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24 Saf­dar­jung Road, the of­fi­cial res­i­dence of the vice-chief of army staff, thrums with ac­tiv­ity early on a foggy Jan­uary morn­ing, just days af­ter Gen­eral Bipin Rawat as­sumed of­fice on New Year’s Day as In­dia’s 27th chief of the army staff. (His of­fi­cial 4 Ra­jaji Marg res­i­dence is un­der ren­o­va­tion.) His twin Dachshunds, Dash and Tickle, shoot around like lit­tle guided tor­pe­does clad in iden­ti­cal red-and­black-trimmed win­ter fleece. Staff of­fi­cers and Ta­vor ri­fle-wield­ing body­guards of the spe­cial forces flank the fleet of black ar­moured Scor­pios wait­ing to make the short two km drive to his of­fice deep within the sand­stone cor­ri­dors of South Block. The gen­eral ap­pears in the ve­ran­dah of his home, prof­fers a firm hand­shake. He’s of medium height, stock­ily built, with salt and pep­per hair and a neatly trimmed white mous­tache. He lis­tens care­fully, looks you in the eye when he speaks, and the clearly ar­tic­u­lated sen­tences are de­liv­ered like a mil­i­tary drum roll. He clearly plays on the front foot. There is sim­ply no ques­tion that will in­duce any hes­i­ta­tion on his part, from tack­ling China and Pak­istan, sur­gi­cal strikes, the con­tro­ver­sial Cold Start war doc­trine to the polemic around his se­lec­tion as army chief, su­per­sed­ing two se­nior army com­man­ders. As he sat down for an ex­ten­sive in­ter­view with Ex­ec­u­tive Ed­i­tor San­deep Un­nithan, Gen­eral Rawat re­vealed why he was supremely con­fi­dent of nav­i­gat­ing the mine­field that lies ahead in his three­year ten­ure. Ex­cerpts: What do you see as your main se­cu­rity chal­lenges and how do you plan to han­dle de­vel­op­ments like the re­or­gan­i­sa­tion of China’s armed forces? The pri­mary role of the armed forces is the de­fence of the bor­ders, prepa­ra­tion for con­ven­tional war­fare, main­tain­ing in­ter­nal se­cu­rity and fo­cus­ing on dis­as­ter re­lief. We are study­ing the restruc­tur­ing of the PLA to see its ef­fi­cacy. We will study their re­forms and see whether they have rel­e­vance in our con­text. If so, we will put them across with mod­i­fi­ca­tions to the gov­ern­ment. The army’s China-spe­cific Moun­tain Strike Corps has been lan­guish­ing for want of funds. Is this rel­e­vant in our con­text? We raised the Moun­tain Strike Corps (MSC) as part of a tran­si­tion from dis­sua­sion and de­ter­rence to cred­i­ble de­ter­rence. All ad­ver­saries re­spect cred­i­ble strength, which comes from such for­ma­tions ca­pa­ble of strik­ing across the bor­der. We are ex­pected to re­main de­fen­sive in or­der to en­sure there are no in­cur­sions and the sanc­tity of the bor­ders is main­tained. But you can­not al­ways re­main de­fen­sive. We must also have the ca­pa­bil­ity to con­duct of­fen­sive op­er­a­tions. Whether these forces are go­ing to be used phys­i­cally will de­pend on the sit­u­a­tion, but surely these forces meet the pur­pose of cred­i­ble de­ter­rence. So, we’ll cer­tainly give im­pe­tus to rais­ing the corps. The gov­ern­ment has given us per­mis­sion to in­duct man­power, in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment along the bor­der is tak­ing place, weapons and equip­ment are com­ing in. Did the army’s Septem­ber 29, 2016 sur­gi­cal strikes de­fine our new red lines in a strong re­sponse to a high-ca­su­alty at­tack by ter­ror­ists? All na­tions and armies de­fine their own thresh­olds. The De­cem­ber 13, 2001 Par­lia­ment at­tack was a thresh­old. In a ter­ror­ist at­tack, it is the na­ture of the at­tack and the suc­cess the ter­ror­ists are able to achieve—some­times what hap­pens is that the ter­ror­ists get suc­cess be­cause of in­ci­den­tal dam­age caused. Uri, for ex­am­ple, was an in­ci­den­tal suc­cess be­cause there were troops in tents, troops who were grouped to­gether. In Na­grota, they did not get so much suc­cess… they did not get so many peo­ple, we were able to elim­i­nate them be­fore they could do dam­age. So the thresh­old level will vary and [de­ter­mine] the kind of re­ac­tion, be­cause our na­tion is not a war­mon­ger­ing na­tion. We want peace and tran­quil­ity, and if we find that some­thing can be re­solved through ne­go­ti­a­tions, an at­tempt is al­ways made to re­solve it through ne­go­ti­a­tions… but if we find these in­ci­dents get­ting re­peated, we de­fine a thresh­old, a de­ci­sion is taken, rec­om­men­da­tions are made, and we will go across again. It is very dif­fi­cult to say if there are red lines (in re­sponse to ter­ror­ist at­tacks). What I can say is that there are dot­ted lines, and those dots are then joined to­gether by us to draw a red line. Is the Cold Start doc­trine—in­sti­tuted af­ter Op­er­a­tion Parakram in 2001— still an op­tion in re­sponse to at­tacks like the one on Par­lia­ment in 2001 or 26/11 in Mumbai? The Cold Start doc­trine ex­ists for


