Men and Machines

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

Maj Gen Sheru Thapliyal (Retd)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.

Indian Army soldiers during Vijay Day celebrations in Kargil

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