Indian Army’s transformation process has begun

My Times Today.

A good decision no doubt in today’s environment when disinformation is so easy and holding backing unclassified information is unproductive. However, a degree of clarity on a few issues is necessary before a brief description and analysis of some of the intended change.

Transformation is not something achieved in a year or two; it’s an ongoing process which spans several years and takes into account the national functional environment, changing nature of conflict, threats, material resource availability, emerging technology, suitability of existing doctrine, quality of human intake, training needs and logistics, among other domains. This must not be confused with restructuring, a terminology being loosely used today. Restructuring by itself is at best a part of the transformation process. The Indian Army, inspired by the US exercise of transforming itself into the digital-information age after the First Gulf War, attempted such an exercise beginning 2005. However, it could force no traction with the political leadership and an unsupportive bureaucracy. The first exercise in attempted transformation led to some accretions as part of Plans, but that was about all. A major accretional sanction it could achieve was for the Mountain Strike Corps (MSC), 90,000 strong at an estimated cost of Rs 65,000 crore. However, transformation itself found no takers. In the face of lack of budgetary support, even the MSC was later virtually shelved.In the light of the above and escalating threats in which two front war and more have become a reality, especially after Doka La, somehow the Army has been unable to convince the political leadership of the need for suitable budget support to create the right deterrence and dissuasion which it aims to achieve against its adversaries. A notion appears to prevail among the non-uniformed, including the political leadership, diplomatic community and bureaucracy that conventional threats are passé and hybrid conflict is the flavour of the day. It is usually forgotten that deterrence through conventional military strength caters for the far end of the conflict spectrum while responding in the hybrid domain which is many times an ongoing phenomenon in varying intensity.

The current exercise initiated by the army leadership is indeed a bold attempt to overcome many of the imponderables in the face of poor perception about the nature of threats. It is currently a restructuring effort and will hopefully eventually progress into a transformation, going by my earlier explanation of the two terms. What is important is that the leadership is attempting to do a large number of things in a short period to overcome many of the anomalies which have piled up over time. The immediate backdrop study is the Shekatkar Committee Report of 2016, but it is heartening to see that a plethora of past reports, including the VK Singh Report on transformation, have been examined. Each such report is a wealth of analysis of that time with an eye on the future which is already the time we are living in. Many of the unactioned thoughts and ideas gain relevance even with changing context.

Four theme based committees have been formed, each under a Lt Gen, with terms of reference. These are — reorganising and optimisation with an aim of transforming the Indian Army, reorganization of the army HQ, cadre review of officers and review of terms of engagement of other ranks (OR). Each of them deserves a separate analytical piece but this analysis is a generic one to get a measure of understanding before more is written specifically on each study.

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