Gen Vijay Kumar Singh, PVSM, AVSM, YSM, ADC the 24th Chief of the second largest Army in the world, assures that his officers and men were fully prepared to meet any internal and external challenges. In an exclusive interaction on the eve of 63rd Army Day he told Col (Retd) P N Khera Editor-in-Chief Asia Defence News, that all steps were being taken to modernise the Indian Army, He analysed the geopolitical security situation with special focus on the developments in the neighbourhood and the emerging internal security threats. Apart from multifarious security challenges, the Chief took on questions covering the entire capability spectrum of the military, rubbished the so called ‘Cold Start’ doctrine and stressed that the Indian Army was knowledge based. He also shared his views on dealing with emerging conflict scenarios, instability in India’s neighbourhood, uninformed debate on AFSPA, one-rank one-pension, indigenization, modernization, popularity of Indian Army in UN peace missions and induction of women in Indian Army. He strongly asserted the Indian Army’s commitment to jointness and maintaining transparency and ‘Izzat’. His Army Day sentiment was that the nation looks upon the Army to maintain the highest standards of professionalism and commitment in all spheres. It was the paramount responsibility of each one of us to uphold and further enhance the fabric of this unique organisation through sustained hard work, meticulous training and utmost propriety in all our dealings. His message to his men was to follow the ethos of ‘Naam’, “Namak” and ‘Nishan’ and uphold the name of the Army and the country through the immutable dictum -“Nation First, Always And Every Time.”
P N Khera (Editor-in-Chief Asia Defence News): What are the internal and external challenges before the Indian Army today and how well are we prepared to meet the emerging situation?
Gen V K Singh, Chief of Army Staff: While our national integrity remains fundamentally secure, India today faces multifarious security challenges. These range from ‘Traditional Land Centric Threats’ along our borders to ‘Asymmetric Threats’, including its proxy war manifestations. Towards that end, strengthening of our security apparatus, to combat both internal and external threats, remain our priority. Accordingly, the Indian Army is trained and prepared to counter multiple threats, ranging from a conventional war to tackling the ongoing proxy war and insurgencies.
COVERING ENTIRE CAPABILITY SPECTRUM
PNK: In terms of the modern military doctrine, India’s terrain and type of threats, what kind of new equipment and technologies will have to be inducted into the Indian Army?
COAS: The long term perspective planning of the Army has been made in consonance with the stated doctrine, terrain in the Indian subcontinent as also the technology perspective.
Our endeavour is to obtain the best possible equipment with the latest technology for the Indian Army. This induction of equipment is being done to cover the entire capability spectrum as envisaged in our doctrine, to include manoeuvre, fire power, C4I2SR, night fighting capability and network centric operations. We seriously look at long range vectors and tactical rotary wing effort to enhance our capability. All these are being catered for in our modernisation.
A FIGMENT OF IMAGINATION
PNK: Recently the doctrine of ‘Cold Start’ has been in the news. Would you explain its concept and whether there are any plans to implement it?
COAS: As far as Cold Start strategy is concerned, let me say that there is no strategy called ‘cold start strategy’. Actually, it is a figment of imagination by the environment. In military parlance, as part of overall strategy, a number of contingencies are deliberated upon based on the threat perception. Proactive operations is one such strategic formulation in the overall matrix. There is nothing called ‘cold start’.
INDIAN ARMY IS KNOWLEDGE BASED
PNK: Due to induction of new technology and equipment in the Army, what steps are being taken to ensure contemporary training also to the troops?
COAS: As you are aware that the Army is a “Knowledge Based organisation”. We have a multi-layered approach to absorb latest technologies and keep abreast with current military development. There has been rapid progress in the field of Military Technology over the years. Our Army has been systematically creating a strong technological base for all ranks and empowering them with the required technical knowledge and skills. Training is aimed at all levels, from basic to super specialisation.
The process of inducting new equipment with the ever higher levels of technology involves considerable deliberation. Accordingly, contemporary training to keep pace with the induction of new technologies is accorded the highest level of importance.
Approx 300 technical graduates are commissioned into various arms/services every year. In addition, about 250 officers graduate with B Tech degrees from our premier technical institutes. 60-70 officers are nominated on M Tech in various disciplines of technology from top technical institutes of the country viz Indian Institutes of Technology, Indian institute of Science, Bhaba Atomic Research Institute, Defence Institute of Advance Technology etc. Our other ranks undergo various diploma and certificate courses in engineering. They are put through a number of upgradation and equipment orientation courses to enhance their technical proficiency and skills.
