In­ter­view with Chief of Army Staff Gen­eral Bikram Singh

“Ca­pa­bil­ity en­hance­ment of the armed forces or­ces is be­ing pro­gressed in a joint man­ner wherein erein the req­ui­site ca­pa­bil­i­ties re­quired for the e armed forces are be­ing worked out by HQ IDS”

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SP’s Land Forces (SP’s): How does it feel to take over the In­dian Army, the sec­ond largest Army in the world, with its for­mi­da­ble rep­u­ta­tion in the bat­tle­field? Chief of the Army Staff (COAS):

I am elated and hum­bled on be­ing be­stowed with this re­spon­si­bil­ity. The Army and I will en­deav­our to live up to the ex­pec­ta­tions and the con­fi­dence which has been re­posed by the na­tion. I as­sure the na­tion of ded­i­ca­tion and pro­fes­sional fo­cus and con­duct from its Army.

SP’s: What are the key ar­eas that you will fo­cus on dur­ing your ten­ure as the COAS? COAS:

I in­tend to fo­cus on the fol­low­ing key ar­eas: Op­er­a­tional readi­ness to en­able ef­fec­tive ful­fil­ment of our con­sti­tu­tional obli­ga­tions and as­signed roles. Force mod­erni­sa­tion as per stip­u­lated time­lines, and ad­dress the ex­ist­ing “hol­low­ness”. Strengthen our work cul­ture that hinges on pro­fes­sional ethos and up­hold our cher­ished core val­ues of in­tegrity, loy­alty, duty, re­spect, self­less ser­vice and hon­our. Ef­fec­tive hu­man re­source man­age­ment to en­sure high­est stan­dards of mo­ti­va­tion and mo­rale. En­hance se­cu­rity con­scious­ness and strengthen our sec­u­lar fab­ric and apo­lit­i­cal stature. En­hance joint­ness with other ser­vices and strengthen our in­ter-agency re­la­tion­ships. En­sure wel­fare of veter­ans, veer naris and wid­ows.

SP’s: What is your per­cep­tion of the se­cu­rity chal­lenges cur­rently the na­tion is fac­ing in gen­eral and the In­dian Army in par­tic­u­lar? What are the fu­ture chal­lenges that we may have to con­front? COAS:

The present geopo­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment in Asia and par­tic­u­larly in South Asia is dy­namic. It poses se­cu­rity chal­lenges to our Army across the en­tire spec­trum of con­flict, in­clud­ing both con­ven­tional and un­con­ven­tional do­mains. Th­ese range from “tra­di­tional land-cen­tric threats” along our bor­ders to “asym­met­ric threats”, in­clud­ing proxy war and in­sur­gency within our coun­try. Also, rapid and ex­po­nen­tial growth in the in­for­ma­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion tech­nolo­gies, and cy­ber space, has cre­ated fresh tech­no­log­i­cal chal­lenges. Threats em­a­nat­ing from cy­ber do­main have be­come an ev­ery­day re­al­ity.

In the present mi­lieu—threats are hy­bridised. There is a need to con­stantly re­view the chal­lenges con­fronting the na­tion and the Army. The In­dian Army is mind­ful of the con­ven­tional threats con­cur­rent to the on­go­ing proxy war in Jammu and Kash­mir and the North­east. The Army is fully pre­pared, trained and is mod­ernising to counter th­ese se­cu­rity threats.

The cur­rent and fu­ture chal­lenges faced by the In­dian Army man­date that we pre­pare for con­ven­tional con­flict with con­cur­rent en­gage­ment in sub-con­ven­tional con­flicts. The new di­men­sions of threat in­clude in­for­ma­tion and cy­ber space and mil­i­tari­sa­tion of outer space. The hy­brid na­ture of threats and chal­lenges re­quire in­duc­tion of qual­ity man­power with ver­sa­tile skills. There­fore, req­ui­site mod­erni­sa­tion and ca­pa­bil­ity en­hance­ment is planned and is be­ing un­der­taken to meet all chal­lenges and con­tin­gen­cies.

