Thursday, July 11, 2019


May I Have Some More?   That was Oliver Twist’s classic question for which he got caned at the orphanage for asking for some extra gruel. 1.5 % of the GDP allocated for defence evokes hunger of the Oliver Twist variety in the Armed Forces who have been asking for more for from the Government for a long time now.  This has been analysed and commented upon by many experts. All of them unanimously recommend that the allocation should go up to 2% at least. The Government has given the same answer repeatedly. No caning but an emphatic but silent NO. (Caning guaranteed only if you are on Jantar Mantar!) The logic of the Government appears to be that 1.5% of the GDP may seem static however it is of a GDP set to double from 2.5 Tn to 5 Tn USD. So, will the defence budget not be doubled? In addition, it must cater for many more Oliver Twists’ in the Indian social welfare landscape- Ayushman Bharat, Swach Bharat, Farmer Distress, National Water Mission etc. The Government might also be thinking - there is ASAT capability and nuclear and missile strength besides conventional forces which have been heavily funded. Also has it not given 36 Rafales, S 400 and a slew of Warships and 155 mm Guns to the Forces? So, what is the problem? In any case even if additional allocation was made, the Armed Forces and the MOD do not have the capability to spend it. If a starving person is given extra food, he will be afflicted with indigestion.

Realpolitik. It is very clear that the Government's strategic assessment could be running on lines like Pakistan is bankrupt. Post Balakot it cannot do anything funny. Nuclear dynamics limit space for extensive battles. If it attempts anything it can be given a fitting riposte within the diminishing window of conventional warfare. All the Shisha Bar stories, and businesses of the Pakistani Army could tumble out in the next round. The lesson learnt by Sarfaraz and his teammates will be fresh in the mind. 7-0 in cricket and 4-0 in war. Pakistan as a major threat is in recession. Just have defensive capability with a limited punitive edge. Such punitive edge is inherent in capability development against China. QED. In Doklam, despite grave provocation and big talk, the Chinese blinked. After that, Chinese economy has cooled, it is in a debilitating trade war with USA, BRI is not going well and Made in China 2025 plan is facing severe problems as seen in the Huawei episode. China has problems whose solutions lie partly in India. War is not an option for both countries. That is clear from the body language of leadership of both countries. In fact, there is a decadal window before war clouds could appear again on the horizon!  In addition, there is the factor of Indo US Strategic Partnership, QUAD in the making and other strategic initiatives. Lastly, political capital has been made and necessity of the Armed Forces is five years away till the next election. So? Business as usual does not include priority for the Armed forces. While veterans and other professionals are crying hoarse that India cannot wish the wolf away, the Armed Forces are very clearly wishing their wolves away at a different level!  Time to stop bleating and get down to real business. Harsh? No. Realpolitik.

Turnaround Factors. The way to turn things around and make the defence budget allocations work better is the order of the day. It must be underpinned by three factors. One. A hard and realistic threat assessment to affect a sensible reduction of manpower. Two. Reorganisation of public defence industry to make it cost effective. Three. Investment in indigenous defence technology. Revisiting these issues with purpose can contribute to the Armed Forces in making do with the allotted budgets. Utopian? No. Realistically we have no other choice. No? We can continue to bleat. What then is to be done?  

Threat Reassessment and Downsizing. The overall threat needs a joint reassessment instead of individual service perceptions. Ideally, we will need a CDS to do that. However, given the reality of India, he is a mythical unicorn and best forgotten for the present.  It is incumbent upon the Service Chiefs to sit together with the CISC and relevant MOD officials and come out with a cogent threat pattern for the next decade or so. It can be sanctified by the apex council formulated for defence affairs under the NSA. This will give a realistic indication of the capability and requirements to ward off these threats. For example, if Pakistan is a receding threat, some capability development programs to cater for a Pak based threat can be put on the back burner. Reorganisation can focus on the China front. Maybe it will be better to reorganise our three existing strike reserves poised against Pakistan to be mountain capable and be poised against China rather than raising a new Mountain Strike Corps. It will also enable downsizing. These are only some thoughts. Many more realistic options exist. Such realism is not alien to our thinking. In the late nineties we made peace with China and shifted forces West to sort out the Pakistani threat. Unless we factor in a realistic threat and reorganize ourselves to cater for it, we will not be able to do realistic downsizing.   A major part of our budget woes gets addressed if manpower is reduced.

Reorganization of Public Defence Industry. Currently the DDP and its constituents are working on principles of monopolistic insider trading. The DGQA which is meant to assure quality stands compromised under the DDP.  As a result, India is paying double time for lack of efficiency and quality endlessly. For example, poor quality of ammunition which is the norm, results in premature ageing or accidents which implies setting aside/ destroying huge quantities of ammunition. It is a double whammy to replace defective ammunition prematurely since it is an unplanned cost and an operational hole not to mention of loss of confidence. Why should the nation pay for this endless cycle of a serpent eating its tail? The Department of Indigenisation needs focus and given tangible indigenisation goals by cost and time or axed.  Our revenue procurement must focus on many small items which we continue to import merrily at great cost and effort but can be indigenised. There has been talk of moving the DPSUs out of the MOD. In my opinion, the entire DDP with the OFB and DPSUs should be moved out of MOD and made a bespoke organization. UK has such a model. In fact, in the UK this bespoke organization takes pride in delivery on time and at better rates. Stop monopoly and preferential treatment to DDP entities. OFB and DPSUs cannot be middlemen or alternate channels of import. Make them competitive and realistic. I have never understood as to how cost escalation is over 100% for an equipment over a time period when procured through OFB or DPSUs and it is only 20% for a similar time period when imported (I can quote specific cases if challenged). Someone must be in line for a Nobel prize for milking us  bnmvkdry through this organized self-loot. If the Armed Forces can put their foot down and cauterize this internal bleeding, they will do themselves a lot of good. India is central to international conflict and disaster zones. We need to make this count.  If someone in the government can think right, there is a huge scope for exports, which is not being exploited now.

