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Cold start or Hot start, We are ready!

Army chief’s quip: “Cold start or Hot start, We are ready!” is reflective of national sentiment in the face of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ongoing childish brinkmanship. Archives of the Indian media show that grossly exaggerated claims of military success were made by India during the 1965 war; some of the headlines were: “Our valiant forces have set up a civil administration in Lahore after capturing the railway station, airport, Mughalpura, an ordinance factory ….”; “Civilized attitude of our soldiers wins hearts of Lahoris” & “Lahore captured: Our forces are moving into Kasur”. Closest the Indian forces came to Lahore was 14.2 “Bloody miles”. Indian psyche remains unchanged. After 50 years, India officialdom has embarked upon a foolhardy spree to make believe that India was outright victorious.

In a related tri-services seminar on September 1, 2015, Indian Vice President Mr. Hamid Ansari launched an Indian Air Force (IAF) commissioned book, “The Duels of the Himalayan Eagle: The First Indo-Pak Air War”, by a former IAF Air Marshal Bharat Kumar, book is an effort to hang a new narrative in vacuum by refuting all accounts by neutral analysts that portray PAF as a clear winner. Indian Army, too, is coming out with its “new” account of the 1965 war.

Nevertheless, the IAF book is constrained to acknowledge that IAF “suffered disproportionately higher losses” than the PAF. The IAF was numerically superior, with 28 combat squadrons (460 combat air craft) to PAF’s 11(186 aircraft)”. Indian Air Marshal admits that IAF was caught off-guard by the PAF offensive (read pre-emption) and had lost its 35 aircraft on the ground during pre-emptive strikes, on Pathankot on September 6 and then on Kalaikunda, on the following day. As per his count, IAF lost 59 aircraft, while the PAF lost 43.

To justify these losses, he goes on to argue that IAF grappled with first-generation subsonic fighters like Vampire and Dassault Toofani as well as second-generation transonic ones like Mystere, Hawker Hunter, Gnats and Canberra bombers; and just a handful of third-generation supersonic MiG-21s. And that the PAF was equipped with F-86 Sabre jets, F-104 Star-fighters and B-57 bombers, along with much-better weapons and radars. Another offered lame excuse is that 13 out of IAF’s 28 squadrons had been deployed in the eastern and central sectors to tackle the Chinese threat. He portrays that the effective ratio of combat squadrons between IAF and PAF was 12:10.

Air Marshal Bharat again brushes with falsehood: “Whereas Pakistan was fighting on one front, India had to be ready on more than one and therefore had to divide and conserve her resources accordingly”. He continues with fanciful arguments: “There is no doubt that Indian losses in aircraft were higher and Pakistan has tried to use just this figure alone to proclaim its victory…Nothing could be farther from the truth…In the final analysis, despite initial reverses, India was able to successfully thwart Pakistan’s grand design.”

For a change, book takes a candid look at the abysmal lack of coordination between IAF and the Army, with the author admitting that “mistakes were made”. “Absence of joint IAF-Army planning and tardy intelligence as well as poor communication links and radar coverage, scarce resources and the wide theatre of operations, all led to the disjointed conduct of operations by India.”

Like her war with China on the NEFA and Ladakh borders, India’s Rann of Kutch adventure against Pakistan also turned out to be a fiasco. However, reaction in both cases was different; while India had lost the will to fight another encounter with China, Pakistan had to be avenged, mainly for face-saving amongst Indian public. Soon after the Kutch debacle, Indian ‘Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri announced his intention to “choose a front of our liking”. Obviously, this was to be the Kashmir front where ceasefire line violations had been stepped up. The UN Military Observers Group reported 2,006 violations during the first seven months of 1965 as against 700 in 1964 and 20 in 1963. From April 1965, when the Rann of Kutch encounter had started, the violations took a sudden jump – from 80 in March to 290 in April. In May, they rose to 380, in June to 400, and in July they swelled to 756. A too familiar scenario even after 50 years!

