Now that the rhetoric of war has died down, it is time to calmly analyse what really happened at Uri.
It was a military failure and the blame rests not only with the unit commanders — two of them, as per the number of casualties recorded. Certainly, the brigade commander under whose command this incident took place is equally at fault; so to is the core commander and the blame must go all the way up to the Chief of Army Staff. The death of the soldiers was not because of the militants. Their deaths were the result of a joint failure of the leadership. It was a system failure.
The Indian Army under General Dalbir Singh Suhag has not really learnt lessons after Pathankot. After the Pathankot attacks, blame was conveniently passed between the air force and the army. Let's be clear: The security of Pathankot airbase is the responsibility of the army and nobody else. Suhag has failed to secure the system or to bring a sense of urgency to the system. It is more unfortunate that he has not taken responsibility of this failure in Uri. Poor leadership is also defined by the inability to take responsibility.
Uri is close to the Line of Control and is known for the presence of sleeper cells and sympathisers of extremists. This is something that the army and intelligence is aware of, and it has been ignored judging by the fact that the attackers were able to get inside an army camp. An army camp so close to LoC cannot have such lax security there are no excuses for the laxity. The laxity in a unit command is a sign that action is not being taken at the top-most echelon of the army.
Action was not taken after Pathankot happened; in fact, Suhag brushed it off as if nothing happened.
Instead, what we have is the Director-General, Military Operations (DGMO) giving us homilies and a Wikipedia feed about Jaish-e-Mohammad.
When Pathankot happened, Suhag diverted the issue in his press conference. He did not own up to the failure of the area commander in Pathankot, he did not own up to his own responsibility. On 13 January this year, Suhag said that there was 'no issue of coordination' between the different agencies. Why did he divert the focus and responsibility of the army in securing all establishments in the area? The Ministry of Defence and the political leadership also calmly accepted and are equally guilty of allowing Uri to happen.
The army chain of command has eroded and Uri is a sign of the same laxity.
The army works on a system of responsibility: If the platoon commander does not take full responsibility of guarding his post, the system fails. The system fails because it is responsibility that is considered supreme and it is the reason a soldier lays down his life to save his post. If the top leadership does not show the same kind of leadership, why should a soldier sacrifice his life? A lack of courage in accepting responsibility affects the whole line of command. The army has a whole standard operating procedure laid down for such failures.
The death of the soldiers was not because of the militants. Their deaths were the result of a joint failure of the leadership. It was a system failure.
It was not followed during Pathankot and it look as if it is not going to be followed after Uri. The failure of command is closely monitored in the army; every incident of failure and refusal to accept responsibility weakens the system. What was needed after Uri was for Suhag to address the issue directly. It is not right for him to hide under the wave of nationalism sweeping the country. The army command cannot respond like politicians and use the media as a diversion and hide its own failure. If the army leadership starts behaving like politicians, we can effectively wave goodbye to the army as an institution.
The reason things still function in the army is because of certain core principles. I'm afraid those core principle are lost under the current leadership. Those 20 soldiers died because of poor leadership. It will happen again and will keep happening till a strong decision is taken to correct this weak leadership.
The author is a policy commentator based in New Delhi. He tweets @yatishrajawat
Published Date: Sep 20, 2016 14:02 PM | Updated Date: Sep 20, 2016 15:05 PM