Hi Tech Investment. Many countries make hi-tech defence exports pay for their R&D and defence requirements. These are the countries from whom we mostly import defence equipment. USA, Israel and Russia to name a few. Why can’t we copy their model? In case we must export defence equipment we have to invest in technology. That is alien to our system at present. Recently I spoke to the future leadership of the Armed Forces as to how to ingest technology into the Armed Forces. The sense I got from the questions posed to me was that most of us in uniform expect others to develop cutting edge systems without putting in the hard yards to convert technology into warfighting capability. The Armed Forces are addicted to the lazy comfort of imported equipment. The simple truth is that Mohammed must go to the mountain. But our Mohammed questions as to why the mountain is not coming to him. The only Mountain which comes to our Mohammad is good old DRDO since he has nowhere else to go. Let me give you a current ongoing example. A student from IIT comes up with a terrific idea based on disruptive technologies. He displays it in various Armed Forces conferences. Everyone appreciates it and says “Oh yes. This is what we need... Great equipment… Great idea… But we cannot fund it immediately... We have to go through our laid down procedure… (which will take 5-10 years!)”. Along comes Microsoft. Sees this product in a competition and awards a sum of 5 lakhs and takes the student to Seattle to present the idea. Later Lockheed Martin also picks up this idea to be funded as a start-up and writes a cheque out for 10 lakhs. All within three months. The way this story is evolving, this classroom idea is going to go abroad, get incubated, converted into a fine piece of equipment and will be sold to us at 50 times the price ten years later when our procedures are in place. Let me elucidate further. I was explaining some ideas to a Vice Chief. His response was – well these ideas are great in classrooms and labs, but we need deployable equipment. Well, all ideas emanate from classrooms and labs, get incubated and then get developed into defence equipment. What is the sense you get? The Armed Forces are out of the technology loop. It does not matter if the PM exhorts IITs to contribute to indigenise defence technologies. At this rate and with this attitude, we will never have budgets to whet our appetite. Que Sabe? Armed Forces must develop the habit of investing in defence technology and should be fundamental to covert ideas from classrooms to defence equipment by going through the ingestion loop of identification, incubation, development and production. In desi terms if you want a ladoo which you cannot afford, you must learn to make it. Then you can even sell it! Start thinking anew.

Good Generalship. Everyone knows that India faces grave security challenges. However, we must accept that in India we have reached a stage where Defence budgets will remain static in percentage terms. With our present outlook and procedures, we will continue to be Oliver Twists and keep asking for more. We must change and put our foot forth with resolve. We must start thinking out of the box to see how to make things work within the existing budgets. It is possible if we have Good Generalship in the Armed Forces. If the Armed Forces have good leadership and the will to develop technologies for themselves, it will happen. Otherwise Fagin will continue to twist Oliver’s Tail. 

Sunday, June 30, 2019

STRAIGHT BAT DEFENSE By Lt Gen P R Shankar (Retired)

I am writing this as India plays England in the league phase of the ICC world Cup.  The outcome of the World Cup is not known. We do not know if Team India and our men in blue will emerge victorious or not. However, I am clear that we in the Armed Forces have a lot to learn from them.

All the best to our men in blue. May you bring the cup home.      

We have beaten Pakistan when it matters on the cricket field and on the battlefield without fail. Despite many ups and downs in Indian Cricket and periods of domination by Pakistan, we have a 7-0 record in the World Cup. Similarly, despite all Pakistani attempts at proxy war in Punjab and J&K, we have beaten them soundly in all battles. No wonder that Team India and our Men in Blue have such a crazed following. Similarly, it is no wonder that the Indian Armed Forces are the most trusted by Indians. Indian faith that these two entities will deliver to the nation when it matters is boundless. Today, Indian Cricket is respected and admired all over the world for its sheer strength and professionalism. Can we say the same about our Armed Forces? Balakot and its aftermath has shown to us that what should have been a conclusive spank left room for a lot of debate.

Reminiscently, the picture which came to my mind was of 1978, when India had a weak team of brilliant individuals. They attempted to play out a face-saving draw in Pakistan in the third test. Despite dour batting by Sunil Gavaskar and wide bowling by Mohinder Amarnath to keep the ball out of Pakistani batsmen’s reach, we were yet beaten soundly. Today we beat Pakistan and most other teams regularly without a fuss. We went through the chastening period of match fixing. Somewhere a process was put in place and we transformed. After transformation, Indian Cricket is on the high table of International cricket having emerged as one of the BIG THREE along-with England and Australia. It may sound ludicrous; but is it not time that our weak team of brilliant individuals in MOD and its attached offices learn something from Team India’s transformation. What are the outlines of this transformation in cricket?

