A very relevant subject has been touched upon by Gen. Sudhir Sharma in his article “Be Distinct” in SALUTE – Feb- Mar 17. Besides the valid points highlighted, one wonders if there is a planned strategy to equate the Army with other uniformed forces. The media plays a very dubious role — deliberate or lack of knowledge — they loosely use the terms soldier, jawan, security forces, armed forces, martyr, — further blurring the difference between various forces. It has already done tremendous damage and will do irreparable damage in the long term. Time for the Army to come out strongly against this sad state of affairs and take a strong stand to differentiate the roles within the uniformed forces and equally importantly, fight the perception battle by insisting on different uniform, badges of rank and so on. While we commend and respect the service and sacrifice of other uniformed services it is imperative in national interest that army names, terms and method of referring are not replicated by others.We have to do it in national interest.
—Maj Gen P Rajagopal, AVSM, VSM
One reason we are viewed in friendly light by Afghans is that we are not in direct contact with them, unlike the Pakistanis who are next door neighbours and using their proximity to meddle in Afghan affairs. Pakistan mostly uses proxies, though some reports indicate that on some missions, Pakistan regular troops slipped in as Taliban and fought the Afghan Army. The second reason is that Afghanistan has four major ethnicities: Tajiks, Uzbeks, Shia Hazaras and the dominant Pakhtuns who also spill across the Durand line in Khyber- Pakhtunkhwa. Injecting Indian troops into this volatile tribal mix will certainly alienate us from many groups. We had supported Uzbeks & Tajiks during the last uprising that overthrew the Taliban. So a section of Pakhtuns would certainly resent Indian troops presence. Finally there is geopolitics. Such actions would certainly incense Pakistan, which has consistently feared Indian presence in their ‘strategic depth’. Pakistan will respond with increasing belligerence in J&K, and so would China and perhaps the Russians too. Would we not find it tough to contain the fall-out?
This refers to Point-Counterpoint: Should India deploy troops in Afghanistan, SALUTE: Mar-Apr 2017. I totally agree with you on the point that we should not send troops to Afghanistan unless it happens under blue helmet (UN). We should continue with developmental assistance, giving weapons and training to their forces, humanitarian aid and diplomatic support. US has been asking for it since they entered Afghanistan but the multinational operation was without UN sanction, and unilaterally launched.The point of consideration is that it doesn’t help us any way. A large number of countries have already created enough confusion there, and let us not add on to that. It is unlikely to be a consensus decision in India for various reasons. Militarily we have our hands full to handle two and a half fronts after CPEC. Why add one more front which is totally detached and can be a vulnerability?
—Maj Gen Shashi Asthana
I have gone through both the viewpoints very seriously (Point-Counterpoint: SALUTE: Mar-Apr 2017). I am of the opinion that India should make a way out in between both of the viewpoints, fairly provided by the very experienced personalities of the Indian armed forces. Both the strategies have their own strengths and weaknesses. So we have to make a way out in between. We cannot leave the things at this stage.
Our involvement in Afghanistan has a limited strategic aim, that is to keep Pakistan unsettled. We are achieving that aim quite satisfactorily. The Indian troops cannot get embroiled on ground in Afghanistan which is a bugger’s muddle right now. Keep helping Afghanistan build up their infrastructure, and we will have their goodwill on our side.
Dear Sir, Thank you for two well written articles on whether India should deploy troops in Afghanistan in Point-Counterpoint. The sensible answer to this issue is that India should not do so, due to lack of connectivity. We should however, maintain our level of involvement in the country to the present levels. However, we need to keep in mind the growing economic, military and diplomatic clout of India, and therefore, it may be in our interest to progressively increase our presence in Afghanistan. There appears to be no reason why India cannot supply them arms and ammunition, deploy training and advisory teams and if the situation demands build up the strength to a division. —Ravindra Dixit
We don’t want another Sri Lanka! India must stay out of Afghanistan for good reason! What it can do is to train and equip the Afghanistan Army. Let them fight their wars, but provide them with weapons and equipment.
