Interview :Gen Bipin Rawat, UYSM, AVSM, YSM, SM, VSM, Chief of The Army Staff
As the Indian Army celebrates the 70th Army Day, Chief of the Army Staff in a frank and forthright interview with South Asia Defence & Strategic Review (Defstrat) articulated his views on a number of contemporary issues facing the Indian Army. Speaking with Ashwani Sharma, Editor of the magazine, the COAS shared his Key Result Areas and outlined his priorities. Excerpts :
Defstrat: The ‘Doklam’ Standoff has been the single most important challenge the Army faced in the course of the previous year. Though the issue was resolved diplomatically, the posture of our Army was no doubt a determinant factor in that resolution. Can you assuage the nation regarding the ability and resolve of the Army to stand up to such provocations in the future?
COAS: Indian Army is fully prepared to deal with any eventuality along the LAC. Any conflict and application of military force will be contingent on many factors importantly the geo-political and geo-economic environment, diplomatic outreach and finally the politico-military aims.
To ensure operational preparedness in Northern theatre, a host of modern and futuristic technologies to ensure improved surveillance, better weapon systems for infantry, night enablement, air defence, long range artillery and enhanced mobility have been introduced. Force accretion along the Northern border has been carried out, with additional raisings including those of mechanised forces. Additional resources to include restructuring of Border Road Oragnisation has also been carried out whilst some are in various stages of implementation.
Defstrat: Reforms in the Higher Defence Decision-making structures are reportedly on the anvil. Future conflicts will require a joint and integrated action among the three services. How far have we reached as far as ‘jointness’ or integration among the three services is concerned?
COAS: With the changing battlefield scenario and technological advancements the jointness and integration of all the three services has been dovetailed in all issues related to operations, planning, intelligence, training and logistics. Joint doctrines are in place thus fostering greater inter-operability amongst the Services without diluting individual service expertise.
The focus of modernisation has been on building capability through technology advancements along with cultivating and garnering organisations that assist in deriving augmented benefit from force multipliers. This effort is being driven towards the entire spectrum of operations including the capability to optimally operate in joint and integrated operations.
Based on the above enunciated philosophy, the threat perceptions and desired force capability to be achieved are being continuously worked out which form the basis of all modernisation plans.
Let me assure you that we are well poised for joint and integrated operations in future. The higher defence organisation like permanent COSC or CDS are work in progress and eventually a structure will come about that is dynamic and responsive to evolving security calculus.
Defstrat: There is heightened expectation amongst the nation’s young girls on the prospect of an opportunity to serve in our Armed Forces. What are the plans for induction of women into the Army at all levels.
COAS: Presently, women are commissioned in streams such as the medical, legal, educational, signals, air defence and engineering wings of the Army. The Army instructions for induction of women in Corps of Military Police are presently under finalisation and approval. The induction will in all probability commence in this year.
Defstrat: An unseemly controversy on the issue of equivalence of Services vis-à-vis civilian officers and staff has been a raging subject on the social media over the past few months. A committee was constituted to go into the issue, the end state on which has been unclear. Has the controversy been resolved to the satisfaction of the Army?
COAS: In any organisation where personnel of two cadres or more, governed by different set of rules, with different designations work side by side, there are bound to be functional issues. This functional dissonance, however, has not affected adversely the effectiveness of the Services HQ. We, too, have our share of minor concerns in this regard and have apprised the MoD of the same.
Here I must reiterate that there can be no equivalence between two distinct Services. The AFHQ Civil Services are a support cadre with no executive authority and is meant to provide secretarial support to the Services. We need to have a healthy functional relationship to include consideration for their career progression. The functioning of the Services, however, cannot be dictated by the support cadre.
The issue of equivalence had been projected by the Chairman COSC and the Defence Minister has fully supported us in this issue (The Defence Ministry has since withdrawn its contentious letter of 2016).
Defstrat: On the issue of capacity development, 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 within the country in the next few years?
COAS: The Indian Army has proactively pursued the ‘Make in India’ initiative. As on date, 25 proposals for various Arms and Services of the Army are being processed under ‘Make’ category with the underlying aim to achieve self-reliance in key technologies and reduce import substitution. Three seminars under the Army Design Bureau have also been held for the Industry for direct interaction enabling better comprehension of our requirements. The Army Design Bureau also interacts with Academia and Research and Development Organisations to further strengthen this process.
We are also willing to support the industry through a process of ‘hand holding’ and where necessary, revisit GSQ Rs. Recently indigenous manufacture of important ammunition has also been approved by MoD and we look forward to the industry grabbing such emerging opportunities at indigenisation.
Defstrat: Could you elaborate for the information of our readers as to the status of the F-INSAS Project and by when can the personnel of the Infantry Battalions be expected to be fully equipped for them to perform to full potential?
COAS: I feel we are getting enamoured by the equipment in use by Western Nations. We need to remain focused on our operational requirements and equip our infantry units to be combat ready for our assigned tasks. F-INSAS was conceptualised as an integrated system of weapon sub systems, body armour & individual equipment, target acquisition system and communication sub system.
While we had earlier gone for procurement of the integrated system, we are now focusing on sub systems of the Project wherein, individual sub systems. The sub systems are at different stages of procurement & once integrated as necessitated will enhance the operational capability of Infantry soldier.