By Neeraj Mahajan
The stage is set to transform the 1.3 million-strong Indian Army into a future ready – lean, mean and mobile fighting force — to fight and win any ‘Integrated Multi-Service Campaign’ or ‘Network Centric Warfare’. In other words, a highly efficient, trained and motivated fighting force – ready to take on any challenges in any conventional war, low-intensity conflict or surgical strike. The aim is to come up with a disciplined and daring armed force that is always ready 24×7 with the state of the art weapons and equipment, firepower, technology and trained manpower to dominate any ground, air, sea or information war in the cyber space.
The Ministry of Defense has approved the reforms suggested by at least 12 independent studies to restructure and enhance the combat capabilities of the Indian Defense Forces. Some of these initiatives include:
- Creation of the first-ever information warfare directorate headed by a Lieutenant General to cater to the needs of the future battlefield, hybrid warfare and social media
- Reallocate almost 200 officers (20 % officers posted in Army headquarters), including three major generals, eight brigadiers, nine colonels, 186 lieutenant colonels /majors to forward areas along the Pakistan and China border. This is to augment the acute shortage of operational Commanders in the field formations operating with just 10-12 officers against the authorized strength of 20-25 (half their authorized officer strength)
- Create a new post of Deputy Chief of the Army Staff Strategy DCOAS (Strategy). The DCOAS (S) will deal with all military operations, military intelligence, strategic planning, and operational logistic issues. The five Director General DGs in charge of – military intelligence (DGMI), military operations (DGMO), operational logistics (DGOL), perspective planning (DGPP) and information warfare (DGIW) will jointly brief the DCOAS (S). At present, the DGMI (Military Intelligence) and DGMO (Military Operations) report to the Army Chief
- Merger the office of Deputy Chief of the Army Staff DCOAS (planning and strategy) and Master General Ordnance (MGO) into a new entity called DCOAS (Capability Development and Sustenance)
- Shift the Rashtriya Rifles (RR) directorate from New Delhi to J&K under the effective and operational command & control of the Northern Command
- Rename the post of DCOAS (information systems and training) to DCOAS (information systems and coordination).
- Shift the Army Training Command from Shimla to Meerut and place the Director General DGMT (military training), under the Army Commander Army Training Command (ARTRAC). It is worth mentioning that the Army Training Command was originally established at the Military Headquarters of War (Mhow) in Madhya Pradesh on 1 October 1991 and later shifted to Shimla on 31 March 1993. The ARTRAC today plays a crucial role in training as well as formulating concepts, strategies and doctrines in all aspects like tactics, long term perspective planning, logistics, operations, and human resource management in the art and science of war. Its mandate includes acting as a nodal agency for all institutional training in the Army and evolving new doctrines of war in collaboration with the other Services.
- Set up Additional Director General ADG level posts headed by two Major Generals to take stock of vigilance and human rights issues. The ADG (Vigilance) will have a new vigilance investigation unit under him comprising of three colonel-level officers (one each from the Army, Air Force, and Navy) and at least one police officer of the rank of SSP (on deputation). The new vigilance unit will also have officers and men from the Corps of Military Police (CMP) as well as the Judge Advocate General (JAG branch) to conduct inquiries and prepare a foolproof prosecution case against the accused. The vigilance wing will report directly to the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) while the new ADG Human Rights will be under the functional control of the VCOAS. The human rights wing will keep a tab on the alleged human rights violations or atrocities – if so committed by Army personnel posted or deny the baseless charges that enflame the civilians and damage the Army’s image and morale in the counter-insurgency areas. The need for such a wing is because on many occasions in the past the Army personnel have been – at times falsely accused of rape, molestation, high-handed or brutality in Punjab, Kashmir and north-east. Such instance prove to be an ideal weapon in the hands of pro-militant, insurgent and terrorist organizations, partisan media and so-called human right organizations to carry their offensive propaganda initiatives against the Armed Forces who have to suffer in silence because there is no one to buy their version. For instance in the mid-80s when Gen B. C. Joshi was the GOC 3 Corps in Dimapur, international human rights organizations as well as the National and international media launched a vicious campaign against the Indian Army particularly the Assam Rifles Battalion posted in a place called Oinam in Manipur – roughly 80 km from Kohima, Nagaland and accused it of mass rape on a playground. It was a false and fabricated story. The reality was that the insurgents had taken away all the weapons kept in the Quarter Guard of the Assam Rifles battalion but when they tried to recover the weapons and launched a cordon and search operation, the village women came out and started shouting that they were gaged and raped enmass on a playground. This made sensational news worldwide and many human rights organizations jumped into the fray to demolish the image and credibility of the Indian Army. But in spite of being given a clean chit by a group of journalists from Delhi who visited the field formations to ascertain the facts (including this journalist), no publications or wired news agency seemed inclined to publish the story, which no one deliberately wanted to believe or carry simply because it did not have any spice and was not sensational enough.
