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Ready To Face Multifarious Security Challenges’”Army Day Special

Indian Army soldiers present a march past to celebrate the Army Day, in New Delhi, India, Saturday, January 15, 2011. Indian Army celebrates January 15 every year as Army Day to commemorate the day, when General (later Field Marshal) K M Cariappa became the first Commander-in-Chief of Indian Armed Forces after its independence. Indian army is one of the largest standing army of the world. Image Credit: AP Photo

Gen Vijay Kumar Singh, PVSM, AVSM, YSM, ADC the 24th Chief of the second largest Army in the world, assures that his officers and men were fully prepared to meet any internal and external challenges. In an exclusive interaction on the eve of 63rd Army Day he told Col (Retd) PN Khera Editor-in-Chief Asia Defense News, that all steps were being taken to modernize the Indian Army. He analyzed the geopolitical security situation with special focus on the developments in the neighborhood and the emerging internal security threats. Apart from multifarious security challenges, the Chief took on questions covering the entire capability spectrum of the military, rubbished the so called ‘˜Cold Start‘ doctrine and stressed that the Indian Army was knowledge-based. He also shared his views on dealing with emerging conflict scenarios, instability in India’s neighborhood, uninformed debate on AFSPA, one-rank one-pension, indigenization, modernization, popularity of Indian Army in UN peace missions and induction of women in Indian Army. He strongly asserted the Indian Army’s commitment to jointness and maintaining transparency and ‘˜Izzat’. His Army Day sentiment was that the nation looks upon the Army to maintain the highest standards of professionalism and commitment in all spheres. It was the paramount responsibility of each one of us to uphold and further enhance the fabric of this unique organization through sustained hard work, meticulous training and utmost propriety in all our dealings. His message to his men was to follow the ethos of ‘˜Naam’, ‘Namak’ and ‘˜Nishan’ and uphold the name of the Army and the country through the immutable dictum’”’Nation First, Always And Every Time.’

We present some extracts from this Army Day Special:

PN Khera, Editor-in-Chief Asia Defense News: What are the internal and external challenges before the Indian Army today and how well are we prepared to meet the emerging situation?

Gen VK Singh, Chief of Army Staff: While our national integrity remains fundamentally secure, India today faces multifarious security challenges. These range from ‘˜Traditional Land Centric Threats’ along our borders to ‘˜Asymmetric Threats‘, including its proxy war manifestations. Towards that end, strengthening of our security apparatus, to combat both internal and external threats, remains our priority. Accordingly, the Indian Army is trained and prepared to counter multiple threats, ranging from a conventional war to tackling the ongoing proxy war and insurgencies.

COVERING ENTIRE CAPABILITY SPECTRUM

PNK: In terms of the modern military doctrine, India’s terrain and type of threats, what kind of new equipment and technologies will have to be inducted into the Indian Army?

COAS: The long term perspective planning of the Army has been made in consonance with the stated doctrine, terrain in the Indian subcontinent as also the technology perspective.

Our endeavor is to obtain the best possible equipment with the latest technology for the Indian Army.  This induction of equipment is being done to cover the entire capability spectrum as envisaged in our doctrine, to include maneuver, fire power, C4I2SR, night fighting capability and network centric operations. We seriously look at long range vectors and tactical rotary wing effort to enhance our capability. All these are being catered for in our modernization.

A FIGMENT OF IMAGINATION

PNK: Recently the doctrine of ‘˜Cold Start’ has been in the news. Would you explain its concept and whether there are any plans to implement it?

COAS: As far as Cold Start strategy is concerned, let me say that there is no strategy called ‘˜cold start strategy’. Actually, it is a figment of imagination by the environment. In military parlance, as part of overall strategy, a number of contingencies are deliberated upon based on the threat perception. Proactive operations are one such strategic formulation in the overall matrix. There is nothing called ‘˜cold start’.

INDIAN ARMY IS KNOWLEDGE-BASED

PNK: Due to induction of new technology and equipment in the Army, what steps are being taken to ensure contemporary training also to the troops?

