Decision taken for creating a Digital Army

On January 2, 2014, a team of SP’s M.A.I. comprising Jayant Baranwal, Editor-in-Chief, and Editor Lt General V.K. Kapoor (Retd) interviewed the Chief of the Army Staff General Dalbir Singh PVSM, UYSM, AVSM, VSM, ADC who candidly spoke about the achievements and modernisation of the Indian Army

By SP's M.A.I. Team
Chief of the Army Staff General Dalbir Singh greets Mr. Jayant Baranwal, Editor-in-Chief, SP Guide Publications
COAS in conversation with SP's Team
COAS with SP's Team

SP’s M.A.I. (SP’s): It has been more than six months that you took command of the Indian Army. Our army has been performing exceedingly well in all fields— be it managing the counter-insurgency environment in Jammu & Kashmir and North East, providing succour to citizens in times of natural calamities or excelling in sports and games for the country. While it reflects the organisational strength and focused training of the army, it also showcases the vision and higher directions being disseminated down to lower levels. May we know, sir, what is your vision for the army?

Chief of the Army Staff (COAS): Yes, it has been almost six months now since I took over. Firstly, I must tell you that I am committed to ensure that the Indian Army is synonymous with professionalism. We lay tremendous focus on individual and organisational commitment, which definitely is the bedrock of our organisation. My vision is to ensure capability enhancement and operational effectiveness of the army to meet all contemporary and emerging challenges.

SP’s: There is a perceptible shift in the security dynamics in the global and sub-continental context. How do you assess the changes? How is Indian Army prepared to cater for the operational and logistic imperatives?

COAS: The Indian Army is mandated to safeguard national interests from external aggression to internal subversion. Our borders have become increasingly active over the years. These vast borders passing through some of the most rugged terrains in the world, with large areas being disputed, pose complex external security challenges. Regional instability as being witnessed in the Af-Pak region has direct bearing on our security situation. On our northern front the capability gap remains a cause for concern. Our internal security challenges are also intricately linked to our external threats. In addition, terrorism and the involvement of non-state actors with state sponsorship has brought about a fundamental shift in the conduct of warfighting. They remain one of the biggest threats to an emerging India.

The Indian Army is fully aware of the emerging security scenario. Our capability enhancement efforts are focused towards preparing the Indian Army to effectively meet the contemporary and future challenges. With changed dynamics and enhanced focus along the northern borders, and in view limited development, the logistics resources are optimised by dual tasking and regular practice during various exercises, thereby addressing both contingencies concurrently. Furthermore, ‘Mobilisation Plan Units’ are planned to be raised in the event of general mobilisation to facilitate induction and subsequently support formations during their conduct of operations.

About Rs. 9,243.64 crore was sanctioned for infrastructure development in Eastern Theatre in year 2010. Similar case for infrastructure development along northern borders is under consideration with the government. In order to overcome the operational logistic challenges of storage of ammunition in border areas, a proposal for construction of ‘UG/Tunnelled Storage of Ammunition’ is under progress. Moreover, to enhance FOL storage in high-altitude area regions devoid of natural cover, projects for creating of underground tankages at nominated locations is being progressed which would enhance logistic sustenance manifold.

SP’s: China’s economic rise and its steadfast military modernisation has some cogent lessons for India. What are the areas of thrust for infrastructure developments in the east to prepare ourselves for the future? How far have we progressed in this sphere?

COAS: Indian Army is prepared to take on any challenges to national security. Towards this end, infrastructure development along the line of actual control (LAC) is being progressed in a comprehensive and holistic manner. Based on development and logistic requirement, roads and railway lines are being developed along the borders to improve connectivity to forward areas by way of a systematically evolved plan.

The infrastructure being created in addition to the development of road and strategic railway networks also includes permanent defences, habitat, development of logistic infrastructure, military aviation bases and other infrastructure in permanent locations. The same is being comprehensively monitored to ensure time bound completion.

SP’s: Indian Army is undergoing organisational and doctrinal changes. Its employability has also increased manifold with contingents operating in UN. A considerable part in the current holdings of equipment are obsolete and needs urgent attention. What are we doing about it?

COAS: There is a well established procedure to replace outdated military equipment. It is a part of the modernisation of the armed forces, which is a continuous process based on threat perception, operational challenges, technological changes and available resources. The outdated equipment is being upgraded accordingly.

Presently, a proposal is under consideration of procuring 100 wheeled APCs for our UN contingents. These wheeled APCs are likely to replace the BMPs. The same will improve deployment capabilities of our contingents.

Tangible steps have been taken to fast track processing of key EW (electronic warfare) and communication projects. A project for procurement of tactical communication system (TCS) for the TBA based on a grid communication network is under way.

