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Key Priorities for New Army Chief

Defexpo 2020 Special By Lt. General P.C. Katoch (Retd) Photo(s): By Indian Army
The Author is Former Director General of Information Systems and A Special Forces Veteran, Indian Army


General Manoj Mukund Naravane, PVSM, AVSM, SM, VSM, ADC takes over as the Chief of Army Staff of the Indian Army

Soon after taking over as the new Chief of Army Staff, General M.M. Naravane warned Pakistan to desist from sponsoring terrorism, saying, "We have evolved a strategy of resolute punitive response against sponsored terrorism. If Pakistan does not stop state-sponsored terrorism, we reserve the right to pre-emptively strike at the sources of terror… there are multiple options across the spectrum of conflict to respond to any act of terror sponsored or abetted by Pakistan. ... they are trying to use terrorism as tool of state policy, as a way of carrying out proxy war against us. This can't last long.... We are aware terrorists in various launch pads waiting to cross over but we are fully prepared to meet this threat. Pakistan Army's all-out efforts to deflect attention from state-sponsored terrorism have been a failure."

General Naravane added that Pakistan's proxy war design had been hit by elimination of terrorists and decimation of terror networks. He asserted that a new normal in the country's response mechanism to acts of cross-border terrorism had already been displayed, he asked Pakistan to get used to abrogation of Article 370 since it was already a done thing. A day after General Naravane's warning, Pakistan termed the statement "irresponsible" and stated, "No one should forget Pakistan's befitting response to India's Balakot misadventure," But Pakistan's did suffer casualties in Balakot and its lies about not having even lost an F-16 have been exposed by the US.

On force modernisation, General Naravane said that modernisation is one of the key and priority area. Army has a long term perspective plan based on the analysis of likely threat. These threats keep changing and the perspective plan is modified accordingly. He emphasised that his focus would be on ensuring that the Army maintained high standards of operational readiness to face any threat at any time and that he would work on procuring better equipment to help maintain such operational readiness. "Our priority will be to be operationally prepared at all times", he said.

General Naravane emphasised that his focus would be on ensuring that the Army maintained high standards of operational readiness to face any threat at any time and that he would work on procuring better equipment to help maintain such operational readiness. "Our priority will be to be operationally prepared at all times", he said.

Significantly, General Naravane has said that the Army will focus on the border with China with equal attention as it does on the Pakistan border, saying, "While a lot of attention has been paid to the western front in the past, the northern front also requires equal attention. It is in that context that we are now going in for capability development even in the northern borders, which includes the north-east parts of our country." He also hoped that the stage would be set for eventual resolution of the border with China. Naravane added that special attention will be given to the issues of human rights.

General Naravane has accumulated vast experience serving in numerous command and staff appointments in peace, field and active insurgency environments in J&K and the northeast, as also as part of IPKF in Sri Lanka. He has served as India's defence attaché in Myanmar for three years. He has commanded the Eastern Command responsible for the 4,000 km long border with China, and was the Vice Chief of Army Staff before being elevated to the appointment of Chief of Army Staff. When asked about challenges that lay ahead of him in his new post immediately on getting the news of his appointment as Army Chief, General Naravane had responded that it was too early to say about it right then as to what would be the focus areas, saying, "Will have to deliberate on it in times to come." However, this is a modest statement since he has subsequently broadly spelt out his key focus areas, which include:

  • Maintain the battle hardened Army in high-state of operational readiness at all times to face any threat.
  • Befitting response to Pakistan's proxy war.
  • Equal attention to borders with China and Pakistan.
  • Continue capacity building along the border with China.
  • Procuring better equipment for the Army.
  • Special attention to human rights.

General Naravane's tenure will be a busy one not only because of the growing China-Pakistan axis, happenings within Pakistan, China-ISI ingress in Nepal, possible conflict in Middle East and increasing tensions in the Indian Ocean Region, but also in implementing reorganisation of the Army approved during his predecessor's tenure and also the impending reorganisation of military commands by the Department of Military Affairs (DMA) under the CDS. Following will need to be taken care of:

  • Pakistan's proxy war requires sub-conventional conflict to be transported from our territory to that country. This requires a change of strategy.
  • Political belief that conventional war is out needs to be dispelled. Army modernisation for fighting in NCW environment including with AI-assisted unmanned platforms in all levels of conflict need acceleration.
  • In addition to two-front war, the third front needs renewed focus in light of current happenings which will be optimised by external and internal forces inimical to India.
  • Border infrastructure needs acceleration. Road linking western and eastern Arunachal Pradesh has been constructed but roads in hinterland for troop mobilisation need focus, which remain neglected due sparse population and less votes. Strategic railways too are hardly progressing.
  • The proposed ITBP-AR merger by MHA needs to be resolutely opposed due to adverse operational fallout.
  • In the haste of indigenisation, sub-standard platforms/equipment should not allowed to be thrust by the Department of Defence (DoD). For example, the pathetic state of Akash Missile Systems in media has led to a veteran General saying, "I was surprised that the Akash was accepted in the first place, It had several snags which never got ironed out. The Navy wisely opted out of it but inducted the naval version of Trishul. The NAG is yet to see the light of the day", while another veteran General says, "It's been a sad story often repeated where the DRDO is concerned. Recall refusing to accept Akash way back …. Arunachal was livid. .. Forever DRDO has been claiming it is as good as the Patriot - my foot."
  • The man behind the machine being most important and Army having the largest military manpower, there is no reason not to be included in Group 'A' Services.
  • Finally, unlike the Navy and Air Force, Army has resorted to treating veterans as outcasts. This needs to change.

Backed with loads of experience, General Naravane would lead the Army to greater height. Best wishes of the nation are with him.


The views expressed herein are the personal views of the author.