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OPTIMISING FORCE STRUCTURE AMID INCREASING COSTS OF MODERNISATION

The induction of technological advancements as a force multiplier on the modern battlefield requires restructuring and optimising the defence forces. However, the process must be well-calibrated, considering the threat perception by the armed forces, and the financial constraints of a growing economy.

MAJ GEN ROHIT GUPTA (RETD)

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The Indian Armed Forces have been getting technologically advanced weapons and support systems with increased lethality, longer reach and all-weather capability. When coupled with state of the art surveillance and coordinated and unexpected application of firepower, these offer results far greater than the simple application of technology in isolation.

Despite the induction of these enablers, there has been extraordinarily little change in the concept of the application of force and the Indian Army, in particular, tends to remain in the dogma of manpower intensive tactical and operational application. Of course, the nature of deployment in inhospitable terrain and weather conditions, and the requirement of manpower intensive operation in counter insurgency/infiltration operations, does impose a caution on the commensurate downsizing.

Warfare is evolving in its interpretation and the application of forces is regularly seeing changes in its concepts. No longer are the infantry predominant bayonet charges in practice in militarily advanced countries. Technology is being used the world over to ensure that boots-on-ground are no longer used to ‘fight to gain territory’ but rather used to ‘occupy territory’, preferably without fighting. Territory, by itself, is changing in its concept of strategy and destruction of war potential and economic resources is taking root. In fact, countries are evolving towards building up extensive conventional destruction capability with flexible means of delivery which act as a deterrent to any misadventure by the adversary.

Emerging technological advancements, in conjunction with futuristic security needs, merit an in-depth analysis of existing and planned force structures. Dynamic changes in the geo-political environment as well as the developments in the contemporary battlefield sphere necessitate the force structure to be adaptive. A holistic review of doctrines, concepts, force structure and their application considering emerging technology will possibly indicate lean and agile forces across the spectrum of ops.

ILLUSTRATIONS

A few cases can be taken to illustrate the requirement of re-structuring and re-configuring. The configuration of the Armoured Regiment remains the same despite technological advancement in the tank, the ICV supporting it as well as the combat support elements. This configuration is based on flexibility in employment, so that reserves are available to manoeuvre and tank to tank distances, which are restricted by optimum ranges of engagement by day and night. With advancement in technology, the ranges, rate of fire and accuracy have increased. Enhanced communications and night vision enablement has eliminated the sense of isolation and made the tank more lethal. The modern tank now fires a missile at 5 km and is capable of the hunter-killer concept of employment. Protection levels have increased. The squadron, and therefore the regiment, can easily cover a larger area and deliver immense destructive fire power on the battlefield. However, despite the enhancement, including that of the supporting Mechanised Infantry now on BMP-2s and availability of modern supporting self propelled artillery like the K-9 Vajra, which costs twice that of the Vijayant Catapult, the configuration of the squadron remains at four troops each. There is a case to reconfigure it to three troops, but something more than pure consideration of tactical and operational employment of forces leaves it at the erstwhile composition. What must be appreciated is that a T-90 costs 1.5x a T-72, which in turn is 1.5x the outdated T-55. A modern MBT like the ARMATA-14 would be 1.5x to 2x the T-90. With increasing cost of modernisation, commensurate saving must accrue in the equipment and manpower for it to be optimum in cost implementation.

The configuration of the infantry battalion has largely remained the same, despite the change from .303 Rifle and LMG and RPG3V to SLR and 84mm RL and then to INSAS and 84RL, with better munition. The infantry battalions are now getting modern Sig Sauer assault rifles, IWI LMG and sniper rifles which provide better ranges, rates of fire and accuracy than the INSAS rifle/LMG and Dragunov sniper rifle, along with better night fighting capabilities and communication arrangement. The AK 203 is a definite improvement over the INSAS or the AK 47 for counter insurgency/conventional operations. With the destructive power of modern munition, precision guidance and artillery available for support, there is a definite case to look at the configuration of the infantry battalion, its strength, and the number of such battalions. The case is for a three-company configuration which is the case in advanced countries. The infantry soldier will have to be multi-skilled to remain relevant on the modern battlefield.