SP’s: Con­sid­er­ing that China is In­dia’s most for­mi­da­ble chal­lenge in the fu­ture and in view of its close strate­gic ties with Pak­istan, to what ex­tent is the In­dian Army pre­pared to con­front this dual chal­lenge? When we talk of a two-front ca­pa­bil­ity, what ex­actly do we mean in terms of ca­pa­bil­ity build­ing? COAS:

In­dian Army’s pri­mary mis­sion is to se­cure the ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity of the na­tion. In the on­go­ing force struc­tur­ing and mod­erni­sa­tion process, our fo­cus is on devel­op­ment of var­i­ous es­sen­tial ca­pa­bil­i­ties to­wards achiev­ing the pri­mary mis­sion, with­out be­ing “coun­try” spe­cific.

SP’s: Please give us your views on the slow pace of mod­erni­sa­tion. How does Army pro­pose to fast-track mod­erni­sa­tion? COAS:

Mod­erni­sa­tion is a com­plex and dy­namic process im­pacted by op­er­a­tional changes, emerg­ing tech­nolo­gies and bud­getary sup­port. Ev­ery de­fence plan ear­marks a sub­stan­tial com­po­nent of its cap­i­tal bud­get for mod­erni­sa­tion. I am con­scious of the fact that the Army’s mod­erni­sa­tion plan has not pro­gressed as de­sired. There have been slip­pages in cap­i­tal pro­cure­ment. De­lays and hin­drances so far are at­trib­ut­able to in­house or­gan­i­sa­tional and pro­ce­dural de­lays. The bot­tle­necks in the ex­ist­ing pro­cure­ment pro­ce­dure and lack of in­dige­nous re­source base re­main ma­jor ar­eas of con­cern.

Mod­erni­sa­tion is the pri­or­ity and we will con­tinue to fo­cus on this is­sue. The Army has ini­ti­ated spe­cific mea­sures to over­come the ex­ist­ing short­com­ings in pro­cure­ment ac­tiv­i­ties. Cur­rently, our fo­cus in mod­erni­sa­tion is on ma­noeu­vre ca­pa­bil­ity, pre­ci­sion fire­power, air de­fence, ro­tary-wing com­bat sup­port and lift ca­pa­bil­ity, fu­ture in­fantry sol­dier as a sys­tem, net­work-cen­tric­ity and achiev­ing bat­tle­field trans­parency through im­proved sur­veil­lance, night vi­sion and tar­get ac­qui­si­tion and in­fra­struc­ture devel­op­ment.

The process of mod­erni­sa­tion can­not also be com­plete with­out In­dia ac­quir­ing in­dige­nous ca­pa­bil­ity. The role of the De­fence Re­search and Devel­op­ment Or­gan­i­sa­tion (DRDO) in this re­gard is para­mount. We need to de­velop a re­search and devel­op­ment base which is com­pa­ra­ble to the best in the world. Ad­e­quate ini­tia­tives are be­ing taken by the government, as spelt out in the De­fence Pro­cure­ment Pro­ce­dure (DPP) 2011, to en­cour­age the pri­vate in­dus­try in the coun­try to un­der­take re­search, devel­op­ment and pro­duc­tion of weapons and equip­ment.

Ma­jor progress has been made in re­mov­ing the bot­tle­necks and op­ti­mis­ing the ac­qui­si­tion process. The In­dian Army will def­i­nitely see a dis­tinct up­grade in its equip­ment pro­file in the near fu­ture.

Our fo­cus is on ma­noeu­vre ca­pa­bil­ity, pre­ci­sion fire­power, air de­fence, ro­tary-wing com­bat sup­port and lift ca­pa­bil­ity, fu­ture in­fantry sol­dier as a sys­tem, net­work-cen­tric­ity and bat­tle­field trans­parency

SP’s: The Fi­nance Min­istry had re­turned Army’s pro­posal for a ded­i­cated Moun­tain Strike Corps for the North­east for a tri-ser­vices pro­posal. Do you think this move will de­lay the en­tire pro­posal for rais­ing Moun­tain Strike Corps for the North­east? COAS:

