By PK Ghosh
New Delhi. “We are transforming ourselves from a manpower intensive force to a technology-enabled service. Niche technology is the need of the hour and we are working to get all the modern-day technology such as Quantum Communication, Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, etc. and our own Army Design Bureau is working on this,” Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Manoj Mukund Naravane said in his opening remarks while addressing the media on January 12.
General Naravane was speaking at the Annual Press Conference in New Delhi in the run up to Indian Army Day 2021, being held on January 15 every year.
Throwing some light on the past year challenges he said, “Last year many challenges were there and we had to walk the talk. More particularly Covid was the main challenge, however, we did our bit and came out of the situation. Another challenge I must mention was at the northern border which has been in existence even now.”
“Through our pragmatic assessment of the situation on Covid, we instituted various measures through Op Namaste. We not only implemented various measures at the Army Headquarters but also asked all the commands, brigades, units and almost all the arms to implement the measures to protect the Army personnel from the pandemic,” he said.
“Not only this while braving the Covid pandemic, at the same time we kept ready all the operational preparedness to protect the integrity and sovereignty of our nation. Although we faced problems because of restrictions imposed following Covid, but the restrictions were in the larger interest of the nation,” the Army Chief said.
“We not only took various measures to ensure our jawans safety from the Covid but our jawans also helped the state governments in braving the pandemic.” On this occasion, he also applauded the yeoman and selfless service of the medical fraternity, who throughout the day and night have been working to save the patients in general and Covid victims in particular.
“As far as Western front is concerned, Pakistan has been sponsoring the terrorism as its state policy. But we have been following the ‘No tolerance policy’ in this regard,” the COAS said adding, “We reserve our right to respond to any nefarious activities at the Western front by Pakistan.”
“Now coming to the Northern border, we are ever alert all along the border. We already had eight rounds of talks at different levels with China to resolve the India-China standoff at Line of Actual Control in Eastern Ladakh. We are waiting for time and date for our ninth round of talks and we are sure that we will reach at an amicable solution through dialogues,” the Army Chief stated. Indian Army is very much hopeful of positive outcome through talks, he said.
“We are ready to meet any eventuality and troops deployed were being provided all facilities including warm clothes, habitat etc. in this harsh month of Winter. Operational preparedness and morale of our Army jawans are very high,” the COAS said.
“We are also optimally considering restructuring of the service as well as enhancing the capabilities and in the run up to this we have signed many contracts recently,” the Army Chief noted. Indian Army in the process of procuring infantry weapons, artillery platforms, communication equipment and all modern warfare fighting equipment, and each arm and services are getting weapons and platforms.
“We are signing our 80-85 per cent contract with Indian companies to promote indigenisation and to fulfill the mission of Prime Minister’s call of Atmanirbhar Bharat.”
“We have initiated all out modernisation plan, and we are thankful of budgetary support of the government specially Finance Minister that she understood our requirements,” the Army Chief said.
Indian Army has planned for Rs 50+ crores programme through technology development fund and other towards the modernisation of the force. The restructuring is happening at the tri-service level and the Army is committed to tri-service integrated command, the Army Chief added.
“On human resource part, we have also been able to achieve towards providing facilities as well as welfare services for the serving as well as retired personnel. Not all, but we have been successful in resolving almost 80 per cent issues of such personnel which were in dire need of attention, and this way benefits accrued out of it.”
Indian Army is ready to take any challenge — of internal and external threats, he added.
Answering a question on completion of his first year in office, he said he concentrated on safeguarding sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country. Apart from that, the Army under his leadership worked towards capability development, HR aspect and for Veer Naris.
Review and assessment is a continuous process, and Indian Army continues to review any threat perception internally or externally. The Army has changed the policy and infrastructure for the deployment in border areas. “Pakistan and China together is a potent threat, which cannot be wished away, and we have done strategic planning and calculus to deal with both the countries.”
“As of now it is status quo in Ladakh situation in terms of disengagement and de-escalation, and we believe we will be able to sort out the issue.” There is no reduction of troops as of now since the time of standoff between India and China at LAC in Ladakh.
The Army Chief also observed that the situation in Jammu and Kashmir has been improving but in case of Northeast it has improved a lot.