Exercise Desert Hawk during the Rann of Kutch operations had brought the PAF almost on war footing, and when the Indian Army clashed with the Pakistan Army in the Chhamb sector, the PAF was ready to meet the challenge. Due to this inter-services synergy, Pakistan Army quickly swept across the plains of Chhamab Jurian sector inside the Indian-held Kashmir.

The PAF gained ascendancy in the September war after the first four crucial days; by this time, the IAF had, lost heavily in aircraft and pilots, and the PAF had achieved the miraculous air supremacy all over Pakistan. The IAF planes came in waves, with a numerical edge of 5:1; but went back in singletons and twos, spraying the wreckage of remaining on vast swaths of (West) Pakistan.

PAF took full cognizance of the IAFs much larger air fleet and prepared its aerial strategy to offset this handicap. IAF fell into the trap by fighting the crucial air superiority battle over Sargodha. The PAF made full use of the medium level capabilities of the highly maneuverable F-86 Sabre. Supported by a few high performance F-104 (only one squadron), the PAF turned the tables. Harassing and running tactics by the IAF were an invitation to disaster; for which it had to pay heavily. The PAF aircraft, orbiting and waiting for them, would pounce and get them after a chase either inside Pakistan or a little across the border. Heavy losses suffered by the IAF, in its attacks against PAF Base Sargodha, convinced the IAF that it could not match the PAF. Though Indians have made much of the PAF possessing air-to-air missiles (GAR8), only a few aircraft were installed with these sidewinders; most of the PAF kills were recorded from the aircraft guns.

PAF fully capitalized on air superiority and went on all-out offensive; striking almost all IAF bases by day and night. Close support to the army was provided on different fronts. Air superiority over the land battle zone enabled the Pak Army to move and fight unhindered by the IAF. PAF also had sufficient effort to spare for attacking the Indian army at will, thus restricting its combat capability.

PAF, proved to be a responsive instrument, which adopted requisite aggressive posture that crippled the IAF on the ground. Decision to go ahead with the initial strikes against the main IAF air bases, even when the number of available aircraft was considerably below the required figure, indicates a typical aggressive mindset. Erstwhile Control & Reporting (C&R) Branch of the PAF (later renamed as Air Defence Branch) played a significant role in achieving the vital objective of air superiority. The synergic effect created by induction of scant inventory of radars in to aerial combat had largely offset PAF’s numerical disadvantage. The climax of air defence operations was conduct of intercepts, in non-radar lit up zones, by utilizing inputs from Mobile Observer units.

Times of India has reported that Modi government’s plan to celebrate the 1965 war as “a great victory” has raised quite a few eyebrows because even Indian defence ministry’s official war history had long ago described its end as a stalemate. In military jargon, the term “stalemate” is synonymous to defeat when used to portray own performance.

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Was Emergency in India akin to Hitler’s Regime?

