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73rd Infantry Day Celebrations

October 18, 2019 By Lt. General P.C. Katoch (Retd) Photo(s): By PIB
The Author is Former Director General of Information Systems and A Special Forces Veteran, Indian Army


Infantry Day Celebrations

Indian Infantry will celebrate its 73rd Infantry Day on October 27 to commemorate the selfless dedication to duty by Indian Army's gallant Infantrymen, a wreath laying ceremony will be held at 'Amar Jawan Jyoti' where General Bipin Rawat, Chief of the Army Staff, along with senior officers, will lay wreaths in a solemn ceremony. This ceremony will be preceded by Field Marshal K.M. Cariappa Memorial Lecture, this year's theme being 'The Strategic Dimensions of the Kashmir issue', followed by release of commemorative stamp 'Siachen Warrior' on October 23, and Infantry Day Lunch on October 26.

Infantry celebrates 27 October each year as Infantry Day to commemorate the first Infantry action post independence. In response to the threat posed to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our Nation, on this day in 1947, the leading elements of the Indian Army from 1st Battalion of the SIKH Regiment air landed at Srinagar and gallantly fought the raiders aided by Pakistan Army. This bold action by the Indian Army and indomitable courage displayed by the Infantrymen reversed the tide of events and thwarted Pakistan's nefarious designs. It is often said: "Infantry is the least spectacular of all arms but without which you can do nothing, nothing at all". This aphorism is actually a misnomer because by dint of being the foremost fighting arm and historical testimony that the ultimate victory in any war is decided by the Infantry, it qualifies to be not only the most spectacular but most indispensable and ultimate combat arm. The awards and honours that Infantry is resplendent with, no other arm can boast of. It is with the Infantry at the core that the rest of the Army is configured, both during war and peace. If Army is the last bastion of National security, Infantry remains its penultimate strength.

All wars since 1947 have been witness to the heroic deeds of Infantry troops who have performed their tasks successfully in adverse climatic conditions and terrain to protect the Nation's integrity and sovereignty. The Indian frontiers remain in the hands of infantrymen, from the staggering high altitudes of the Siachen Glacier, the impregnable jungles of the north-east to the scorching heat of the Thar Desert. In the IPKF deployed in Sri Lanka, it was the Infantry that ultimately dislodged the LTTE from their traditional strongholds. The Kargil conflict saw a stupendous and exemplary performance of young officers and men combined with excellent planning and execution in the new strategic and operational environment. Low-intensity conflict operations have been a constant, and perhaps the most prolonged operation for the Army.

Insurgencies in the North-East, Jammu and Kashmir and, in the past, Punjab have been live examples of Infantry centric operations which are characteristically complex, delicate and sensitive. The Infantrymen have invariably performed well. Besides, the world over in various United Nations peace-keeping operations, our Infantry has earned tremendous good-will and carved a niche for itself and the Nation. Each infantry Regiment includes a number of battalions. In the history of the Indian Army, the designations and numberings of various regiments have undergone changes which would be confusing to the uninitiated. While some infantry regiments trace their lineage to the British era, several new regiments have been raised with the expansion of the Army since Independence.

Army's involvement in the foreseeable future, be it at the strategic, operational or tactical level, will continue to be infantry-centric. If Army is the last bastion of the nation's security, Infantry is the ultimate in achieving it. Technological developments in the battlefield have changed tactical concepts but the barometer of victory has remained unchanged. Victory is measured still in terms of physical capture or denial of ground which is unimaginable without Infantry. Nor is it conceivable to conduct operations in low-intensity conflict and counter-insurgency (CI) without this combat arm. Even in this age of hi-tech weaponry, it is an accepted fact that the foot soldier is the one who ultimately "delivers". All the aerial bombardment, missiles, rockets and unlimited fire-power only tame the adversary.

Victory is established only when the Infantryman stamps his boot on the ground and raises the national flag on captured territory. In recent years, modernisation of Infantry is getting addressed but challenges remain. Compared to big weapon systems like aircrafts, ships, submarines and even tanks, it is much cheaper to equip the Infantry holistically but two factors has not let this happen despite most number Army Chiefs having been from the Infantry: first, the governmental defence-industrial sector has failed to produce quality weapons and equipment for the Infantry, and; second, the MoD sans military professionals prefers to go for big-ticket defence deals involving large financial outlays for 'well-known' reason. 2019, witnessed Army finalising procurement plans for infantry modernisation under which light machine guns, battle carbines and assault rifles are being purchased costing some 40,000 crore to replace ageing and obsolete weapons. But there is a wide gap between 'finalising' plans and the weapons actually getting fielded. Shortage of funds has impacted the modernisation drive.

Army told the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence in March that it was reeling under severe fund crunch and struggling to even make emergency procurement when China and Pakistan were enhancing their military capability. The three services had demanded 1.60 lakh crore as capital outlay in the 2018-19 budget, but were granted only 83,434 crore. Israeli 'Spike' anti-tank guided missiles have begun to be inducted. The AK-203 rifle factory is coming up in Amethi, limited quantities of 'Sako' sniper rifles have been imported and indigenous Light Strike Vehicles are coming. Indigenous corner-shots too have been developed by the DRDO. However, all these are patchy developments. While government talks big about artificial intelligence, equipment like drones for the Infantry are nowhere on the horizon, even as Pakistan has begun using them to equip terrorists. Much more focus and push to modernise the Infantry is required at the government level, to facilitate execution of what the Army plans.