Archive for May, 2010

CAN THE MAOISTS BE DEFEATED IN 2-3 YEARS?

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

CAN THE MAOISTS BE DEFEATED IN 2-3 YEARS

One important aspect of insurgency which escapes the notice of many ministers, senior political leaders and IPS officers is its duration. The duration of insurgencies has to be measured in years if not in decades. It is a war of attrition and a war of wills. It is unrealistic to expect quick results. General Leclerc, the commander in chief of French forces in Indo-China (Vietnam) declared at the time of assuming command that he would pacify the country in seven weeks. He returned vanquished at the battle of Dien Bien Phu after seven years. The insurgency continued for thirty years in Vietnam till the US forces withdrew in defeat in the seventies. Mao Zedong took twenty two years to defeat the Nationalists. In India, the Naga Insurgency is not settled even after fifty years. Insurgency in Manipur continues even after forty years although the Army is deployed. Insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir and Assam with Army deployed continues even after twenty years. The Mizo Insurgency which had survived 25 years of operations by the Indian Army before Rajeev Gandhi found a political solution to the problem.

The area and the population covered by the Maoist insurgency is ten times the area of the other insurgencies of India. The terrain is more difficult than Assam, Manipur or Jammu & Kashmir. The strength of the Kashmiri Militants at its peak was about 3000. The strength of the ULFA or Manipuri and Mizo militants never reached a thousand. The strength of the Maoists is estimated to be 20,000 to 30,000 and growing. The morale of the Maoists is high while that of the security forces is low. Under the circumstances, regaining administrative control of Maoist dominated areas will take a long time. At a rate of ten districts per year, which I believe is the best that can be achieved with the resources available, it will take 18 to 20 years to regain control. It could take much longer if the rights of the Adivasi population are not restored, their exploitation does not stop and usurping Adivasi lands in the name of development ends.

The Home Ministry’s commitment to end the problem in 2-3 years is unrealistic. Unless a serious effort is made to find a political solution, the problem could last fifty years. If the Maoists of Nepal could be brought into the mainstream, so can the Maoists of India.

SHOULD THE ARMY BE USED TO FIGHT MAOISTS?

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

SHOULD ARMED FORCES BE DEPLOYED TO FIGHT MAOISTS

The major successes of Maoists in operations against the security forces in Bastar, West Bengal and Orissa have resulted in a demand for deploying the Army to fight the Maoists. Many individuals (naturally of non Adivasi and urban origin) have sent e-mails to television channels that Army should be deployed to fight the Maoists. There is no doubt that the army is best trained and led to deal with insurgents. However, the political leaders, ministers and the literate population of India need to understand two important issues.

The first is that every time we deploy the army for counter insurgency duties, we are reducing its capability to fight a conventional war against Pakistan or China. This is because whenever an infantry battalion or an artillery regiment is deployed for counter insurgency operations, their heavy equipment like artillery guns, mortars, anti tank and anti aircraft weapons are mothballed or greased and packed for long time storage. Training in their use completely stops while troops are deployed on counter insurgency duties. Training in conventional warfare, combined arms operation and air ground operations also stop. There is no time for basic military training like physical training and drill. Much of the army is deployed for counter insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir and the Northeastern state. Many retired and serving officers feel that the capability of the Army to fight a conventional war against Pakistan and China is already below acceptable level. What ever be the reality, it will be obvious that deployment of the Army to fight the Maoists will further reduce the capability of the Army to defend our borders against China and Pakistan.

The second is that the Army does not have a magic wand that can defeat an insurgency in a jiffy. It fought the Mizo insurgency for 25 years without subduing them. It was Rajeev Gandhi who solved it with a political solution. Over 100,000 Army and paramilitary forces have been battling the militants in Kashmir for 22 years. The battle is not over. Over nine battalions of the Army have been deployed against the ULFA is Assam for the last 20 years without elimination it. Army and paramilitary forces have been fighting the insurgents in Manipur for thirty years without bringing them to submission. What makes us think that the Army will be able to quickly bring the Maoist Challenge to an end? The Army suffers fewer casualties because they are more professional in the planning and better trained. The CRPF casualties are larger because their operations are poorly planned and led. Their deployment and tasks are politically decided and against the basic tenants of military operations. The Indian government had pushed the Indian Army into a similar situation against the Chinese in 1962 with similar debacles.

Many chief ministers want helicopters of the air force will be used for aerial surveillance and casualty evacuation. The Home Minister seems to support it. But is it feasible within the present resources of the Air Force. If one district is to be supported by one helicopter with one standby, the Air Fore will require 360 helicopters for the purpose. I can only hope that the Air Force has adequate resources to meet the requirement over and above its operational requirement.

Army and Air Force should not be used to fight the Maoist. The problem needs a political rather than a military solution.