Vision. Cricket has been blessed with administrative and political heavyweights, cutting across party lines, who gave a vision to Team India – to be world beaters and led them into that position despite all odds. A few whose names come to mind are Jagmohan Dalmia, Sharad Pawar, Arun Jaitley, Rajiv Shukla besides many more. The last visionary India had in security affairs was Indira Gandhi who strengthened and combined our Military and Diplomatic heft to create Bangladesh while keeping the USA at Bay. Mr Narendra Modi has the opportunity currently to be the next visionary. The challenge before him is that - will he live up to his promise?  
Team Spirit. Indian Cricket had the most prolific batsman, the best all rounder, great batsmen and bowlers but regularly lost in all forms of the game. International victories in 1983, 1985, 2007 and 2011 changed things. They taught us the values of team ethos and effort. Team India emerged, where the individual matters less and the team matters more. I yearn for a 'Team India' in Defense. I yearn for color purple and not green, blue or white. Who wants the disintegrated IHQ of the MOD represented by the DOD, DDP, Army, Air Force, Navy, DRDO, OFB and DPSUs; each trying to hit the other for a six and constantly bowling googlies at each other? Result – hit wicket. Out!   
Investment and Infrastructure. Indian cricket is cash rich today. It was always not so. At some stage, BCCI invested in infrastructure systematically – grounds, stadia, organizations, processes, coaching, multilevel tournaments and so on. A system and process were put in place which widened the base and took the game to all nooks and corners of India. Cricket in an organized manner touched the common man and gave him an opportunity and an aspiration. As revenues grew through monetization, a fair amount was ploughed back as reinvestment. More importantly, the investment was monitored and guided by professionals. Privatization was the mantra and IPL is its high point. I think there is a lot to learn from this for committed defense professionals in preparing the nation to defend itself.   
Professionalism. A high sense of professionalism and involvement is evident in cricket. IPL represents the acme of professionalizing the sport. However, it was built to this level and stage by professionals who understood cricket. The bureaucracy of cricket was infused by capable ex-players.  A direct connect between the office bearers of cricket and the players was established. Accountability was brought in. Poor performances meant axing. Rewards for good performance were generous. Fakes were discarded. Contrast it with the Military system where failures are rewarded, experts kept out and layer upon layer of amateur bureaucratic fat stifles squeezes the oxygen of the system. In this context it will be apt to say that the military itself has a bureaucracy which will put the rest to shame. Lot of soul searching to do. 
Technology. Cricket has taken to technology like a duck to water. Ball Tracking, Snickometer, Stump cam and mikes, electric bails, Heat maps, DLS, weather prediction, and so on. What are the technologies? Thermal Imaging, AI based algorithms, Drone Surveillance, day night sensors, sonars and so on. If cricket professionals, who have no formal grounding in these technologies can use these for a game why can’t we do that for the security of the Nation? Inability of the Indian Defense firmament in recognizing, enabling and absorbing technology to its best use is one of its monumental failures. Agreed, defense technology is more serious and complicated than cricket technology. Hence the need to put in a proper system which will ingest latest technologies. We must expand the R&D bubble beyond DRDO.   
Leadership. Indian cricket has been through tribulations. The worst phase was represented by match fixing scandals with a weak Captain at the helm. The team performances were  poor. Emergence of strong captains and leaders like Saurav Ganguly, Dhoni and Virat Kohli saw Indian Cricket ascending to great heights. Equally, good coaches have kept the team's preparation and performance high.  Let us face facts, the India Military is waiting for strong and wise leaders. I have already spoken enough about our Generalship. Unless we have learned Generals who display a high quality of leadership we will stagnate.  

Global Shift in Power Centre.  As of today, five out of the ten teams in the ICC World Cup are from the subcontinent.  The global center of cricket is the subcontinent. Mutatis mutandis it is India, which is the epicenter of the subcontinent and India is grabbing the cricket moment.  Similarly, the global economic power is shifting East. The center of all conflict and disaster regions is India.  India must grasp the strategic opportunity. It is failing to do so. There is a need for a shift in thinking and outlook. We must put mechanisms in place to our advantage. 

All these thoughts and many more came to my mind when watching and reading analyses of the ongoing ICC World Cup. Many will argue that cricket and warfare are two different things. Reflect for a moment. What is the difference? As I see it the character of a country is reflected in its Sports Teams and its Armed Forces. Look at Pakistan. The performance of Team Green is like its economy – mostly in doldrums but suddenly capable of being world beaters. Same goes for its  Army – tactically brilliant and strategically daft. As some analyst said the other day – the worst enemy of Pakistan is Pakistan itself. How true. The simple message at the end of the day is, if you want to be a global power of reckoning, invest in defense. If not, the world will beat you. Thank you Cricket - to bring home a lot of sense to my comrades in arms and those who prepare them to be battle ready.         