One of the major modernisation decisions taken is of creating a Digital Army. Three key areas and nine pillars for Digital Army are being worked upon based on Digital India plan. Some concrete actions have been taken in that direction and some are in the pipeline. ‘Integration’ and ‘inter-operability’ have been made key issues in all SW application development. System and procedures are also being modified as part of ‘business process review’ as applicable.

A close interaction with industry is being encouraged wherein requirement of services have been highlighted to the industry. Capability of industry in different domain has also been requested to optimise our interface. Fast tracking procedures in DPP & DPM are also being planned for better response.

SP’s: We have heard about a Strike Corps being raised for the mountains in the Eastern Theatre. Are the mountain divisions, part of the Strike Corps, going to be manpower heavy formations of the type that are in existence or are we introducing modern rotary-wing capability, modern means of surveillance and heavier firepower? What is the army’s vision in this regard?

COAS: The Mountain Strike Corps will be an invaluable instrument for escalatory control as also for enlarging our politico-military options.

It will be composed of all arms teams to include infantry, armour, artillery, combat engineers, aviation, as also other enablers like long-range vectors, communication assets, space and surveillance instruments, etc. The capacities that we seek to create are composite and not predicated on manpower alone.

SP’s: Has our intelligence gathering capability improved in recent times? How are we using modern technology to gather military intelligence? Does the Indian Army have access to any exclusive satellite like the navy?

COAS: Technological advances in electronics are being used in collection of electronic intelligence, signal intelligence and image intelligence. Modern technology is being utilised to collect, collate and interpret intelligence. Advancements in remote sensing and image analysis have manifested in greater capability to analyse available inputs.

There are plans to upgrade equipment for exploitation of future advancements in space-based assets. Indian Army has priority access to CARTOSAT 2A, CARTOSAT 2B and RISAT 2 satellites. Due to the above, the capability for real-time intelligence gathering, collation, analysis and dissemination has received a tremendous fillip.

SP’s: In view of the nuclearisation of our region, major state-to-state wars are not likely. If indeed we are going to fight border wars, near or close to the border, defence and security will merge. How should the nation use its comprehensive national power to tackle such situations which have external and internal dimensions?

COAS: Wars today have become a ‘whole of nation effort’. Our security threats are more complex, multidimensional and hybrid in character. Traditional response mechanisms need to be reviewed and adapted to remain relevant. Any nation needs to use the right mix of its various instruments of power to suit the situation and the desired end state.

In our context, jointmanship between the three services and inter-agency coordination will be critical to achieve success both against external threats as well as internal security challenges. The Indian Army will then be used in concert with other instruments of national power to achieve national objectives.

SP’s: Future conflicts will require to be joint and integrated among the three services. How far have we reached as far as ‘jointness’ or integration among the three services is concerned?

COAS: Future military operations will be complex, intense and fast paced, and to achieve success cost effectively, it would require a very high degree of synergy between the services. Modern warfare demands much higher degree of coordination in operations by all the three services than ever before. The setting up of Headquarters Integrated Defence Staff has also improved the synergy and integration between the three services.

Joint structures like the Andaman and Nicobar Command and Strategic Forces Command have resulted in greater integration in command and control set up and optimal exploitation of resources. Integration of cyber, space and special forces domains is under consideration. We also regularly conduct joint exercises for greater understanding.

SP’s: Tackling global threats such as international terrorism demands defence cooperation and a certain level of interoperability with other nations. In the recent visits of the Prime Minister to neighbouring countries, major understandings on defence cooperation has been achieved. Please elaborate on the same.

COAS: Defence cooperation activities constitute an important tool for furtherance of our national interests. In keeping with India’s rising global stature, recent years have seen a considerable increase in defence cooperation activities undertaken by the Indian Army. Accordingly, an increasing number of friendly foreign countries (FFCs) have been requesting to engage with the Indian Army, which is viewed as one of the most professional and disciplined force, with exemplary training standards and vast development experience.

The prevailing dynamics in the region are complex. Threats are being faced from multi-national terrorist organisations and non-state actors. Indian Army’s endeavour is of mutual benefaction in capability building and empowering armed forces of FFCs to counter threats from terrorism. Concerted efforts are also being made to ensure coordination at the functional level to be able to provide timely humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in times of crisis. These activities are aligned to the national endeavour to establish India’s credibility as a responsible nation of the region, committed to regional peace and stability.

SP’s: With the increasing footprints of ISIS in Pakistan and some militant groups openly admitting their support/allegiance to them and the pullout of US and NATO troops by the end of 2014 from Afghanistan, what challenges will these developments pose for India and Indian Army? How are we preparing for these challenges?