COAS: As you are aware that the Army is a ‘Knowledge-Based organization’. We have a multi-layered approach to absorb latest technologies and keep abreast with current military development. There has been rapid progress in the field of Military Technology over the years. Our Army has been systematically creating a strong technological base for all ranks and empowering them with the required technical knowledge and skills.  Training is aimed at all levels, from basic to super specialization. The process of inducting new equipment with the ever higher levels of technology involves considerable deliberation. Accordingly, contemporary training to keep pace with the induction of new technologies is accorded the highest level of importance.

Approximately 300 technical graduates are commissioned into various arms/services every year. In addition, about 250 officers graduate with B Tech degrees from our premier technical institutes. 60-70 officers are nominated on M Tech in various disciplines of technology from top technical institutes of the country viz Indian Institutes of Technology, Indian institute of Science, Bhaba Atomic Research Institute, Defense Institute of Advance Technology etc. Our other ranks undergo various diploma and certificate courses in engineering.  They are put through a number of upgradation and equipment orientation courses to enhance their technical proficiency and skills.

Matching with the induction of high-tech weapons system and equipment, all ranks are trained on expert handling in pre and post induction phases. They are also associated from development stage of the equipment till its induction.

Training Institutions also expend a great amount of effort on maintaining a cutting edge in terms of latest technologies and equipment. Students are encouraged to pursue self study and research and, thus, keep abreast with current mil developments. Technology parameters are thus catered for both as part of institutionalized raining and field training for exploitation of the weapons and equipment.

DEALING WITH EMERGING CONFLICT SCENARIOS

PNK: How is the induction of contemporary Artillery guns, Missiles and Aviation equipment affecting the preparedness of the Army?

COAS: The nature of warfare is changing and evolving rapidly.  Given the prevailing security scenario, we are focused on honing our capability to be able to effectively deal with the emerging conflict scenarios. To ensure that our military response structure remains effective, the overriding priority is to ensure that combat balance is maintained. We have evolved a concrete action plan to address our prioritized focus areas. Enhancing the combat effectiveness of Artillery and Aviation assumes primacy in our capability development plan.  The induction of contemporary systems is enhancing our capability and preparedness.

INSTABILITY IN NEIGHBOURHOOD

PNK: In view of continued instability in India’s neighborhood what are your threat perceptions?

COAS: Due to the porous nature of our borders, any instability in the neighborhood has a resultant ‘˜spill-over effect’ in our country. This poses a serious security challenge. Terrorism is a common regional challenge. We, therefore, face varied security challenges, ranging from conventional to unconventional threats that include proxy war, terrorism and insurgencies.   That is why our army is trained to function in the entire spectrum of conflict.

UNINFORMED DEBATE ON AFSPA

PNK: There has been a lot of uninformed debate on Armed Forces Special Powers Act. Would you like to put the debate in the right perspective?

COAS: Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) is an enabling act passed by the Government of India for the Armed Forces to function in an insurgency environment and undertake counter terrorist operations. It needs to be appreciated that while being deployed in ‘˜Disturbed Areas’ the Army operates in heightened hostile environment and is faced with well trained and lethally equipped terrorist outfits. These situations which are akin to war, are extraordinary and require extraordinary measures to control them. Therefore, if the Army is to be deployed as an instrument of last resort, which indeed should be the case, it needs to retain ‘˜operational flexibility’ to operate decisively under various contingencies, with requisite legal safeguards.

Moreover, the AFSPA does not impinge on the civil liberties of people; instead it provides the ‘˜Rules of Engagement’ for our soldiers.

Enough provisions pertaining to functioning of troops in disturbed areas have been made to prevent misuse of the powers vested to the troops under the Act.  Towards this, ‘COAS’s Ten Commandments’ and DO’s and DON’Ts make it binding for troops to be guided, while carrying out operations. Therefore, any dilution in the existing provisions of the Act will seriously undermine the combat potential of operating units impacting their conduct. The previous of the act have been upheld by the Supreme Court too.

THEY WANT TO LEARN FROM OUR EXPERIENCES

PNK: How is the doctrine on use of minimum force practiced by Indian Army? How many armies in the world, especially South Asia, practice this doctrine?