Monday, June 24, 2019

Pakistan: A State Progressing From Failing to Failed? by Lt Gen P R Shankar (Retd)

original article is available at

Editor’s Note
India has a problem just beyond its borders that has abundant ramifications on our side of the divide. Even with the recent infusion of billions of dollar by a few countries, the Pakistani economy shows no signs of progress. The same goes for social cohesion, law and order and almost every other factor that could form a part of the matrix in identifying failing states. Imran’s chants and the Pakistani military driven governance is unable to stall Pakistan’s southwards skid. The author provides a no holds barred assessment.
In the early days, everyone from Churchill to the last Pakistani felt that a heterogenous India was unnatural, ready to disintegrate anytime. After cycles of seemingly chaotic electoral democracy, India is striding forward to take its natural place in the world order – stronger and cohesive despite its huge contradictions.
Natural to Unnatural State
On the other hand, Pakistan was considered, a homogeneous, natural and progressive state. They conferred front line status to Pakistan as a medal of contrived honor. It went through cycles of failed democratic experiments, coups and dictatorships, got balkanized, and what is left is an unnatural state, in a constant flux of failure.  It reveled at being a front line pawn in other’s chess boards and suffered causalities as all front liners do. It is now staring down the barrel. Transiting from being a weak state in perpetual failure to a permanently failed state edging towards chaos, collapse and disintegration. Pakistan, in its worst periods, has not been this fragile. I have deliberately used the terms Fragile, Weak and Failed. These need to be understood in the Pakistani context.
Fragile, Weak and Failing State

Image Courtesy: Getty Images
A fragile state has multiple fault lines. They could be due to political instability, competition over lack of resources, poor leadership and governance, corruption, the insufficient coping capacity of state systems, unresolved group grievances and ethnic and religious differences. Fragility could lead to violence, breakdown of systems, humanitarian crises or other emergencies. It leaves citizens constantly vulnerable. Fragility in Pakistan is neither complex nor unpredictable. Pakistan ranks 23rd in the Fragile States Index in which Yemen and Somalia take top honours (India ranks 74 and China 88).
A weak state is a nation whose government or institutions are unable or unwilling to provide a significant set of essential public services, including just and legitimate government, physical security, food and health and minimal economic development. Pakistan ranks 33rd in a list of weak states headed by Somalia and Afghanistan (India ranks 67 and China 74).
A failed state is one where the responsibilities of a sovereign government can no longer be executed. It includes loss of territory, a monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force, erosion of authority to make collective decisions, inability to provide public services and inability to interact with the international community as a legitimate member.  A state can also fail if the government loses its legitimacy despite functioning properly. When standards of living decline and total government breakdown sets in, then failure is imminent. Pakistan is one of the states in danger of failing as per the World Population ReviewWorld. Another system puts it in the failed category. A collapsed state is an extreme version of a failed state.
International rankings and indices are based on an elaborate set of metrics. Fund for Peace uses Cohesion Indicators (security apparatus, factionalised elites, group grievance), Economic Indicators (economic decline, uneven economic development, human flight and brain drain), Political Indicators (state legitimacy, public services, human rights and rule of law), Social Indicators (demographic pressures, refugees and IDPs) and Cross-Cutting Indicators (external intervention) for its Fragile States Index.
Others use a variation of these metrics which generally overlap. An overview indicates that Pakistan is weak, fragile and in the danger of failing. However, it has not yet failed. It had improved in the recent past. Then what is the issue? Pakistan’s recent nosedive is not easy to recover from. Recovery is possible only if it takes drastic actions. If it does not, failure, if not collapse is almost certain. The scale and timing of the outcomes may be contestable. The fundamentals and the direction in which Pakistan is heading cannot be wished away. Let us look at them.
Long Term Indicators of Pakistan’s Failure

Image Courtesy: Shutter Stock
Political Instability. Political instability is endemic to Pakistan with governments alternating between legitimacy and illegitimacy. Imran Khan, propped by the Army, does not have a free hand. His government is unable to handle the economic crisis. There are talks of differences of opinion with the Army. There is also talk of a change of government. Pakistan cannot go back to its traditional parties who stand marginalised on proven corruption charges. The Army is reluctant to take over. It prefers the safety and unaccountability of backseat driving. When any country’s National Security Committee starts to meet for economic solutions then things are seriously wrong.  Political instability will endure in this duopoly.

Image Courtesy: Getty Images
External Problems. Pakistan has poor relations along all its borders. Indo-Pak relations are poor. Well known!  Pakistani meddling for strategic space is fundamental to the collapse of Afghanistan. Good Taliban, Bad Taliban, Afghan Taliban, Pakistani Taliban, State actors, Non-State actors (sponsored and non-sponsored), and Pashtun movements along and Durand Line will keep Pakistan on its toes and take a toll on its purse. A Shia Iran and a Sunni Pakistan will always be uneasy neighbours. Stoking transnational Baluch, Pashtun and Kashmiri population will ensure permanent border instability. Pakistan’s strategic attraction to Afghanistan is like a drug addict to poppy. Hostile and unsettled borders extract long term costs and promote Pakistani State failure.
Sponsor of Terror. Pakistan, as a state sponsor of terror, has spawned insurgencies internally and externally. The Pakistan Taliban is active and once again rearing its head. Baluch rebels are gaining strength and sophistication. A radicalised Punjab is a nursery for terror. Internal instability will endure.  Pakistan will have to invest more resources, than it can afford, to quell its internal problems.
Kashmir Fixation. Pakistani fixation to seek revenge against India by fomenting trouble in Kashmir will continue. After the Balakot episode, any evidence of meddling will surely result in heavy retribution from India. That will be very costly for Pakistan.

