(Authors Note: This missive from an 88 year old veteran, with over 40 years of soldiering in the India Army, projects current and future initiatives the Army should take to meet its current and future challenges. Also what the government and society could do so that the Nation can boast of a dynamic, clean, young and vigorous Army with guts and elan.)
The Army’s Status
"The Indian Army needs modernisation while stalled Indigenisation processes lie in the dumps. No Army Commander can define Nation’s Defence Policy, because it is not there; nor the Army’s Doctrine."
But before that, a few words about the Army's status? Even in peacetime, troops remain heavily committed operationally: Suffering casualties at Siachen; combating the proxy war in the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and secessionist movements in the North-East (NE) besides a 24 hour vigil in warlike conditions at the Line of Control (LoC) and the Line of Actual Control (LAC) on a push button basis.
The Defence Minister never tires of stating that the Army needs modernisation while stalled Indigenisation processes lie in the dumps. No Army Commander can define Nation’s Defence Policy, because it is not there; nor the Army’s Doctrine.
While the reputation of Army’s Generals lies tainted due to scams, and 7,399 or so officers remain short mostly in the ranks of Captains and Majors for an 1.3 million strong Army for the past 20-25 years leaving units at the mercy of Junior Commissioned Officers (JCO) and Non Commissioned Officers (NCO).
What Initiatives can the Army Take?
"It must be ready to operate on a nuclear battlefield and missile environment. It must develop hi-tech warfare capability, tackle manpower shortages in its technical branches and officer corps."
It must be ready to operate on a nuclear battlefield and a missile environment. It must develop hi-tech warfare capability, tackle manpower shortages in its technical branches and officer corps, exploit space support systems, act as a catalytic agent for Indigenisation and integrate its logistic systems and branches to achieve economy and encourage involvement in a technology thrust.
Countering the Chinese Threat
"With China’s ability to engage Indian targets with a glut of nuclear and chemical warheads from Tibet, Army has no option but to train both for conventional and nuclear warfare."
With China’s ability to engage Indian targets with a glut of nuclear and chemical warheads from Tibet, Army has no option but to train both for conventional and nuclear warfare. The nuclear battlefield is vast where dispersion and not concentration is order of the day.
While the Army’s reserves of supplies, manpower and other stocks can be knocked out in the very first strike. While development of hi-tech capability lies in the domain of Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO), Army’s Think Tanks and training institutions.
There is a big communication gap here. Technology has to enable soldiers to engage targets at longer ranges, detect intrusions, have better combat dress and logistic support systems while commanders must get real time information from satellites] to make quick decisions and so on. Army’s tactics must dictate technology and not the other way around.
With regards to manpower, besides equipping and training a roughly 1.3 million strong Army; 1,237,117 on active duty and 960,000 reservists, pensions of ex-servicemen (ESM) and 400,000 Para Military Forces (PMF) make an ugly hole in the defence budget. The Army must activate its reservist system which is non-functional.
The Territorial Army (TA) remains stagnant at 40,000 and thus cannot provide reserves and take over second line tasks from the Army in the event of war. Its strength should be at least 11 lakh (or more) to match the Army's.
"The Army buys AK-47s from Romania and Czechoslovakia, bullet proof vests, mine detectors, Remotely Piloted Vehicles from abroad. Private industry has yet to be motivated to take on major defence projects and remains confined."
For indigenisation it is well said, "We shall perish if we don’t Indigenise." Today, all the money is in defence deals. Take an example: A Russian made T72 or a T90 tank costs 10-15 crores. India would need at least 1,000 tanks to replace its aging fleet. While the so-called indigenous Arjun Main Battle Tank, carries a foreign engine and has yet to be accepted unconditionally by the Army.
The Army buys AK-47s from Romania and Czechoslovakia, bullet proof vests, mine detectors, Remotely Piloted Vehicles (RPV) from abroad. Private industry has yet to be motivated to take on major defence projects and remains confined to fabrication and supply of vehicles.
Economy & Efficiency
There is considerable scope for economy and efficiency by reorganising and integrating the Army’s logistic services. Branches like Service Corps, Ordanance Corps, Corps of Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (EME), Postal and the Army Medical Corps (AMC), each with a separate hierarchical structure need to be integrated into a Logistics Corps. An exercise on the subject, I believe, was undertaken 10-12 years ago, but fizzled out because of domestic interests.
Exercising Powers of the President & Govt
"The JCO rank must go and in its place, NCOs should be empowered while young officers should command units and subunits."
A legislation to make it compulsory for India’s youth to serve either in the TA or National Cadet Corps (NCC) or as a Short Service Cadre for at least two years or as a regular. This is a crucial and inescapable necessity. The TA must be expanded to create Reserves and an effective second line of defence.
Additional Border Roads Task force must be set up on an emergent basis- particularly in Arunachal Pradesh, to create a proper communication infrastructure. Proliferation of senior ranks, created for equating pay and status with civil bureaucracy must stop. We have diluted the rank structure by such comparisons with bureaucracy.
The JCO rank must go and in its place, NCOs should be empowered while young officers should command units and subunits and not a CDS. We should set up an ‘Indigenisation Board’ to get the Public and Private industry to start undertaking major defence projects, and the DRDO should be placed under the user: the Chiefs of staff Committee (COSC).
The Last Bastion of the State
"Now, the Army has to defend its borders with Pakistan, China, Myanmar and Bangladesh besides remaining prepared for Chinese offensive designs in Nepal and Bhutan."
Finally, the Indian Army remains the last bastion in an otherwise politically unstable India. But it has been neglected. The soldier feels abandoned. The Army had the capacity to prepare, to take back our territories from Pakistan and China. But, that is history and out of question now because of our timid political policies in the past.
Now, the Army has to defend its borders with Pakistan, China, Myanmar and Bangladesh besides remaining prepared for Chinese offensive designs in Nepal and Bhutan. But the Army has the capability to generate confidence in a nation demoralised due to corruption, lack of governance and direction.
...An Accountable President
The accountability of course rests on the shoulders of the President being the Supreme Commander. To start with, let us have a Defence Minister, who understands a soldier’s psyche, his joys and sorrows, knows how to raise morale and to contain it and is an inspiration to the soldiery instead of merely reiterating statics on various issues in the Lok Sabha.
(Maj Gen. VK Madhok is a product of the 1st Course JSW/NDA and was commissioned into the 3 GR. He was the BGS HQ Southern Command and the COS at HQ 4 Corps. He retired as the ADG (TA). He lives in Pune. The author can be reached on Email: [email protected])
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