Here is an insightful open letter by Major Gaurav Arya (Retd) to Prime Minister Narendra Modi regarding national security, geo political threats and a lot more #MajorGauravArya #adgpi #IndianArmy
Respected Pradhan Mantri ji,
As I write these lines, I am fully aware that you may never read them. Also, I have nothing new to say. You have the nation’s intelligence services at your beck and call. The Director Intelligence Bureau briefs you every day. The Secretary R&AW awaits your command. The NSA is on speed dial. A phone call with the three Service Chiefs along with ISRO, and you have access to the kind of information daily, that all the news channels of India combined, will not have in a lifetime.
At the snap of your fingers, India can launch a nuclear strike from the unknown depths of the oceans. Or, you can send flowers of peace to an adversary. What you do is your decision. But as an American author once said about India’s missile program… Agni does not mean Chrysanthemum. It means fire. Dr. Kalam knew exactly what he was building.
So, what can a former junior army officer tell you that you don’t already know? Absolutely nothing. But it is this very insignificance of mine that makes this letter different. I see dark clouds above and difficult times ahead. I seek your intervention.
And this is why I say this.
To our East, Xi Jinping has probably been crowned Emperor of China, even if they still call him President. They say that he will rule till he breathes, with all the power of the Party, Politburo and the PLA concentrated in his hands. This simply means a far more aggressive China led by a man who, in real terms, is not accountable to anyone. While we are still figuring out how to respond, China’s encirclement of India is complete. From bases in South China Sea to the 99-year lease of the Hambantota Port, from PLA warships in Gwadar to the One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative, we are hopelessly surrounded.
To our West, we are dealing with a rouge nuclear-armed army that actually owns a nation of 200 million luckless souls. This army is not accountable to anyone. In 1999, it launched an attack on Kargil, without so much as informing its own Prime Minister. In 1965, it did not deem it necessary to inform its own sister services, the Pakistan Air force and Pakistan Navy that it had launched Operation Gibralter and attacked India in Kashmir. Both the Pakistan Naval and Air Chiefs suspected something was wrong, but their worst fears came true when they heard Madam Noor Jehan singing patriotic songs on radio. That, in Pakistan, usually means war. Or a coup.
Pakistan will supposedly issue, though some say it already has, tens of millions of long-term visas to Chinese nationals to settle in Balochistan for the China Pakistan Economic Corridor projects. According to the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI), by 2048 the majority population of Balochistan will be Chinese. Mandarin is already being taught to Pakistani children, not that they were learning anything useful earlier and the Yuan will soon be legal tender in Pakistan.
Earlier we had China to the East and Pakistan to the West. We now have China to the East and China to the West. The dragon is moving its tail.
Closer home, there is massive radicalization in Kashmir. From the pulpit of mosques to social media accounts, the Valley is turning Wahhabi with a fierceness not seen earlier. ISIS flags are waved at funerals and clashes.
“Is ISIS really present in Kashmir?” a publisher asked me recently.
“Islamic State is an idea, not a car dealership”, I tried to explain. There may or may not be physical manifestations of this vile idea, but to assume it does not exist just because you can’t see it, would be a gross miscalculation.
If terrorists repose faith in an idea, it is real. Lets not look for overt signs. No one is going to put up neon boards in downtown Srinagar. Its in the speech in the mosque, the terrorist raising his index finger on video, the sign of “Tawheed” or oneness of God, the central monotheistic concept in Islam, it is in the flags draped over terrorists bodies in funerals. Seek, and you shall find.
A good part of the battle for mind-space in Kashmir can be won if we have a narrative. Pakistan has a Kashmir narrative. Hurriyat has a Kashmir narrative. Terror organizations have a Kashmir narrative. All of them push their narrative everyday. And India, which has the most powerful Kashmir narrative based on the absolute truth, is reluctant to even tell its side of the story. So, in the absence of our truth, their lies flourish. Kunan Poshpora. 700,000 troops in Kashmir. Genocide. Disappearances. Mass rapes. Unknown graves. Braid chopping. Flying saucers. Its like Sydney Sheldon has started writing in Kashmiri.
It is important that an urgent narrative around Kashmir is created and pushed. There are a lot of fence sitters in Kashmir. They overtly support the terrorists, but privately hate them. Such is the cost of living in Kashmir. We must give these fence sitters a story; a narrative so powerful and true that it blows away everything in its path. This narrative exists. It is structured around the truth of the UN Resolutions of Kashmir, the truth about the Hurriyat, the truth about the lavish lifestyles of those who scream “azaadi”. Shopping malls, private jets, luxury hotel stays, foreign holidays in Spain and Malaysia…while the hapless population is mired in misery, Asiya Andrabi’s son is found in a 5 star resort in Bangkok, posing for photographs with Hulk Hogan. For the separatists, the blood of the Kashmiris is a credit card with no limit. Keep swiping. Keep killing.
Many Kashmiris support the Hurriyat not because of love or respect, but because Kashmiris have a long history of supporting whoever they perceive as the victor. Kashmiris see Hurriyat winning against the Indian state. They don’t care to know or acknowledge that the Hurriyat exists because the Indian Constitution allows space for dissent. Had Hurriyat tried in Pakistan, a minuscule percentage of what it does in Kashmir, Geelani would have disappeared and the Mirwaiz would have been found under some culvert in a very small gunny sack. In Kashmir there is a very fine, almost invisible, line between fear and respect. Some say there is no such line at all. We must understand these nuances.