The artillery has improved over the decades. From 25 pounder and 105 mm, we are progressing towards a mediumisation of the regiments. The 155mm Bofors is now being supplemented with the Dhanush 155mm system, followed by the 155mm towed artillery. With Smerch Regiments and the raising of the additional Pinaka Regiments, firepower takes supreme position on the battlefield. With aerial surveillance resources and the indigenous gun/mortar locating radar, we have the capability of neutralising enemy artillery and directing accurate fire at the target end. The guns also have the capability of neutralising two to three targets simultaneously with their enhanced rate of fire and flexibility of switching targets. Mobility offers the advantage of flexibility of deployment, which allows enhanced firepower to be concentrated at the decisive point. With all this firepower at disposal, the tactical norms of deployment and utilisation of resources remain the same. The destructive and accurate firepower must enable a change in concept from ‘attacking by infantry to capture’ to ‘attacking by infantry to occupy’. This too indicates a change in the concept of the ratios of employment of troops for capture of objectives. The integral infantry firepower and support by artillery also enable a change in the ground holding configurations and frontages held. The enhanced firepower of artillery and greater flexibility indicate a change in the requirement of the number of artillery regiments resulting in savings to get technologically advanced weapon systems. The concepts of the number of forces and their structuring in operations need a change to enable commensurate savings for modernisation.

With the planned induction of the S-400, air defence is stronger. The Air Force now requires a lesser number of planes for air defence roles. We are looking at an interdiction role of strategic objectives thus crippling the infrastructure and industry of the enemy. The isolation of the battlefield becomes an important task and with precision ammunition it can be achieved easily. The enhanced firepower that the IAF provides is a deterrent to any country. The emphasis of build-up of capability must be more towards the IAF, and that is expensive.

TAKEAWAYS

The drone/swarm strike on the Saudi Arabian oil fields, influence of the Turkish drones in Libya and Syria against the Russians, and the more recent Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict has brought home the stark reality of such weapon systems to the Indian Armed Forces. The low-cost armed drones and swarm attacks will take its toll on mechanised forces and the combat support elements with it. The infantry, in the open, will be sitting targets. These would require a major upgrade in terms of the counter measure being adopted in tactical employment as well as equipment that can neutralise such threats. These technology additions, on-board to weapon platforms or off-board on support systems, will be financial constraints that will tax the defence budget, but become essential, in case the threat is to be countered. The weapon systems will have to be protected with on-board/off-board counter measures and active protection systems, also as a means to destroy such threats.

COST OF MODERNISING

The advance systems make a huge dent for the exchequer. Sustaining such costs should be offset by a commensurate reduction of forces as also weapon systems in their authorisation. Nowhere in the world, in advanced armies, is both technological advancement as well as manpower growing at the same rate. In fact, technological advancement must be enabled by offsetting its costs by saving in manpower and equipment/weapons.

The Indian Armed Forces have seen technological enablement in the last decade. The Indian Army, however, does not appear to be downsizing commensurate to the technological jump in order to ensure that the defence budget is contained to manageable levels. If at all, rightsizing has been attempted and it has been in the marginal cut in services which has been offset by raising new formations and infantry battalions. Our complete concept of force requirement revolves around a bean-count of divisions, ours and the adversary’s, which at time extends to the holding of major weapons to assess comparative capability. In the modern battlefield, this does not stand scrutiny as what matters is not the number of heads/weapon platforms, but how the heads are armed/equipped and their weapon combat potential synergised. This synergy gets into being an area of concern, both within the service and more so when extended in a tri-service domain. In fact, it is time the terminology of tri-service stops in its relevance of segregation and everything operational is assessed as across full military potential which is synergised. As such, without this consideration being uppermost, the modernisation of the Armed Forces has suffered due to the lack of attention possibly attenuated by the restricted finances, which are in turn grouped into non-interrelated three parts, one each to each service, rather than looking at it as one block.

For India, considering the terrain conditions and the extensive deployment of the manpower intensive arm viz infantry, in counter insurgency environment, the solution is not simplistic. Calculations for conventional warfare do not hold well when applied to the sub-conventional domain. Mountain and glacial warfare are rather manpower intensive. The problem is further accentuated by the rotation of troops to give them relief from being ‘forever in operations’. Also, our predicament is possibly fighting a war against two adversaries simultaneously, coupled with an induced insurgency. It is a complex situation, which requires a deliberate consideration, which is becoming even more important as against the challenges of the modern battlefield within budget constraints.