Based on the threat per­cep­tion, the In­dian Army has iden­ti­fied its de­fence re­quire­ments and for­mu­lated its long-term per­spec­tive plan for devel­op­ment of ca­pa­bil­i­ties and force struc­tures. The progress on ca­pa­bil­ity devel­op­ment is re­viewed pe­ri­od­i­cally. Fo­cus of the In­dian Army over the last five years has been to pro­gres­sively in­crease our ca­pa­bil­i­ties through en­hance­ment of force lev­els, upgra­da­tion of tech­nol­ogy, in­duc­tion of force-mul­ti­pli­ers as also mod­erni­sa­tion and im­prove­ment of in­fra­struc­ture. Rais­ing of two In­fantry Di­vi­sions sanc­tioned in the Eleventh Five Year Plan by the government has been com­pleted and they are oper­a­tionally ef­fec­tive.

Based on an­tic­i­pated threats and chal­lenges, need for new ca­pa­bil­i­ties and mod­erni­sa­tion re­quire­ments, the ac­cre­tion of a Corps sized force is con­sid­ered nec­es­sary. The pro­posal is be­ing vet­ted and val­i­dated. There have been some queries, which are be­ing ex­am­ined by us. The pro­posal will be re­sub­mit­ted for early con­sid­er­a­tion and ap­proval. We are con­fi­dent that our needs com­men­su­rate to the se­cu­rity chal­lenges will be met.

SP’s: What are the changes in the na­ture of war­fare which di­rectly im­pact the mode of func­tion­ing of the sol­diers in the fu­ture and how are we ca­ter­ing to this change? COAS:

The na­ture of war­fare is chang­ing and evolv­ing rapidly. Wars/con­flicts of to­day have be­come in­creas­ingly fast paced and vi­o­lent in na­ture. The dis­tinc­tion be­tween con­ven­tional op­er­a­tions, proxy war and un­con­ven­tional means is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly blurred man­i­fest­ing in the hy­brid na­ture of war­fare. There is an in­creased use of pre­ci­sion mu­ni­tions at ever in­creas­ing ranges, blur­ring of the dis­tinc­tion be­tween day and night and in­creased fa­tigue due to the non­lin­ear­ity and in­ces­sant pace of op­er­a­tions. Added to this is the ever in­creas­ing tech­no­log­i­cal thresh­old to op­ti­mally op­er­ate so­phis­ti­cated weapon sys­tems in the busi­ness

of war-wag­ing. Hu­man rights is­sues and the om­nipresent me­dia have in­creas­ingly brought the realms of war­fare into the liv­ing rooms of the pop­u­lace and have im­pacted the na­ture of war-fight­ing pro­foundly.

Not only are we in­duct­ing new tech­nolo­gies to deal with the ever chang­ing sit­u­a­tion, but also our method­ol­ogy of war-fight­ing is evolv­ing con­stantly, in fur­ther­ance of war aims. Con­cur­rently, hu­man re­source devel­op­ment is be­ing given a re­newed fo­cus to fa­cil­i­tate in­duc­tion of qual­ity man­power to sup­port a tech­no­log­i­cally ori­ented Army. Im­part­ing real­is­tic train­ing for all ex­ist­ing and emerg­ing con­tin­gen­cies to pre­pare our troops for the fu­ture bat­tle­field en­vi­ron­ment is an area that we are con­stantly ad­dress­ing. We are also con­sciously work­ing to­wards pre­par­ing our mil­i­tary lead­er­ship to ac­quire skills to be able to re­spond dy­nam­i­cally to the chang­ing se­cu­rity par­a­digm.

SP’s: Mil­i­tary an­a­lysts say that in fu­ture op­er­a­tions, size of the force will be less im­por­tant than ‘pre­ci­sion’ and ‘in­for­ma­tion’, high­light­ing the time fac­tor as the crit­i­cal is­sue. What are the changes be­ing con­tem­plated to re­struc­ture or re-equip the In­dian Army for th­ese new at­tributes, in­clud­ing tech­no­log­i­cal upgra­da­tion? COAS:

