Interview: NDA Comdt Air Marshal Jasjit Singh Kler
Air Marshal Jasjit Singh Kler, VM, Commandant, National Defence Academy (NDA), Pune in an exclusive interview with Hasibur Rahman, Editor-in-Chief, Sainik Samachar
What would you say to youngsters who have chosen to join NDA? How would you inspire a youngster to join the Armed Forces, at a time when he is not sure of what kind of career he wants to opt for?
•   My advice to  youngsters joining NDA and selecting the Armed Forces as a career is first of all it's a noble profession and it brings along honour and respect from your countrymen. The profession of Arms is full of
a.   Glamour, Uniform
b.   You get a rank which is prefixed to you for a lifetime. Nobody gets  that
c.   Commission by the President
d.   decent Pay
•   The common man looks up to a Defence officer as a symbol of integrity, honour and courage.
•   Armed Forces are the epitome of leadership. Young men, freshly out of graduation, command respect, loyalty and dedication of troops, willing to go the harm's way.
•   Hope of a billion plus rests on you, it's a great feeling.
•   In Armed forces you get an opportunity to lead a life less ordinary, full of adventure, good camaraderie and a continuous education.
How do you rate NDA as compared to other civil educational institutions of India in terms of instilling the sense of patriotism, integrity, honesty, sportsmanship, politeness, selflessness and attitude of giving? Please elaborate.
•   NDA is the Cradle of Military Leadership.
•   We make Officer and a Gentleman.
•   The ethical values are guided by NDA motto and the Chetwood code guides him throughout his life.
•   We have an Honour Code & Honour Board.
•   Formalized and Informal Training on Leadership, Motivation, Morale, Ethics etc.
•   A continuous grooming in Social graces and Leadership.
•   Selflessness- Our credo is Service before Self.
Do you think at the entry level, you no more find best brains of the country applying for NDA? Please elaborate whether it is Yes or No?
•   NDA needs well-rounded young boys who can be moulded to lead the men in harm's way by personal moral and physical courage.
•   We are not looking for Einstein's and the Olympians, However if we get them and they have it in them to meet the basics of services that is military leadership, we would grab them and train them like
•   Cdr Paul Raj, 2014 Marconi Prize, a Nobel equivalent for technology pioneers. Recognized for his work in inventing and advancing MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output) technology, a key enabler of wireless broadband services that has revolutionized high speed delivery of multimedia across the world.
•   Col Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, veteran shooter, an Olympic medallist, and a politician, currently serving as the Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting in the Indian government and many such officers.
Do you think there is a need to upgrade the training syllabus to prepare the cadets for a tri-service theatre command, which is likely to become an operational necessity in coming years?
•   Aim of NDA is to train the young military leaders. He will have enough opportunities in an environment of continual learning to master the nuances necessary for higher military leadership and to deal with higher administrative, training and operational requirements.
•   NDA is the shining example of 'Jointmanship' and the bonds developed between NDA cadets carry on forever. 35000 cadets have become Officers and the entire fabric of Armed forces nests on this camaraderie.
What are the main challenges before the Academy for preparing the cadets for futuristic warfare and how do you plan to address them?
•   Every 3-5 years, the Chairman COSC constitutes ISSG, which undertakes a complete audit of training at NDA and recommends changes in line with futuristic warfare and newer tactics, technology and latest development. Hence curriculum is ever evolving to cater for current and perceived requirements of three services.
•   Today we impart training in Cyber Warfare, Info Warfare, and Network Centric Warfare etc.
What steps do you intend to take to improve the quality of junior instructors, particularly the divisional officers and Squadron Commanders for benefit of cadets?
•   We get the best and we always insist upon.
•   We orient them as soon as they join through the formal and informal programme.
•   We have a period of probation for all instructors. In the rare case, if found unfit, we send the officer back
•   Regular training of Trainers is undertaken.
•   Divisional officers always conduct themselves as Role Models for young cadets.
•   Number of Gallantry award winners as DivOs
•   Comdt and DCCI regularly address officers and keep them updated about expectations from Officers.
Do you think over the years, the physical ability and the nerve of young men has been diluted due to technology gadgets and lack of physical exercises? Please elaborate, either way.
•   Physical fitness and good health are essential and we firmly believe that technology cannot replace the man behind the machine.
•   Our physical standards have not been diluted since inception. In fact, we have increased the difficulty levels.
•   Every cadet learns at least two Troop games and one racquet game.