Refer to Point-Counterpoint: SALUTE: Mar-Apr 2017. The West, USA and Pakistan have larger stakes in Afghanistan compared to India. All three stand badly burnt. The military and political situation is complex and gets further exacerbated when income from opium gets into the fray. As of now, the Afghan Army and Police Forces can contain the Taliban. However, in case Taliban overruns the present regime, there will be more problems for Pakistan and Iran. An Indian intervention can take place only through the Chabahar Port, as we do not have land access. That would depend on Iranian interests and the development of the port and the road to provide access. Till then, we should bide our time. As of now we have limited capability to mount an expeditionary force across sea through a port and land not belonging to us and we also lack resources even for domestic needs. We should avoid this quagmire by a barge pole, but must support the Afghan government and see that it does not capitulate.
—Col Yogendra Pal Singh
I’m of the view that India needs to move beyond its traditional aversion to getting involved in other people’s affairs and move smartly to remedy the steady loss of ground to the Sino-Pak axis. The time to transform ourselves from a mere pawn to a player in the great game is here. Its true that many may call it Modi’s Sri Lanka, and that is what it could become if we are content with platitudes and half measures.The presence of a thoughtfully conceived and composed Indian Expeditionary Force will confer several benefits which outweigh costs. Firstly, it will make Pak rethink the cost of its Kashmir fetish and focus more on its North and West. Secondly, it will accelerate the development and opening of a line of communication from Chabahar to the CARs and help reduce international dependance on a greedy and conniving Pak military. Thirdly, it would constitute unequivocal messaging of not just intent but resoluteness. Fourthly we have to find ways and means of culling mass produced pan-Islamic militancy at a stand off distance before it is at our throats in Kashmir. Most importantly, it will undermine to a large extent the complacency and impunity with which Pak has been waging proxy wars against all its neighbours and open new fronts which Pak can ill afford.
—Col Milind Ranade
This refers to Point-Counterpoint: Should India send troops to Afghanistan. The Afghan situation is of course of serious concern to India. I feel we should continue to extend all the support being given and also shed inhibitions in providing military hardware. India is still a developing third world nation and in the present scenario, commitment of troops in Afghanistan may not be a prudent course of action. However deployment of troops under the UN flag (incase it comes to that) is highly recommend.
—Col Mathew Adipuzha
This refers to Point-Counterpoint: Should India deploy troops in Afghanistan in the Mar-Apr issue of SALUTE. I feel that we needed to send troops. The centre of gravity may be Pakistan, but we need to put at least a division if not more in Afghanistan to out flank Pakistan. The troops would create space for training of the ANA and will also troubled Pakistan which lacks depth — just 350 odd miles at the narrowest point. Till we don’t open a flank, Pakistan is at strategic quid pro to India.
—Brig Chander Thapa
The aim of Indian assistance in Afghanistan must be two fold — Assist Afghanistan and engage Pakistan from the West. India only need to enunciate a clear aim. Deploying a division in Afghanistan would defacto commit upto a corps, since it would involve turnover over a longish Lines of Communication over Gwadar Port, which itself is tendentious given our relations with Iran and Iranian relations with Pakistan. What can be achieved by a division can be achieved by a strong brigade group with adequate air assets. We need to augment the Afghan Army to ensure safety & security of the Gwadar-Kabul link. That limited aim would address our strategic & political interests.
This refers to the editorial in SALUTE, Mar-Apr 2017. The arguments are lost in statistics in an attempt to give clean chit to government of the Day. The attacks on security forces were never so daring and spectacular. No amount of statistics can wash of the inaction and inertia of present government in the matter. Congress has already lost its credibility being the main architect of present mess and if BJP continues with the same legacy without any resolve for tangible results n solutions,they seriously risk the same fate. 2019 is approaching fast.
The Separatists and Abdullah have to be moved out of the Valley and then the army can work without irrelevant remarks being made by the opposition.