[Sansad TV] Perspective: Indian Army: Marching with times

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This January 15th, India celebrated its 74th Army Day, to offer remembrance to the enlightening journey of courage and sacrifice of the Indian Army.

In this article, we will look back at how the year gone by has been for the Indian Army, the security challenges they faced and continue to face in the year ahead, their preparedness in meeting these challenges and the opportunities in further enhancing our defence capabilities.

Why is this year special?

Ans. New Combat Uniform

  • The Indian Army will be provided with new combat uniform for its personnel aimed to provide more comfort and sustainability.
  • The new uniform will increase the comfort of women officers as well.
  • The new uniform is provided with a digital disruptive pattern and won’t be available in the open market.
  • The uniform has been designed by keeping 4Cs in mind: comfort, climate, camouflage and confidentiality.
  • They will be barcoded and QR coded to maintain the uniqueness and will be available only through the ordnance chain or military canteens.

Why do we need an Army?

  • India is not the member of any traditional military alliance and thus has to maintain an independent military capability.
  • The army is tasked to retain its strategic autonomy while protecting itself against possible threats to its unity and integrity.
  • The Indian Armed Forces are structured to deal with the possible threats from potential adversaries as part of its capability to carry out its mandated role and tasks.

Role played by Indian Army

  1. The primary role of the Indian Army is to ensure the territorial integrity of the nation by deterrence or by waging war.
  2. The secondary role of the Army is to provide assistance to civil authorities, when requisitioned, to respond to heightened law and order situations, for disaster management or for providing essential services.

A brief background of Indian Army

  • The Indian Army is the third largest army in the world in terms of size, based on the number of personnel.
  • But this description obfuscates the fact that it is not as powerful as what such a portrayal should signify.
  • This implies its capacity to undertake military operations optimally in the multi-domain, technology dominated battlefields of the future.

Challenges to Indian Army

  • The Indian Army essentially remains a force largely organised, equipped and trained to fight wars.
  • That is not to say that the Army cannot carry out its role and tasks successfully in the current context, more so, if it is provided the requisite means.
  • Nonetheless, it needs no emphasis that the Army needs to modernize expeditiously if it has to be prepared to take on the security challenges of the future.

[A] Future Security Scenarios

  • Disputed neighbours: India’s threats and challenges in the military realm primarily emanate from the historically inherited territorial disputes over which five wars have already been fought.
  • Nuke and the Military: All wars will be fought under a nuclear overhang, implying that escalation to the level of nuclear exchanges is possible, and must be planned for.
  • Unresolved territorial disputes going ugly: The fact that the existing territorial disputes are ‘land-centric’ highlights the pre-dominant role of the Army in the Indian security context.
  • Proxy-wars through radicalization: Pakistan, has been running a sub-conventional campaign against India since the early 1990s which essentially involves stoking militancy and pushing cross-border terror modules.
  • Nukes plus terror:  Nuclear ‘sabre-rattling’ is used in conjunction with the cross-border terror strikes, to prevent India from ‘raising the ante’ and retaliating with a punitive conventional response.

[B] Changing Nature of Conflicts

Hybrid Warfare: In the aftermath of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars of the first decade of this century, the world has witnessed a reduction in full-fledged ‘state vs state’ wars.

It appear to be the new norm, involving a combination of two or more of the following:

  • Conventional / Regular warfare: – state vs state wars, primarily waged by conventional forces or regular troops on both/ all sides.
  • Irregular warfare: Conflict against a state by employing trained combatants who are not regular military. Pakistan has launched such ‘irregulars’ in all its wars against India.
  • Asymmetric warfare: War between sides whose military power differs greatly, waged by the weaker side using non-traditional means like terrorism.  Ex. Jihadists vs Army
  • Unconventional warfare: War waged by a country using means other than established forms of armed conflict, to make the adversary capitulate even without a classical war (economic wars, water wars, legal wars etc.)
  • Technological/ Informational warfare: Combination of cyber, space, electronic, propaganda, psychological, media and social media wars.

There are perceptible threats that all above discourses might happen simultaneously if any war escalates.

Present perceptible threats

As most of our current threats pertain to conventional conflict over:

  1. Disputed land borders
  2. Insurgencies and cross-border terrorism
  3. Natural calamities and their mitigation
  4. Disaster management

Need of the hour:

[A] Capability Building

  • In keeping with its mandated roles, the Army has to ensure multi-dimensional capability to deal with the threats from our potential adversaries (external as well as internal).
  • Capability building of the Army is a continuing process, where budget, especially capital funds, are requested for annually, based on the projected needs for implementing a 15 year long term perspective plan.