•   Compulsory participation by all cadets-Not optional
•   Cross country for 12.5 km compulsory
•   It is true that today the young cadets are not that physically tough when they join. This is a reflection of facilities in most schools and the little emphasis that is laid on sports in various schools across the country.
The knowledge base of average cadet has expanded because of social media and easy access to Internet. How it affects conventional training and how the academy gears up to meet this challenge?
•   In order to tap the potential of the information superhighway, we have connected to the National Knowledge Network in November 2015 and with this, we intend to provide our cadets quick access to technical, technological and academic knowledge.
•   The Academy has a well laid out Campus Area Network (CAN) and every cadet has been provided with a laptop thin client in his cabin, connected to CAN.
•   All information of relevance, available on Internet, is placed on intranet. Cadets are allowed to give suggestions and the very next day, the necessary information is placed on CAN for the benefit of one and all. Also, we have Internet cafes inside squadron buildings but under strict monitoring. In addition, we have 50 Internet PCs in the Library, again under the security cover of firewall and strict monitoring.
What are your plans for improvement and betterment of the Academy in the near future?
•   There are many plans for the betterment because every Commandant strives to do his bit of value addition to NDA. In keeping with the times, I have focussed on first improving the academic threshold at NDA. The last major academic syllabus revision was carried out in 1999 when BSc (Computer Science) was introduced as the third stream, with BA and BSc running successfully. Thus, a major change in our approach to academics has now become a necessity to keep pace with the changing demands of warfare forced by advancement in technology.
•   The revision must aim at making NDA a centre of academic excellence which is focused at producing technically competent future leaders and information warriors. To harness the benefits of technical education, it was imperative to introduce an Undergraduate Programme in Engineering (B Tech) for cadets with the end aim of producing an officer who is BTech and not a BTech who is an officer.
•   With Phase I of introduction of BTech to Naval Cadets having been approved by the COSC on April 18, 2016, the Academy has realised, in part, its aim of enhancing scientific curriculum and qualification of the future officers of the Armed Forces.
•   The proposed Phase II and Phase III is expected to do the same for the Air Force and the Army as well. The syllabus of both science and humanities is being assessed de-novo, so as to rationalise the number of different degrees offered at NDA. Today, NDA offers 4 degrees - BA, BSc, BSc (Computer Science) and last one to be included from July 2016 onwards is BTech.
•   The academy also plans to exploit the National Knowledge Network to tap the resources available at military and academic institutions of repute within the country. We have already entered into an MoU with IIT (Mumbai) and DIAT, and more are in the offing to enable collaboration with leading military and civil institutions like IMA, INA, NDC, MCEME, CME, OTAs, IIMs and IITs. We have worked out a detailed infrastructure map till 2027. NDA was designed for 1,250 cadets and a peak load of 1,500 cadets.
•   The strength at NDA has increased, whilst the approval of assets to run the Academy and construction of allied infrastructure lagged behind. Currently, the training infrastructure at NDA caters for 1,800 cadets. The construction of building and allied infrastructure for the 16th Squadron is in progress to accommodate trainee strength of 1,920 cadets. The 'approval in principle' to raise a new 5th Battalion (comprising four extra squadrons) has been received from the MoD. This, coupled with the completion of the ongoing construction of the 16th Squadron, would eventually enhance the training capacity from 1,920 to 2,400 cadets.
•    Based on the input received from Service HQs, there exists a need to further increase the number of trainees beyond 2,400. The modalities for setting up of 6th and 7th Battalions are presently being worked out.
•   Further, NDA constantly attempts to remain abreast with the evolving best practices in the environment. Therefore, there is always a pressure to increase the time allotted to various activities so as to upgrade the output whilst also addressing the weak areas. More than 60% time is allocated to academics. Balance time is allotted for various activities like Outdoor Training (ODT), games, clubs and own time work.
•    Time is also taken up by other planned activities like motivational lectures, debates, quizzes, briefings, address by dignitaries, improvement of verbal and written communication skills in English and inculcating good reading habits.
What activities are being conducted in NDA in support of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan?
•   Clean and Green NDA
•   Movement of cadets on bicycles
•   Encourage cycling of others
•   Plantation drives
•   Regular cleaning, brooming at NDA
•   Cadets maintain their cabins
•   Landscaping regularly
•   Can see lot of wildlife at NDA- Deer, Langurs, Peacocks, birds etc.
•   95% Green cover
•   'Do not litter boards'
•   'No Honking'
•   NDA community blends symbiotically with Mother Nature