COAS: As you aware, the Indian Army has been engaged in Internal Security and Counter-Insurgency Operations in the country for a very long time. In most cases, the Indian Army has succeeded in providing the right security environment essential for a negotiated peace settlement. These five decades of engagement have yielded wide and varied experience to the Indian Army’s approach and methodology to combat sub-conventional threats. It emphasizes a humane and people-centric approach, underscoring the need for scrupulous upholding of the laws of the land and respect for human rights as also creating a secure environment, without causing any collateral damage. It propagates the use of overwhelming force against foreign and hardcore terrorists, while affording a fair chance to indigenous inimical elements to shun violence, surrender and join the mainstream as per the laws of the land.

I do not think many countries follow the type of minimum force doctrine we follow.  On the other hand, realizing the effectiveness of this doctrine, most countries today, have expressed a desire to learn from our experiences gained in Counter Insurgency operations.

INDIAN ARMY POPULAR IN UN MISSIONS

PNK: Having earned praise in the UN missions, how does the Indian Army differ from other Armies of the world?

COAS: Post independence our Army has so far participated in 43 UN peacekeeping missions across the world. Our troops are professionally well trained and experienced in undertaking tasks, in various challenging situations.

The Indian Army always follows a strict operational discipline and zero tolerance policy with respect to HR Violation. Use of minimum force and minimum collateral damage has been the bedrock of our policy. We also ensure that while operating in such an environment, our troops are absolutely neutral, impartial and professional in their approach.

I think these qualities have been our strength and for these reasons have made Indian Army popular in UN Missions.

INDIGENISATION AND MODERNISATION

PNK: What is the progress of indigenization and modernization of Indian Army?

COAS: ‘˜Indigenization’ and ‘˜Modernization’ of the Indian Army is a continuous and a dynamic process.  All efforts are being made to expedite acquisition of advanced hardware to maintain a technologically advanced Army.  The Government is laying special emphasis on this important aspect to ensure a technological edge over our adversaries. Some important issues are:-

  • Enhancement of fighting capabilities of AFVs.
  • Equipping combat arms with state of the art weapon systems.
  • Enhancement of Artillery firepower, both in terms of lethality and reach.
  • Major enhancement of Air Defense cover.
  • Enhancement of Battle field surveillance by acquiring and integrating Battle field surveillance system with Decision Support system.
  • Enhancement of fighting capabilities of an Infantry soldier.
  • Making the Indian Army net enabled.

As regards indigenization, the endeavor is always to procure indigenously developed military hardware.  Our military industrial complex is currently in a nascent stage but progress is being made steadily towards this end. A significant number of critical projects are being developed within the country by DRDO and DPSUs. In addition, in a number of acquisitions, ‘˜Transfer of Technology’ has been sought, which in turn will lead to self reliance, over a period of time.

INDUCTION OF WOMEN IN ARMY

PNK: In your time the historic decision to grant permanent commission to women in Indian Army has been taken and implemented. How far do you think it will go and succeed?

COAS: Induction of women in Indian Army must be driven solely by service requirements. Indian Army is apolitical, totally secular and does not differentiate on caste, creed or gender. Government has offered Permanent Commission to Women officers in Judge Advocate General and Army Education Corps which are non combat Services.  In other arms & services like Air Defense, Aviation, Signals and Engineers, induction of WOs entry is restricted to SSC. This is in keeping with our desired cadre structure wherein 60% of the cadre is to be of short service and remainder 40% as permanent. The women officers are performing well and possibility of expansion of permanent commission in other services has to consider keeping the operational limitations and the cadre structure laid down by AV Singh Committee.

ARMY COMMITTED TO JOINTNESS

PNK: What have been the effects of increased synergy between the three Armed Forces on strengthening the National security against both external threats and internal insurgency?

