Indian Army-What ails it
The new Indian Army Chief has taken over the charge, But the challenges he inherited as the Army Chief need a refreshed lookout and speedy resolutions.
Slow modernisation of Army
The modernisation of army has been lagging for many years
The army had identified 24 modernisation projects of which 11 of them were deemed as critical. However, even the ‘critical’ projects also did not see much of progress, thereby revealing the current fragile condition of the Indian Army.
Infantry modernisation has been a pothole despite initiation of procurement of artillery guns, air defence assets and helicopters. Today, the infantry solider lacks even a modern basic assault rifle.
The procurement of improved bullet proof jackets and ballistic helmets for the soldiers has been talked about since long, but neither has seen light of day.
General Rawat is from the infantry and hence the lack of modern equipment for the foot-soldier ought to be his greatest concern.
Thus, continuous modernization of the force by gradual induction of latest equipment for giving a futuristic outlook to the forces is the need of the day.
General Rawat’s supersession of two officers belonging to armoured corps and the mechanised infantry is proof of the fact that in current environment, infantry is perceived to be dominating the army
However, a bias towards infantry from the new Army Chief may further open long-existing fissures within the organisation.
The implementation of AVS Committee report which provides for faster promotions for Army officers up to the rank of Colonel in order to reduce their age profile at the combat level and ensure that they get promotions commensurate to their jobs which was subsequently supported by Supreme Court decision have already caused a lot of heartburn in the army.
Such evolving dynamics is not good for an organisation like army which is considered strong when all its branches are well coordinated and cooperated, even in peace time.
In such a scenario, General Rawat has to not only act fairly, but also to be seen to act fairly to restore the cohesiveness of the army.
The seniority puzzle
The two superseded officers, Lt General Praveen Bakshi and Lt General PM Hariz, have decided to continue as army commanders. This might however create some functional problems as seniority matters a lot in a rigidly hierarchical organisation like the army.
However, it is expected to be handled and dealt with deftly as both the officers shall be retiring in November.
Seventh pay commission
General Rawat will have to take up with the government the need for urgent action to meet the aspirations of the soldiers from the Seventh Pay Commission.
The four core issues – questions of status equivalence, hardship and risk allowances, the military service pay and non-functional upgradation – need to be resolved urgently.
These issues have a direct impact on the morale and effectiveness of soldiers in operations while having the potential to damage the delicate balance of civil-military relations.
Lack of infrastructure
Though the army chief has highlighted that the Indian army is tasked to fight a two-front war, that is China and Pakistan, there is lot be done to make India stronger- militarily as well as infrastructure wise.
A Mountain Strike Corps for the China border was raised during UPA II government but the state of its equipping and infrastructure has been lagging way behind planned targets.
Even the slow pace of construction of roads by the Border Roads Organisation and the delay in commencement of laying of strategic railway lines makes it extremely difficult for the army to deploy troops within the required time-frame should the need arise.
The situation in J&K has deteriorated dramatically in Jammu and Kashmir, with terrorists targeting army camps at Uri and Nagrota last year.
There was a huge spike in cross border infiltration with 112 terrorists coming in 2016 as compared to 30 in 2015.
In the same way, the army lost 63 soldiers in the state, more than double the previous year’s figures.
Thus, one of the main actions to be undertaken by the Army Chief is to assure the calm environment in the valley.
Procurement of weapon systems and equipment is an important function for managing the operational health, morale and capability of the armed forces. The procurement process is undoubtedly full of challenges but these are not insurmountable. The Army being the largest service and fielding the largest array of equipment needs to improve its own processes by carrying out an internal analysis and taking effective steps to speed up the procurement process. Accepting the shortcomings in its processes and taking steps to overcome them, particularly where internal measures can improve the processes, is the most important step towards capacity building. The government should also take care of the basic needs of the soldiers who risk their lives for the country at borders and no politics should be played over soldiers’ lives. With regards to the supersession, it has not happened for the first time and with time, the issue shall also be subsided. Overall, the army has to brace itself for many challenges and thus it should be well prepared and well-supplied with all the necessities