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Planning for Intervention? Decision time for India

Ex-Malabar 07, the multinational exercise held in the Bay of Bengal in September, has once again brought into focus the threats and challenges facing 's maritime security and the need to join international coalitions to maintain peace and stability in the Indian Ocean region.



Since independence, has had to intervene militarily several times to further its national interests. In the years after independence, the army was employed to integrate Goa , Hyderabad and Junagadh into the Indian Union as part of the nation building process. The Indian armed forces were seminal in the creation of the new nation of . In keeping with the "Indira Doctrine", intervened in the and at the behest of the governments of these countries in the 1980s and was ready to do so in when the threat passed. Now, analysts are discussing the emergence of a resurgent that will be a dominant power in Southern Asia .



Though it will be a gradual and long drawn process, it is quite likely that a cooperative international security framework will eventually emerge from the ashes of Gulf War II. Stemming from the need for contingency planning, particularly in support of its forces deployed for United Nations (UN) peacekeeping duties and for limited power projection, will need to raise small expeditionary forces to participate in international coalitions sanctioned by the UN Security Council. These forces will have to be maintained in a permanent state of quick-reaction readiness.



The aim of such operations will be to further 's national security and foreign policy objectives, to support international non-proliferation efforts, and to join the international community to act decisively against banned insurgent outfits like the LTTE in . International non-proliferation initiatives, such as the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) and the Container Security Initiative (CSI), in particular, cannot succeed in the Southern Asian and Indian Ocean regions without Indian participation as a member or as a partner providing outside support. As an aspiring regional power, will also need to consider its responsibilities towards undertaking humanitarian military interventions when these are morally justified. The need to join future international coalitions to do the bidding of the United Nations Security Council cannot be wished away.



When the Taliban first came to power in , a perplexing question was what would do if it ever became necessary to launch a military operation to rescue the Indian ambassador or members of his staff from Kabul . Would ask for American or Russian help and how would they respond? Or would have no option but to leave the embassy staff to the mercy of terrorist Jihadis?



That contingency fortunately did not arise but another one did. Indian Airlines' flight IC-814 was hijacked to and parked at Kandahar airfield for several days in the cold month of December 1999 and the nation was forced to look on with helpless rage, as virtually no military options worth considering were available. The ignominious surrender to the Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorists appears to have prompted some soul searching and, the urgent requirement for some air assault capabilities is pressing.



Several contingencies requiring Indian participation can be visualised. The late General K. Sundarji, former Chief of Army Staff, had often spoken of converting an existing infantry division to an air assault division by about the year 2000. Though the idea was certainly not ahead of its time, the shoestring budgets of the 1990s did not allow the army to proceed to practically implement the concept. Now the time has come to translate his vision into reality. Besides being necessary for out-of-area contingencies, air assault capability is a significant force multiplier in conventional conflict. Despite what the peace-niks may say, a substantial air assault capability is not only essential for furthering 's national interests, it is now an inescapable proposition.



The present requirement is for to raise one air assault brigade group with integral heli-lift capability for offensive employment on 's periphery. This capability must be in place by the end of 's 11th Defence Plan (2007-12). This brigade should be capable of short-notice deployment in 's extended neighbourhood by air and sea. Comprising three specially trained air assault battalions, integral firepower component, combat service support and logistics support units, the brigade group should be based on MI-17 equivalent transport helicopters. It should have the guaranteed firepower and support of two to three flights of attack and reconnaissance helicopters. The air assault brigade group should be armed, equipped and trained to secure threatened islands, seize an air head and capture a value objective in depth such as a bridge that is critical to furthering operations in depth.



It should also be equipped and trained to operate as part of international coalition forces for speedy military interventions. To make it effective, it will have to be provided air and sealift capability and a high volume of close air support till its deployment area comes within reach of the artillery component of ground forces. Since the raising of such a potent brigade group will be a highly expensive proposition, its components will need to be very carefully structured to get value for money. It must be emphasised that a brigade group of this nature will provide immense strategic reach and flexibility to military planners and the Cabinet Committee on Security in the prevailing era of strategic uncertainty.



Simultaneously, efforts should commence to raise a division-size rapid reaction force, of which the first air assault brigade group should be a part, by the end of 's 12th Defence Plan (2012-17). The second brigade group of the Rapid Reaction Division (RRD) should have amphibious capability with the necessary transportation assets being acquired and held by the Indian Navy, including landing and logistics ships. The brigade group in Southern Command that is designated as an amphibious brigade at present, but without adequate amphibious capabilities, could be suitably upgraded. The amphibious brigade should be self-contained for 30 days of sustained intervention operations. The third brigade of the rapid reaction division (RRD) should be lightly equipped for offensive and defensive employment in the plains and mountains as well as jungle and desert terrain. All the brigade groups and their ancillary support elements should be capable of transportation by land, sea and air.



With the exception of the amphibious brigade, the division should be logistically self-contained for an initial deployment period of 15 to 20 days with limited daily replenishment. The infrastructure for such a division, especially strategic air lift, attack helicopters, heli-lift and landing ship capability, will entail heavy capital expenditure to establish and fairly large recurring costs to maintain. However, it is an inescapable requirement and funds will need to be found for such a force by innovative management of the defence budget and additional budgetary support. The second RRD should be raised over the 13 th and 14th Defence Plans by about 2027 when 's responsibilities would have grown considerably. Unless planning for the creation of such capabilities begins now, the formations will not be available when these are required to be employed.



The only airborne force projection capability that has at present is that of the independent Parachute Brigade. Since the organisational structure of this brigade is more suitable for conventional operations, this brigade should be retained as an Army HQ reserve for strategic employment behind enemy lines to further the operations of ground forces that are expected to link up with it in an early time frame. However, when necessary, the brigade could be allotted to the RRD for short durations to carry out specific tasks.



The recent commissioning of INS Jalashwa (former USS Trenton) troop carrier has given the armed forces the capability to transport one infantry battalion by sea. The Indian Air Force has acquired strategic airlift capability. These must be built upon to plug gaps in 's capability to intervene militarily when it becomes necessary to do so.

(Courtesy: Opinion Asia 2006-2007)

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Brig Gurmeet Kanwal
Former Director
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