Transformation Imperatives for the Indian Army in the coming decades

FILE PHOTO: Indian soldiers march during the Republic Day parade in New Delhi, India, January 26, 2022. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

In a talk organised by the United Service Institution of India, on the transformation imperatives for the Indian Army in the coming decades, COAS – Indian Army – General Manoj Pande, PVSM, AVSM, VSM, ADC emphasized the required reforms and presented a roadmap for further development of the Indian Armed forces in the upcoming decades. He discussed security issues like the expansion of grey zone warfare and revamping the defence acquisition mechanism.

Maj. Gen. BK Sharma, Director at USI, welcomed COAS with the opening remarks. He highlighted the geopolitical contestation’s evolution and addressed how it had brought in new theatres such as trade and ideology. (a possible reference to Communist China).

Maj. Gen. Sharma spoke about the inclusion of new domains such as cyber warfare and disruptive technologies, the future of national security is technologically driven. He also highlighted the Russia-Ukraine war and its relevant lessons for the Indian Army. Most importantly, he mentioned the terrains and locations are still significant and critical aspects of any physical war.

Moving forward, COAS General Pande addressed a wide range of key issues ranging from technological synergy and preparedness for hybrid warfare to defence acquisition mechanisms. Below are the excerpts:

COAS highlighted that the military must align with changes, especially on the technological front. It is a necessity and is extremely critical for maintaining operational credibility. Initiatives for transforming should be tech-driven to make the Indian Army a battle-worthy force. These initiatives should include:

  • Capability Development
  • Human Resource Management
  • Doctrinal Changes

General Pande highlighted the future of complex and highly contested warfare. He has proposed a framework based on disruptive technology and changes in the socio-economic domain. These disruptive technologies include:

  • Sensors
  • Drones Swarms
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Autonomous Weapons
  • Other dual-use technologies (Robotics, Nanotechnology etc)

He spoke about the ‘Inseparable nature of information warfare and disinformation’ in future conflicts. Conventional preparedness cannot be overlooked with control over territory still being considered a sign of victory.

He also addressed the Grey Zone Aggression/Warfare as an emerging challenge to National Security. These comprise the usage of maps to unilaterally claim territories, investments in start-ups and media including films. Speaking of the major imperatives for the Indian Army, COAS General Pande outlined several crucial aspects, it includes:

  • Quick Decision-Making mechanism
  • Development of deep sensors
  • Creating superior information levels
  • Developing the ability to take precision strikes
  • Strengthen military logistics
  • Create synergy among the three services
  • Promote Civil-Military cooperation
  • Re-align Human Resource management policies

He also spoke about re-balancing and re-orientation of the forces through:

  • Intense War-games
  • Upscaling of soldiers
  • Robust tailor-made responsive structures
  • Integrated Capacity Development Systems (ICADS)
  • Working towards self-reliance in the Defense Sector by promoting indigenous sectors
  • 87% of the defence contracts have been awarded to Indian manufacturers.
  • Encouraging private players for the development of Drone technology, Anti-drone systems, AI, 5G and Quantum technology.

Indian Army’s outreach to academia, start-ups, MSMEs, and think tanks is a sign of greater integration for efficient decision-making. COAS suggested the establishment of a nodal agency for promoting, monitoring, and supervising the trial, testing, and specification of emerging technologies.

Revamping Defense Acquisition

To achieve desirable acquisition outcomes, acquisition strategies, organizational roles and responsibilities, and reporting structures expedited the unique characteristics of each program. COAS spoke about the need to continue improving the ability to track and analyse attributes of the acquisition system. Broadly improving the analysis would help Indian Armed Forces in focusing the effects of changes in acquisition policy and better plan for the long term.

Move away from the L-1 to the T-1 concept.

COAS suggested the need to revisit the L1 Concept, in which the contracts awarded to the lowest bidder often lead to substandard equipment instead of the best in several instances. He suggested the need to move into the T1 concept. The choice of a bidder is not limited to or determined by the vendor offering the lowest price among those that are technically compatible, but rather by a combination of affordable price and superior technology, or by meeting Enhanced Performance Parameters (EPP).

Agnipath Scheme

General Pande termed the scheme as a paradigm shift toward defence recruitment. It will lead to a correct balance of combat experience and youthful profile. Setting up a Centralised Automated Database to monitor the progress of the ‘Agniveers’, will eventually help the army to retain those who perform well consistently. The current statistics suggest that 7.2% of army personnel belong to the low-medical category (cannot be assigned for combat role), 90% of which have 4-5 years of service. The induction of Agniveers will provide medically fit soldiers.
The challenge will be to maintain operational preparedness and remain strategically potent.

(With inputs from United Service Institution; Edited by Anamitra Banerjee)

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