The Eagle has landed again and again and …
This article belongs to With a Grain of Piquant Salt column.
Prometheus was sentenced by Zeus to have his liver eaten by a giant eagle (think Garuda), while being chained to a rock. The liver would be eaten, then re-grow, and again be eaten by this eagle. Poor sod, and poor eagle (think about the monotonous diet!). The point I am making here is a bit of an obscure one. After each Indo-Pakistan war, commissions were created to understand / audit the war, its reasons and results and how to avoid the errors and better oneself next time.
However, it is something like Prometheus, if you do not listen or learn the lessons, your liver will be, with great precision and enjoyment, ceremoniously eaten on a regular basis. Did
There have been quite a litany of wars between
Taking a step back, inquiries or commissions on wars usually aim to fulfil the following objectives: (1) To understand the reasons behind the war; (2) To understand the way the various parties performed during the war; (3) To identify any shortfall or lacunae in the conduct of the war; (4) To recommend ways to obviate any issues identified either in the geo-political situation or domestic political setup or in the broad military getup. How the commission/inquiry performs its duties and whether the lessons have been learnt depends upon whether the war was a success or failure. It also depends on whether it is an independent inquiry or not; whether the inquiry is a military commission or a civilian one; whether the powers that be have agreed and accepted its recommendations when establishing the commission; so on and so forth.
Some inquiries become witch-hunts, some are dry audits, some are hidden away and some are really useful and lessons are indeed learnt. The advantage of sitting outside and the disadvantage of being an Indian (in terms of bias) notwithstanding allow for the ability that we can compare and contrast between
That said, the official inquiry report helped in a massive rebuilding effort of the Indian armed forces and in many ways, helped in the 1965 victory. Once you read the 1965 review and then follow it up with the 1971 report, you will see how the Indian army, and to a lesser extent the politicians, took lessons to heart. If you want further corroboration, read the memoirs of the Indian generals of the 1971 war. It is startling how many of them learnt the lessons of 1965 in terms of armour deployment, infantry mobilisation, use of territory, communications, political backing, clear-cut political objectives, etc. etc. If one observes the Indian Army and with due apologies to the eminent military historians, it can be claimed with due justification, that generally, the core armed forces infrastructure and personnel are good. Equipment, training, logistics et. al. are smoothly humming or appear to be at least.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and as the Kargil report points out, the basic architecture and infrastructure was good. What went wrong was the intelligence aspect and the initial indications are that the intelligence services have been reorganized and recalibrated. The other big lacunae – counter terror operations are being improved as well, with the help of other countries (such as
In the previous article, we talked about how preconceptions can destroy reality and make defeat at worst and stalemate at best a possibility. The only way to handle preconceptions is to study one's mistakes and put into place action plans and review/feedback mechanisms to resolve these issues. Looking at the history of Indo
Sadly, the lessons of 1965 were not learnt. An internal army inquiry was set up, but it was very tightly restricted to improvements in the intelligence-gathering infrastructure. As one can see, this was so small a scope that no lesson could seriously have been learnt. I quote Col. S. G. Mehdi, MC Commandant, Pakistan SSG till just before the 1965 war, "had our Government initiated a probe into concept, conduct and consequences of 1965 War', and raised the curtain from the acts of gross omission or that of the criminal commission, the ignominy of 1971 could have been avoided." Some more quotes on this war are pretty much conclusive evidence that there were no serious attempts to understand the issue.
On the other hand, it was pitched as a victory and
Needless to say, the even higher-level issue of military rule, which itself was the biggest problem, is not addressed. Brig. (Retd) Shaukat Qadir saying that the 1965 war was a comedy of errors on both sides has also addressed these military issues. One can easily get scores of such reports from retired Pakistani Army officers, who are banging on and on about the 1965 war and the litany of errors. One general theme, which one will notice, if one peruses these Pakistani memories of these wars, is how uni-dimensional they are. I mean, gosh, each and every one of these generals and colonels are pitching themselves as paragons of military thought (move over Clausewitz), and they have been betrayed by (take your pick here), the USA, the civilians, the politicians, the venal Hindu Bania's, brother officers, etc. etc. This is what I would call as CYA books (and no, I am not going to tell you what CYA stands for, this is a family publication). Strangely enough, another country with such a marked phenomena of officers trying to paint themselves in glory is
As rumoured, he was presented with the Kargil plan and he scotched it firmly. Then again came Siachin and they again got their liver handed back to them on a plate. Then came Kargil and despite achieving initial surprise, they again got their posterior regions paddled back across the LoC and the aforementioned liver was again gnawed upon by Garuda. And if you look now at the pathetic performance of the Pakistani Army against the irregular warfare in
You may well ask me, will the Pakistani Military ever learn by themselves, instead of being forced to learn by the Chinese or Americans? The answer is no. The current
The same thing was repeated again in 1999. No land lost thankfully, but the reputation lost again. Now in 2007, land is lost and reputation is also lost again. I guess they will keep on going till the only bit of
All this to be taken with a piquant grain of salt!