Red Faces in Olive Green

The decision to call off the Poonch operations against the militants is a poor testimony of Indian Army's strategy and defense preparedness

By Hardnews Bureau

There are a lot of red faces in the country's defence establishment after army called off its operations to flush out terrorists holed up in the Mendher forest area of Jammu. The operation was called off after nine days, when the army realised that the militants, who were exchanging fire with them, had seemingly escaped back to Pakistan- the Line of Control is about 20 kilometers from the place of encounter.

What is causing disquiet within the army establishment is the manner in which the entire operation was conducted. Army committed 1,500 troops for this operation to smoke out 10 militants, but despite brave noises could not really do much. Army's claim that they had shot down four militants in this violent face-off could not get substantiated. On the other hand, army lost couple of its men.

While there is unanimity that the conditions around the Mendher forest, due to extreme cold and fog, were forbidding to mount an attack at the militants holed up in the caves, there is nothing that prevented the armed forces to use new technology or techniques to neuter the belligerents. There were news reports emanating from army sources that the troops were cramped due to the absence of night vision glasses. These reports, claimed, that with night vision glasses the Special Forces would have attacked the militants in the night. It is difficult to believe that ten militants got away as the Indian army did not have night vision glasses.

The problem, as defence expert's claim, lies in the inflexible ways of the Indian army. "Why couldn't the army use helicopter gun ships, they could have got a sense of the location of the militants as well as their numbers," explained this expert to Hardnews. Others share his view and feel that such a face-off could have been used as an opportunity for the army to test new methods and technology to fight terror. Even in the case of the recent Mumbai attacks, experts felt that the Indian commandoes took far longer to secure the hotels and other places from the terrorists. "It was embarrassing to see Indian commandoes struggle to kill the terrorists," says an NRI businessman to Hardnews, who watched the wall to wall coverage of the Mumbai siege in New York.

Armed forces may have been celebrated for their valor during the Kargil War and now Mumbai terror attacks, but they look quite short on imagination and strategy. It is important for them to absorb lessons from the way modern armed forces are fighting urban terror in different theaters of war. Also, military planners need to cherry pick defence equipment that would most satisfy our needs rather than buy what the arms manufacturers are pushing to us. Till that happens, Indian army, despite all the bluster by retired defence personnel, would not be in a position to give a bloody nose to the Pakistanis.