Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Indian Army - Canal Crossing Operations (Photo Essay)


We have seen that the territory to the west is strewn with canals and other water obstacles of varying sizes. So, it is but obvious that managing such obstacles should be one of the top priorities of the army.

Let us take a look at the pictures of canal crossing(s) during various exercises undertaken by the Indian Army.

Exhibit 1 - BMP-2 moves into a canal during a pre-training exercise at Suratgarh, Rajasthan.This  picture was taken during summer exercise “Vijay Bhava” in mid 2011 where II Corps undertook maneuvers to test “operational and transformational” effectiveness.

Exhibit 2 - Exercise Pine Prahaar 

BMP-2 crossing Sutlej River - So, apart from canals, IA seems to have planned for crossing of large water bodies as well. This may come handy in case bridges on rivers cannot be secured. However, the current of the river is an important parameter while judging the crossing point.

BLT - Bridge Laying Tank - used to bridge gaps (water/dry) and allow for movement of mechanized columns across.

Bridge on canal - this is how the bridge is placed on the water body.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Pakistan: Defense Canals in South Punjab and Sindh-II (Rahim Yar Khan)


In this section of analysis about Canal based defenses in Pakistan, we look at the general area of Rahim Yar Khan (RYK) city. RYK is also the southernmost district in Pakistan Punjab and lies opposite Jaisalmer District in the Indian state of Rajasthan. RYK City is the largest city in the district of RYK and an important commercial center. We will be looking at the general area RYK and Sadiqabad.

Strategic Importance

As introduced earlier, the city of RYK is an important commercial center in South Punjab. Apart from that, the major north-south communication axis of Pakistan, National Highway-05, which connects the port city of Karachi with important cities like Lahore and Rawalpindi in Punjab runs at less than 10kms towards west of the city. Capture of this town would represent a major psychological defeat for Pakistan and would literally mean splitting Pakistan into two by severing the north-south link.

RYK: Regional Setting

What makes RYK a still more attractive option is the distance of the city from India—Pakistan border – the city lies at a distance of <50kms from border and <200kms from Jaisalmer, as the crow flies. A dash from Indian side can be made to RYK – any Indian success here can threaten the flanks and rear of Pakistan defenses in the Fort Abbas-Bahawalpur area while creating headache for defenders of southern Sindh. India will have prime strategic land available to barter at the negotiation table. 

Highway network map-Pakistan

At a strategic level, from Pakistan Army’s perspective, loss of N5 would represent major loss of north-south communication axis and cut-off its forces in Punjab from those in Sindh. This would diminish the chances of sending reinforcement from 2 Corps/31 Corps combine to V Corps. V Corps for all practical purposes would be left alone. For example, in 1971 war, after the reversal of PA’s 18 Division at Longewala and when Indian 11 Division made advance towards Naya Chor in Sindh, Pakistan Army sent 33 Division (then under II Corps) to reinforce the sector. Such north-south movements would become difficult. 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Strategic Importance-South Punjab and Sindh


The main reason for writing this article is to help readers better understand the series that I have begun about the canal based defenses. This article will help (at least that is what I hope) people to appreciate the offensive potential of the Indian Army in the study area and, the reasons behind Pakistan erecting the canal based defenses. I have used the example of Indian Army deployment during Op. Parakram as a case study - it shows the likely axis of advance by Indian Army  into South Punjab and Sindh in Pakistan. This information, when combined with knowledge about orientation and features of canals, shows the usefulness of canals and other water bodies as defensive features.


Year 2002 was a landmark as far as the war fighting philosophy of the Indian Army is concerned. Or, to put it more accurately, it demonstrated for the first time that Indian Army was ready to go beyond the ‘tried and tested’ route and take bold decisions. Decisions which would allow it to enforce a result in the anticipated time period available given the geo-political situation obtained presently.

One prior such land mark was re-orientation of the Indian Army from defensive mindset to offensive one by leveraging the growing modernization (and mechanization) with in the army. This transformation reached its culmination when General Sundarji was at helm of affairs and an eponymous doctrine of war-fighting, called the Sundarji Doctrine, became the mantra of the army. Under the re-organization, the offensive firepower was concentrated in three Strike Corps (1, 2, 21) with an armored division each. It was envisaged that in any conflict with Pakistan, not only will these formations inflict attrition on Pakistan Army Strike Reserves (ARN and ARS), thereby degrading its war fighting potential, but also make a dash to Indus, thus splitting Pakistan into two.

With the advent of nuclear weapons and geo-political environment obtained presently, I don’t think IA is planning to split Pakistan into two anytime soon – but the objectives of degrading the war fighting potential of PA and capturing strategic territory (to be used during bargaining) very much remain on the table.

