Chief of Army Staff General Bipin Rawat in an exclusive interview with Sainik Samachar's Senior Editor Ms Ruby T Sharma on January 10, 2018 in New Delhi.
General Bipin Rawat, you have completed one year in office. How would you rate the last one year of Indian Army in terms of its achievements?
2017 has been no different from any other year in the past. The intensity of operations in Kashmir Valley and cease fire violations were of higher intensity necessitated due to the prevailing situation. Our soldiers have exhibited sincerity and commitment of the highest order while guarding our frontiers, combating terrorism and insurgency, providing aid to civil authorities and in achieving all round professional excellence. Units and sub units deployed in UN Missions have also made the Nation proud by displaying outstanding professionalism in the face of challenging situations. There were some concerns amongst the rank and file, due to some disinformation or, information planted by vested interests to create disharmony within the establishment. These were put to rest after a positive outreach and corrective measures instituted to spread the right message and by adopting an institutionalised system of feedback.
The security situation in Kashmir continues to be grave with frequent ceasefire violations and proxy war through terrorism waged by Pakistan. How are you giving a befitting reply to these challenges?
There has been an increase in cease fire violations along the LC in 2017. These indicate Pakistan's insincerity towards maintaining peace and tranquility along the borders. The troops have been given orders to retaliate appropriately to any unprovoked firing from across the LC. Our aim is to curb trans-border infiltration and our response to Pakistan's cease fire violations are mainly directed at countering terrorism and to take punitive measures against Pakistan's troops along the LC, facilitating infiltration.
Overall, the security situation in J&K is operationally under control, wherein violence levels have come down considerably. However, there remain persistent efforts by inimical elements to calibrate violence and keep the pot boiling. Indian Army will continue with its operations to deny any operating space to terrorists and facilitate developmental activities. The Indian Army in coordination with other security agencies has succeeded in restoring normalcy by carrying out relentless people-friendly operations. J&K Police in particular has been pro-active in their support for the security forces.
On the Eastern front, what are your plans to counter a Doklam like stand-off in future and to consolidate Indian positions along the LAC?
Our analysis of force levels of PLA are under continuous review. Any conflict and application of military power will be contingent on many factors importantly the geo-political and geo-economic environment, diplomatic outreach and finally the politico-military aims. There are mechanisms in place as part of various Agreements, Treaties which are fully functional which include Flag Meetings and Border Personnel Meetings along the Northern borders.
To ensure operational preparedness in Northern theatre, a host of modern and futuristic technologies to ensure improved surveillance, better weapon systems for infantry, night enablement, air defence, long range artillery and enhanced mobility have been introduced. Force accretion along the Northern border has been carried out, with additional raisings including those of mechanised forces. Additional resources to include restructuring of Border Road Organisation has also been carried out whilst some are in various stages of implementation.
How effective do you consider the Intelligence based operations launched along the Indo-Myanmar border to neutralise the extremists in the North-East?
Counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism situation in North East region has always been a factor in our operational planning. The dynamics of insurgency is being continuously monitored. Recent reports indicate presence of many outfits that have external support. A host of measures are already in place which involves multiple agencies to address multifarious issues of the restive region. It is highlighted that intense, intelligence based counter insurgency operations coupled with holistic approach to challenges in North East, has considerably stabilized the situation.
Requisite coordination and liaison is being maintained with Myanmar Army through various interaction mechanisms to counter Indian Insurgent Groups (IIGs) operating from Myanmar. Myanmar Army has been conducting operations against Indian Insurgent Groups in their territory.
What are the principal operational challenges before the Indian Army and how are you going to meet them? How far do you think the Army has made up its critical deficiencies in equipment and ammunition?
Challenges being faced by Indian Army encompass the entire spectrum of conflict. As we have territorial disputes along our Northern as well as Western borders, the nature of these threats in conventional domain is premised on land based threats which pose a constant challenge to our territorial integrity. In the sub conventional domain, terrorism forces us to commit resources and troops to also counter this threat. Emerging threats for cyber, space and information domains are blurring physical borders and creating new challenges.
We have judiciously employed our resources to ensure territorial integrity against any external or internal threats as per mandated tasks. The security situation in J&K and North East are under control, despite desperate attempts by terrorists and their supporters to foment violence.
Operational capability development is an ongoing process that needs regular audit and review, to keep it congruent to the security imperatives. The army specific requirements of force modernisation and making up critical deficiencies remain key focus areas. We are maximizing our effort at indigenization through the 'Make in India' initiative. We are willing to support the industry through a process of 'hand shaking' and where necessary, revisit GSQRs. Indigenous manufacture of important ammunition has also been approved by MoD.
DPP-2016 has contributed towards streamlining the procurement process and is a good enabler. In addition, the Government has delegated enhanced powers to VCOAS for procurement of critical ammunition & spares. In the current 13th Plan, since April this year, we have concluded contracts ranging from self propelled guns, artillery of higher calibre, MRSAM, ALH with its ammunition, Digicora, mines and mine detectors, electronic fuzes & thermal imaging sights which are aligned to the key thrust areas. Assault rifles for Infantry and improvement in surveillance resources are being progressed on higher priority. Improvement in our technological threshold by coordination of effort with IITs and industry have been given impetus. Establishment of Army Design Bureau (ADB) is an enabling step in this direction.
Which schemes have you initiated or propose to launch for the welfare or empowerment of the serving and retired personnel and their dependents?
We have numerous welfare schemes for the soldiers and their families, not only when they are serving but also after they retire. In doing so, our special focus is on widows and wards of those killed and these disabled during operations. We have been receiving support from donors who have contributed in the Army Welfare Battle Casualties Fund. 203 battle casualties or next of kin of battle casualties have been released ex-gratia compensation through this fund.
To meet career progression of JCOs and OR the third cadre review has been approved by the Government in September last year. On the educational front, to ensure quality education to the children of all ranks deployed in far flung corners, the MoD has accorded in principle approval for two premier residential Army Public Schools, which are likely to come up in North and Central India.
For the comfort and ease of our veterans many initiatives have been taken. The Directorate of Indian Army Veterans (DIAV) is fully functioning as a single window for redressal of veterans' issues. DIAV is also spearheading the skilling initiative undertaken in collaboration with National Skill Development Council (NSDC) to provide 2nd career options to prospective retirees.
To summarise, Indian Army has given due impetus to the welfare and empowerment of the serving & retired personnel and their dependents. These schemes are being executed in an efficient manner.
What is your message to the soldiers on the Army Day?
I would like to convey to the brave soldiers of Indian Army that you need to continue to work with added zeal while upholding the core values of integrity, loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, courage and honour to fulfill the constitutional obligations and assigned roles.
We must guard against being tempted to receiving inducements of any sort, always ensuring integrity of the highest order. On issues of moral turpitude, I would like to remind the rank and file, that in the Army, we live like a family, treating each other with respect and dignity.
Our unflinching loyalty, commitment to the Nation and apolitical stance, confers on us a uniqueness that we must preserve. We must continue to strive for 'All Round Excellence', to ensure we remain as one of the most potent, responsive, accountable and relevant instruments of National Power.
pix: Rakesh Mangaraj and Sushil Kumar