India-Pakistan: November 3, 1999

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: Two Moslem rebels went over the wall of the Indian 15th corps headquarters compound in Kashmir. They then killed fifteen Indian troops before killing themselves.

November 3; INDIAN ARTILLERY IN TRANSITION: The Indian Army is reorganizing its artillery arm and is planning to move to more and heavier guns with increased mobility. The Indians note several changes in the security situation which will require new thinking for the artillery:
@ Most of the targets along the border with Pakistan are now concrete bunkers which will require heavier (read 155mm as opposed to 75mm, 105mm, and 130mm) guns.
@ Most of the Indian Army is now mechanized, as is most of the Pakistani Army. This means both sides need guns that are more mobile, and which can fire farther and faster, to engage swiftly-moving targets and respond to enemy moves.
@ India currently has 14 different artillery calibers in service and wants to reduce this to as few as possible. 
@ The development of roads in areas of rough terrain, as well as longer-ranged artillery, has reduced the necessity for mountain guns carried by pack animals.
@ The advent of tactical ballistic missiles has made it dangerous to concentrate large forces at one point on the battlefield. The only really "safe" way to concentrate combat power is to have many artillery units shell the same target (destroying it and opening a hole for mobile ground units to flood through). For this to work, however, the artillery must have long range, high-tech fire control, powerful heavy shells, and rapid fire so that the required concentration of shells can be delivered before enemy counter-battery fire forces the offensive artillery to disperse. India plans to retire its Russian-built 122mm howitzers by 2010. The one unit of 160mm mortars will be discarded within a few months. The 120mm Thomson-Brandt smoothbore mortars will be kept. By 2010, towed artillery will include only three weapons: Russian-built 130mm M46s, Swedish-built 155mm FH70s, and a few M46s converted from Russian 130mm to NATO 155mm barrels.--Stephen V Cole


November 3; The Indian Army's artillery branch has been forced to adopt new tactics and equipment to respond to new physical and military challenges in the mountains of Kashmir.
@ Because there are relatively few places where guns can be set up, artillery units are often broken down into sections and individual weapons. Fire coordination has been difficult and new communication systems are being brought into use. Worse, small gun units posted alone are juicy targets for raiding infantry patrols.
@ Gun pits on the glaciers are covered with tarps to keep slush off of the guns. This means, however, that sunlight falling on the glacier cannot reach the floor of the gun pits. The result is that gun pits become "pillared" on columns of ice as the surrounding snow melts.
@ Sub-zero temperatures require special new lubricants and hydraulic fluids, and special cleaning procedures have been developed.
@ Artillery "survey" techniques are all but impossible since most of the region has never really been mapped. A thin network of known surveyed points is available for guns lucky enough to have been posted near them, but difficult observation (mountains, blizzards) sometimes makes even these "known points" pretty much unknown, and those points on the glacier are actually moving at different (if slow) speeds. This slows down artillery response since the guns have to fire a few shells and hope that the infantry can see them and adjust them onto the targets. New hand-held GPS systems have been purchased to help the gun crews get on target more quickly.
@ Shells which fall into snow often do not detonate, or, if they do, their splinter effect is reduced.
@ Visibility is restricted and often blocked by weather, making observation of the targets difficult.
@ The artillery tables for the various guns have never been adjusted for use at extremely high altitudes where the air is thinner. The guns actually fire farther for each powder charge than would be expected. Each artillery battery has had to extrapolate its own firing data, with mixed success.
@ Communications equipment performs poorly due to the cold, wet, and windy conditions, not to mention the mountains and the distance between units.
@ Extreme altitude and climactic conditions put severe strain on the gun crews. Men become exhausted and incapable of working the guns after relatively short amounts of time, requiring oxygen supplies to be kept in the gun pits. Wear and tear on the equipment is accelerated, and replacement equipment is hard to bring in.--Stephen V Cole


November 3; AND ON THE CHINESE BORDER: Indian units, and particularly their artillery support, face increasing challenges on the border with China (even if there is no active fighting to speak of).
@ Areas where guns can be deployed are limited, even though the Chinese border consists of mountains and jungle rather than the mountains and glaciers of the Kashmir sector.
@ Most of the area near the Chinese border includes numerous small ridges and crests, often called "washboard terrain". Troops can only observe to the next crest. Enemy units can be expected to use the difficult-to-hit reverse slopes. Guns are usually required to fire at high angles, which is less accurate and (because of the increased powder charges) wears out the guns faster.
@ The area is, to say the least, not well mapped. Many units have created their own local maps with varying degrees of accuracy. Maps of Chinese territory simply do not exist beyond what troops can see from observation posts with high-powered optics.
@ The terrain is so bad that vehicles cannot operate off of roads. 
@ The road network is horrible by any measure. There are few roads, despite Herculean engineering efforts to build new ones and keep them open. Roads can be expected to wash out in any kind of rain. The Indians have made serious efforts to develop traffic control systems and rapid road repair capabilities.--Stephen V Cole

November 3; INSURGENT FORCES IN NORTHEASTERN INDIA: While many stories are written of the insurgencies faced by the Indian Army in Kashmir and Punjab, and the problems with the southern Tamils, little is written about the steady low roar of conflicts in the northeast, the section of India that is beyond Bangladesh and borders Burma. These include:
@ NAGALAND: The Christian Nagas have been in revolt, seeking independence, for more than 40 years. At least 1,200 people have been killed in the last 10 years. The National Socialist Council of Nagaland is the most powerful insurgent group in the region, with 500 guerrillas, 400 assault rifles, 50 RPGs, and other small arms. The breakaway Khaplang faction of the NSCN operates from bases in Burma with about 300 guerrillas and 200 assault rifles.
@ TRIURA has 15 insurgent groups, all but two of which are little more than local criminal gangs. The National Liberation Force of Tripura has about 500 guerrillas with 50-80 assault rifles and various older bolt-action weapons. The All Tripura Tiger Force has 200-300 guerrillas with about 50 assault rifles and many older weapons. About 1,600 people have been killed since 1990.
@ MANIPUR is adjacent to Burma and most of the guerrilla activity in this province is related to heroin smuggling from the nearby Golden Triangle. About 3,000 people were killed in insurgency-related incidents during 1998-99. The main rebel groups include the United Nationalist Liberation Force (500+ guerrillas with 150 assault rifles and older weapons), the People's Liberation Army (500+ guerrillas with 100 assault rifles and many older weapons), some elements of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland, and various rag-tag tribal groups.
@ ASSAM is home to two rival guerrilla groups (Assamese and Bodos), both of which want independent homelands (including overlapping territorial claims). The United Liberation Front of Assam has up to 1,500 guerrillas but only 200 modern assault rifles. The National Democratic Front of Bodoland has 600-800 guerrillas with 100 modern assault rifles and numerous older weapons.--Stephen V Cole

November 1; The fighting in the Kargil region of Kashmir cost India about $1.2 billion and will require that the Indian parliament pass a special budget measure (which will mean more taxes or more debt). It will cost an extra $600 million over the "normal" budget to keep the extra troops in the remote region through this winter (much of that to build new troop shelters and battle positions), and about half of that per year thereafter. Some analysts wonder out loud if Pakistan is trying to destroy India through a battle of financial attrition, since the Pakistanis do not have significant cost increases for their forces in the area. It is unclear what affect the recent Pakistani coup will have on the Indian budget, but no one believes it will provide New Delhi with fiscal relief. --Stephen V Cole

 

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