Geelani and his cohorts are doing a very fine balancing act. They are indispensible to the Pakistanis and have, somehow, convinced the Indian government that they speak for the Kashmiri people. That credibility must be damaged, not just by NIA raids but also in the heart of the Kashmiri people. This is not difficult to do; the Hurriyat’s credibility is based on falsehood. All we need is to be constant and consistent in cracking the mirror, with truth.
India is plagued by many other challenges. The North East is still simmering. The Left Wing Extremism (LWE) areas, or the Red Corridor, are perhaps India’s greatest internal security challenge. This is a long list. The list will remain long because the people responsible for shortening of this list are bureaucrats.
Your greatest initiative to push India to industrial superstardom, “Make In India” is sputtering to a halt. And the people who are spiking it are your own bureaucrats. Not just the elite of the bureaucracy but the middle and lower level functionaries, too. The entire structure is rotten. They derive their power from stopping progress and denial of permission. They have created these rules and laws to buttress their arguments. Sir, if India has to progress, its bureaucracy must be cut to size.
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Before asking countries to invest in India, we must take a step back and take the surgeon’s knife to India’s “babudom”. Let a committee for reforms in bureaucracy, be constituted; a group with wide ranging powers. At the very top, we need technocrats. The miracle of the Delhi Metro happened because of E Sridharan. Had there been a senior bureaucrat in charge, the Delhi Metro would have gone the way of the Tejas LCA.
Our issue is not whether we have meritorious people at the top, or not. The issue is that we have wrong people at the top. And they decide sensitive policy, without having a day’s exposure to the practical aspects of the issue. We have a veritable galaxy of “Paper Tigers” running the administration of India.
When we put the right people at the top, magic happens. ISRO is a miracle because, scientists lead it. The day a senior bureaucrat is appointed Chairman of ISRO; you will receive a beautiful presentation on why ISRO can no longer launch satellites.
It is these very bureaucrats who are killing Make In India, especially in defence manufacturing. May I submit the following process?
Firstly, we must redefine the entire process for selection and purchase of any weapons system. Each item takes decades to order and then decades to reach the soldier. By that time, it is obsolete. Sir, you are aware that two-thirds of all Indian Army equipment is obsolete. Our artillery is 35 years old, simply because we did not order, manufacture or induct a single artillery gun for past 35 years.
Secondly, no one is going to invent any weapons system just for us. All weapons systems that we are importing are being used in some armed force of the world. It should not take more than five years to import even something as sophisticated as a fighter jet. The Air Force knows what it wants. Let them know the budget. They will figure out what they want, test it and then make recommendations to the government. Ditto for other services. But importing is not Make In India, right?
Thirdly, execution is the key. Let us assume that Indian Army wants a new assault rifle. Army knows what it wants, because technical evaluation happens everyday in the Indian Army. It’s not a one-time process for them. Let them shortlist 5 rifles, globally. Let them test all of them simultaneously. Why should rifle trials take a decade? It’s a rifle…just a collection of metal moving parts. In a few months, they should shortlist 3 rifles. Let the negotiations begin. Again, this must be completed in a stipulated time. The selected vendor should be partnered with an Indian company to start manufacturing in India. By the time factory starts production, 15% of rifles can be directly imported. Yes, there has been a greater push for transparency. There should a similar push for greater speed.
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Sir, in the end, they key is not global weapons manufacturers making weapons in India. It is our investment in R&D. We must have an indigenous manufacturing base, which is the result of Indian minds and Indian sweat.
The sooner we shut down our Ordnance Factories, the better it would be for our manufacturing and also the lives of our soldiers. Overpricing and pathetic quality are their hallmarks. In fact, some of their products are so bad that Nepal refuses to take them for free. Yes, Sir. Nepal refused to induct the 5.56 mm INSAS rifle. The rifle is so bad that even if given free, it is too expensive a deal.
India is marching towards global super-power status. But we are like an athlete who runs with an iron ball chained to the feet. Everyone wants the athlete to run faster, but no one is looking at the iron ball. That iron ball is India’s bureaucracy. Unless we hack away at that ball and chain, we will keep dragging out feet. We will keep losing.
The day the top employee and decision maker of every government department is an experienced and qualified subject mater specialist who is duly empowered, things will improve. For you, it’s just a snap of your fingers, but for India it will change everything, just like appointing Sridharan changed the face of Indian urban mobility. We have many Sridharans, impatient to give wings to their dreams of India, but held back by the ball and chain.
Dreams float on an impatient wind
A wind that wants to create a new order
An order of strength and thundering of fire
Dr. APJ Kalam, perhaps India’s greatest ever Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces wrote these lines. It is his dream that we must impatiently pursue, with vigor and renewed resolve.
In Hindi, Agni does not mean Chrysanthemum. It means fire.
The ball and chain must go. Dr. Kalam would approve.
Warm Respects & Regards
Major Gaurav Arya (Retd)
17th Battalion, The Kumaon Regiment
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