Matching with the induction of hightech weapons system and equipment, all ranks are trained on expert handling in pre and post induction phases. They are also associated from development stage of the equipment till its induction.
Training Institutions also expend a great amount of effort on maintaining a cutting edge in terms of latest technologies and equipment. Students are encouraged to pursue self study and research and, thus, keep abreast with current mil developments. Technology parameters are thus catered for both as part of institutionalised raining and field training for exploitation of the weapons and equipment.
DEALING WITH EMERGING CONFLICT SCENARIOS
PNK: How is the induction of contemporary Artillery guns, Missiles and Aviation equipment affecting the preparedness of the Army?
COAS: The nature of warfare is changing and evolving rapidly. Given the prevailing security scenario, we are focussed on honing our capability to be able to effectively deal with the emerging conflict scenarios. To ensure that our military response structure remains effective, the over-riding priority is to ensure that combat balance is maintained. We have evolved a concrete action plan to address our prioritised focus areas. Enhancing the combat effectiveness of Artillery and Aviation assumes primacy in our capability development plan. The induction of contemporary systems is enhancing our capability and preparedness.
INSTABILITY IN NEIGHBOURHOOD
PNK: In view of continued instability in India’s neighbourhood what are your threat perceptions?
COAS: Due to the porous nature of our borders, any instability in the neighbourhood has a resultant ‘spill-over effect’ in our country. This poses a serious security challenge. Terrorism is a common regional challenge. We, therefore, face varied security challenges, ranging from conventional to unconventional threats, that include proxy war, terrorism and insurgencies.That is why our army is trained to function in the entire spectrum of conflict.
UNINFORMED DEBATE ON AFSPA
PNK: There has been a lot of uninformed debate on Armed Forces Special Powers Act. Would you like to put the debate in the right perspective?
COAS: Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) is an enabling act passed by the Government of India for the Armed Forces to function in an insurgency environment and undertake counter terrorist operations. It needs to be appreciated that while being deployed in ‘Disturbed Areas’ the Army operates in heightened hostile environment and is faced with well trained and lethally equipped terrorist outfits. These situations which are akin to war, are extraordinary and require extraordinary measures to control them. Therefore, if the Army is to be deployed as an instrument of last resort, which indeed should be the case, it needs to retain ‘operational flexibility’ to operate decisively under various contingencies, with requisite legal safeguards. Moreover, the AFSPA does not impinge on the civil liberties of people; instead it provides the ‘Rules of Engagement’ for our soldiers.
Enough provisions pertaining to functioning of troops in disturbed areas have been made to prevent misuse of the powers vested to the troops under the Act. Towards this, “COAS’s Ten Commandments” and DO’s and DON’T’s make it binding for troops to be guided, while carrying out operations. Therefore, any dilution in the existing provisions of the Act will seriously undermine the combat potential of operating units impacting their conduct. The previous of the act have been upheld by the Supreme Court too.
THEY WANT TO LEARN FROM OUR EXPERIENCES
PNK: How is the doctrine on use of minimum force practiced by Indian Army? How many armies in the world, specially South Asia, practice this doctrine?
COAS: As you are aware, the Indian Army has been engaged in Internal Security and Counter-Insurgency Operations in the country for a very long time. In most cases, the Indian Army has succeeded in providing the right security environment essential for a negotiated peace settlement. These five decades of engagement have yielded wide and varied experience to the Indian Army’s approach and methodology to combat sub-conventional threats. It emphasises a humane and people-centric approach, underscoring the need for scrupulous upholding of the laws of the land and respect for human rights as also creating a secure environment, without causing any collateral damage. It propagates the use of overwhelming force against foreign and hardcore terrorists, while affording a fair chance to indigenous inimical elements to shun violence, surrender and join the mainstream as per the laws of the land.
I do not think many countries follow the type of minimum force doctrine we follow. On the other hand, realising the effectiveness of this doctrine, most countries today, have expressed a desire to learn from our experiences gained in
Counter Insurgency operations.
INDIAN ARMY POPULAR IN UN MISSIONS
PNK: Having earned praise in the UN missions, how does the Indian Army differ from other Armies of the world?
COAS: Post independence our Army has so far participated in 43 UN Peacekeeping missions across the world. Our troops are professionally well trained and experienced in undertaking tasks, in various challenging situations.
The Indian Army always follows a strict operational discipline and zero tolerance policy with respect to HR Violation. Use of minimum force and minimum collateral damage have been the bedrock of our policy. We also ensure that while operating in such an environment, our troops are absolutely neutral, impartial and professional in their approach.
I think these qualities have been our strength and for these reasons have made Indian Army popular in UN Missions.
