In a brazen attack, Pakistani troops on January 8 crossed the Line of Control (LoC) and killed two of our soldiers at Sona Gali in Mendhar sector of Rajouri district, some 220km north of Jammu. What was most shocking was the fact that the intruders, while escaping under a thick blanket of fog, left behind mutilated corpses of the two Indian soldiers, Lance Naik Hemraj and Lance Naik Sudhakar Singh, of Rajputana Rifles. The incident seemed to be an attempt to destabilise the decade-old ceasefire and dislodge the peace process.
Pakistan’s offer to India to let the UN probe the brutal killings of the two Indian soldiers is a well thought out diplomatic ploy. This is a deep-rooted strategy of Pakistan to internationalise the Kashmir issue again.
Pakistan assumed rotational presidency of the UN Security Council on January 1, 2013. It was planning special sessions on peacekeeping and counter-terrorism, and its offer for a UN probe was aimed at leveraging its position as the UN Security council chair, where this incident near the LoC could have been used to reinforce the centrality of Kashmir issue. Thus, Islamabad could press for a discussion on the issue to embarrass India.
That there are definitely close links between the military and the Taliban and other extremist outfits which indulge in such beheadings is well known, as is the growing radicalisation of army officers and the lower ranks. It does seem now that elements in the Pakistan military have become ‘Talibanised,’ infected not just by its medieval ideology but by barbaric methods as well.
India must not only robustly raise its concerns to the Pakistani government regarding the army’s unacceptable behaviour but also stress that such conduct will have its costs. Delhi must clarify that there are red lines and if Islamabad breaches them India will act.
It is essential that India carry out the introspection as to why Indian soldiers get killed when it has the latest man-packed radars, which can detect the enemy in a bad foggy weather from a distance of more than 500 metres. The main cause of our failure at the LoC is that we do not have junior leaders – Lieutenants, Captains and Majors to lead the troops.
The Indian Army is facing a peculiar problem – not enough youngsters are attracted to join the 1.1-million strong force as officers. Expressing concern at the situation, the army chief, General Bikram Singh, has said that about 10,500 officers are needed. The shortage, he said, was impacting the officer-jawan relationship. According to official figures, the shortage is around 10,500 in the army, 1,400 in the Navy and 1,100 in the Air Force. The army chief must act and force the government to make the defence services attractive for the youth to join.
Our political leadership must wake up and make the service conditions for the soldiers more attractive so that the armed forces are the first priority of our youth. Otherwise, we shall have many more such debacles in the face of the enemy and suffer humiliation. How can the soldier fight wars without the junior leadership who are the backbone of all success? There does not seem to be any dialogue between the military and political leadership on strategic issues.
One is surprised to learn that prime minister Manmohan Singh was briefed about this gruesome LoC incident by national security adviser Shivshankar Menon and defence secretary Shashi Kant Sharma and not by the by the chairman chiefs of staff committee. How are bureaucrats better versed with security issues than the services chiefs who are responsible for the national security and integrity of the country?
There seems to be disconnect between the political and military leadership. Earlier, the service chiefs had always been invited at the meetings of the cabinet committee on security for advice and strategic planning. The service chiefs preferably chief of the defence staff as and when appointed must be involved in the decision making on national security issues.
The writer is a defence analyst and commentator.