THE WAY AHEAD

There is a need to relook at our force structuring with commensurate technologically enabled weapons and support systems. There is also a definite need to look at the required force structure to deliver the military aim in both conventional and sub-conventional warfare, the required technological enablement to achieve it, commensurate downsizing based on a system analysed design which sets in place a plan to downsize based on the present holdings and also a roadmap to both the acquisition of enablers and equivalent savings. Integration must be enabled across the three services wherein capabilities can be synergised leading to an exponential increase in effect of the weapon impact needs to be factored in and duplication of resources weeded out.

Having outlined thoughts on the issue of savings commensurate to technological enhancement, to enable technological advancement for the modern battlefield, there is a definite need to examine the matter in all aspects of its application. Some of the aspects that could be studied, to come to any viable implementable conclusion, are as under:

• The Azerbaijani-Armenian Conflict; how do the modern systems, battle array and tactical/operational concepts used relate in the Indian context.

• Changes that have taken place in modern armies of the world. The span could be restricted to the USA, UK, Russia, and China.

• Modernisation and induction of new technology into the armed forces of these countries

• Changes in concept of war fighting. Has technological advancement had any effect on the tactical and operational concepts?

• Changes in force structuring in these countries. How much of the changes are due to induction of new technology and resultant changes in tactical and operational employment of forces.

The aspects above as related to the Indian Armed Forces:

• Has India kept pace with the evolving concepts of employment of forces and tactical doctrines?

• Induction of technology in the last ten years into the forces and its effect on

(a) Tactical and operational employment of forces.

(b) Commensurate reduction of manpower or equipment/weapons.

(c) Incorporate integration of the already introduced technology advancements in the operational plans and then deduce the corresponding reduced requirement of manpower.

• What is the deterrence level required to be reached with respect to our adversaries in conventional weapons? Identify how much has been achieved and what more is required.

• How do we intend to fight/prosecute the war of tomorrow? There would be no fronts and rears. How do we organise the force dispositions and what type force multipliers/ reserves are required? In that context, how do we achieve optimisation?

• Important technological advancements at the tactical level which directly affects employment of forces, thereby reducing manpower requirements.

• Establish a relationship between high technology equipment/systems/ weapons to manpower and vintage equipment.

• With the present high technology systems, identify the reduction in manpower and other equipment/systems which can be affected.

• Set out a roadmap for the next ten years for the induction of new technology and commensurate savings in manpower and old vintage equipment/weapons.

To do the above, a system analysis and design model will have to be evolved with weightages to salient attributes. A survey could be conducted to evolve the matrix of evaluation. The study would have to be integrated across all three services, as technology advancement and its impact cannot be restricted to the domain of only one service; the combined arm concept for the employment of forces and obtaining best results must be evolved.

CONCLUSION

The necessity of utilising technological advancements as a force multiplier on the modern battlefield in effect leads to restructuring and optimising the defence forces, which in turn releases funds for modernisation. It may also be considered that the genesis of the modernisation drive is not dictated by the requirement of downsizing armed forces. Optimisation leads to downsizing which is, in itself, not the purpose of introducing the technological advancements, but it is certainly a by-product of the entire process.

Downsizing in defence forces across the world, like in the case of China (2014-20), has been considered along with the implementation of a framework for overall restructuring and reorganisation, capability enhancement in terms of induction of new generation equipment, and integration of the defence potential in form of theaterisation. Our transition must be accordingly well-calibrated, considering the threat perception and associated two-and-a-half front dilemma. The training methodology and concepts have also to be evolved accordingly. However, the dogma of the multi-fold threat must become the catalyst for change in the induction of technology, which, considering the financial constraints of a growing economy, can take place by optimising the force strength both in terms of men and weapons/equipment.

The writer is a combat Arms Officer, retired as the Addl DG, Weapon and Equipment, Indian Army, and currently heads the Aerospace and Defence vertical at Primus Partners. The officer has commanded a Counter Insurgency Force in J&K and has extensive operational experience in the Valley and Ladakh as well as with Mechanised Operations.

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Defence

CENTRE MAKES INTENT CLEAR, NO ROLL BACK OF AGNIPATH

The Union Home Ministry bans 35 WhatsApp group for spreading fake news. At least ten people have been arrested for organising protests.

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The Central government on Sunday made it clear that Agnipath, the newly unveiled policy of recruitment to all three armed forces “will not be rolled back”. “Coming to the rollback of the scheme, no. Why should it be rolled back? It is the only progressive step to making the country young.” Lt Gen Anil Puri, Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Defence announced here in a joint press conference. The announcement came after Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had a meeting with all three services chiefs for the second consecutive day.

