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Men and Machines

Time to seriously consider downsizing the army and bringing in technological innovations

Maj Gen Sheru Thapliyal Maj Gen Sheru Thapliyal (Retd)

In keeping with the trend worldwide, downsizing of the army has become a necessity. This has to be done after carrying out an assessment of threat, an exercise in which all stakeholders — political bosses, army and to an extent bureaucracy need to get involved. There have been attempts in the past where expert committees have been appointed and they have given their recommendations but the changes have been mostly cosmetic with concentration on reducing teeth to tail ratio. The need is to tackle all-encompassing doctrinal, organisational and then force levels. Technology should become the tool for change so that an optimum man-machine mix results.

Need for Downsizing
Ever since Independence, Indian Army has been functioning on organisations and structures suited for World War II British model. No serious attempt was made by military thinkers to analyse if this model was relevant for the conditions post-Independence. We remained a manpower heavy, ponderous monolith with little integration of technology with manpower and doctrines which was also of World War II vintage. The result is that the Indian Army is not capable of swiftly concentrating to carry the war into enemy territory. Accent on manpower has increased the revenue budget to nearly 80 per cent with only 20 per cent left for capital expenditure which includes modernisation, it was bound to suffer. The bureaucrat then evolved a defence acquisition process which must be the slowest and least cost effective in the world.

Threat Perception
One does not have to be an Einstein to figure out that we have two types of threats — the external and internal. External threat is from two neighbours, Pakistan and China, who covet our territory and will not hesitate to go to war to achieve their aims — singly or in collusion. What compounds the problem is the fact that both are nuclear armed nations. The internal threat is due to Left-Wing Extremism, increasing its footprint throughout India basically due to failure of governance. The army’s basic role is tackling external threat with internal security duties as a last resort of the state.

Doctrinal Issues
Higher Defence Organisation: The whole world, including our adversaries, function on an integrated set-up for defence with services integrated with the ministry of defence (MoD) and theatre commands in place in field. However, in India, due to an inadequate understanding of defence and national security on part of the political masters, bureaucracy has cornered the defence market. Services have been largely excluded from decision making. Services are told that if with this system in place, we have won all our wars except 1962 war against China, then where is the need for a change? The fact is that our present organisation for defence is singularly unfit to fight and win a modern war.

National Security Doctrine: We must be the only big country in the world with clear and present threat on our borders which does not have a national security doctrine. Wars have been fought without a directive issued by the government. And apparently, the decision-makers are quite happy with this state of affairs. This absolves them of any responsibility, in case of a reverse has happened in 1962 war.

Jointmanship: In our country only lip service is paid to the vital need for jointmanship in services. In the absence of an apex structure headed by a joint chief of staff and integrated theatre commands, the full potential of the capability of services cannot be brought to bear on the point of decision.

Indian Army soldiers during Vijay Day celebrations in Kargil
Indian Army soldiers during Vijay Day celebrations in Kargil

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