The threat of the virus is all-pervasive and to ensure Force Protection, an essential towards operational readiness, the Armed Forces have issued exhaustive instructions/guidelines
| The author retired in December 2019 as Director General, Mechanised Forces, Indian Army |
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh holding a meeting with the National Security Advisor, the Chief of Defence Staff and the Tri-Service Chiefs, in New Delhi on May 1, 2020
Indian Armed Forces since its inception have been the first responders to any disaster situation. Even after raising of NDMA (National Disaster Management Authority), the Indian Armed Forces have been at the forefront of these efforts. The Indian Armed Forces have the necessary logistical infrastructure and disciplined and skilled manpower to mount a suitable response in any situation.
While the Indian Armed Forces continue to carry out their essential tasks, they have made available all resources, capabilities and their expertise at the disposal of civil administration; from augmenting the overwhelmed medical resources to flying in the stranded Indians from abroad; from transporting men and material to the remotest locations in the country to sending medical teams to friendly foreign countries. The Armed Forces, in conjunction with Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Ordnance Factory Board, have worked to augment vital medical equipment. Probably the civil administration could have also asked the armed forces to assist in the migrant issue.
Military Operational Readiness
- Strict vigil is being maintained on the LC and LAC. Despite COVID-19, intelligencebased counter-insurgency operations are being carried out relentlessly; the terrorists are on the run and in hiding in safe houses. However, covid or no covid, Pakistan continues to pursue their state policy of fomenting terrorism; the ceasefire violations, the infiltration bids, the recent encounters in Handwara and the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen leader Riyaz Naikoo are a grim reminder that the cycle of violence in Kashmir will ebb and flow till we make it cost-prohibitive for Pakistan. Since the abrogation of Article 370, a lot has been achieved. Indian strategic planners need to recast their policy and plans and use all resources at the nation’s disposal to make Pak pay dearly in every which way. At the same time there is a need to keep a window open for talks; talks with people who matter and call the shots rather than the front-facing puppets.
- The threat of the virus is all-pervasive and to ensure Force Protection, an essential towards operational readiness, the Armed Forces have issued exhaustive instructions/guidelines. The field exercises and other training activities which can raise the chances of spread of the virus have been suspended.
The Way Ahead
- The Armed Forces have to be Battle ready at all times. However, military operational readiness will get impacted if little or no training takes place due to the coronavirus for a prolonged period.
- Amidst the need to follow corona pandemic guidelines and yet be ready for all eventualities, including assisting the civil administration to fight the invisible enemy – second round of COVID-19/ another epidemic; the Armed Forces have to think of novel ways to train and prepare. Some of the measures that can be undertaken are:
- Virtual Training & Simulators. The Army is presently not ready to conduct virtual and simulator-based training at a large scale. The present pandemic can be a driver to move towards training using virtual reality and augmented virtual technology. There is a need to induct simulators which use augmented virtual reality to give a feel of the real environment. In present corona times, virtual training will not only be able to meet today’s requirements but will also prepare the Armed Forces for future virtual based training needs.
- Biological/Chemical Warfare Training Exercises. The Armed Forces need to give more impetus to Biological/Chemical Warfare training. There is a need to carry out regular exercises to check our readiness to combat such an epidemic in future. These exercises have to be carried out not only within the armed forces but also with PMF/other civil agencies. Soldiers have to be trained and made more aware of fighting at the individual/unit level as even on how to assist the civil administration in such situations.
- Military Intelligence. With conspiracy theories abound of the origin of the coronavirus, it is the need of the hour to include biological/medical intelligence as part of intelligence gathering. The armed forces need to expand their activities from pure military intelligence to gathering information about the invisible enemy – the next pandemic/biological agents. More coordinated effort by the Defence Intelligence Agency with other Intelligence Agencies is paramount.
- Stocking of Resources. The nation was caught unawares as we did not have adequate stockpiles of medical equipment/supplies to fight the corona pandemic. Like other stockpiles of arms, ammunition, equipment, etc. which the Armed Forces maintain as war wastage reserves, there is a need to stock PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) and other medical equipment which may be required for such a situation.