Interview : Chief of the Army Staff
As the Indian Army celebrates 68th Army Day, Chief of the Army Staff in an interview with South Asia Defence & Strategic Review (Defstrat) articulated his views on a number of contemporary issues facing the Indian Army and the Nation. Excerpts from the interview:
Defstrat: What is the latest sit in
J&K? What is the prognosis for the future? How is the Army preparing to face the eventualities, as assessed?
COAS: The situation in J&K is at an important crossroads and will remain dynamic in the near future. Considerable attrition has been imposed on the terrorist cadres and the operating space has been effectively denied to them. However, local recruitment has witnessed a marginal increase in the last two years. In addition, the separatists continue to foment trouble by exploiting triggers or generating flash points and fanning radicalisation. The terror infrastructure is intact with terrorists waiting at various launch pads along the LC to attempt infiltration. In the hinterland, the terrorists would continue to strike at soft targets to enhance their visibility and impact.
The Army will continue to strengthen its multi-tiered Counter Infiltration Grid along the LC to further reduce infiltration levels. Appropriate retaliation on the LC, will be carried out when deemed necessary. However, priority will be to defuse the situation by exploiting the existing mechanisms.
In the hinterland, the Army will continue to conduct intelligence based surgical operations against terrorists in synergy with the CAPF, JKP and civil administration.
Defstrat: As per assessment in some strategic quarters, chances of an all-out conventional war are reduced, while irregular warfare continues to pose a greater threat. Are we preparing for the right war, if and when it takes place?
COAS: Indian Army cannot be a ‘boutique’ force catering for any particular segment of the spectrum of warfare. It will be imprudent to believe that conventional conflicts are a thing of the past. Likelihood of conventional conflicts occurring juxtaposed with intense irregular or asymmetric threats is of higher probability. Conventional military capability and posture are also an important deterrent against military misadventure by our adversaries. Further, the conventional forces are equally capable of meeting & defeating asymmetric threats, however, the reverse is not true. Therefore, full spectrum war waging capability remains an essential component of the military instrument of National Power and it cannot be diluted at any cost.
Defstrat: What are Indian Army’s priorities for acquisition of new weapon systems and platforms? How do we modernise various arms which are equipped with vintage weapon systems and are thus in need of urgent acquisitions and upgrades?
COAS: The IA has identified 26 priority proposals which are critically required, the procurement for the same is being pursued on fast track basis, in consonance with the necessary support from RM and MoD.
Artillery: We have initiated a major Arty modernization drive for induction of a family of 155 mm calibre medium guns, comprising of the tracked (SP); Wheeled (SP) and Towed versions. Procurement of Tracked (SP) Gun is already at CNC stage. Post induction of these modern guns the overall capability both in terms of range and efficacy is likely to undergo a qualitative improvement.
Army Air Defence: The equipment strategy of Army AD is to have a judicious mix of Surface to Air Missile Systems and Gun Systems. Army AD is poised for a major up-gradation and modernisation drive. A systematic and a phased induction plan for various types of Surface to Air Missiles (SAMs) has been put into place. These cover the entire range and altitude bracket from the Very Short Range (VSHORAD), Short Range (SRSAMs) to Medium Range (MRSAM) besides Quick Reaction SAMs (QRSAMs) missiles for armoured / mechanised forces. In addition, the Air Defence Control and Reporting Systems(ADC&RS), based on state of the art sensors and satellite based communication system is also being inducted. Procurement of Akash, 3-Dimension al Tactical Control Radars, Low Level Light Weight Radars and upgrades of L-70 Gun and Schilka Mounts have fructified and their delivery have already commenced.
Mechanised Forces: Over 50% of the total requirement of T-90 Tanks has already been inducted. Before the end of 2015, we expected the numbers to rise to nearly 60%. Induction of balance requirement will be executed progressively in a phased manner and completed during the current Plan period. The induction process is also being expedited through augmentation of indigenous production capacity. Fresh EoI has been issued to all 10 empaneled vendors for the FICV project. Further action would be initiated after studying the response of vendors. As regards FRCV, to be developed on a ‘platform concept’ which would be the base for a family of variants, response from many agencies have been received and the same are under evaluation. Objective is to induct these during the next plan period.
Infantry: F-INSAS as a concept is being adhered to give adequate impetus to Infantry Modernisation Programme. Under the F-INSAS programme, the induction of weapons and equipment are being done in a phased manner to include family of personal weapons (Assault Rifle, Close Quarter Battle Carbine, Sniper Rifle, AMR etc), protection and battle survivability (BPJs, Ballistic Helmet, Improved Rucksack, and other items of soldiers gear etc) as also night enablement equipment to include weapon night sights and surveillance devices including Mini UAVs. A concerted endeavour is underway to ensure adequate impetus is being imparted to each of the modernization domains of F-INSAS.
