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Chief of the Army Staff General Manoj Pande sets out goal for the Indian Army in 2024
For the Indian Army, 2024 will be marked as the year of Technology Absorption, keeping the pace of modernisation at the core of its strategic & capability roadmap.
"The character of warfare continues to change. To prepare ourselves for the future, we set into motion a holistic transformation process last year. We have made good progress and many milestones have been achieved. Our capability development endeavours stand on the edifice of Atmanirbharta, to which we are firmly committed. The transition towards becoming a modern, agile, adaptive, and technology-enabled future-ready force shall continue as part of the Transformation Roadmap," said the Chief of Army Staff General Manoj Pande during the annual press conference ahead of Army Day.
The Indian Army designates 2024 as the 'Year of Technology Absorption' to focus on modernisation and technology integration.
The Chief of Army Staff further asserted that the Indian Army will observe the year 2024 as the 'Year of Technology Absorption' -- a theme that underscores the Army's focus and efforts to leverage technology as a catalyst for transformative change.
Army Chief spelt out modernisation plans which are broadly based on developing critical combat capabilities. The Indian army has emphasised its futuristic perspective in the Defence Capability Development Strategy.
Building on the concept of a 'Smart Army', the Army Chief has been emphasising some of the key focus areas in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), focusing on surveillance, image interpretation, vehicle tracking systems, and facial recognition within the AI domain.
Chief of the Army Staff emphasises the importance of Atmanirbharta (self-reliance) in capability development, forming the foundation for a modern and technology-enabled force.
Lately, the Indian Army has been focusing on incorporating the various elements of autonomous and futuristic technologies in the field of Robotics and unmanned systems with a particular emphasis on man-unmanned team solutions, unarmed combat solutions, and robotic mules. The army has already acquired several ranges of remotely piloted aircraft systems for robotic process automation (RPA) and counter-RPA solutions. Earlier the Chief has also outlined his thrust on cyber warfare, space-based operations, information warfare, and the crucial "battle of narratives." Additionally, the focus has also been to address emerging technologies and systems based on the Internet of Things (IoT), 5G, Quantum Computing, Directed Energy Systems and Geo-Spatial technology domains.
While recognising the recent attacks in Jammu and Kashmir, especially the resurgence of terrorist activities in the Rajouri-Poonch sector, the Army Chief outlined several measures to strengthen the Army's human intelligence network.
The Army Chief outlined that the improvement and strengthening of the forces' ability to get technical intelligence in terms of communications and better synergy with other agencies. The use of technology is vital in improving the intelligence network. "Another important aspect is to improve the Army's use of technology to better deal with the situation," he said.
The Army Chief outlines plans for a 'Smart Army,' with a specific focus on Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), Robotics, and unmanned systems.
The Army has also been focusing on Electronic Warfare (EW) in supplementing intelligence. This will go a long way in isolating scattered pockets of insurgents and depriving them of direction and coordination from their controllers and supporters.
The Chief also emphasised the greater coordination with the local and central police forces. "Technical lessons are also being drawn from each operation to incorporate into future operations," he said. While the different branches of the military have their intelligence wings, the Indian Armyhas a cadre of Military Intelligence officers comprising former high-ranking, intelligence officers drawn from various formations and expertise. However as far as the other two branches of services -- Indian Air Force and the Indian Navy -- are concerned, they dohave intelligence wings, but they do not have a cadre. They largely rely on field personnel which often works on a rotational basis. The Army Chief's statement highlights such ambiguities within as the intelligence gathering remains largely tactical and based on day-to-day operational requirements. Thus, strategic intelligence needs to merge with the civilian agencies.
The Indian Army is prioritising strengthening intelligence capabilities, including human intelligence networks, technical intelligence, and coordination with police forces.
Army Chief responded to the questions said: "If we look at the entire Jammu and Kashmir, in terms of the number of terrorists neutralised in the entire State in 2023, it is 71, of which 51 are in the [Kashmir] valley and 21 in the Rajouri-Poonch region. Our casualties in Kashmir have been seven; in Rajouri-Poonch, it has been 20. The figures, especially in Rajouri-Poonch, is something we have taken note of," headded.
The Indian army has planned to strengthen its Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities through the all-weather ground and space-based ISR capability.
The Army Chief also elaborated on the situation on the northern border with China as "stable but sensitive". He added, "We continue to talk to find a solution to address the balance issues between the two sides. Operational preparedness is very high, and deployment is both robust and balanced."
On Myanmar and the impact on the border, the Army Chief raised it as a matter of concern. "The activities of the Myanmar Army and ethnic groups have resulted in 416 Myanmar Army personnel crossing over to India, as well as some civilians crossing into Mizoram and Manipur," the Chief remarked.
"We also have some of the insurgent groups who are feeling the pressure and who have now attempted to come onto our side of the border in the State of Manipur. That, combined with the situation in Manipur, is something we are keeping a close watch on. We have close to 20 Assam Rifles Battalions which are deployed at the Indo-Myanmar border. There is also talk of further strengthening our fence along the border," the Army Chief explained.
The author is a defence editor and security expert. He writes on National Security, Military Technology, Strategic Affairs & Policies.