‘Our se­cu­rity re­sponse sys­tem needs to en­com­pass the en­tire spec­trum of con­flict’

On Jan­uary 6, 2016, Lt General V.K. Kapoor (Retd), Edi­tor of SP’s Land Forces, in­ter­viewed Chief of the Army Staff General Dal­bir Singh in his of­fice in South Block. In a free and frank at­mos­phere, this highly dec­o­rated and widely ex­pe­ri­enced Chief of the

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SP’s Land Forces (SP’s): How do you per­ceive the cur­rent global and re­gional se­cu­rity en­vi­ron­ment? What kind of chal­lenges do they pose for In­dia?

Chief of the Army Staff (COAS): The con­tem­po­rary se­cu­rity en­vi­ron­ment is dy­namic and poses chal­lenges across the en­tire spec­trum of con­flict to in­clude both con­ven­tional and un­con­ven­tional sce­nar­ios. These range from tra­di­tional ‘Land Cen­tric Threat’ along our bor­ders to ‘Asym­met­ric Threats’ in­clud­ing proxy war and its man­i­fes­ta­tions. There are emerg­ing chal­lenges in in­for­ma­tion di­men­sion and space do­main as well, be­sides cy­berspace which is all en­com­pass­ing. We are keep­ing our­selves ready and alert to take on all chal­lenges ac­cord­ingly.

The apex Na­tional Se­cu­rity Es­tab­lish­ment as well as the armed forces are fully en­gaged in main­tain­ing op­er­a­tional readi- ness and en­hanc­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties, in­clud­ing in col­lab­o­ra­tion with like-minded friendly coun­tries, to de­ter and de­feat threats across the en­tire spec­trum, if and when they man­i­fest.

SP’s: The fight against ter­ror­ism has be­come a pri­or­ity among all na­tions. The ISIS in Iraq and Syria, the largest ter­ror group in the world, aims to cre­ate an

Is­lamic caliphate across the world. In our neigh­bour­hood Pak­istan is vir­tu­ally a fac­tory for train­ing ter­ror­ists and is in­dulging in state-spon­sored ter­ror­ism. Ad­di­tion­ally a large num­ber of pro­fes­sional ter­ror groups are avail­able for hire. How is the growth of ter­ror­ism and other re­lated forms of asym­met­ric war­fare go­ing to af­fect In­dia in the fu­ture and what steps would the Army like to take to pre­pare for this type of con­flict?

COAS: The re­cent mas­sacre at San Bernardino, Cal­i­for­nia, on De­cem­ber 2, 2015, whose per­pe­tra­tors can be traced back to Pak­istan and who had pledged al­le­giance to the Is­lamic State are in­dica­tive of the grow­ing foot­prints of ISIS, par­tic­u­larly in the Af-Pak. No part of the world can re­main in­su­lated from this loom­ing threat and their spon­sors in our neigh­bour­hood. We have taken proac­tive steps to in­sti­tu­tion­alise in­tel­li­gence shar­ing with like-minded coun­tries and de­velop co­gent re­sponse mech­a­nism to thwart their de­signs. The likely ‘spillover ef­fect’ of ter­ror­ism from Af-Pak re­mains our im­me­di­ate con­cern as Tal­iban had demon­strated the po­tency of its resur­gence in the cap­ture at Kun­duz on Septem­ber 28, 2015. Re­gion­ally, we are shoring up the ca­pa­bil­ity of Afghanistan Na­tional Se­cu­rity Force (ANSF) to com­bat this threat through train­ing and in ad­vi­sory ca­pac­ity.

Jammu and Kash­mir is most vul­ner­a­ble to the ne­far­i­ous de­signs of ISIS/Pak, be it rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion of youth or ‘lone wolf ’ at­tacks mo­ti­vated by its di­vi­sive ide­ol­ogy. We are con­stantly mon­i­tor­ing these de­vel­op­ments in con­cert with other se­cu­rity and in­tel­li­gence agen­cies and are fully pre­pared to meet the grow­ing threat of asym­met­ric war­fare be­ing waged by forces in­im­i­cal to In­dia’s in­ter­ests.