[B] Modernisation Needs of the Army

  • Technological advancement: The Army of the future will have to be technologically oriented, with many more specialists, as compared to generalists.
  • Modern equipment: It will have to be equipped progressively with modern weapons and weapon systems, supported by technology based processes and automation to meet the needs and challenges of the future battlefield.
  • Arms and ammunitions: Accordingly, the Army will need to replace or upgrade its ageing inventory of weapons and equipment while also restructuring and right-sizing in a transformational way.

As far as weapons and equipment are concerned, the Army needs the following on priority to replace or rejuvenate vintage equipment as part of the capability development programme:

  1. Infantry – The infantry, which is continuously being employed in counter-terrorist or counter-insurgency operations, needs to be empowered immediately by provision of new generation lightweight assault rifles, bullet proof jackets and helmets, hand held thermal imagers (HHTIs) etc.
  2. Artillery–Adequate quantities of new artillery guns, including indigenously manufactured Dhanush systems, as well as more lethal, precision artillery systems like BrahMos cruise missiles, Smerch and Pinaka rocket systems, need to be inducted immediately.
  3. UAVs – More quantities of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) of latest technology must be inducted in adequate numbers for surveillance and precision attack operations in both peace and war.
  4. Mechanised Forces–Additional quantities of ‘current technology’, T-90 tanks and ICVs, night enabled and equipped with long range ant-tank guided missiles, need to be inducted on priority.
  5. Army Aviation–Acquisition of three squadrons’ worth of new generation Apache attack helicopters into the Army Aviation has been reportedly sanctioned, as a follow up of the Air Force order.
  6. Air Defence (AD) –The Army AD is undergoing a total revamp of equipment. The various army air defence weapon acquisition projects for acquisition of all types of surface to air missile systems as well as upgrading old generation systems.
  7. Engineers- The combat engineers need to be provided new generation of bridging equipment,mine-laying equipment as well as mine clearance equipment. Where possible, old equipment must be upgraded indigenously.

Challenges in Capability Building

There are huge ongoing challenges in the process of capacity building of the Indian Army. The more important of these are discussed as follows:

  • Capital crunch: It has been the experience for many years now that adequate capital funds for modernisation are not allotted.
  • Budgetary constraints: Considering that the modernisation plans of the Army are lagging far behind already, budgetary constraints will play an important part in formulating and executing plans for the future.
  • Sizing constraints: The Indian Army must cap its overall numbers at the current level of 1.3 million, while making fresh efforts at making up the shortfall of officers.
  • Strategic constraints: Currently, military planning is hamstrung by lack of a clearly articulated and integrated military strategy. In such a situation, the three wings of the military are left to devise their own strategies and philosophies.
  • Lack of modernisation: An alarmingly large percentage of equipment is of old vintage, due to many proposals for acquisition and upgradation of new equipment having been inordinately delayed.
  • Quality issues: Arms and ammunition over the years undergo quality degradation.
  • Procurement issues: There is lack of sustained effort within the Army to develop expertise on defence procurement and financial issues. The Army remains rooted to the outdated policies of employing ‘generalists’ rather than ‘specialists’.

Way forward

India needs to progressively build capability of hard military power, soft power and demonstrated power in its quest to be recognised as a ‘regional power with global influence’.

  • Right-sizing: The Indian Army needs to undergo transformation and ‘right-sizing’ towards becoming an optimised modern force, with a more efficient ‘teeth to tail’ ratio.
  • Logistics optimization: Our logistics need to be integrated and optimised on priority.
  • Interoperability: Enhanced jointness and interoperability as promised under the integrated theatre command needs to be implemented at its earliest.
  • Re-orientation: The Indian Army must fully operationalize the concept of the Reorganised Army’s Multi-role Quick Reaction Force (RAMFOR).
  • Enhancing informational warfare capability: Special Operations, Cyber and Space Commands must be provided manpower from within the existing establishment.
  • Policy input for strategizing: And last but not the least, the government must provide guidance to the military through issue of national security strategy, defence policy and military strategy.


  • There can be no doubt that the Indian Army needs to be modernised on priority.
  • To achieve this objective, the Government and the Army will have to take a look at the entire issue afresh and come up with innovative solutions to address the various obstacles standing in the way.
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