Keep­ing in view our un­re­solved ter­ri­to­rial bor­ders, the re­quire­ment of suit­ably ac­cou­tred and equipped troops with mod­ern sur­veil­lance means to main­tain our ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity along in­hos­pitable and treach­er­ous ter­rain will re­main. How­ever, fu­ture op­er­a­tions would re­quire troops who are tech­nol­ogy savvy and are able to achieve the de­sired re­sults by ex­ploit­ing high-end equip­ment and weapon sys­tems to their ad­van­tage. Pre­ci­sion and in­for­ma­tion, once fully in­cor­po­rated into our sys­tems, will en­hance our com­mand con­trol in­tel­li­gence sur­veil­lance re­con­nais­sance (C4ISR) ca­pa­bil­i­ties and shorten the ob­serve, ori­ent, de­cide and act (OODA) cy­cle.

The aim is to pro­gres­sively evolve and de­velop req­ui­site ca­pa­bil­i­ties so that we have

The in­ter­nal se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion in J&K has shown im­prove­ment. This has been pos­si­ble due to the per­sis­tent proac­tive counter-ter­ror­ist strat­egy adopted by the se­cu­rity forces.

a more lethal, ag­ile and net­worked force that is pre­pared to meet the com­plex se­cu­rity chal­lenges of the fu­ture. The In­dian Army has been pur­su­ing mod­erni­sa­tion schemes that cater for the in­tri­cate dy­nam­ics of a chang­ing bat­tle­field mi­lieu. The im­pe­tus is be­ing given to en­hanc­ing our crit­i­cal ca­pa­bil­i­ties. Our thrust ar­eas in­clude bat­tle­field trans­parency, night-fight­ing ca­pa­bil­ity, en­hanced fire­power, in­te­grated ma­noeu­vre ca­pa­bil­ity, net­work-cen­tric­ity and devel­op­ment of crit­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture, while also mak­ing up the ex­ist­ing voids.

Ter­ri­to­rial sanc­tity against ex­ter­nal threat is the pri­mary re­spon­si­bil­ity of the Army. Moun­tain­ous ter­rain re­quires ‘boots on grounds’, be­cause in th­ese ar­eas, the ter­rain is tough, com­mu­ni­ca­tion is te­dious and in­fra­struc­ture devel­op­ment is slow. There­fore, the ter­rain man­dates the cor­rect size of force to dom­i­nate it. There is a need to have phys­i­cal dom­i­nance to af­fect tac­ti­cal success in such ar­eas. It is im­per­a­tive to have the abil­ity to move troops to the ar­eas by he­li­copters/other means.

SP’s: What are your views on Army be­ing asked to un­der­take anti-Naxal op­er­a­tions? COAS:

Se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion in left-wing ex­trem­ism (LWE)-af­fected states is in the law and or­der do­main and de­void of any se­ces­sion­ist con­tours. Counter Maoist op­er­a­tions which are cur­rently be­ing co­or­di­nated by the Min­istry of Home Af­fairs (MHA) must con­tinue to be man­aged through op­ti­mal em­ploy­ment of state po­lice forces and Cen­tral Armed Po­lice Forces (CAPF). En­hanc­ing the ca­pac­ity of CAPF and state po­lice forces re­quires a com­mit­ted ef­fort, wherein the Army will con­tinue to pro­vide all pos­si­ble sup­port in ad­vi­sory ca­pac­ity and in pro­vid­ing train­ing to the state po­lice/CAPFs.

The pri­mary fo­cus is on train­ing of CAPF units be­ing in­ducted into LWEaf­fected ar­eas. As a part of ca­pa­bil­ity devel­op­ment of CAPFs, till date, 72,500 per­sons have been trained.

CAPF of­fi­cers are at­tached with the In­fantry/Rashtriya Ri­fles units in Jammu and Kash­mir and North­east for hands-on ex­pe­ri­ence and com­bat lead­er­ship in the con­duct of counter-ter­ror­ism (CT) op­er­a­tions.

SP’s: Dur­ing your visit to Jammu and Kash­mir, what are the changes that you no­ticed in the en­vi­ron­ment and how should the Army re­act to th­ese changes? COAS:

The in­ter­nal se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion in Jammu and Kash­mir has shown im­prove­ment. This has been pos­si­ble due to the per­sis­tent proac­tive counter-ter­ror­ist strat­egy adopted by the se­cu­rity forces which has re­sulted in ef­fec­tive neu­tral­i­sa­tion of a large num­ber of ter­ror­ists and their lead­ers.