Image Courtesy: Daily Times
CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor). CPEC is a hydra-headed in serpent changing Pakistan’s fortunes adversely. It is driving up Pakistan’s un-repayable external debts. Return on investment is unlikely. CPEC will be the third front vulnerable to any passing terrorist. Internal violence will increase. Pakistan will have to invest more to guard against it.  Thermal plants will suck up water and spew pollution. The import bill for coal will rise. Corruption has increased. Even bride and women trafficking has commenced! Anti-Chinese sentiment will rise. The Gilgit and Baltistan will also be afflicted by internal issues. It will induce strains in Sino Pak relations. 1/3rd investment (Phase 1) has done so much. What will the rest of the investment do?
Agriculture and Water. Water is Pakistan’s werewolf in an invisible cloak. In five years, Pakistan will be absolutely water scarce. Climate change will force-multiply scarcity. Agriculture employs 40 per cent of the population and is 20 per cent of GDP. It is going to take a massive hit. Already there are issues regarding wheat crop and its availability due to unseasonal rains. Further, Pakistan is rapidly urbanising. Its urban centres will lack clean drinking water. The result- unrest and water-borne health problems. Water pollution is increasing. The population is burgeoning. In sum, requirements are increasing and availability is reducing. The scary part is that solutions are paper-based. Water scarcity needs investments (like Singapore has done) for solutions. Water or lack of it might be the straw to break the Pakistani camel’s back.
Economic Nightmare. Pakistan has entered an economic nightmare zone. Everything economic is spiking in Pakistan in the wrong direction. Inflation, WPI, CPI, food prices, petrol prices, interest rates, currency rates, external debt, overall debt, unemployed persons, productivity, population and FDI. The fact that after 70 years it has approached IMF for its 22nd bailout despite taking other loans of about 8.5 billion USD says it all. Growth rates will stagnate. The real problem is that unlike before, everyone is abandoning Pakistan. Uncle Sam has said goodbye. Uncle Chang doesn’t give aid. Sheikh Uncles are fed up. The debt trap is well set and will be sprung by water scarcity.

Image Courtesy: The National Interest
Military Spend. A factor, constantly growing is Pakistan’s military expenditure (4% of GDP and 18% annual increment) and the Military Businesses. Not to mention a growing nuclear arsenal. In 2011 it was estimated that Pakistan spent 2.2 billion USD on its nuclear arsenal. Fair to assume that it is now at least $ 4-5 billion?  Rich Army Poor Nation. Sounds like the title of a future best seller! The solution to many Pakistani problems lie in curtailing its defence expenditure. However, Pakistan will compulsively keep up with the Jones. The Jones being India. The Deep State will hasten the failure of Pakistan and keep it there. That is something which Pakistanis need to realise. They have a military they do not need.
A weak and fragile Pakistan is failing. Its descent is steady. Already, the USA has severely curtailed visas for Pakistanis. Others will follow suit. Its ability to maintain the status quo is itself going to be a herculean task; provided there is a Hercules around! The question therefore is, will Pakistan disintegrate? Firstly, the chances of its disintegration are low if the Army has the nation. It is too strong an institution to allow disintegration. Secondly, nothing unites Pakistanis better than their hatred of India. If the imaginary existential threat from India is kept alive, there will be unity in the Pakistani thought and action. Thirdly, the sentiment to secede is not strong in any part of the Nation except in Baluchistan. Even there, the sentiment is an undercurrent and the accompanying rebellion is incipient. The most likely is a Jasmine revolution kind of an outpouring. Then the shift will be tectonic.
Indian Response Options
India has some clear response options in this scenario. First, it should keep Pakistan at an arm’s length. No need for any peace overtures or concessions; which might give a way out to Pakistan. Secondly, increase our expenditure on our security and strengthen our armed forces. The next Pulwama kind of action should be responded to punitively. Thirdly, use our economic, diplomatic and military heft to ward off nations from further arming Pakistan. Let Pakistan stew in its own failure. Focus on Jammu and Kashmir. We need to normalise the state. Monitor Pakistan’s status to ensure the poison does not spill over.
From another point of view, I would like to reassure Pakistanis that India does not pose an existential threat to Pakistan as the Pakistan Army does to it. Let me elucidate. There is no part of Pakistan that India covets. From Chennai, it is very clear to me. Many South Indians are angst-ridden that they are subsidising our BIMARU states. Imagine subsidising an annexed Pakistan also! That will create different problems for India! Also, 230 million radicalised Pakistanis are not welcome in a secular India. Pakistanis, please be happy with where you are with what you have.  Exist the way you want – as Pakistan or Punjab or Sindh or Baluchistan or in whatever form you want to be. All the best! I repeat. The existential threat to Pakistan is not from India. It is from the Pakistani Army which is skimming the top and leaving the nation impoverished.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019


Shri Narendra Modi
Prime Minister of India

Honourable Prime Minister,

At the outset, a very good day to you. I am a retired Army officer, presently in the Aerospace Engineering Department of IIT Madras and have been trying to bridge the yawning gap between our brains and our brawn.  

Sir, when you became our PM in 2014, you took a farsighted decision to establish the NITI Ayog to transform India. It has started showing results. However, the Armed Forces were left out of this ambit.  Were they not part of India or were they considered holy cows, or did they not need transformation? This question has always troubled me.  I am writing to you in this connection after considerable thought and reflection with the twin hope that this reaches you and you will have the time to consider the issues I am highlighting.

