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”
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.