The Apex Se­cu­rity Mech­a­nism in the state is func­tion­ing ef­fec­tively, which has

man­i­fested in de­sired syn­ergy amongst the se­cu­rity forces and var­i­ous stake­hold­ers. Con­se­quently, this has pro­vided a mean­ing­ful en­vi­ron­ment for in­clu­sive growth in the state. The fo­cus is on peo­ple-friendly and sur­gi­cal op­er­a­tions. Our in­tel­li­gence­based sur­gi­cal op­er­a­tions must, there­fore, con­tinue against the resid­ual strength of ap­prox­i­mately 400-plus ter­ror­ists, while scrupu­lously up­hold­ing the law of the land and re­spect for hu­man rights.

The ter­ror­ist threat re­mains real and the ter­ror­ist in­fra­struc­ture across the bor­ders con­tin­ues to be ac­tive. We need to re­main vig­i­lant to­wards th­ese threats and can­not af­ford to let the sit­u­a­tion go out of hand at this stage. It has im­proved due to sac­ri­fices and ef­forts of the se­cu­rity forces. The Army re­quires all en­ablers to be in­tact; and the sit­u­a­tion is still not ripe to ex­per­i­ment.

SP’s: What is your vi­sion for the In­dian Army vis-à-vis the emerg­ing re­gional power sta­tus of In­dia? What should be done in broad terms to en­able the In­dian Army to match the as­pi­ra­tions of the na­tion? COAS:

We need to re­main ready and rel­e­vant to the na­tional as­pi­ra­tions, and there­fore within the frame­work of our na­tional pol­icy, the In­dian Army will gear it­self up for ac­com­plish­ing all tasks man­dated to us by the government.

The na­tion has al­ways re­posed full faith in the Army while on its part the Army has al­ways and will al­ways live up to the ex­pec­ta­tions. We are duty bound to en­sure op­er­a­tional readi­ness to meet any con­tin­gency in the ex­ter­nal/in­ter­nal se­cu­rity do­main. Op­er­a­tional readi­ness and rel­e­vance of In­dian Army to take on any chal­lenge will al­ways be en­sured.

SP’s: What is the progress of In­dian Army in the ar­eas of cy­ber and elec­tronic war­fare? COAS:

Elec­tronic war­fare (EW) is a po­tent tool for pros­e­cu­tion of in­for­ma­tion war­fare and com­man­ders at all lev­els, in fu­ture con­flicts, would at­tempt to dom­i­nate the elec­tro­mag­netic (EM) spec­trum for lo­cat­ing, mon­i­tor­ing, dis­rupt­ing/deny­ing the en­emy’s elec­tronic sys­tems that sup­port mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions. In­dian Army has made rapid strides in de­vel­op­ing its in­for­ma­tion war­fare struc­ture, prom­i­nent amongst th­ese is the syn­er­gised devel­op­ment of cy­ber and elec­tronic war­fare. An ef­fec­tive cy­ber de­fen­sive ca­pa­bil­ity is be­ing devel­oped to dis­suade and de­ter any cy­ber threats. Aug­men­ta­tion of spe­cial­ist man­power is be­ing un­der­taken on fast-track ba­sis and is be­ing given im­pe­tus at the high­est level.

We are mod­ernising our EW ca­pa­bil­ity with lat­est cut­ting-edge tech­nolo­gies and procur­ing EW sys­tems as per a well thought out long-term plan. Rais­ing of EW or­gan­i­sa­tions is also on the anvil, es­pe­cially to counter the threats.