SP’s: Three ad­di­tional com­mands were to be raised, namely the Cy­ber Com­mand, Spe­cial Forces Com­mand and the Aerospace Com­mand. What is the cur­rent sta­tus of these projects? In light of the grow­ing chal­lenge of in­ter­na­tional ter­ror groups should Spe­cial Forces Com­mand be given the pri­or­ity for rais­ing?

COAS: The se­cu­rity en­vi­ron­ment in In­dia’s neigh­bour­hood is com­plex and in a state of con­stant tur­moil/evo­lu­tion. Threats and chal­lenges are mul­ti­di­men­sional, thus our se­cu­rity re­sponse sys­tem needs to en­com­pass the en­tire spec­trum of con­flict. Info war­fare, cy­ber war­fare and weapon­i­sa­tion of space are an emerg­ing di­men­sion of threat.

While cer­tain ca­pa­bil­i­ties in the Cy­ber, Spe­cial Forces and Aerospace do­mains al­ready ex­ist, these are to be jointly built upon by the Ser­vices in keep­ing with the na­tional se­cu­rity re­quire­ments. As a first step, we are presently con­sid­er­ing rais­ing of tri ser­vice agen­cies for each of these do­mains, as part of a ‘Phased Adap­tive Ap­proach’.

SP’s: In April 2015, the De­fence Min­istry de­cided to down­size the 90,000-strong Moun­tain Strike Corps that was an­nounced by UPA to act as a counter to the ex­pand­ing Chi­nese mil­i­tary ca­pa­bil­i­ties and in­tru­sions. It was to be raised over seven years at a bud­get of ` 64,478 crore. Now, it seems that the force will have 35,000 sol­diers and the cut has been at­trib­uted to “se­vere fund short­age”. What is the sta­tus of rais­ing of the Moun­tain Strike Corps?

COAS: In con­so­nance with our per­spec­tive plan­ning with ref­er­ence to ca­pa­bil­ity devel­op­ment along north­ern bor­ders, the Cab­i­net Com­mit­tee on Se­cu­rity (CCS) in July 2013 had sanc­tioned ac­cre­tions for the In­dian Army which in­cludes the Moun­tain Strike Corps. As far as rais­ing of the force is con­cerned, I can as­sure you that it is pro­gress­ing as per ap­proved sched­ule.

Cre­ation of de­sired ca­pa­bil­ity to mit­i­gate the threats be­ing faced by na­tion is a pri­or­ity for the armed forces as well as for the gov­ern­ment. The sanc­tioned rais­ings will be com­pleted in the de­sired time frame.

Im­me­di­ate equip­ping and arm­ing of these forces has been done from the ex­ist­ing stocks held with the In­dian Army and in­dents have been ini­ti­ated to make up these de­pleted stocks. The gov­ern­ment is com­mit­ted to re­cu­per­ate these stocks at the ear­li­est. Res­o­lute steps are be­ing ini­ti­ated to en­sure that there is no de­ple­tion of stocks and nec­es­sary fi­nan­cial sup­port is pro­vided for the sus­te­nanceof new rais­ings as well as mod­erni­sa­tion plans of the In­dian Army.

SP’s: Ef­fec­tive sur­veil­lance and re­con­nais­sance are an essen­tial part of cur­rent and fu­ture ca­pa­bil­i­ties at unit and for­ma­tion level? UAVs are crit­i­cal to this re­quire­ment. What is the con­cept of In­dian Army in this re­spect and where are we at present?

COAS: An in­te­grated Bat­tle Field Sur­veil­lance Sys­tem, with mu­tu­ally com­ple­men­tary sen­sors at all lev­els, pro­vides the re­quired com­bat in­for­ma­tion to the de­ci­sion mak­ers. UAVs are the only aerial means of ISR and tar­get ac­qui­si­tion avail­able to the Field Com­man­der for em­ploy­ment of his long-range vec­tors to en­gage targets in depth, hence are a po­tent force mul­ti­plier.

