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Ashutosh Sheshabalaya On Indian Issues
Indian Army Has Been Quick To Learn
by Ashutosh Sheshabalaya

Published in July 2, 1999 issue of The Financial Times, London.
Sir, in 'Ill-Equipped Indian troops made to rely heavily on valor' (FT, June 29, 1999), Amy Louise Kazmin overlooks three key issues.

Firstly, like democracies elsewhere, India is slow to move. However, this should not be confused with ineffectiveness, operational or technical. For example, after losing two combat aircraft and a helicopter in the first days of the Kargil conflict, India has had no more losses in the month since then in spite of an intensification of its air campaign.

Second, to support its evolving battlefield objectives, India is bringing in increasingly sophisticated assets, but doing so carefully and systematically. Night-flying Mirage 2000 aircraft and laser-guided bombs are part of an inventory that also includes Jaguars, Mig-29s and Su-30s as well as Tu-142 strategic bombers with massive 25,000 pound payloads. India must also be using its IRS satellites for battlefield reconnaissance. As disclosed last March by John Pike of the Federation of American scientists, Indian IRS images were utilized by the US during its December 1998 air campaign against Iraq.

Finally, it is important to underline that ground battles at altitudes of 5000m against an enemy on the heights have no parallel elsewhere in the world. Thus, while it is debatable whether 155mm howitzers and multiple rocket launcher systems are “old fashioned” or if the Kalashnikov rifle held by the Indian soldier in the accompanying photo is “heavy”, what is clearly more important than “valour” is the fact that the Indian army has been willing to learn quickly and seems to be doing its job well.

Your correspondent should nonetheless be congratulated for marking India’s declining defence expensiture as being “out of step”. This is quite a change indeed from the media inquisition of India’s motives after its nuclear tests in May 1998.
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