The intention of this write-up is to assess the Indian options in the area south of Fazilka (inclusive of Abohar) and right up to Barmer Sector in south Rajasthan. We also assess the position of Pakistan Army and options available to it. The importance of canal developments in the region and their potential as defense structures gets highlighted in the process.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Pakistan-Defense Canals in South Punjab and Sindh-1 (Sulemanki-Fort Abbas)

A. Introduction

Bambanwala Ravi Bedian Link Canal (BRB Canal), better known as Ichhogil Canal, is synonymous with the 1965 Indo-Pak war and Lahore sector of the war. This canal ran 8 km inside Pakistan and proved to be a formidable defensive structure. The home bank of the canal (on the Lahore side) was lined with concrete pill-boxes with over-lapping arcs of fire.

From an army’s stand-point, defensive structures like water canals offer two important advantages – (a) economy of forces (b) delaying the advance of the enemy and limiting his ability to maneuver

In case (a), home bank of the canal can be lined with fortified and concrete defensive positions in a mutually supporting manner. Given the protection offered by these structures, the manpower required is relatively less as compared to say, defending over an open ground. The manpower and other assets like tanks/mechanized infantry can be reserved for counter-attacks on the enemy using these canal based defenses as firm base.

The other benefit [point (b)] is that it forces the enemy into expending resources in first securing its home bank, creating a bridgehead and then securing the bridgehead. Creating and securing bridgeheads is never an easy task against an entrenched enemy and are prone to counter-attacks from the enemy reserves in the areas. The D-Day landings in Normandy were all about creating and securing bridgeheads. All this activity adds to the time component.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Military Geography in Sikkim Sector

A brief analysis of geography and surface infrastructure in Sikkim and how it impacts the force deployment from Indian perspective.

(a) Geography - First things fist – let us look at the geography of Sikkim and the available infrastructure. The state extends in north-south direction with length being more than the breadth. It has border with Tibet on its north and east while on its west it shares boundary with Nepal. To its south lies the state of West Bengal.

The northern and eastern borders with Tibet are the areas of interest to us. 

The Sikkim-Tibet border in east runs in north-south direction and in its entirety is a high ridge line with mountain ridges north of 4,000 meters in height and crossing 5,000 meters easily as one goes north. The valley floor in southern part of this border (on Tibet side) is less than 3,000 meters and goes up to 3,500 meters as one goes north. Except for certain areas in northern section of this border with passes which can allow for lateral movement of troops, the area will not permit any large scale east-west movement of troops. Except for the vegetation, the geography resembles the one obtained along LOC north of Northern Gullies in Ladakh. Interestingly, there are some valleys which go in east-west direction (up to ridge line) and if one observe Google Earth one can observe that Chinese have tracks and troop deployment in these valleys leading right up to border. There are similar such valley running in west-east direction on Indian side. 

The link to the map below is zeroed on the Sikkim-Tibet boundary in east.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Indian Army disposition in North-East

brief overview of the Indian Army set-up in the North East.

The entire area comes under Eastern Command based out of Kolkata. It has three Corps under it. The same are as follows:

33 Corps - Siliguri (West Bengal). Responsible for Sikkim and Western Bhutan.
4 Coprs - Tejpur (Assam). Responsible for Western Arunachal Pradesh and Eastern Bhutan.
3 Corps - Dimapur (Nagaland). Responsible for Eastern Arunachal Pradesh and Indo-Burma border.

This is how the situation is stacked up

- 33 Corps has three Mountain Divisions (MD); 17MD (Gangtok), 20MD (Kalimpong) and 27MD (Binaguri).

- 2 new Mountain Divisions have been raised in the north east.

- While 4 Corps always had three Mountain Divisions [5MD (Bomdila), 21MD(Rangiya), 2MD (Dinjan)], 3 Corps had only one division (57 MD - Leimakhong). 8 Mountain Division was once part of 3 Corps but moved to Srinagar in 90s because of insurgency and today guards the Kargil sector (as part of 14 Corps in Leh).

PLA options in Sikkim-Tibet Region

My assessment of Chinese options in the Sikkim-Tibet(Chumbi Valley)-Western Bhutan Corridor.

While everyone seems to be harping on the Indian position and options vis-à-vis the Chinese, what no one comments on is the Chinese position and options in the area. Geography is a double edged sword and its effects Chinese as much as it does Indians. In my opinion, the Chinese are at a back foot when it comes to options across the Chumbi Valley area. And they might just have to go on offensive to pre-empt this area being pinched off from the Tibetan plateau. Here is my take on the situation.

(a) Geography - As always, first things first. Let us look at the geography. On the Chinese side, there are two roads which lead to the Chumbi Valley from Tibetan Plateau – one is S204 and another one which runs parallel to Tibet-Bhutan boundary – there seem to some radar + communication sites along this road. They both converge at the Chumbi Valley and from one road goes south (to the base of Nathu La on Tibet side) and another feeder road moves north along the Sikkim-Tibet border. The moment these two main roads leave the Tibetan Plateau, they move along narrow valleys with very high (and steep) surrounding mountain ridges. 

This is an important aspect – because what people describe as ‘wedge’ aimed at Siliguri corridor also resembles a funnel – with the broad base of the funnel towards Tibet and narrower part comprising of Chumbi Valley towards India.