Explaining the rationale behind the ‘Agnipath’ scheme, Lt Gen Puri told the media persons that there were many casualties in high-altitude battle fields owing to health reasons. “Do you know how many casualties are reported just for health purposes from high-altitude areas? Do read about it, then you would come to know why young is important,” Puri said. Officers from Indian Air Force (IAF) and Indian Navy were also present in the joint briefing.

With the announcement made in the briefing it is clear that the contractual recruitment policy for armed forces is here to say notwithstanding the widespread protests against it. In view of the mounting protests, which have left Railways property worth Rs. 200 crore damaged and led to the cancellation of 300 trains, the government has, though, reached out the protesting youth to mollify them. In a slew of measures, the Centre first announced 2-year relaxation in age for 2022 and then extended 10 per cent reservation in Central Armed Police Forces and Assam Rifles to Agniveers whose contract would come to an end after a 4-year stint. The government also extended age relaxation of 5 years to Agniveers in government jobs.

Lt Gen Puri further told

the media persons that initially 46,000 Army aspirants would be recruited in order to ‘analyse’ the scheme “and to build up infra capacity”. Unveiling the numbers the government intends to hire, Puri said, “In the next 4–5 years, our intake (of recruits) will be 50,000–60,000 and will increase to 90,000–1 lakh subsequently.” The number of ‘Agniveers’ would go up to 1.25 lakh eventually, he added.

However, the recruitment to armed forces comes with a caveat. Every Agniveer aspirant would have to furnish a certificate, duly verified by the police, declaring that they were not part of the protests or vandalism. Emphasizing that Indian Army’s foundation was discipline and there was no space for arson or vandalism, Lt Gen Puri said, “Every individual will give a certificate that they were not part of the protest or vandalism. Police verification is 100 per cent, no one can join without that.” Individuals against whom FIRs have been lodged would not be allowed to join the forces.

The Centre also banned 35 WhatsApp groups for spreading fake news on Agnipath scheme and Agniveers, the ministry of home affairs said. At least ten people have been arrested on charges of rumour-mongering and organising protests.

Around 17,600 people take premature retirement from the armed forces, he told the reporters. “No one ever tried to ask them what they will do after retirement?” said Lt Gen Puri. Agniveers would get the same allowance in areas like Siachen and other areas which are applicable to the regular soldiers serving at present, he informed the reporters. The Additional Secretary also said that an Agniveer would get a compensation of Rs 1 crore if he sacrifices his life in service of the nation.

The centre had on June 14 announced the new recruitment policy which seeks to casualise jobs in the armed forces causing huge resentment among army aspirants. Barely two days after the ‘Agnipath’ scheme was unveiled, youth hit the streets across several states leading to violence, arson and vandalism.

In the meanwhile, opposition parties continued slam the ‘Agnipath’ scheme, demanding its withdrawal. Giving a call to the youth of the country to topple the BJP-led government at the Centre, “through democratic, peaceful and non-violent means”, Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi on Sunday said, “I urge you to protest peacefully, but don’t stop. These are your rights, this is your country and it is your duty to protect it. Every leader and worker of the Congress is with you.” Priyanka was addressing a ‘Satyagrah’ protest against the schemed held by the Congress Party at the Jantar Mantar in Delhi. Among the top leaders, who took part in the protest, were Jairam Ramesh, Rajiv Shukla, Sachin Pilot, Salman Khurshid and Alka Lamba.

Her brother Congress MP Rahul Gandhi, who turned 52 on Sunday, asked his party workers to refrain from organizing celebrations on his birthday. “We are concerned with the situation in the country. Crores of youths are anguished. We should share the pain of the youth and their families and stand with them,” Rahul said in a statement.

Slamming the Centre, BSP leader Mayawati on Sunday said that the scheme had left the country’s youth “disappointed and frustrated”.

In a related development, the Rajasthan Cabinet passed a resolution on Sunday demanding the Centre to withdraw the scheme keeping in mind the “larger public interest and the sentiments of the youths”.

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Defence

‘Agnipath’ a trial by fire or an opportunity?

The scheme has possibly been launched with an aim to reduce the ballooning financial burden on the government and also to make the Armed Forces more competitive. However, the plan has its own pitfalls.