COAS: As a professional organisation we continue to observe and analyse geopolitical developments that can impact our security environment. This includes the growth of ISIS and its impact in India. The Indian Army is prepared to meet all threats to our internal and external security.

US drawdown may be seen by a number of radicalised jehadi outfits as their victory over ‘occupational’ forces. This in turn may spell trouble as far as the internal security situation in Pakistan and the proxy war situation in J&K is concerned. It may further result in a spill over of terror network in J&K resulting in as spurt in infiltration attempts by battle hardened terrorists. This may also cause further instability in India’s neighbouring countries and thus require a close watch on the fallouts of same affecting India. India continues to maintain a combat edge dominating its western borders and will ensure it neutralises any result of the instability caused.

In addition, the Indian Army has deployed a dynamic multi-tiered Counter Infiltration Grid along the line of control which is an appropriate mix of troops deployed, surveillance devices, line of control fence and aerial platforms. The trends of infiltration are monitored continuously and necessary changes in own deployment and tactics are carried out when required to combat any increased threat.

SP’s: Security situation in J&K is at a critical juncture. What is your assessment of the prevalent security situation in J&K?

COAS: Relentless operations by the army on the line of control and in the hinterland along with other security forces have thwarted the designs of the Pak-ISI-separatists-terrorists nexus to give fillip to the proxy war being waged against India. There is a need to consolidate gains to further stabilise the security situation for which all enablers are development imperative.

The army has assiduously combated terrorism in the state through people-friendly operations and zero tolerance for human rights violations. The Indian Army has maintained moral ascendancy over the nexus both on the line of control and in the hinterland.

SP’s: Indian Army’s ethos and values have been a hallmark for others, however, recently there has been certain incidents which have caused concerns. How are you addressing this issue?

COAS: I believe that as an institution, the Indian Army has distinct ethos and values that place the Service before Self. Our Nation First, Always and Every Time has been our guiding principle and is reflected in all our actions. Our glorious history of valour and courage remains a source of inspiration for future generations. The spirit of selfless sacrifice is ingrained in every soldier and he is willing to make the supreme sacrifice for ‘Naam, Namak aur Nishaan.’ Our secular culture, integrity and camaraderie, teamwork and a never say die attitude have helped us win the trust and faith of an entire nation.

Within the army working environment, I have articulated my thrust areas which include the strengthening of our work culture that hinges on professional ethos and upholds our cherished core values of integrity, loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service and honour. The morale of the army continues to be high and the army continues to maintain its high state of preparedness. I am sanguine that the ethos and values of all soldiers of the army will improve further and the army will continue to maintain its immaculate state of discipline.

SP’s: Indian Army is undergoing major modernisation drive. Coming to the infantry, the largest arm in the army, what modern systems, from the rifle to others, are needed, and what is the progress on various fronts including F-INSAS?

COAS: Modernisation of the infantry soldier is being given priority and necessary impetus. It is designed to enhance an individual soldier’s capabilities in terms of increasing his weapon lethality and at the same time providing him necessary protection for survivability in the lethal environment. His mobility and connectivity to exploit a network-centric system are also planned.

We have moved ahead from concept stage to execution. In this initial phase priority is being accorded to weapon systems and enhancing night vision and battlefield mobility capabilities. In light of the same, adequate impetus is being imparted to the major modernisation domains which are as follows:

  • Lethality. The procurement of weapons is simultaneously addressing both the modernisation and hollowness factors. The requirement to address the existing critical voids in the environment is being accorded maximum impetus. The procurement process of close quarter battle carbine, assault rifle and light machine gun are in advanced stage.
  • Target Acquisition and Situational Awareness. Commanders and detachment numbers at various levels in the Indian Army need to be effectively night enabled. Due importance is therefore given to equip the weapons with mix of image intensifier and thermal imaging based night sights. The RFP for procurement of image intensifier sight for carbine has been issued on November 7, 2014.
  • Body Armour. The procurement of ballistic helmet and bullet proof jacket is at an advanced stage wherein both items are at trial stage.

Thus it can be seen that all facets of modernisation of the infantry soldier is being given the highest priority and the necessary impetus.

COAS Conference – January 13, 2015

Army has identified a large number of projects for modernization. More than 100 projects are identified , 20 projects are identified as important and 7 as most critical ones. The critical projects are moving on a fast track.

7 Critical Projects :

Critical Projects Status
Artillery Gun Project Cleared
3rd Generation Missiles Project Cleared
Aviation Helicopters Advance Stage
Upgradation of Vehicles – Tanks and BMPs Fast Track
Overhauls of BMPs Fast Track
Infantry – Assault Rifles, Bullet proof jackets, helmets Fast Track
Mechanized  Forces and Infantry – Night Vision Devices Fast Track