India considered using its military might against terrorists operating from Pakistani soil as the year, which also saw the Navy flexing its muscles in the international waters to check piracy, came to a close. Though Prime Minister Manmohan Singh categorically stated that India did not want a war with Pakistan, the government had looked at the military option in the wake of the November 26 Mumbai terror attacks. As the armed forces geared up along the western borders and the Line of Control, the Navy projected its strength when it went pro-active against the audacious pirates off Somali coast in November. The Navy’s sinking of a pirate vessel sent out a strong message to the world of India’s resolve to root out the menace that has threatened sea lanes vital for global trade. A government decision on October 23 gave powers to the Navy to act against the sea bandits, who had hijacked over 100 ships this year, and in the two months since then, the warships have successfully repulsed three attacks on merchant vessels and nabbed 23 pirates. The IAF, on its part, showcased it strategic reach by flying Su-30 MKI air superiority fighter jets and IL-78 air-to-air refuellers to NATO air exercise ‘Red Flag’ in the US to pit its pilots and machines against air forces of the US, France and South Korea in September, and came out with flying colours. The Army successfully validated its “Cold Start” war doctrine during ‘Exercise Brazen Chariots’ using firepower and superior tactics in the Pokhran range in the Rajasthan desert in March, as defence attaches from foreign missions watched in awe. The only blot in the text-book execution of the exercise objective was the loss of lives of three jawans in a freak mishap during the live fire-power demonstration. In the wake of the Mumbai terror strikes that claimed over 183 lives, armed forces commandos joined the security personnel in eliminating the terrorists in the western megapolis. Just after this operation, India came close to trying the “Cold Start” doctrine, developed from experiences in troop mobilisation during Operation ‘Parakram’ after 2001 December Parliament terror attack. “Cold Start” refers to the military doctrine under which a smaller formation in the borders carry out a short, but quick offensive at the enemy’s vital installation, in coordination with the IAF. The Navy’s plans to acquire a nuclear-powered submarine from Russia in 2010 for testing India’s submarine launched ballistic missile was hit after an Akula-II class vessel, ‘Nerpa’, encountered a mishap during sea trials in Russia in November. The 1.5-million-strong defence forces of the country also had their own moments of despair, when “anomalies” remained to be addressed by the Sixth Central Pay Commission report that was implemented in September. The pay-related issues led to a series of unsavoury developments and heart-burn among the armed forces and the bureaucracy when the three service chiefs took an unprecedented stand refusing to accept the new pay scales approved by the government.
Source: The Nation, 29/12/2008