By Sri Krishna
New Delhi: Army Chief General M.M. Naravane January 12 asserted that there have been positive developments, both along the Northern and Western Borders in the last one year.
“We have continued to maintain the highest levels of operational preparedness,” on the Northern front while on the Western front “have resolved to show ‘Zero Tolerance’ to terror, and commit ourselves to extract dire costs, should that be forced upon us,” he told the media at his annual press conference ahead of Army Day on January 15.
General Naravane said along the Line of Control (LOC), after a heightened situation for a prolonged period, the DGMOs understanding, in February last year, was aimed at achieving mutually beneficial, and sustainable peace, along the LOC. This has led to marked improvement in the situation.
However, “there is an increase in the concentration of terrorists at various launch pads and there have been repeated attempts of infiltration across the Line of Control (LoC),” adding that “this exposes the nefarious designs of our western neighbour.”
In Jammu and Kashmir, the ‘Whole of Government’ approach, has led to progressive improvement, in the security situation. Efforts to give an indigenous hue to terrorism, by setting up a façade, of proxy terror Tanzeems, have failed miserably. Inimical elements, re-energised their attempts at disrupting peace in the Valley, by targeting minorities, and non-locals.
“However, we have been able to counter these challenges,” he said.
To a question on demilitarization of Siachen Glacier which is the highest battle field, the Army Chief said “we all know the unilateral attempt by Pakistan to change the status quo. There has to be acceptance of the Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) but Pakistan is not accepting to do so. It is first disengagement and only than demilitarization.”
The AGPL divides current positions of Indian and Pakistani military posts and troops across the entire 110 kilometres long front line in Siachen Glacier.
On the Sino-Indian border in North, the General said “we have continued to maintain, the highest levels of operational preparedness, while engaging in sustained dialogue with the PLA. After persistent joint efforts, mutual dis-engagement has taken place at many locations.”
Saying that there has been positive movement, he said the 14th round of the Corps Commander level talks is underway, and was hopeful that there would be further developments in the days ahead.
The Army chief who will be retiring later this year and is strongly tipped to be the next Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) following the death of General Bipin Rawat in a helicopter crash, said that while there has been partial disengagement, the threat has by no means reduced. Force levels, in areas where dis-engagement is yet to take place, have been adequately enhanced.
He said threat assessment and internal deliberations, have resulted in re-organisation and re-alignment of forces, in keeping with the Army’s mandate, of ensuring territorial integrity, and to cater for the major augmentation of PLA forces, and military infrastructure.
“We will continue to deal with the PLA in a firm, resolute and peaceful manner, while ensuring the sanctity of our claims. Necessary safeguards are in place,” he said.
Meanwhile, upgradation and development of infrastructure, along the Northern Borders, is being carried out in a holistic, and comprehensive manner, including roads and tunnels, for all weather connectivity, he said.
The Army Chief said strategic Railway lines, additional bridges across the Brahmaputra, upgradation of bridges on critical Sino-Indian Border Roads, and storage for supplies, fuel and ammunition, are also in place. Major efforts have also been undertaken, to identify dual use infrastructure.
The overall security situation, in the North-Eastern Region remained under control. A robust security posture, has significantly curtailed the operational space for terrorists. There has been a graduated deinduction, of Army units, from areas where the security situation has improved.
On the Indo-Myanmar Border, being an important facet of the security calculus, due impetus to border guarding is being given, by the Assam Rifles, he said.
“We intend to progressively increase, the number of AR Battalions deployed for border guarding in times to come,” he said.
On Nagaland civilian killings, the Army Chief said it was a “highly regrettable incident and the Eastern Command was quick in ordering an inquiry led by a Major General and it is in the final stages and the findings would be known in a day or two. A Special Investigation Team (SIT) has also been constituted and the Court Of Inquiry (COI) and the SIT would take statements from a cross section so that we can come to a conclusion and based on this, appropriate action would be taken.”
Force Restructuring, for enhanced operational effectiveness, and resultant structural optimisation, through creation of Integrated Battle Groups is progressing well. IBG-isation of select formations, along the Western Front and Northern Borders will soon come to fruition, he said.
On the use of swarm drones, Gen Naravane said it was the emerging technology and a demo of it was held at the Army Day Parade last year to “see how we can use this technology to enhance our operational preparedness. In the year gone by, much has happened and we won’t be found wanting in swarm drones.”
On the setting up of Theatre Commands, General Naravane said the Indian Army is carrying out its deliberations, in consultation with the other Services, keeping in mind the timelines given out by the HQ IDS. The Indian Army stands fully committed to jointness and synergy.
The Army Chief said the Indian Army is committed to the “Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan” and has prioritised its procurement, from the Indian industry, and is handholding numerous indigenisation projects, right from design and development stages, till the final trials stage. In the current financial year till date, out of 20 AoNs, 19 are ‘Buy Indian’.
“We have also taken significant steps, on leveraging Artificial Intelligence, 5G, and Quantum Technology, to gain an edge over our likely adversaries, and for better management of forces,” he said.
The Indian Army’s participation, in various peacekeeping operations, has ensured peace in various parts of the world, and has assisted India to carve a niche for itself, in UN affairs. It currently has about 5300 personnel deployed, in eight United Nations (UN) Missions, he said.
In keeping with the government’s policy of encouraging women to join the Armed Forces, he said the Indian Army has granted Permanent Commission (PC) to women officers, at par with their male counterparts. He said preparations are already underway at the National Defence Academy, to induct women cadets from June 2022.
General Naravane said there has been a special focus, on the welfare of Veterans, and Families, more so at the time of the Pandemic.
“Our outreach campaign to our Veterans and Veer Naris, especially those in distant villages, and far flung corners of the country, has been successful in ensuring settlement of a large number of their problems,” he said.
On the question of Theatre Commands in view of the country’s armed forces having a Chief of Defence Staff, the Army Chief said there was “much greater synergy between the three services,” based on the recommendations of the Kargil Committee Report. The reason why the post of CDS was created goes to show the need for Theatre Commands to win wars of the future.
On the role of the media, the Army Chief said both the military and the media have a significant role to play along with the other pillars of the state in building a strong nation.
“I look forward to a very strong and continuous partnership between the two of us – the media and the military – in the future,” the Army chief said, adding that with better intel and military capabilities, the Indian Army and all wings of the armed forces are now much better prepared to meet any challenge that is thrown at their direction.