On a crisp New Delhi winter morning, General Bipin Rawat, sporting a sharp blue blazer and maroon army tie, jokes about how he is virtually unrecognisable when not in uniform. The air at his official residence, Army House on 4 Rajaji Marg, though, is anything but informal. Liveried stewards bring,On a crisp New Delhi winter morning, General Bipin Rawat, sporting a sharp blue blazer and maroon army tie, jokes about how he is virtually unrecognisable when not in uniform. The air at his official residence, Army House on 4 Rajaji Marg, though, is anything but informal. Liveried stewards bring the tea and his Special Forces protection detail stand guard.Gen. Rawat talks about his pet project, a restructuring and rightsizing drive almost unprecedented in its scale, which he hopes will reduce numbers and increase the army’s combat potential. In an exhaustive interview, the straightshooting army chief tells Executive Editor Sandeep Unnithan why transformation is the need of the hour and how it will reshape the Indian Army.Excerpts:What are the objectives of the reform process you have initiated?It has three major focuses-to be prepared for future warfare by strengthening our capabilities, become more efficient, and better manage our budgetary allocations.How do you envisage future wars that the Indian Army might have to face?India has unsettled borders on the north and partially unsettled borders on the west with an adversary we’ve not been able to come to terms with, Pakistan. So, we’ll have to maintain presence on the borders, we cannot lower our guard. We need troops that are our eyes and ears, who are not forever deployed on the borders and yet have the capability to build up should the situation arise. So we are a manpower-intensive army. The other way of looking at it is to see the changing nature of war. How will future wars be fought? Earlier, you had wars of attrition, and whoever was left standing was the winner. Wars are not going to be fought in that manner anymore. Adversaries will carry out warfare through different means, through non-contact warfare-cyber warfare, psy ops and legal warfare.advertisementWe have to take advantage of technology-space based systems and long-range surveillance systems. If you have counter-information and psychological warfare, then you have to have organisations in your armed forces to deal with such issues. Some of the organisations within the army have become obsolete. This rightsizing is happening to strengthen the capacities of the armed forces, make it more efficient and prepare it for future wars. So while we have to be prepared for non-contact and contact warfare, we have to imbibe technology. Formations and structures have to be reorganised with new cyber warfare- and space-based elements.Does this mean you are not going to get any more money, over and above your present budgetary allocations, from the government?There are schemes that have been approved by the government and which have an assurance. The government has to give us funds for those requirements. So, if tomorrow the Rafales are going to come, you have to pay for them. We are getting a large number of howitzers, the money has to be made available for them.By when do you think the army will be ready to face these new challenges?Some changes like the restructuring of the army headquarters will start immediately. We need new verticals for cyber warfare- and space-based systems. Also, parallel structures so that one agency is talking to the other. We also have to look at how we integrate ourselves with the other two services. The navy, army and air force are not in different silos on this. We continue to operate on similar systems with the same end state. So if the end state is common, what we are asking is, why can’t we integrate?So, you’re going to start the process of integration with this?Yes, this (reorganisation) will also begin the process of integration (with the other services). This is our way of looking at it. This is also how we will integrate and carry out jointmanship. That is also part of the restructuring.Are the other services on board?Yes, they are. We are moving forward on certain other proposals for joint staffing within various headquarters. Joint staffing means army, navy and air force will be staffed in each others’ headquarters. That is the way forward. As of now, joint staffing is there in HQ, Integrated Defence Staff (IDS), but can we not have joint staffing in commands and corps? That is what we are looking at. Headquarters staffing will be done in the next four-to-five months.The army is working on the concept of integrated battle groups combining elements of armour, artillery and infantry. How is this going to work?The Integrated Battle Group (IBG) concept is something we have to test-bed. We are telling the formations to conduct exercises to see how it will work. We have given them a framework and they will have to conduct an exercise and come back to us with modifications on how it needs to change. We will have to look at every IBG depending on its tasking, terrain and operating environment.advertisementIs Cold Start still an option when it comes to warfighting?Well, what is Cold Start? Cold Start is proactive, rapid movement. It has happened and lots of things have moved forward if you look at where we were sitting earlier. It (the Cold Start doctrine) says you can’t do a cold start unless you move systems closer to the border it’s an ongoing thing and it’s happening even now.Is the government on board with all the reform you are pushing through?Well, we are quite hopeful. In fact, my reason for coming out so frankly about the restructuring is to keep everybody informed that something is happening in the army. I am confident everybody understands that it is for better utilisation of our resources, better utilisation of our budget, and for improving efficiency. If these are the three underlying principles, I don’t think there will be any resistance (from the government).Right now, revenue expenditure is very high and capital outlay is only 17 per cent of the defence budget. Do you have guarantees from the government that if you reduce revenue expenditure, you’ll get more capital?Okay, let’s look at this the other way round. Today, if I decrease my manpower even by 10,000 people, it means 10,000 less salaries, 10,000 less pensions automatically, capital to revenue has changed. Guarantee is a different issue. Yes, I am confident the government will support us. When we tell them ‘we are coming halfway, are you willing too?’, I’m sure they’ll understand.What about your successors, will these proposals get support from them?This is why I have not done it alone. I’ve taken the current army commanders on board. Most of them are also going to be with my successor. Even our future crop of army commanders are in on this. I’ve also taken the veteran community on board and discussed it with them. It is not something being done hushhush. A lot of things have been done in the army that have percolated down the rank and file after decisions have been taken at the AHQ. We are not doing it this way. Today, everybody knows something is happening. If the people feel this (the reforms) is not a good thing, they should say so now.Is the Mountain Strike Corps still important in the light of this restructuring?Yes, it’s a very important asset. It’s moving. We are carrying out a restructuring of the Mountain Strike Corps also, to make it a leaner, meaner, more capable force. I feel in the mountains, you need more agility, more manoeuvrability within the force. So we are cutting out the heavy bulk in the restructuring, cutting away a lot of our logistics elements.advertisementIn 1962, the country was not as well developed, particularly in the border areas. Today, the vehicles we buy-Maruti or Tata-have outlets right on the border so we can deal with them directly on the border rather than creating our own repair facilities. We are looking at a lot of outsourcing. Some of our structures-ordnance factories, base workshops etc.-we have to see whether we can incorporate the civilian model into that.How much manpower will be cut down, 100,000 or more?The numbers will finally come in when we finish with our test beds. The figure you mention, that will depend on how many test beds finally succeed. So you know, the desired end state is that (over 100,000), but whether we’ll reach there, I don’t know. If all our test beds succeed, then we are looking at this figure (150,000). But there is also a requirement for new raisings. So while we are saving, some of it will be pushed back into new raisings. Finally, the figure could be two-thirds of this.What other changes are you looking at?We are looking at restructuring the officer cadre and improving promotion prospects. We have a pyramidal structure and it has led to a feeling that officers are being left behind. We want to improve this. We are also looking at ways to improve the terms and conditions of service of our men. A jawan comes into service at 18-20 years and serves up to 15 years and then earns his pension and goes home. We are looking at whether we can keep him beyond 35-37 years. Today, thanks to better healthcare, the longevity of our population is increasing.
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