INDIGENISATION AND MODERNISATION
PNK: What is the progress of indigenisation and modernisation of Indian Army?
COAS: ‘Indigenisation’ and ‘Modernisation’ of the Indian Army is a continuous and a dynamic process. All efforts are being made to expedite acquisition of advanced hardware to maintain a technologically advanced Army. The government is laying special emphasis on this important aspect to ensure a technological edge over our adversaries. Some important issues are:-
(a) Enhancement of fighting capabilities of AFVs.
(b) Equipping combat arms with state of the art weapon
(c) Enhancement of Artillery firepower, both in terms of
lethality and reach.
(d) Major enhancement of Air Defence cover.
(e) Enhancement of Battle field surveillance by acquiring and integrating
Battle field surveillance system with Decision Support system.
(f) Enhancement of fighting capabilities of an Infantry soldier.
(g) Making the Indian Army net enabled.
As regards indigenisation, the endeavour is always to procure indigenously developed military hardware. Our military industrial complex is currently in a nascent stage but progress is being made steadily towards this end. A significant number of critical projects are being developed within the country by DRDO and DPSUs. In addition, in a number of acquisitions, ‘Transfer of Technology’ has been sought, which in turn will lead to self reliance, over a period of time.
INDUCTION OF WOMEN IN ARMY
PNK: In your time the historic decision to grant permanent commission to women in Indian Army has been taken and implemented. How far do you think it will go and succeed?
CO AS: Induction of women in Indian Army must be driven solely by service requirements. Indian Army is apolitical, totally secular and does not differentiate on caste, creed or gender. Government has offered Permanent Commission to Women officers in Judge Advocate General and Army Education Corps which are non combat Services. In other arms & services like Air Defence, Aviation, Signals and Engineers, induction of WOs entry is restricted to SSC. This is inkeeping with our desired cadre structure wherein 60% of the cadre is to be of short service and remainder 40% as permanent. The women officers are performing well and possibility of expansion of permanent commission in other services has to considered keeping the operational limitations and the cadre structure laid down by AV Singh Committee.
ARMY COMITTED TO JOINTNESS
PNK: What have been the effects of increased synergy between the three Armed Forces on strengthening the national security against both external threats and internal insurgency?
CO AS: Our stated vision “to consolidate the Army into a highly motivated, optimally equipped and modernised, operationally ready force, capable of functioning in a synergised joint service environment, across the spectrum of conflict” clearly states the Indian Army’s commitment towards achieving jointness. The three Services have made significant strides towards achieving this in various operational, training and administrative fields. This synergy is reflected in the fact that we have been able to keep the Nation secure against various threats, both external and internal. Post the Kargil Review Committee Report and the Group of Ministers (GoM) Recommendations (February 2001), we have adopted a phased and evolutionary approach, to integrate the three Services. It is a long drawn process, but we are surely moving in the right direction.
DISASTER MANAGEMENT AND GOODWILL OPERATIONS
PNK: What has been the record of Indian Army in Disaster Management and goodwill towards civilian?
COAS: The record of Indian Army in “Disaster management” and “Goodwill operations” has been extremely good. Indian Army is one of the major players at national level for such operations and has always responded in an exemplary manner, whenever and wherever called upon to do so. The most recent example is the assistance provided by the Army in the Ladakh region during ‘Cloud Burst’, where despite being personally affected by the natural calamity, which hit the region, the Army responded swiftly to help the beleaguered. Similarly, Operation SADBHAVNA, is a glittering example of the success of Indian Army in goodwill operations our record on both these fronts is worth emulation.
MAINTAINING TRANSPARENCY AND ‘IZZAT’
PNK: Recently there has been a spurt in the allegations of corruption against the Army personnel. How do you view it and what deterrent measures do you propose against the accused?
COAS: Yes, there have been some cases, but these are individual acts. Army is a very resilient organisation with strong ethical values, ethos and high discipline standards. At the same time, all reported infringements and irregularities are addressed and investigated as also the matter is taken to decisive conclusions, irrespective of rank and status of individuals. Adequate measures are already in place to ensure transparency and maintaining the ‘Izzat’ of the Army.
NAAM, NAMAK AND NISHAN PNK: What is your Army Day Message?
COAS: The nation looks upon the Army to maintain the highest standards of professionalism and commitment in all spheres. It is the paramount responsibility of each one of us to uphold and further enhance the fabric of this unique organisation through sustained hard work, meticulous training and utmost proprietary in all our dealings. My message is to follow the ethos of ‘Naam’, “Namak” and ‘Nishan’ and uphold the name of the Army and the country – through the adage – “Nation First, always and every time.”