COAS: Our stated vision ‘to consolidate the Army into a highly motivated, optimally equipped and modernized, operationally ready force, capable of functioning in a synergized joint service environment, across the spectrum of conflict’ clearly states the Indian Army’s commitment towards achieving jointness. The three Services have made significant strides towards achieving this in various operational, training and administrative fields. This synergy is reflected in the fact that we have been able to keep the Nation secure against various threats, both external and internal. Post the Kargil Review Committee Report and the Group of Ministers (GoM) Recommendations (February 2001), we have adopted a phased and evolutionary approach, to integrate the three Services. It is a long drawn process, but we are surely moving in the right direction.

DISASTER MANAGEMENT AND GOODWILL OPERATIONS

PNK: What has been the record of Indian Army in Disaster Management and goodwill towards civilian?

COAS: The record of Indian Army in ‘Disaster management’ and ‘Goodwill operations’ has been extremely good. Indian Army is one of the major players at national level for such operations and has always responded in an exemplary manner, whenever and wherever called upon to do so. The most recent example is the assistance provided by the Army in the Ladakh region during ‘˜Cloud Burst’, where despite being personally affected by the natural calamity, which hit the region, the Army responded swiftly to help the beleaguered.  Similarly, Operation SADBHAVNA, is a glittering example of the success of Indian Army in goodwill operations our record on both these fronts is worth emulation.

MAINTAINING TRANSPARENCY AND ‘˜IZZAT’

PNK: Recently there has been a spurt in the allegations of corruption against the Army personnel. How do you view it and what deterrent measures do you propose against the accused?

COAS: Yes, there have been some cases, but these are individual acts. Army is a very resilient organization with strong ethical values, ethos and high discipline standards. At the same time, all reported infringements and irregularities are addressed and investigated as also the matter is taken to decisive conclusions, irrespective of rank and status of individuals. Adequate measures are already in place to ensure transparency and maintaining the ‘˜Izzat’ of the Army.

NAAM, NAMAK AND NISHAN

PNK: What is your Army Day Message?

COAS: The nation looks upon the Army to maintain the highest standards of professionalism and commitment in all spheres. It is the paramount responsibility of each one of us to uphold and further enhance the fabric of this unique organization through sustained hard work, meticulous training and utmost proprietary in all our dealings. My message is to follow the ethos of ‘˜Naam’, ‘Namak’ and ‘˜Nishan’ and uphold the name of the Army and the country – through the adage – ‘Nation First, always and every time.’

Memorable Moments Of An Illustrious Career

General Vijay Kumar Singh, PVSM, AVSM, YSM, ADC the 24th Chief of the Indian Army, has many a memorable moment in his 40 years of illustrious military career. His happiest moment was when he was commissioned in 2 Rajput (Kala Chindi) Regiment, in 1970, the same battalion which he was to Command with distinction from June 1991 to May 1994. A third generation Rajput officer, he was happy that his elder daughter too was married to an Army officer.

Talking to Asia Defense News Editor, Gen VK Singh recalled the most memorable experience of life during the Indo-Pak War of 1971 when he was in Bangladesh at the time of the unprecedented surrender of the Pak Commander-in-Chief of then East Pakistan, Lt Gen AA K Niazi with his 93,000 fully armed troops. Young VK Singh was dealing with the surrender of the remnants of 23 Punjab Regiment, of the Pak Army. They were surrendering along with a Pak Captain, who was adjutant of the unit; Singh asked the Pak Captain if he had anything to eat since that morning. When he said ‘˜no’, Singh took out a packet of shakarparas (Indian style candies) and offered him. There was a shocked expression of disbelief on the face of the Pak officer. He had perhaps expected a harsh treatment for the vanquished from the victor. Was there something more than kindness? Singh took out a shakarpara and popped it into his own mouth to disabuse the Pak officer of his fears and doubts and assured him that ‘˜shakarparas were not poisoned. Needless to say, the Pak officer must have remembered that incident all these years.

VAST COMBAT EXPERIENCE

There were many more moments to remember. Apart from the liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971, the General has also seen action during Operation Pawan in Sri Lanka in 1987 where he was awarded the Yudh Seva Medal. He has vast operational experience in Counter-Insurgency Operations, Line of Control, Line of Actual Control with China and High Attitude Area (HAA) environment.