In or­der to af­ford com­pre­hen­sive and gap free sur­veil­lance all along the bor­ders, there is a need to aug­ment the present hold­ing of UAVs. The re­quire­ment of ad­di­tional UAVs has been in­cluded in the Long-term In­te­grated Per­spec­tive Plans (LTIPP) and their pro­cure­ment is be­ing pur­sued ex­pe­di­tiously.

SP’s: What is the cur­rent pol­icy on women’s en­try into the armed forces, Per­ma­nent Com­mis­sion for Women Of­fi­cers (WOs) and what is the Army’s stand on women be­ing en­rolled in the com­bat arms such as the ar­moured corps and the in­fantry?

COAS: The Per­ma­nent Com­mis­sion has al­ready been ex­tended to women of­fi­cers in AEC & JAG and at present IA is hold­ing 54 Per­ma­nent Com­mis­sion WOs. Is­sues re­lated to grant­ing of Per­ma­nent Com­mis­sion to Women Of­fi­cers in Tech­ni­cal and Com­bat Sup­port Arms are be­ing stud­ied.

SP’s: The ra­tio of rev­enue to cap­i­tal bud­get in the army’s por­tion of the de­fence bud­get leans heav­ily in favour of the for­mer in view of the larger man­power. This leaves a rel­a­tively smaller sum in cap­i­tal bud­get for new pro­cure­ments and mod­erni­sa­tion. What can be done to im­prove this situation?

COAS: The force level of the IA is based on the over­all threat per­cep­tion for both ex­ist­ing and per­ceived threats in the cur­rent and fu­ture sce­nar­ios. Cur­rently the strength of stand­ing Army is ap­prox 1.23 mil­lion wherein, mostly, the ‘sol­dier’ him­self is a weapon sys­tem. This ac­counts for rel­a­tively higher amounts be­ing al­lo­cated to rev­enue head ac­count­ing for salaries and sus­te­nance pur­poses. Thus lead­ing to a per­cep­tion of skewed ra­tio of funds, be­ing heav­ily in favour of rev­enue at the cost of cap­i­tal.

I must point out that cap­i­tal ac­qui­si­tion and mod­erni­sa­tion of the Army gets due pri­or­ity. The mod­erni­sa­tion/cap­i­tal bud­get is sep­a­rate from the rev­enue (salary and sus­te­nance) bud­get. The cap­i­tal bud­get is not based on the ex­pen­di­ture/al­lo­ca­tion for rev­enue bud­get but on re­quire­ments pro­jected, pri­ori­tised and sanc­tioned by a col­le­giate in­volv­ing the CCS, Min­istry of Finance, Min­istry of De­fence and Army HQ. The onus of pro­cure­ments rests on all the stake­hold­ers. The cap­i­tal mod­erni­sa­tion bud­get over the years has been in sync with the ab­sorp­tion ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the var­i­ous or­gan­i­sa­tions in­volved.

SP’s: What tac­ti­cal con­cepts should the Army adopt in view of the stated po­si­tion of the Pak­istan Army with re­gard to the use of tac­ti­cal nu­clear weapons on the bat­tle­field?

COAS: As we all know Pak­istan has been a re­vi­sion­ist state, which has, thus far, at­tempted to bal­ance its con­ven­tional asym­me­try through proxy war against In­dia.

I would em­pha­sise that our nu­clear doc­trine is com­pre­hen­sive and un­am­bigu­ous and In­dia pos­sesses cred­i­ble de­ter­rence against any nu­clear threat.

Mea­sures to pre­pare IA to fight in such con­di­tions in terms of doc­trine, train­ing and equip­ment are in place. Up­grades of ex­ist­ing equip­ment are be­ing ad­dressed at highest level on pri­or­ity.

Lt General V.K. Kapoor (Retd) pre­sent­ing a copy of SP’s Mil­i­tary Year­book 2015-2016 to Chief of the Army Staff General Dal­bir Singh

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