The Need – The Stomach

As India grows rapidly, its international roles, regional responsibilities and domestic necessities are expanding. It is axiomatic that it requires very strong and modern armed forces in the environment and surrounding we exist as a nation. While our Armed Forces are good and solid, they are not modern. The gap between national growth and that of Armed Forces is widening and compounding daily.  They need transformation to keep pace with India’s emergence as an international power.  Their functional environment keeps them in a state of inertia as per Newton’s first law. They need an external impetus to transform.

Force Integration and Jointness – The Head

Armed Forces officers start jointly in NDA, train together in DSSC, CDM and NDC but function disjointed at apex levels. The MOD has earned a dubious reputation of working against the interests of Armed Forces for which exists. It is often spoken of as the Disintegrated HQ of the MOD. The politico – bureaucratic - military gaps have remained almost constant. When you compare the organisational structures of Armed Forces of leading powers with ours, the difference is stark. Historically, lack of jointness has costed the Nation at critical junctures – 1947 J&K ops, 1962 Chinese Conflict, 1965 Indo Pak War and OP PAWAN. The Kargil Review Committee enunciated formally that a Chief of Defence Staff for India is a must. However, we have only taken half measures, born out of compromise, including in the recent past. Results have remained marginal. From all perspectives, our Higher Defence Organisation lacks vitality and needs transformation to achieve unity and a sense of common purpose.

Defence Procurement and Preparation – The Body

Your recent public statement “Agar Rafale Hota” encapsulates everything that is wrong in our defence procurement and preparation – delayed, exorbitant, inadequate and often substandard. To put it mildly, our system has multiple silos which put their ends above national interests.  Our Make in India program concentrates on the brick and mortar technologies of the industrial revolution rather that mastering the disruptive technologies of the digital revolution; for which we have immense capability and potential. Our ability to identify and ingest technology is abysmally poor. It is especially galling to see Indians educated here go out to head Multinationals dealing with cutting edge technologies. We buy the same technologies back at immense cost. Every foreign equipment we buy is at the cost of our Strategic Independence which we have never gained. Is it not ironic Sir, that we have mastered Rocket Science whereas the simpler technologies are beyond us? The present system has kept us in mental bondage and will continue to do so. Redemption requires tectonic transformation.

Military Leadership - The Limbs

Our Armed Forces are officer led. No other nation has such a high and enviable tradition. While our junior leadership has stood up to be counted, I cannot say the same thing about our higher military leaders. Visionary and wise leadership of highest merit at the top echelons of our military has eluded us due to systems which will make Shri Mandal proud. It is your prerogative to pick a Chief from a panel of many. No questions.  However, the question is that are you getting the best to pick from? NOT NECESSARILY.  Our system of selection of senior officers is such that while the best can be pruned, the lesser talent has an excellent chance of making it into any panel. Also, the tendency /drift towards developing political affiliations amongst senior officers bodes ill for the nation. It is cancer. Any analysis of 1962 ops will tell us that a General Officer of dubious merit with political affiliations costed the nation dearly. I believe that the Armed Forces officers, when in service, are supposed to protect democracy and not practise it through political affiliations. Ensuring highest standards of apolitical merit driven by a transparent system in selecting military leaders is in the best interests of the nation.  Poor Generals will inflict heavy damage to the nation.   

Status of Armed Forces – The Heart

Most developed nations put their Armed Forces Personnel including veterans on a significantly higher pedestal. Even now, in some countries, wedding vows are exchanged in a national / local war memorial!  In many countries Indian Armed Forces personnel are held in higher esteem than their own. In our society and country, the societal status of armed forces personnel is quite the opposite and going downhill.  Many issues like pay and allowances, privileges, facilities like CSD, civil military equations and so on are grabbing adverse headlines and occupy social media space vituperatively. This is affecting grass root level morale of the last bastion of the nation. Not apparent at the top, but it is palpable below surface. How would you feel/ react if you had to get some certification from a municipality on the death of your father but must pay a bribe since you had to get this done within your limited time of leave? The frustrations of a soldier to get small things done needs an outlook transformation rather than physical or a monetary one. However, the significance is huge.

External Impetus

Sir, I have highlighted the four core areas needing transformation. It cannot be done by those in chair since they are caught up in the day to day transactional BOX and Newton’s First Law cannot change. In many cases any transformation is against their current interests. I would therefore recommend to you that the NITI Ayog (with suitable expertise) or any other suitably structured entity, OUT OF THE BOX, be entrusted with this task of transformation to be carried out on a time bound basis.

Nehruvian Mindset?

Lastly sir, it is for your consideration that in 1971 we were a poor nation but with a very modern military (of that time). We created a nation through a 14-day blitzkrieg. An event the world has not seen before or after. Today the Armed Forces of the fastest growing economy cannot even dream of this. Why?  Neglect of the core issues of Armed forces. They are begging for transformation.  Is there a mindset that economy, diplomacy and soft power will guarantee achievement of our National interests? That was the Nehruvian Model which brought us humiliation. The rest I leave to your best judgement.  