SP’s: De­spite there be­ing a well-es­tab­lished sys­tem of se­lec­tion/pro­mo­tion in the Army, why do so many of­fi­cers feel ag­grieved in the sys­tem? Does this is­sue need a de­tailed re-ex­am­i­na­tion? COAS:

We are aware of this is­sue. The sys­tem is very fair; ef­forts are on to make the sys­tem more trans­par­ent. Re­view is be­ing un­der­taken to meet the as­pi­ra­tions of the of­fi­cers. Se­nior ranks in the Army con­sti­tute only three per cent of the to­tal num­ber of of­fi­cers. As­pi­ra­tion lev­els of of­fi­cers have also risen in keep­ing with so­ci­etal norms. How­ever, un­like other or­gan­i­sa­tions where pyra­mids are less steep, prospects for higher pro­mo­tions re­main com­par­a­tively re­stricted.

The per­cep­tion of ar­bi­trari­ness or sub­jec­tiv­ity in the se­lec­tion process has been ad­dressed to a large ex­tent through im­ple­men­ta­tion of the quan­ti­fied sys­tem for se­lec­tion. How­ever, I am con­vinced that we need en­dur­ing poli­cies and as such have al­ready or­dered an ex­am­i­na­tion of the cur­rent sys­tem to en­sure that we pro­vide a level-play­ing field to all our of­fi­cers.

SP’s: What are your views with re­gard to the ap­point­ment of Chief of De­fence Staff (CDS)? In the ab­sence of a CDS, what are your views on the util­ity of the In­te­grated De­fence Staff (IDS) in the In­dian con­text? COAS:

To­day, more than ever be­fore, it is an op­er­a­tional im­per­a­tive to syn­er­gise and strengthen the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of all the three Ser­vices for joint war-fight­ing. The ap­point­ment of a CDS would help syn­er­gise in­te­grated forces struc­tur­ing, train­ing and lo­gis­tic sup­port func­tions of the tri-ser­vices in­sti­tu­tions. HQ IDS and the Ser­vices’ HQ have been jointly de­vel­op­ing var­i­ous joint war-fight­ing doc­trines and con­cepts. Ef­forts are also un­der way to fur­ther op­ti­mise the train­ing and lo­gis­tics re­sources of the three ser­vices.

Cre­ation of the tri-ser­vices Strate­gic Forces Com­mand (SFC) and An­daman and Ni­co­bar Com­mand (ANC) has demon­strated the ca­pa­bil­ity and ef­fi­cacy for in­te­grated op­er­a­tional plan­ning and ex­e­cu­tion. How­ever, th­ese are only a few steps, al­beit im­por­tant ones, in the right di­rec­tion and a good evo­lu­tion­ary base has now been cre­ated to fur­ther move to­wards achiev­ing true tris­er­vice syn­ergy. It is a long process, but we are surely mov­ing for­ward in that di­rec­tion.

SP’s: Joint and in­te­grated op­er­a­tions have been weak in the In­dian armed forces. Has this is­sue been re­solved sat­is­fac­to­rily be­tween the three ser­vices? How can this be im­proved upon in the fu­ture? COAS:

In­te­gra­tion of the three ser­vices into a fully joint force is evo­lu­tion­ary in na­ture. The ser­vices have made sig­nif­i­cant progress to­wards achiev­ing ‘joint­ness’ in var­i­ous op­er­a­tional, train­ing and ad­min­is­tra­tive fields. Struc­tures for joint in­tel­li­gence, plan­ning and con­duct of op­er­a­tions at the high­est level are al­ready in place and joint doc­trines have been for­mu­lated. We have made con­sid­er­able progress and are con­fi­dent of un­der­tak­ing in­te­grated op­er­a­tions in fu­ture.

Ca­pa­bil­ity en­hance­ment of the armed forces is be­ing pro­gressed in a joint man­ner wherein the req­ui­site ca­pa­bil­i­ties re­quired for the armed forces are be­ing worked out by HQ In­te­grated De­fence Staff in con­sul­ta­tion with all the three ser­vices. The smooth and ef­fi­cient func­tion­ing of the var­i­ous triser­vices or­gan­i­sa­tions am­ply ex­plains that we have set our­selves in the right di­rec­tion. The three ser­vices are con­stantly work­ing at all lev­els to en­hance the in­te­gra­tion and our ca­pa­bil­ity for ex­e­cut­ing joint op­er­a­tions with pre­ci­sion.

PHO­TO­GRAPH: Anoop Ka­math / SP Guide Pubns

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