He had an illustrious career with outstanding performance in all the courses that he attended. He is a graduate of the Defense Services Staff College, Wellington, with a competitive vacancy. He is also a graduate of US Army Rangers Course at Fort Benning, USA and US Army War College, Carlisle.

General VK Singh has wide ranging experience of various high profile command, staff and instructional appointments. He commanded his battalion in an active Line of Control environment and Brigade in an operationally sensitive area. While in command of a Counter-Insurgency Force in J and K, he was awarded Ati Vishisht Seva Medal for his distinguished service as General Officer Commanding. On staff, he has served in MO Directorate at Army HQ, Col GS of an Infantry Division and BGS of a Corps during Operation Parakram. The General Officer has also commanded the prestigious Strike Corps in Western Sector, before taking over the command of the Eastern Army in March 2008. He has been an instructor at Infantry School, Mhow and Chief Instructor at JLW (Commando Wing) at Belgaum. He has also served as an Instructor at HQ IMTRAT. The General Officer has been awarded with Param Vishisht Seva Medal by the President of India on the eve of Republic Day 2009 in recognition of his exceptional and distinguished services. The General is a keen sportsman and plays almost all troop games as well as tennis, badminton and golf. His hobbies are trekking and photography.

He is happily married to Mrs. Bharti Singh and they have two daughters. The elder daughter is married to an Army Officer and the younger one is working after finishing her MBA.

A PILLAR OF STRENGTH

Mrs. Bharti Singh, has been a pillar of strength for Gen VK Singh’s illustrious career. She has worked tirelessly and has contributed creatively in AWWA activities. She has been instrumental in giving a new direction to the ASHA School, while at Ambala and Kolkata, where she introduced new concepts and ways to improve the quality of life of special children as per today’s need. As President Central AWWA, her focus is on improving the quality of life of the families and is the guiding light behind various projects, enabling the families to become more and more independent to face the various challenges that life may offer.

She is creative in nature and has done a number of paintings and embroidery work and is a keen interior decorator. She has also travelled all along with her husband, during his career, in India.

She loves animals and birds and has a number of pets. She loves to play Mahjong and as a health conscious person. She is an excellent cook and host.

Mrs. Bharti Singh is well known for her devoted contribution to the missions of the Army Wives Welfare Association, a unique voluntary organization in the military world. Talking about the work so dear to her, she also looked back at her life as an Army wife. She said, at 21, I was a young army wife. I was welcomed into the olive green family by some loving, supportive and caring people who helped me by educating me about the life that I was to lead.

There is no such thing as perfect life. How wonderful our lives could be if we realize that our life is NOT going to be perfect, rather we would have to find perfection in what we have right now and truly start enjoying the moment rather than wanting it to be something else !

Her feeling and reaction when she first heard about the induction of women in the Armed Forces was ‘as a woman my first reaction was that of joy. Though I did have initial apprehensions on how they would adjust, but I think the Army has been able to employ them gainfully.

It was often felt being children from an Armed Forces background usually gives an edge as far as upbringing is concerned. Did she agree? ‘I absolutely agree, children from Armed Forces do have an edge. Years of traveling across the country, studying in various schools, interacting with myriad people gives them an edge over the others.

SHE BELIEVES

In being a dedicated and an effective AWWA member. In introducing and involving herself in as many welfare projects that can take shape at various stations. In improving quality of education, training and rehabilitation of the special children in the Asha School. That women must keep building up on their capabilities and knowledge levels so that they can stand on their feet and be counted as providers too, if and when the need arises and time comes.

A Day To Salute The Jawan

After a successful political campaign based on a very unique and distinctive methodology called ‘ahimsa’ or non-violence India threw off the colonial yoke and set in motion the decline and demise of the British Empire. For a young nation with no colonial ambitions, and, therefore, no militaristic traditions, she inherited a very young military hierarchy as yet untested with the higher direction of warfare but confronted almost immediately on the attainment of Independence with an invasion in Jammu and Kashmir intended to undermine the principles of Accession enshrined in the Independence Act by which Pakistan was created. As a consequence of this circumstance British officers continued to preside over the top military posts in both countries leaving behind a legacy that has continued to haunt both nascent countries to this day.

*Source: ADNI

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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