Jai hind

With Best Wishes and Warm Regards

Yours Sincerely

Lt Gen P R Shankar (retired)
Ex Director General Artillery and  
Professor, Aerospace Engineering
IIT Madras

Wednesday, June 5, 2019


The subject and content of this article are largely based on environmental feedback recieved from time to time   

Preface to the book 
Generalship its Diseases and Their Cure 
Maj Gen JFC Fuller

At the battle of Waterloo, Colonel Clement, an infantry commander, fought with the most conspicuous bravery; but unfortunately, was shot through the head. Napoleon, hearing of his gallantry and misfortune, gave instructions for him to be carried into a farm where Larrey the surgeon-general was operating. One glance convinced Larrey that his case was desperate, so taking up a saw he removed the top of his skull and placed his brains on the table. Just as he had finished, in rushed an aide-de-camp, shouting: ‘Is General Clement here?’ Clement, hearing him, sat up and exclaimed: ‘No! but Colonel Clement is.’ Oh mon General cried the aide-de-camp, embracing him, ‘the Emperor was overwhelmed when we heard of your gallantry, and has promoted you on the field of battle to the rank of General,’ Clement rubbed his eyes, got, off the table, clapped the top of his skull on his head and was about to leave the farm, ~ when Larrey shouted after him: ‘Mon General--your brains!’ To which the gallant Frenchman, increasing his speed, shouted back: Now that I am a General I shall no longer require them!’

On War and Indian Generalship

War is continuation of politics by other means.  Clausewitz’s dictum is profound. Going by this, the relationship between practising politicians and those who conduct war (Generals) must be transactional. However, in our country this transaction is conducted through the bureaucracy. Over a period, the bureaucracy has occupied more space and Generals (the term hereafter includes Admirals and Air Marshals also) have ceded ground. As a result, our Armed Forces are not strong enough to cope with our threats or propel us into the high table. From many counts the problem is within. The Armed Forces must improve its Generalship.  

Generalship is about preparation, organisation, placement of forces and execution of plans so that a) war can be prosecuted successfully as an extension of national politics and b) politics can continue after war from a position of advantage. Today, Indian Generals cannot guarantee either in an international stage which is multidimensional, elastic, remote and undefined in time, space or resources. A leader must contest this ambiguity through unity of purpose, mental, moral and physical strength.  Indian Generals have been found short in this context. Hence acceptance of this shortcoming(s) is the first step to a solution. Some serious shortcomings are highlighted for redressal. They are contentious. Agreed. Contend them but find solutions. The slide might have started even before some of us were commissioned. However, the current and future set of military leaders are bearing the brunt. They need to take responsibility and improve the system - for themselves and the future. Solutions must come from within the system as a result of an individual change or a systemic churn. The Government of the day is also responsible to redress the imbalances. Otherwise India will not be able to step up. On the contrary, history has shown that nations with a weak military are always exploited.   

Intra Service Disunity

All modern armies of powerful nations believe in jointness, theatre commands and in the concept of a CDS. There is no doubt that a CDS is the need of the hour to promote jointness. But for some strange reason the IAF has been stonewalling the issue. Lack of jointness is reflected in  an analysis of the Joint Doctrine of 2017 which indicates that the emphasis is on “Synchronisation” rather than “Integration”. The Services are disunited and disintegrated. They contend for a limited pie. An Individual service gain is a common national loss. This elemental truth evades our Generals.

Hierarchal Compartments

There are serious divisions within each Service. Remember the trouble IAF had with its technical staff? However, the Army sets the best example of divisions within. The Army Generals can be classified into – General Cadre / Non-General Cadre, Command / Staff, Combat Arms/Combat Support Arms/ Services. Then classification can also be Armour/ Artillery/Infantry and so on. It can also be a regimental classification like Rajput/Gorkha/Guards etc. So, when you next see an Army General, he can fit into any one of these categories. If the leadership is so compartmentalised, what is the effect down the line? Each is a watertight hierarchal compartment. Theoretically an officer can transit from one compartment to the other. In practise, if he does so, after an uphill battle, the sharks in the other compartment will eat him up. It is a Brahmanical caste system where Mandalised reservation is for the majority. This caste system ensures that while the best might never reach the top, the worst have a fair chance of becoming top Generals. This is a caste system you are born into, by almost forcible commissioning, grow up in it and can rarely break it. The unfortunate part is that the uppermost Brahmanical class has cornered maximum goodies in the system. This class does to the rest of the Indian Army what it claims the IAS is doing to the Military. Destroying it inch by inch. The Gotra of the military brahmins lies in the lanyard they wear. Continuation and propagation of this system triggers a cancerous Game of Thrones. A dangerous by product is creation of bandwagons and dispensing undue favours to regimental followers.  It produces many poor Generals who cannot even articulate leave alone lead. A common man once told me that he expects the COAS to express himself beyond looking ceremonial, smart and erect. He was on the mark. The entire concept of “General Cadre” (a term which is not even defined anywhere) where officers today get a birth right entry due to their “Gotras” needs a relook. It violates the spirit of what it is mentioned in the Defence Service Regulations that all officers must be “selected” into General Cadre.                            