con­ven­tional mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions. Whether we have to con­duct con­ven­tional op­er­a­tions for such strikes is a de­ci­sion well-thought through, in­volv­ing the gov­ern­ment and the Cabi­net Com­mit­tee on Se­cu­rity. Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi had, in the com­bined com­man­ders’ con­fer­ence in 2015, said that fu­ture con­flicts will be­come shorter, and wars will be­come rare. Do you have any strat­egy for short, in­tense wars? In our case, we pre­pare for short, in­tense con­flicts, and at the same time have to be pre­pared for wars be­com­ing long-drawn. Based on that, we have a well-de­fined strat­egy. What the PM said is right; wars will be in­tense and short be­cause there’ll al­ways be in­ter­na­tional pres­sure in wars be­tween two na­tions. We have to be aware of that; what­ever ac­tion we take, there­fore, has to be quick; forces have to be ready and have to achieve suc­cess. The mod­erni­sa­tion of the In­dian Army has been an area of ma­jor con­cern for you and your pre­de­ces­sors. Have you iden­ti­fied any key ar­eas for de­liv­ery dur­ing your ten­ure? Tech­nol­ogy is con­stantly chang­ing. You can­not be us­ing older tech­nolo­gies for your weapons sys­tems and equip­ment. My think­ing is that you have to look at emerg­ing tech­nol­ogy be­cause of the time it takes for a weapons sys­tem to be in­ducted into the armed forces. So you have to look at to­mor­row’s tech­nol­ogy for in­duct­ing weapons. With that in mind, we have also fo­cused on cer­tain weapons sys­tems. In­fantry is the most af­fected—de­ployed along the bor­der round the clock, in in­ter­nal se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tions, and in the face of fre­quent cease­fire vi­o­la­tions on the bor­der—we need to give them mod­ern weapons tech­nol­ogy best suited to such an en­vi­ron­ment. The mech­a­nised forces need fu­ture bat­tle tanks and In­fantry Com­bat Ve­hi­cles, new avi­a­tion as­sets, air de­fence sys­tems, ar­tillery and other longer ranged weapon sys­tems that have more lethal­ity and ac­cu­racy. We are also look­ing at up­grad­ing op­er­a­tional lo­gis­tics sys­tems. The mod­erni­sa­tion pri­or­i­ties have been spelt out by my pre­de­ces­sor [Gen. Dal­bir Singh] and we are con­tin­u­ing with the same vi­sion and thrust ar­eas be­cause I feel they have been thought through and holis­ti­cally de­fine the army’s re­quire­ments. Do you see an emerg­ing threat in the new China-Pak­istan prox­im­ity and how do you pro­pose to re­spond to it? Na­tional se­cu­rity strat­egy by any na­tion is de­fined by its na­tional in­ter­ests. China has de­fined its na­tional in­ter­ests by com­ing close to Pak­istan in look­ing for ac­cess to the In­dian Ocean Re­gion, for en­ergy se­cu­rity, trade. To­day, economics de­fines na­tional strat­egy and wher­ever peo­ple find eco­nomic gain, there are co­op­er­a­tive mech­a­nisms and al­liances. We also have to look at our na­tional in­ter­ests and con­tinue do­ing what­ever is best in our na­tional in­ter­ests. We will also counter such mech­a­nisms through our own means; our gov­ern­ment is quite ca­pa­ble of han­dling [these]. We are also car­ry­ing out ac­tions to negate the nexus de­vel­op­ing be­tween China and Pak­istan. Would you elab­o­rate on these mea­sures? We are ad­dress­ing the neigh­bour­hood, the ex­tended neigh­bor­hood and the Far West. We are look­ing at cer­tain coun­tries on China’s east­ern seaboard, and the Amer­i­cas. There are group­ings that are tak­ing place. While we are proud of be­ing non-aligned, there are times when you have to get into some group­ings, which is of course in the do­main of for­eign pol­icy, so I wouldn’t like to re­ally com­ment. We have masters in for­eign pol­icy and they do it re­ally well. Our diplo­macy is mov­ing well, the prime min­is­ter’s fo­cus is on the global arena, we will be able to counter what­ever is hap­pen­ing through our for­eign pol­icy. What are your ex­pec­ta­tions from a closer mil­i­tary part­ner­ship with the United States? Our ex­pec­ta­tions are that we must live like friends—the eco­nomic part­ner­ship will grow stronger and ev­ery­thing else will fall into place. We are shar­ing ex­per­tise but that is more in the field of hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance and dis­as­ter re­sponse. We do try out some joint train­ing as far as counter-in­sur­gency [is con­cerned]. The US does con­sider us a lead na­tion in Counter In­sur­gency Ops; they have spe­cial­i­sa­tion in spe­cial forces op­er­a­tions which we look at. As for equip­ment, we have a sys­tem of global ten­der­ing, and I feel we should go for who­ever gives us the best. Fi­nally, we should sup­port our do­mes­tic in­dus­try. What it will de­pend on is who is will­ing to come here, share tech­nol­ogy and help our do­mes­tic in­dus­try grow and help us in be­com­ing self-re­liant, so we needn’t be coun­try-fix­ated. Is some­body out to cre­ate such a ri­valry? This is like pre­judg­ing a case with­out even hear­ing the wit­nesses… the judge­ment should come out only af­ter see­ing the re­sults. I have com­manded mech­a­nised forces in the south­ern com­mand and I can say that they are as pro­fes­sional as any other fight­ing arm in this field. Pos­si­bly be­cause of in­fantry see­ing more ac­tion in counter-in­sur­gency, there is more lime­light on field com­man­ders who are con­stantly un­der ob­ser­va­tion. But by virtue of con­stantly be­ing un­der ob­ser­va­tion you are also con­stantly un­der pres­sure. There are bou­quets and brick­bats. We have been hear­ing a lot about the ri­valry be­tween the in­fantry and the ar­moured corps. Would you set the record straight on this?

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