggression- three wars and three conflicts, all with our so called ‘friendly neighbours’! To add insult to injury, a series of terror strikes and neighbourabetted insurgency has been progressively chipping away at our men and material. A nation of more than a billion people, the world’s third largest Army and the world’s fourth largest Air Force, appeared as an impotent wimp in the eyes of the world. That image changed with the surgical strikes carried out on 29 September 2016 – a product of a change in government. Three years down the line, the Narendra Modi led NDA government continues to exhibit the will to act firmly in national interest,showing the world that transition in the Indian ethos has arrived. Notwithstanding the detractors, the proverbial basket of crabs, each pulling the other down (as Maharishi Sadguru sadly laments),the government has shown that it has the ‘will’ to act firmly when required- and that sharp and punishing action would be meted out to the perpetrators of terrorism and those who threatened national security. The image of the ‘national will’ had been restored.

India’s growing power, both economic and military has undoubtedly increased its visibility. While Manmohan Singh, as Prime Minister said little, his statement that India’s interests range from the Gulf of Aden in the west to the Malacca Straits in the east, from the Indian Ocean to the Central Asian plateau in the north, marked a major sphere of influence and responsibility. Garuda had spread its wings. Faced with a plethora of threats, both external and internal, across the conflict continuum, as also the need to provide succour to the Indian diaspora and deal with the impact of crises within the region and beyond, national security is indeed a tall order. While international pressure would influence actions in an integrated and interdependent world, confrontation and conflict can never be ruled out. If it were to happen, there is no doubt that it would be short and sharp (and hopefully below the nuclear threshold). The rapid progress in technology will not only make the conflict more challenging but unpredictable, requiring calibrated and flexible responses in a swiftly changing and elastic environment. It is evident that airpower, with its inherent characteristics, would be the instrument that is most suited to address such responses. Its sheer capability to execute and assist in parallel operations, its speed, lethality and ability to create strategic effects while lending its strength and capabilities to other elements, make airpower the ‘Sword Arm’ of the government. But for total effect, airpower must be used judiciously with other disciplines and in a multi-dimensional spectrum to bring national power to bear on the enemy. Thus jointness, and the synergy arising from it, is the way forward.

Conflicts between countries in today’s world are few and far between. But what is more troublesome and probably the bigger challenge is countering the lower end of the spectrum of conflict – variously described as Fourth Generation Warfare (4GW)/ Sub-Conventional/ Asymmetric Warfare. This remains the multi-headed hydra that is the scourge of all the problems across the globe. The variables thrown up in terms of area, method, source, nature, time and worst of all the suicide bombers (with visions of 72 virgins) have exacerbated the problem. Addressing and suppressing/ exterminating the protagonists is a major issue. Few countries today are free from radical elements indulging in bombing, mayhem and carnage. It has become a way of life. The steady and constant attacks on men and material fritter away national assets. We need to put our heads together and apply concepts and technology designed for specific environments to weed out the unwanted elements and ensure national security is not jeopardised.

An alumnus of NDA and DSSC, Air Mshl Sumit Mukerji has served the IAF as a fighter pilot with distinction He has commanded three units, a MiG-29 Sqn, a MiG-25 SR Sqn and TACDE (considered the ‘Top Gun’ school of the IAF) and also served as the Air Attaché in Washington DC. He retired in 2011 as the AOC-in-C of Southern Air Command.

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