Date of Birth and Seniority Phenomenon

An Officer's seniority gets fixed at the time of commissioning based on his performance in the training academy. This is a lifetime guarantee for first promotion irrespective of merit later. An officer, even if his performance improves, remains consigned to being promoted later since he was junior in the Academy.  Further as one goes up, the date of birth kicks in! An officer even if he is last on the merit list of his promotion board, can progress to be COAS/ CAS/ CNS if he had done well in calisthenics in the Academy and has a favourable date of birth. It is a universal fact that in any merit list which involves subjectivity; the last who make the cut are invariably pushed up. Where is the incentive to perform? What is this system which denies itself the best? If the best must be Generals, is there a case for a seniority rejig after every promotion board/ career course / promotion exam?  Do not agree? Fine. Do something else. Status quo will only ensure an acrimonious debate every time a Chief or an Army Commander is appointed, and supercession is involved. In the absence of clear merit, all appointments are subjective to political interpretation. If the government is clear that the persons to be appointed to as Chiefs, Army Commanders, Corps Commanders, Heads of Arms/ Services can be done on a reasonably well-established system of merit, then some amount of logical transparency will set in.  

Professional Illiteracy

As per an ex VCOAS - “Generals fight future wars which require perception of the intangible. There are no campaigns, books or histories, to groom the General. He must perceive the environment from his broad-based intellect, which he needs to develop as he goes up the ladder”. As against this an Army Commander lamented to me once that many of his Generals were professionally illiterate. They lacked knowledge of other Arms and Services, as also other instruments of national power. Strong words, but they ring true. For some strange reason, towards the end of my service the All Arms Concept, on which we grew, was less spoken of. Undue importance was being given to one Arm or the other. Specialists prided themselves in only one aspect of war fighting. May be due to an overdose of CI. May be due to fast paced and short command tenures. Maybe due to misconception of importance of individual Service/ Arm vis a vis the others. In sum, the knowledge of Generals, is becoming uni dimensional, compartmentalized, limited to own Arm/Service/environment. In an era of widening scope of conflict being heavily impacted by disruptive technologies, lack of all-round professional acumen is a serious deficiency. There is a view that many Generals are secure in their rank and hence loathe to educate themselves. There is some truth in this. Officers who go on study leave rarely get promoted to General rank and Officers who become Generals have rarely upgraded themselves through study leave (earlier in their career). This dichotomy is glaring at us. Professional illiteracy is at the cost of national security. It will ensure continuance of the military leaders on the reserve bench on the national stage.

Equipping for Conflict

A major part of a General’s job is to prepare his troops for future wars by training and equipping them. Equipping is all about procurement. We can blame the MOD, DRDO, OFB and DPSUs for all ills of procurement. However, the hard truth is that Services exist to defend India. The need is ours. We have not been able to procure from abroad or put together things indigenously. Our defence procurement is in distress In my reckoning our Generals do not know much about procurement and are not prepared to learn. The argument that I am a good warrior is simply an extension of professional illiteracy and one-dimensional mentality. In a technology driven world, ignorant Generals are a costly indulgence for the nation. Delayed procurement of war fighting equipment (some substandard) has weakened us operationally and compromised our strategic independence.  Consider this. A very high-profile officer was appointed as the DCOAS in charge of procurement. He felt that he was gaining immense knowledge about procurement and his military education would have been incomplete if he had not been posted there. The nation has paid very dearly for his adult education and for every such General who has parachuted into procurement with embarrassing ignorance. Let me also clarify. Whenever our political executive is infused with the confidence that a professionally thorough General is talking sense, the response is electric. Experience indicates that when Generals know the ropes of defence procurement beyond the DPP everything falls in place.

Moral Compass Drift

Generals represent the honour and dignity of the Services. When even one of them come into disrepute due to activities related to greed, corruption, self-promotion, lifestyle et al it is a betrayal of trust reposed by our people in the Armed Forces. When the moral compass drifts and the Chetwode principle is violated the status of the Armed Forces is eroded. Generals must be seen to be living for and dying by their men. There is no other option or any two views on this. The moral issue needs strict implementation. Not by punishment, but by not promoting him in the first place. Dishonest and incompetent people give early indications in life. They must be reported upon truthfully and not let to pass due to sycophancy, old boy’s association or from a lanyarded vision.

Political Honey

Tasting the political honey is the latest affliction of some Generals. Every time a serving General speaks with a political overtone in public even with a hint of personal gain, he has eroded his status as well as dug a grave for his Service. Political honey tastes good, but it is pure poison.  Need I say more? I have already said enough on it.  

Sally Forth

I agree that most of our Generals are courageous and tactically brilliant. It stops there. Weak Generalship is afflicting Armed Forces. Equivalents of examples discussed exist in all Services. It could be argued that all that I have highlighted is poppycock and we have the best Generals. This article could be deemed scurrilous. Could be. Trash it. But explain to me why do numerous media debates take place, social media circulations take place and articles appear on erosion in status of armed forces, poor state of equipment, pay and allowances, reorganization/transformation and politicization? Is it not because of the decline in leadership in the Armed forces to some extent? If yes. A correction is necessary.  Despite all the shortcomings I have mentioned above there are solid Generals in the Armed Forces who continue to inspire the men and the Nation. These are our islands of hope from where to sally forth. Sallying forth must be based on a Tri-Service Unity of Purpose, Professional Competence and Moral Strength. If our Generals achieve these three things, our relationship with the political executive will be transactional as per the Clausewitzan dictum. Otherwise we will remain divided and be followers. Let us then not crib when we are beaten up on Jantar Mantar by delhi police during the next agitation which we might have to stage again in future!

Eid Mubarak

A special prayer for all those aboard the ill fated AN 32 who have lost their lives in the Menchuka area. We salute them and their families. 

Jai Hind


May I Have Some More?    That was Oliver Twist’s classic question for which he got caned at the orphanage for asking for ...