Arrogance and ignorance combination makes a heady cocktail.
Hearing the pearls of wisdom spread by Bipin Rawat on the issue of his understanding of Air Power during an interview on the issue of impending creation of Theatre Commands by Gaurav Sawant for India Today TV Channel on 2nd July 2021 reminded me of General Yahya Khan and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
May I be explicit; I have no intention of expressing my disrespect either to General Yahya Khan or President Saddam Hussein, both of whom are now deceased and were heads of state of respective countries. I do not wish to compare them, status wise, with a secretary level officer of the Government of India. It is their utterly flawed collective understanding of the use/employment of Air Power that makes them comparable with one another.
General Yahya Khan
Seeds of creation of Bangla Desh were sown not only due to Sheikh Mujib winning elections followed by butchering of Bengalis but also due to a monumental strategic blunder committed by General Yahya Khan in deciding to withdraw nearly all Air Power elements from erstwhile East Pakistan, especially fighters, the famous F-86 Sabre Jets. As per PAF ORBAT document of 1971 vintage in Air Force Station, Kalaikunda, FOUR F-86 SQUADRONS WERE BASED IN EAST PAKISTAN AS ON MARCH 1971. General Yahya ordered the entire fighter fleet to move to West Pakistan. Whatever remained was destroyed by IAF fighters. The famous encounter of FOUR F-86 vs FOUR IAF GNATS on 22nd November 1971 clinched the issue in favour of IAF conclusively, when THREE OUT OF FOUR SABRES WERE SHOT DOWN AND FOURTH WAS HIT BUT GOT AWAY. A total absence of Enemy Air Power enabled IAF, IN and Indian Army to operate with impunity under “gifted‟ AIR SUPERIORITY CONDITIONS. As a professional I must add; Air Superiority over erstwhile East Pakistan during the 1971 Indo-Pak war was not achieved entirely by IAF actions. It was a “GIFT‟ by General Yahya Khan, who did not know about “A‟ of Air Power, having been a land lubber all his life. Had PAF strike elements been available in the east, there may not have been successful TANGAIL DROP and MEGHNA RIVER CROSSING MISSIONS of Indian Army elements. Pakistan did not have to defeat Mukti Vahini and the Indian Military combined onslaught; it had to merely extend the war duration to enable third party intervention. Pak failed to extend the war duration because of the absence of Air Power. Rest, as is said, is history. The presence of the US Navy Seventh Fleet in neighbourhood made no difference.
President Saddam Hussein
During Operation Desert Storm I, President Saddam ordered most Iraqi Air Force elements, fighters, in particular, to move to safe sanctuaries in Iran. Had President Saddam allowed formidable strike elements to at least attempt a retaliatory strike on one of the seven Aircraft Carriers even by flying a ONE WAY MISSION, combined land based elements of MNF and carrier borne elements of US Navy would not have accomplished, what they did/could.
In both above cases decision makers, the proverbial land lubbers, had no clue about Air Power employment and its ability to alter/decide the outcome of the war by remaining a threat in being and operating independently.
Bipin Rawat is no different. He does not understand ‘A’ of Air Power as is evident by his ignorant utterances during the interview.
1. Bipin Rawat said; I quote “Air Defence Command is being created to control everything that flies in the air, be it aircraft, missile or an artillery shell—–“ Unquote.
Dear Bipin you have no clue of Air Defence. You are mixing up ‘Coordination of Fire Control’ with Air Defence. Your flawed understanding that by setting up AD Command, there would be no fratricide indicates your total ignorance of the dynamics of how an air defence scenario evolves within seconds with a rapidly changing situation. Fratricide is an integral part of war; it can be minimized not eliminated. Your mention of Heptr shooting (without saying so in as many words) indicates your total lack of understanding/knowledge of rules of engagement with a developing threat defined by a mere blip on radar scope.
2. Bipin Rawat said; I quote “ Air Force is a supporting service viz Artillery and Engineers——-“
Dear Bipin, I actually feel ashamed that both you and I are products of the same establishment. Your views calling sister service as support service thus comparing IAF with support services of Army borders on professional insanity and lack of professional integrity. In any case, let me express my indignation with Army philosophy of categorizing soldiers as ‘ARMS’ and ‘SERVICES’. You can continue with that in the Army. In IAF everyone is a soldier of only one category. It is this jaundiced mindset that enables you to address a sister service with such derogatory reference. I can only pity you.
