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'We need multi-role force capabilities wherein conventional and subconventional capabilities can be balanced to respond across the spectrum of conflict'

General Bipin Rawat took over as the new Chief of the Army Staff on January 1, 2017. In an interview with SP’s M.A.I., he gave his candid views on a wide range of subjects and the major challenges confronting the Indian Army and how these are being tackled institutionally. Excerpts...

Issue No. 1-2 | January 1-31, 2017Photo(s): By PIB
The Chief of the Army Staff General Bipin Rawat addressing the press conference as run up to the Army Day 2017, in New Delhi on January 13, 2017

SP’s M.A.I. (SP’s): Having taken over the reins of our illustrious Indian Army at the start of the new year 2017 and with a fairly reasonable tenure of three years you are in a position to make substantial changes within the force and in maintaining a cordial civil-military relationship. What will be your key result areas that you may have chalked out for yourself?

Chief of the Army Staff (COAS): The vision statement and thrust areas have been enunciated by my predecessor. I find these are all encompassing, well defined and we need to continue with our efforts in realising these. An abrupt change would only cause confusion amongst the rank and file of the Army. These are reiterated as under:

  • Vision. Ensure capability enhancement and operational effectiveness of the Army to meet all contemporary and emerging challenges.
  • Key Result Areas
    • Ensure the highest standard of operational preparedness to meet present and emerging challenges.
    • Ensure force modernisation incorporating relevant contemporary technologies.
    • Make up critical deficiency of weapons and equipment at the earliest.
    • Develop requisite capacities and infrastructure with special emphasis on our northern and north-eastern borders.
    • Enhance inter-Services jointmanship at all levels in letter and spirit.
    • Ensure the highest level of security consciousness amongst our rank and file.
    • Optimally enhance human resource development to fully exploit the inherent strength of the Indian Army.
    • Improve the quality of life and living conditions of all ranks with special emphasis on the soldier.
    • Foster an organisational climate based on mutual respect and camaraderie amongst all ranks.
    • Ensure requisite welfare measures for ex-servicemen and Veer Naris.

SP’s: The external threats and challenges to India’s sovereignty are evolving at a rapid rate and the nature of wars has changed. As you have seen these developments taking place in your service in the Army, what do you think should be done to arrest the decline and to restore the Army’s modernisation status? In your view which are the priority areas for modernisation?

After taking over as the Chief of the Army Staff, in his first press conference on January 13, 2017, General Bipin Rawat answered a few questions posed by SP’s M.A.I.:

  • China vs Pakistan
    ‘China a bigger threat.’
  • Reactive/Proactive
    ‘We need to be proactive and be offensive rather than only being reactive with any hostile activities of adversaries.’
  • Future Soldier Programme
    ‘We need to empower our soldiers with necessary gadgets, NVGs, networkcentric capabilities.’
  • Induction of Latest Technology
    ‘We are buying some hundreds of UAVs. Will buy almost a 100 more UAVs.’

COAS: Army is doing its best to expedite the procurement and maximise operational readiness. We have set achievable targets and we are making steady progress. In-house measures have been initiated to reduce procurement timelines. These include strengthening of the procurement organisations, ensuring concurrent procurement activities, faster decision making and establishment of a robust monitoring mechanism. With concerted focus and special impetus on indigenisation, as reflected in the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) 2016, the situation will improve in the coming years. Government has implemented several policy initiates such as liberalisation of FDI policy and industrial licensing policy, simplification of export procedures, creating level playing field for Indian private and public enterprises, streamlining of offset implementation process and providing preference to ‘Buy (Indian)’, ‘Buy and Make (Indian)’ categories of capital acquistion over ‘Buy (Global)’ category in DPP to make the country self-reliant in defence production.

The Indian Army has identified 24 priority proposals which are critically required; the procurement for the same is being pursued on fast-track basis with support from the government. Broadly, these schemes address modernisation of our mechanised fleet, night enablement, replacement of aviation assets and empowerment of the soldier by improving battlefield transparency and facilitating decision making process.

I am quite satisfied with the progress. With much coordinated effort, we have been able to ink the contract for procurement of 145 ULHs (ultra light howitzers). We have also initiated a large number of cases which are at trial or GS evaluation stage. Overall, I think we are moving well. Minor glitches will always be there and those have to be overcome.

SP’s: Considering the current threats and challenges confronting India and the nature of wars in our context in the future what major changes do you foresee in the force structuring and re-organisation of the armed forces?

COAS: Force structuring is a dynamic process and future security scenarios need to be benchmarked against appreciated timelines and security implications. These need to be evaluated from the perspective of national interests and its concomitant requirements on military as an instrument of national power.

In the present day, our principal regional and extra regional threats are from across the land frontiers. The threats need to be deterred by maintaining requisite ‘strike formations’. The active borders characterised by harsh and inhospitable terrain mandate a 24 x 7 x 365 vigil with ‘boots on ground’. These threats need to be deterred by maintaining combat ready ‘strike formations’ thus translating into force structure imperatives.

We need multi-role force capabilities wherein conventional and subconventional capabilities can be balanced to respond across the spectrum of conflict, with minimum restructuring and at optimum costs. We need to make a transition from the present ‘threat-cum-capability based force structuring’, which has its underlining theme as ‘war prevention through deterrence’, towards a ‘capability based modular and responsive structure’ based on envisaged future force application scenarios. Right-sizing commensurate to ongoing modernisation is also a key imperative that impacts current and future force structures.

With emerging technologies, we must ensure that our weapon systems and equipment incorporates technology upgrades and are capable of operating in a digitised networked environment.

For the complete interview, please refer to: SP’s Military Yearbook 2016-2017