Special Pick from India, Ram Puniyani: On the eve of 43rd anniversary of the Emergency, which was imposed on the country in 1975, BJP has come out strongly condemning the event, has issued half page advertisement and Modi said that it was imposed to save the power of a family. There are claims that BJP’s parent organization RSS and its political predecessors valiantly fought against emergency. Surprisingly many streams of Indian politics, like CPI (M), shades of socialists, and sections of dissident Congress streams who fought against Emergency did not make any noise about their role. While Congress itself has not overtly criticized the act of its leader Indira Gandhi, it needs to be recalled that Mrs. Gandhi had regretted the excesses during this period in a speech in Yavatmal in 1978. Apart from Jaitly and BJP leaders there are many others also who compare the authoritarian regime and its excesses with what happened during Hitler’s fascist regime. It’s true that during this period there was a serious violation of democratic freedoms. The similarity with Hitler’s fascist regime ends here. The main mechanism of Hitler’s regime was to instigate emotions, ntensifying divisiveness by activating the storm troopers and targeting against the racial minority; the Jews. Other characteristics of his regime were to promote the interests of big business houses and suppress the rights of working class in particular. It projected the golden past and also promoted ultra nationalism and implemented muscular foreign policy leading the soured relations with neighbors. People like Einstein left the country. The targeting of racial minorities was the central and most conspicuous part of the policy. The excesses which took place during emergency were not targeting any minority. It’s true that the pavement dwellers suffered a lot, demolitions and the compulsory vasectomy of poor sections affected Muslims as well, but it was not targeted against Muslim community in any way. How can one say that Emergency which was authoritarianism was not fascism in any way? In fascist methods what is central to the undermining of democracy is to operate through the mechanism of mobilization of foot soldiers, whipping up mass hysteria and giving prominence to emotive issues. Let’s remember Indira Gandhi herself had lifted the Emergency and called for elections in a democratic way, elections in which she suffered a massive defeat. In Germany fascist regime destroyed Germany itself. While a lot is being said about emergency, what was the role of RSS during this period? The claims that RSS was a central force to fight against this regime are a cock and bull story. TV Rajeswar, who served as Governor of Uttar Pradesh and Sikkim after his retirement from service, in his book, ‘India: The Crucial Years” [Harper Collins] tells us “Not only they (RSS) were supportive of this [Emergency], they wanted to establish contact apart from Mrs. Gandhi, with Sanjay Gandhi also”. Rajeswar in an interview with Karan Thapar disclosed that Deoras “quietly established a link with the PM’s house and expressed strong support for several steps taken to enforce order and discipline in the country. Deoras was keen to meet Mrs. Gandhi and Sanjay. But Mrs. Gandhi refused.”As a matter of fact the executioners of emergency excesses found good favor with BJP as it was formed after Jana Sangh component leaving the Janata Party. One recalls the emergency time slogan, “Aapatkal ke tin dalal: Sanjay, Vidya, Bansilal” (three executioners of Emergency: Sanjay, Vidya, Bansilal). Later BJP gave ticket to Vidya Charan Shukla, and allied with Bansilal to form the Government in Haryana. Sanjay Gandhi’s wife Maneka was taken in to BJP and became minister without ever condemning the excesses committed during that period. As a matter of fact what is happening today is much more repressive though there is no official emergency. Many have labeled it as undeclared emergency. Nayantara Sahgal, who was a strong critic of Emergency, has stated very aptly that “…we have an undeclared Emergency; there is no doubt about that. We have seen a huge, massive attack on the freedom of expression.” The observation is that there are killings of innocent, helpless Indians killed because they did not fit into the RSS’s view of India. Every dissent is labeled as anti-National. She continues “Writers like Gauri Lankesh have been killed. And there has been no justice for the families of the wage earners who have lost their lives in this fashion. In fact they are now being called the accused. So we have a horrendous situation, a nightmare which is worse than the Emergency.” Similarly we know that today the dangers to civic liberties and democratic rights is through the ideologically indoctrinated foot soldiers, who have been called fringe elements, but as such they are part of a clear division of labor, working against Indian Constitution and for Hindu Nation. The prevalence of violence against religious minorities, the intimidation, the lynching in the name of Holy cow, beef, love jihad, ghar wapasi has become a sort of New Normal of present regime. It not only goes beyond the authoritarian regime but borders on the divisive politics which is out to relegate the religious minorities to second class status in the country. While the top rulers keep quiet in cases of serious violations, the ground level vigilantes have a field day in furthering the agenda which is outcome of RSS ideology. Lately even the use of tricolor to instigate violence as witnessed in Kasgaonj is further stifling our democracy. We need to distinguish between the authoritarian regime of Emergency where the machinery of state was used to suppress democratic rights with fascist regimes which are guided by narrow nationalism and target the minorities while pushing forward Hindu nationalism and bringing in divisions in society on sectarian grounds. Democracy is stifled in both cases, but in narrow nationalism the very concept of citizenship is denied to the sections o society on the grounds of their religion or race. And this is the crucial marker of sectarian nationalism.

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