3. Bipin Rawat said on KRC Report; Creation of CDS; 20 years delay.
Dear Bipin by making such an irresponsible statement you have called the previous governments and more importantly your professional parents, the former Service Chiefs during that period as incompetent, unprofessional and irresponsible for delaying the creation of Chief of Defence Staff. In fact, it was their collective wisdom, which ensured that the unwanted, unwarranted appointment of Chief of Defence Staff did not emerge. Does it not concern you that KRC did not have an IAF/IN member? As an honest professional of unquestionable professional integrity, it should!
4. Bipin Rawat answered when the anchor asked “Why the hurry to meet deadlines”
Dear Bipin, your answer to the above question would be fit to be classified as the vaguest answer by a ‘supposed’ professional on a highly important strategic issue as to what was the need to alter the time tested and war proven Indian Military structure of Regional Command. If my memory serves me right, the last regional command of Indian Military was SOUTH WESTERN ARMY COMMAND around 15 years back, which is after KRC report was submitted. Are you trying to call the then government, CoAS and other decision making functionaries, who decided to create an Army Regional Command as late as 2005-6 as incompetent? Did you have professional and moral courage to express a contrarian view in writing to powers that be? If not why not? Scared to miss the next rank!
5. Announcement of Creation of Theatre Commands. A sound, matured and professionally competent leader would have first discussed the issue with three Service Chiefs in private, arrived at a consensus and then announced the proposed change. It is your crowning failure of leadership, which has resulted in full blown controversy appearing in the public domain. Your arrogance has caused immeasurable damage to inter-service harmony prevailing. What is worse is the general public laughing all the way after witnessing infighting within services caused by your intemperate attitude. You have failed miserably.
6. You are yet to answer few elementary questions posed to you nearly two years back. When did any study ever recommend the creation of Theatre Commands? KRC did not! Did you author a paper on the issue, duly circulated, vetted and approved or was it your reading of US Army précis? Do you know a fundamental difference between the USA and India; the USA does not have a single km of hostile border. India has more than 10,000 km of hostile/not so friendly borders.
Firstly, enumerate the specific incident/s under actual operational conditions wherein the existing command structure was found wanting for mounting an operation?
Secondly, enumerate explicitly the deficiencies in the existing set up.
Thirdly, how would the creation of theatre command ensure that existing deficiencies would be eliminated?
Fourthly, is there a white paper enunciating the need for change from geographical commands to theatre commands?
Fifthly, would these proponents of ‘STRATEGIC REVERSE ENGINEERING’, explicitly state the gains that would accrue because of their irrational proposal to replace the existing geographical commands with Theatre Commands?
There are issues that did not feature during your interview. These are;
7. OROP. OROP issue ignited when former Military personnel decided to go on a DHARNA. You were CoAS. Before I go any further let me express and reiterate my view on OROP agitation, which is now more than 2000 days old. “The demand of former military personnel for OROP policy implementation as per Koshiyari Committee report duly approved by parliament is a perfectly legitimate demand. However, deciding to agitate like trade unionist is unbecoming conduct not expected from military personnel.” You have, however, neither mustered enough courage to face the soldiers you once commanded and convince them to abandon un-military like the conduct of agitating as trade unionist nor convince the government to release OROP as recommended. You as CoAS and now CDS have failed to break the OROP deadlock, your primary responsibility.
8. Inter-Service Exposure. From your numerous half baked utterances viz increasing retirement ages etc, it is quite evident that your knowledge of basics wrt HR management is NIL. Usage of terms in respect of Air Force during interview viz ‘Air Component Commander’ etc is indicative of your almost NIL inter service exposure. Undergoing DSSC course and Higher Command course is not inter service exposure. Inter Service exposure implies having served with a different service formation and/or been on the teaching staff of defence institutions of higher learning viz DSSC/WAR COLLEGES.
We lost the 1962 war due to the failure of political leadership. We cannot afford to lose any future war because of an ignorant military leader. Please back off. It is still not too late to minimize/contain the damage to inter service harmony created by your senseless utterances to support an indefensible, unwanted and unwarranted proposal to create Theatre Commands. As the CDS you do not ‘own’ Indian Military.