Published: 31st December 2021
Political leaders are too involved in politics and not in their actual jobs: Lt Gen HS Panag
He was in conversation with Senior Journalist and Author Kaveree Bamzai at The New Indian Express' e-expressions webcast series along with former IAF officer AVM Arjun Subramaniam
Our political leaders are too involved in politics and they spend too little time on their actual jobs and this, in particular, applies to our Defence Minister, said Former Indian Army officer and Defence Analyst Lt Gen HS Panag. "We need to reform our higher direction of war, decision-making and how we look at wars of the future," he added. Panag was joined by AVM Arjun Subramaniam, former IAF officer and Defence Strategist, who added, "We don't have a strong strategic bridge, which is a robust connection between policymakers, strategists and operational practitioners." The duo was in conversation with Senior Journalist and Author Kaveree Bamzai at The New Indian Express' e-expressions webcast series as part of the Platinum Pride India@75 celebrations.
Elaborating on what needs to change in India's military approach, Panag added, "There are major national security reforms required. At the moment it remains ambiguous and lacks clarity. The National Security Council doesn't function the way it should be functioning. Why should the National Security Strategy be classified? There are two aspects to any security strategy — the classified portion and the one meant for the public domain. The public domain part lays out for the nation how we will respond in a crisis situation. The people of the United States and China know how their nations will conduct themselves." Speaking about the kind of armed forces we need, Panag said, "Once a strategic review is carried out, a national security strategy is evolved about what kinds of war we are going to fight and how are we going to respond to crisis situations in the future, it will decide what kind of army, air force and navy we require."
Discussing the future of warfare, Panag said, "Future warfare will be all about airpower, missile power, cyber warfare and electronic warfare. The application of force in the future will be for a short duration, with a very specific aim and with high-end military technology. It is very unlikely that an all-out war will take place particularly between nuclear powers."
Giving an insight into India's current military approach, Subramaniam said, "The Indian application of force since independence has been responsible and restrained. But at the same time that has left us vulnerable to surprise and pre-emption. There is an emerging dialogue that if India wants to be a rising power of consequence, it needs to relook at several concepts of deterrence and coercion." He added, "We need to see whether we can migrate from a policy of excessive restraint and diffidence to a certain proactive approach to the application of force."
Answering a question about how India can improve its capability and ensure minimum casualties, Panag said, "If you have a technologically-advanced force, surveillance means, potent air and naval elements, the size of the men on the ground can reduce. A gigantic organisation is slow to respond and more money is spent on maintaining it than if you have a much smaller and potent force. We need to put in a determined effort to cut down our size, improve our technology and invest our money where it matters."
Explaining the need to change the military mindset, Subramaniam said, "We have taken a long time to shed a predominantly colonial mindset when it comes to the prosecution of war. Among the Allied Powers, the British were the least known to execute manoeuvres. A similar mindset steeped into the Indian military mindset after independence. The need of the hour is to have greater flexibility and manoeuvre in the military mind."