Continuity and Change

Army to dedicate 2024 to leveraging technology as a catalyst for transformative change

Mohammed Asif Khan

In his annual Army Day press conference held on 11 January 2024, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Manoj Pande emphasised the importance of local support in the Rajouri-Poonch sector of Jammu and Kashmir. General Pande acknowledged concerns about the situation in the region over the past five to six months and highlighted the need for community engagement. He asserted a ‘zero tolerance’ policy for human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir, emphasising the army’s commitment to respect for human rights.

The COAS highlighted this because in December, three Kashmiri civilians died, purportedly tortured by army personnel. They were among the 10 picked up after an army convoy had been ambushed in the Rajouri-Poonch area of Jammu division. Four soldiers were killed in the attack. Following the outrage after a video of torture was circulated on social media, the army announced compensation for the victims’ families. It also set up a court of inquiry and moved out a few officers, including a brigadier from the sector where the incident took place. In his press conference, the COAS mentioned that the army has adopted the village from where the civilians were taken.

General Pande outlined measures being taken to improve intelligence, both human and technical, in Jammu and Kashmir. He emphasised the importance of outreach to the local population and the deployment of additional forces in troubled areas. He said that there have been infiltration attempts along the Line of Control (LoC), which the army has foiled. “The area of Rajouri-Poonch has seen increased terrorist activities. Support infrastructure for proxy tandems in the Rajouri-Poonch sector from across the border continues,” he said, adding that efforts were on to enhance technical intelligence capabilities, improve synergy with other agencies, and use technology effectively in counterterrorism operations.

On the northern border with China, General Pande characterised the situation as “stable but sensitive.” He said that there was a slight increase in the number of troops on the Chinese side in the eastern sector, which the army is constantly monitoring. According to him, since May 2020, the army began reorienting its forces as per the threat assessment and the strategic rebalancing of the troops has been completed. He acknowledged that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has added new complexities to India’s security challenges along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

In response to a question on tensions in Manipur, General Pande highlighted the positive developments in the Northeast due to proactive government policies. He mentioned that the combined efforts of the state administration, army and Assam Rifles have stabilised the situation in Manipur, and efforts are underway to normalise the region and ensure stability. He added that the activities of the Myanmar Army and insurgent groups have led to personnel crossing over to India.

General Pande underscored the importance of self-reliance and indigenous production as significant aspects of their future objectives. He revealed that light tanks produced by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) are expected to begin trials by mid-year. He highlighted the ongoing transformation towards a modern, agile, adaptive and technology-enabled force, which aligns with their roadmap for change. In 2024, the Indian Army will dedicate the year to “Technology Absorption”’, focusing on leveraging technology as a catalyst for transformative change.

On the Agnipath scheme, General Pande said that its final framework was developed after an iterative process and consultations. He declined to comment on his predecessor’s remarks about the scheme taking the armed forces by surprise and emphasised the need to move forward. Giving an update on the current status of the scheme, he said that the integration of Agniveers in the units was progressing well, despite some challenges in training and management issues.




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