Ankit Kumar

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The Ministry of Defence finally announced Agnipath (Tour of Duty), the new scheme of recruitment to Armed Forces. Arguably a more suitable name may have been considered, because of the insinuation – is it a trial by fire or an opportunity? As expected, the scheme has been met with widespread criticism, especially from the veterans and armed forces aspirants. It is not surprising because the new scheme which has been in news since 2020 did not generate enough public debate at the time, which left people only with a vague idea about what it entails. Many did not take it seriously given that the armed forces already have a time-tested recruitment method. But now that the scheme details have been made clear, at least a part of it, it seems the criticism was justified.

The new recruitment scheme is not just radical, in that over a period it will change the composition of the Army, but that once in force it will release three-fourth of the recruits back to civilian life, albeit with some uncertainty about their future. In a country where government jobs are considered attractive, not just because of salary but also for hefty pension, a career in armed forces is preferred especially by youths from rural India. It is only likely that the recruits released after four years of service will knock the door of courts for better benefits.

This is not to say that there were no problems with the existing system. This scheme perhaps has envisaged by the government as a way of reducing the ballooning pay and pension bills. The nature of conflict is also changing, so the maintenance of a large standing army itself has been questioned. But despite expectation of stiff opposition to the new scheme, the government had not made adequate preparation for taking the youth – the primary stakeholder – into confidence. The resultant surprise announcement, after virtually no recruitments in two years, has backfired. Will it solve the problem for which it is being touted as the solution? Are the armed forces leadership completely on board? There are no clear answers as yet.

Therefore, before getting into the pros and cons of the scheme, it is important to understand why government has felt the need to bring this radical reform, when it is strongly being argued that the existing system is working fine. Specifically, it is pertinent to explore the issues government is attempting to resolve with this move.

The Problem – what is it trying to solve

It is argued, rhetorically, that no price is too high to be paid for the safety and security of the state. It may be true when the state is at war, but during peacetime it is a whole another issue. A developing country, like India, has limited resources and financial capacity. The government has to look after the needs of the humongous population and carry out the economic development through these limited resources. Excessive spending on any particular sector means diversion of funds from other sectors, even if it’s done for the state’s defence. The USSR eventually ended up getting disintegrated because, among other reasons, the government prioritised competing in arms race with the U.S., over providing basic needs to its population. Pakistan is another good example of this lopsided budgeting. The Army’s share in national budget is much more than what the state can afford. Pakistan’s defence budget accounts for 4 percent of GDP, compared to 2.9 percent of India’s. But since the Army is the ultimate authority in Pakistan, all governments are forced to keep the Army in good humour by approving their budgetary requisition. Result is that Pakistani economy is in doldrums and people are being asked to give up drinking tea.

Specific to India, the problem that the government is facing is meeting its obligations towards pay and pensions of soldiers and at the same time also undertaking the modernisation of the armed forces. Given the size of the armed forces, especially the Army, the pays and pensions take out a significant chunk out of the overall defence budget, leaving inadequate amount for force modernisation. Salaries and pensions account for nearly 60 percent of total defence budget, leaving a meagre 27 percent for capital acquisition. There is no separate budget for meeting payments obligations and acquiring weapons for modernization. The inflationary factors make capital acquisition (weapons & other materiel) more expensive every passing year. Similarly, the size of pays and pensions is also rising with more retirements every year. This is simply unsustainable and has been raised several times. The pensioners outnumber those in service by significant margin. That is why government has felt it necessary to reform the system that will bring down its commitments on pension.

However, it is easier said than done. Pension is an emotive issue in the country. It is seen as the guarantee of a secure retired life. Already several organisations are pressing for reinstatement of the old pension system which was replaced by the contributory National Pension System (NPS). For most, this is their only source of income in post-retirement civilian life. Only a few manage to obtain well-paying jobs.

The other issue is that of trimming the size of the Army. The Army leadership has time and again emphasised about the need to create a lean and mean fighting force which is more suitable for theatre battle groups. In fact, the proposal for reduction in size of the Army came from their leadership and studies. This means that the recruitment to the armed forces was set to be reduced regardless. However, it is the manner in which the new scheme of recruitment has been announced, as a complete surprise, to the aspirants that has created much discontent.

The Solution – how it is trying to solve it

As per the details released by the government, the old system of recruitment has been abolished. The new recruits will be selected solely through all-India merit Tour of Duty scheme. The scheme seems to be modelled closely to the recruitment system of the U.S. The hope is that since the system has worked well for the U.S., it should work fine for Indian security needs too. But the battle requirements of the U.S., primarily an expeditionary force, are much different than India.

