“We are transforming and restructuring ourselves to meet the challenges of the future”

“Upon the Western Front, Pakistan continues to embrace terror and terrorism as an instrument of state policy”, said the Chief of the Army Staff General M.M. Naravane, in his opening remarks during Annual Army Day Press Conference 2021.

Issue 6 - 2020 Photo(s): By ADGPI / Twitter
General M.M. Naravane with the Troops during his recent visit to Ladakh

The last year was one full of challenges. We keep saying that we are prepared to meet all challenges. But last year we had to walk the talk and actually rise up to the occasion and show that we are indeed prepared to meet all these challenges and I’m happy to say that we did so and came out on top and the fact that they were multifarious. But main among them was, of course, COVID and the situation on the Northern borders.

As far as the COVID pandemic is concerned, as early as middle of February, based on whatever inputs we were getting, we had been able to make quite a pragmatic assessment of the situation and then instituted necessary force protection measures under “Op Namaste”. Detailed instructions were passed from the Army Headquarters, as well as the through medical channel on what all measures need to the instituted. Along with that, we also gave a free hand to our local commanders to institute all measures that they deemed fit in their respective areas and garrison and I’m very happy to say that as a result of all this, we were able to maintain our operational preparedness and as events unfolded during the course of the year, we needed our units and formations to be deployed at short notice. These measures instituted, right from February onwards paid handsome dividends.

“We are ready to meet any eventuality. All logistics aspects have been very well taken care of, whether it is clothing, ration or habitat; there is no cause of concern at all on that front and as a result of all this, our operational preparedness is of a very high order and the morale of the troops is high.”

There are of course, inconveniences caused because of the restrictions which had to be put in place. But I think in the larger interest, those were necessary and while we ourselves were coming to terms with the COVID pandemic and instituting all these measures. We also reached out and helped out all the state governments and the citizens. To tackle this pandemic, we had opened number of quarantine camps, facilitated their treatment and their return to their respective homes once their quarantine period was over. I would like to make special mention of the yeoman service and the selfless devotion put in by the medical fraternity, who are, day in and day out for the last six months, treating the COVID patients in the services hospitals or the civilian facilities, without caring for their own health and safety and I must put that on record.

Before giving out situation on the Northern Front, I would like to briefly touch upon the Western Front. Pakistan continues to embrace terror and terrorism as an instrument of state policy. However, we are very clear that we have zero tolerance for terror and we reserve our right to respond at a time and place of our own choosing and with precision. This is a clear message that we have sent across that we will not tolerate any such kind of activity.

“We are transforming ourselves from manpower intensive to technology enabled force, which is the way forward for the future”

Coming to the Northern Front, it is not only the Eastern Ladakh but we have maintained a high state of alertness all along the Northern borders as of now, keeping the threat perception in mind. We have gone in for a winter posture and deployment. But as I said, we are alert and ever-ready to meet any challenges. Eight rounds of talks between the Corps commanders have taken place. We are now awaiting the date of 9th round of talks. I am sure that through dialogue and discussion, we will be able to reach an amicable solution based on the principle of mutual and equal security and in consonance, with the talks and the understanding which resulted as the outcome of the meetings between the respective defence ministers and foreign ministers and I am very hopeful of the positive outcome.

But, as I said, we are ready to meet any eventuality. All logistics aspects have been very well taken care of, whether it is clothing, ration or habitat; there is no cause of concern at all on that front and as a result of all this, our operational preparedness is of a very high order and the morale of the troops is high.

What has clearly emerged in last one year is the need for us to restructure, and for us to enhance our capabilities. As far as capability development is concerned, all round development has taken place; we have signed a number of contracts last year and these range from weapons and protective gear for the Infantry, Mechanized Forces, firepower elements, Long Range Vectors, Engineers stores equipment, Communication equipment etc. What I mean to say is that there has been an all-round development and each Arm and Service has got what they need. Because we are only the sum of our individual parts, and it is only when everyone is modern, that the entire force will be modernised. I’m also glad to say that more than 80 per cent to 85 per cent of the contracts which are signed are made by Indian companies as part of our efforts to indigenise and in keeping with the hon’ble Prime Minister’s call of Atmanirbhar Bharat.

“I would like to reassure you once again, that the Indian Army is fully prepared and geared up to face whatever threats are there, both external or internal”

We have got the necessary budgetary support to keep pace with our modernisation plan. We have also got the necessary budgetary support for the contracts that were signed as part of the acquisition plan, and for which we are thankful to the government and the hon’ble Finance Minister for supporting us.

As I mentioned there is also a need to restructure and to that end, we are transforming ourselves from manpower intensive to technology enabled force, which is the way forward for the future. We had sponsored a study through the Army Training Command to look into what all niche technologies we need to transform ourselves into this technology enabled force. The study has been carried out and broad map has been prepared to include all such technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Quantum Computing, Block Chain, Big Data Analytics and the like. Through our Army Design Bureau we have sponsored a number of projects, viz through Army Technology Board worth 36 Crores and through Technology Development Fund another 23 crores. We are on our way to transforming and restructuring ourselves to meet the challenges of the future and this restructuring also includes restructuring at tri-service level. We are fully committed to tri-service joint-ness and the evolution of various Integrated Command and we will work with the other services to make sure that this happens in a very calibrated and smooth manner.

If you recollect, last year as part of KRA, the acronym “P” for personnel was the focus area. I am glad to say that in last one year, we have been able to achieve a number of Schemes, Projects, Government Orders, in which a number of pending cases related to pay and allowances were resolved, not only for serving personnel but also for Veterans, who are very much a part of the Army family. I will not go into the details of each and every of these sanctions which were received, which we have been able to make a good headway. That does not mean to say that all issues have been resolved. But a number of important ones have been resolved as a result of which a lot of benefits have accrued to both serving and retired personnel.

Before I take your questions, I would like to reassure you once again, that the Indian Army is fully prepared and geared up to face whatever threats are there, both external or internal. I would like to thank you all once again, for having supported us throughout the year which has just gone by. You’ve always been there to bank upon and we will continue to bank on you to keep our citizens informed about the happenings through honest and truthful reporting.

Thank you!