Defstrat: How is the Indian Army ensuring long term capability development and self-reliance in defence? How can we facilitate development of a credible military industrial complex in the country in the next few years?
COAS: The Army, by its very role and force structure, has a very wide range and depth of inventory of arms, ammunition, equipment, platforms and systems. Most of its inventory, is relatively more suited for indigenous production.
The AoNs, for Army’s needs, in the last five years show a significant emphasis on indigenisation with maximum AoNs being accorded in the ‘Buy (Indian)’ and the ‘Buy & Make (Indian)’ categories. It is worth noting that 73 % of the contracts in the recent past have been signed with Indian companies. In terms of value, 55% of the modernisation budget has been spent on the indigenous industry. In the past two years ‘Buy Indian’, ‘Buy & Make Indian’ and ‘Make’ Schemes have risen from 73% to 87% of total procurement schemes, clearly indicating our focus on ‘Make in India’ initiative.
During the last four years, Department of Indigenisation (DOI) has done a commendable job. They have graduated from component level indigenisation to systems & assembly level indigenisation. They have identified Indian firms & tech partners for most of the complex assemblies and will be able to indigenize these assemblies soon.
We have also begun an annual institutionalized mechanism to share our hardware & tech needs with the indigenous industry to enable them to initiate focused R&D.
I can assure you that Indian Army is fully committed to the idea of self reliance through ‘Make in India’.
Defstrat: With the rapid advent and outreach of social media, how does the Army plan to counter the threat and instead use it to its advantage?
COAS: The IA is fully alive to the positive as well as disruptive potentials of Social Media platforms & applications. We have already embarked upon gainfully exploiting the wide and instantaneous reach of Social media.
Comprehensive advisories and guidelines have been issued on vulnerabilities associated with unrestricted and unwitting use of Social Media. Measures to avoid falling prey to its misuse by inimical elements have also been stressed upon. Disseminating these down to all ranks, including to those under training at Academies & Regimental Centres is being continuously pursued in ‘Mission Mode’.
Defstrat: Future conflicts will require joint and integrated actions among the three services. How far have we reached as far as “jointness” or integration among the three services is concerned?
COAS: A high level of Jointmanship between the three Services and synergy between different security agencies is critical for success in future operations. The setting up of HQ IDS has improved the inter-Service interface. Joint structures like the Andaman and Nicobar Command and Strategic Forces Command have resulted in greater Integration in command &control set-up and optimal exploitation of resources. Joint Structures for Cyber, Space and Special Forces domains are under consideration.
Joint Doctrines in areas requiring inter services synergy have been published and these provide a guiding framework for streamlining our joint responses. Our Joint Training Institutions continue to play a critical role in reinforcing jointness and building camaraderie between the three services. Joint Exercises are also conducted regularly for greater understanding of each other’s strengths and capabilities.
Defstrat: Considering the nature and duration of future wars, what major changes do you visualise in planning and execution our operational logistics as compared to the past. What are our major thrust areas in this direction and where are we today?
COAS: Our major thrust area in improving operational logistics are:-
• Seeking to construct Underground (UG)/Tunneled Storage of Ammunition/Fuel Oil Lubricants to obviate protracted land acquisition issues as well as for better safety & security. Two Pilot Projects, one each in Eastern and Northern Commands for tunneled and UG storage of ammunition have been undertaken by the IA.
• Reducing of timelines for mobilisation by incorporating adequate air assets in the mobilisation plan.
• Ensuring pan-India visibility of logistics inventory through development of automated logistics module under Indian Army Info Sys (IAIS) which will lead to major cost cutting.
• Outsourcing of non-core competencies to enable lowering of estimates including manpower costs.
Further, there is a need for Defence logistics architecture to be integrated with national infrastructure and national development plans. Also, developing of Joint Logistics Nodes is the need of the hour. Toward this, a study to establish a Joint Logistics Node is in progress.
Defstrat: What would be the COAS’s priorities for 2016? How do they fit into your overall vision of the Indian Army?
COAS: I had enunciated the Vision and Focus Areas when I took over the reigns of this great organisation. These have been carved out with the intent to channelize our resources towards transforming the Army into a modern and operationally responsive fighting force. Prime focus has been on capability development and human resource management.
While pursuing the Vision & Focus Areas, issues of Top priority during 2016, will be:-
• Induction of critical equipment, weapons and ammunition for the Army. Address deficiencies in administration infrastructure by refining LTPP.
• Pro-actively address security related issues along the Western and Northern borders, and enhance our operational readiness.
• Upgrade technology & skills to effectively defeat terrorist modus operandi; deter & eliminate infiltration attempts; and neutralize residual militancy in the hinterland through combination of surgical intelligence based operations and deradicalising initiatives.
• Qualitatively optimize Army’s Human Capital through effective human resource management; leadership development; and addressing aspirations of the force.