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    OpinionsRefrain that India's armed forces can do no wrong is hurting us

    Refrain that India’s armed forces can do no wrong is hurting us

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    Refrain that 's armed forces can do no wrong is hurting us

    Sanjiv Krishan Sood

    January 1, 2017, was important for the Indian forces on two counts. Firstly, the new chief has taken charge of one of the largest armies of the world on this day, and secondly, it marks the first anniversary of the attack on the Pathankot air base.

     

    Pathankot was not the only base to have been attacked in 2016. That assault was followed by the Uri attack, in which 19 soldiers lost their lives. An attack also took place on the base at Baramullah and then at Nagrota. Such attacks have happened in the past too.

     

    General Hasnain (retd), in a rather lengthy piece titled “Nagrota In Perspective” in The Times of India on December 1, elaborates upon the obvious culpability of Pakistan in the attack on the HQ of the Northern Command and the need for India to respond in kind in order to increase the cost of such misadventure for them.

     

    He concludes that Nagrota was a parting gift by then Pakistan army chief General Raheel Sharif and nothing is likely to change under the watch of new chief General Qamar Bajwa. The , on the same page, however, briefly alludes to security lapse.

     

    The fact that defence establishments have been caught off guard on most occasions, leading to disproportionate casualties points towards the inability on their part to take remedial measures after drawing lessons from studies of previous incidents. This is also a pointer that the armed forces are falling prey to a sense of complacency.

     

    Laxity in performance of duties by foot soldiers and failure of officers to exercise elementary supervisory checks to ensure alertness of men and fitness of equipment can be the only reason for such grave lapses, because funds cannot be a constraint for comparatively minor requirements of campus security.

     

    It appears that scrupulous adherence to “standing operational procedures” is being given the go-by, leading to repeated and avoidable loss of life of trained soldiers. Adherence to the SOPs is extremely important.

     

    The sense of complacence does not set in in a short period. The false sense of well-being when all is going well gives rise to it and this happens over a long period of time. The commanders responsible for ensuring that this does not happen appear to have not taken appropriate action to stem the rot.

     

    It was a similar sense of complacency that had led to the episode. The Kargil committee report remains under wraps. It can however be definitively said that the commanders vacated their posts during winter, according to normal practice, because of their inability or failure to analyse the available indicators of Pakistani designs.

     

    Long range patrols supposed to keep the area under domination during winters probably never physically went to their objective and thus failed to detect intrusions till a local inhabitant informed the authorities about hostile presence on those heights. The BSF unit deployed in the area did not vacate its posts and hence the Pakistanis could not infiltrate those areas.

     

    The Army and Air Force of course did a commendable job in recovering lost land but sadly, at huge cost of brave lives and precious resources.

     

    Complacence and lackadaisical attitude appear to have permeated to several aspects of functioning of the armed forces. The tragic demise of jawan Hanumanthappa in an avalanche was avoidable, had basic infrastructure been made available at the post. Death of an officer in the process of defusing an IED at Pathankot was similarly avoidable, if the deceased had ensured basic precautions as an expert in the field.

     

    The armed forces have a good tradition of honouring their deceased by ensuring the status of “martyr” for them. However, it is important for them to analyse each failure, draw lessons and disseminate these widely to prevent recurrence. Hopefully this is happening, but have the lessons been learnt? Have remedial actions been taken?

     

    The tendency to link any discussion about security lapses with nationalism and patriotism leads to obfuscation of this important issue. To quote General Panag (retd) in a recent piece on newslaundry.com: “A halo has been placed around the armed forces and their criticism for gross inefficiency and lapses in safeguarding their bases and installations has been termed antinational.”

     

    The refrain that the armed forces can do no wrong is negatively impacting their functioning and adding to complacency and laxity.

     

    Our armed forces have a proud history of valour and are rated as one of the most professional armed forces of the world. Avoidable security lapses as discussed above bring a bad name and reflect negatively on their efficiency and professionalism.

     

    Hopefully, the incumbent chiefs of the armed forces will priortise this crucial area and focus their attention on stemming the rot.

     

    Northlines
    Northlines
    The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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