These reforms were discussed threadbare at the Army Commanders Conference which approved the proposal to redistribute the officer cadre where they are needed most – in the field formations, boost the morale of the troops, prioritize the spending, cut down on wasteful expenditure, right-size the strength of the Indian Army and reduce its ‘teeth – to – tail ratio’.
Apart from modernizing and enhancing the Army’s combat capability, there is a need to synergize and amalgamate all spending under one roof and prioritize the requirements of different arms and services in line with the operational goals and funds allotted by the government.
Most of these reforms are as per the comprehensive recommendations of the Lt Gen (Retd) D.B. Shekatkar committee when Manohar Gopalkrishna Prabhu Parrikar was the Defence Minister and Arun Jaitley was the Finance Minister. The mandate of the committee was to suggest ways to reduce the expenditure on defense personnel, equipment and establishment – paid out of the defense budget while increasing the teeth to tail ratio- a military term that refers to the amount of military personnel it takes to supply and support (tail) each combat soldier (tooth).
The Lt Gen Shekatkar committee which submitted its final report in December 2016 recommended ‘far-reaching’ changes like restructuring the Army Base Workshops, Signals, Engineering and Ordnance units, besides shutting down the 39 military farms, and postal establishments in peace areas. As per the committee recommendations a number of Army Base Workshops, Station Workshops, Military farms and Ordinance depots have been shut down.
The biggest price for this has been paid by the Corps of Electronics and Mechanical Engineers (EME) which repair, maintains and overhauls the helicopters, tanks, BMPs, vehicles, weapons, and radars of the Army. The Corps of EME today has today lost most of its base workshops, advance base workshops as well as static or station workshops.
Likewise, the Corps signals which provide telecommunication support and connects the Army anywhere, everywhere, anytime, always and every time have lost most of its punch due to reorganizations of its Radio Monitoring Companies, Air Support Regiments, Air Formation Regiments, Composite Signal Regiments as well as its Operating and Engineering Regiments.
Similarly, the Ordnance Corps may have to do without a number of vehicle depots, ordnance depots and central ordnance depots, while the Army Service Corps (ASC) may have to forego some of its supply and transport echelons and animal transport units. Likewise, the National Cadet Corps is also slated to undergo far-reaching changes and restructuring.
Apart from the Gen Shekatkar committee report a number of other independent studies have suggested ways to re-organize the operational structures to improve the efficiency of the Army and make it future-ready. Other studies stressed the need for a cadre review to meet the aspirations of the officers’ cadre and re-organizing the Army headquarters to exclude the redundancies. Yet another study suggested ways to meaningfully engage the rank and file to bring down the stress level, improve the life expectancy, ensure a younger profile and motivate the officers, JCOs, NCOs and Jawans.
Would these reforms go on to improve the Indian Army’s ethos, efficiency, morality, and transparency, if at all— only time will tell?