Anyway, back to the solution offered. Only about 25 percent would be offered ranks and made permanent by the armed forces. The competition to be among the one-fourth being retained would be very stiff. Those retained would not only get the full salary and benefits but also the pension, the most lucrative part. Talking to people in rural parts of the country would make it clear that assured pension is what makes a government job most sought after. Other factors come later. The in-hand salary offered to the recruits in the new scheme is quite low. Perhaps government feels that school pass outs deserve only a meagre amount as their salary. Most these recruits have a family to support. Would the salary be enough to do that?

The released 75 percent, the numbers could vary depending upon how many are recruited in a year, would have 11 lakh rupees and a degree. That would get them a job is doubtful. Most logical step would be to go for further studies, which means they’ll end up spending their savings. It is not easy to go back into studies after being in a job.

The assurances provided by the Home Ministry and several state governments that these “retirees” would be prioritised in the state police force & central police force is not very exciting. Governments cannot shut the door for those to join police force who do not come out of the Tour of Duty scheme.

From the government’s perspective, the scheme is perhaps a solution to the challenges it is facing. However, it is clear that its announcement and implementation has not been thought through as well as it should have.

Way Forward

First and foremost, it is a decision by the government, so government has to own it completely and take the necessary steps to douse the fire of resentment as the top priority. The government perhaps blundered by announcing the new recruitment scheme as a complete surprise. No thought was spared about the candidates who had been working hard for past few years to qualify. Undoubtedly, the scheme could have been announced well in advance, thus giving future aspirants knowledge of what lays ahead and the time to prepare and adjust.

People may argue that it is not the job of the armed forces to cater to employment generation in the country. However, that is not how people perceive it. A career in armed forces is seen by those coming from rural parts as lifetime employment. Social status is one thing, the pay and perks ensure that their families lead a comfortable life with opportunities for upward mobility. It will not be easy for government to convince this aspirational population about the benefits of the new scheme.

Still, a middle ground must be found. The life for the Agniveers after release from armed forces is not going to be easy. For those unfortunates who get disabled during service, there’s no guarantee that they will be given the benefits government has announced. Ministry of Defence has the infamous track record of fighting almost every soldier’s disability pension claim in court. There’s no reason to believe this attitude will change for Agniveers.

Government needs to deal with the issue with required compassion. For many armed forces aspirants, joining army is their passion. It’s all they dream about. A better deal needs to offered to them. The aspirants must cease the arson and destruction of precious public property. There are ways to protests, arson and rioting is not among them. If anything, it reflects poorly on those seeking to be part of a highly disciplined organisation.

The author is a Research Scholar with the School of National Security Studies in Central University of Gujarat

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Defence

SOLDIERS’ SUPREME SACRIFICE WILL NEVER BE FORGOTTEN: RAJNATH SINGH

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Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday paid homage to the Indian Army soldiers who lost their lives in the Galwan Valley clash two years ago in 2020.Taking to Twitter, Singh, who is on a two-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir, posted, “Remembering the heroes of Galwan who fought valiantly for the honour of the country and laid down their lives on June 15-16, 2020. Their courage, bravery and supreme sacrifice will never be forgotten. I pay homage to those bravehearts.” For the first time in nearly 45 years, a violent skirmish between Indian and Chinese troops broke out in the Galwan Valley on June 15, 2020, resulting in losses on both sides and marking a new sour turn in China-India relations. The violent clashes, which mostly took place in and around Ladakh’s Galwan Valley and Pangong Lake, claimed lives on both sides and strained the bilateral relationship.

Even though two years have passed since the deadliest clash in 45 years between Indian and Chinese troops in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley, the two countries are still engaged in talks for the disengagement process along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). But an early resolution to the standoff is nowhere in sight.

So far, the Indian Army and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) have held 14 rounds of talks since the Galwan clashes and one before June 15, 2020, to resolve the standoff but no concrete solution has been arrived at yet.Defence Minister Rajnath Singh today arrived in Srinagar on a two-day visit to the Union Territory. He will be visiting forward areas and interacting with troops during his visit.

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Defence

VIOLENCE OVER AGNIPATH, DEMANDS GROW OF SCRAPPING THE SCHEME

As thousands of youth are up in arms, the government finds itself in a tight spot.

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Barely two days after the Central government unveiled its recruitment policy for all three arms of Indian armed forces, massive protests against contractual employment erupted across Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan, with thousands of youth hitting the streets and vandalising state property on Thursday. Eponymously called ‘Agnipath’, the new recruitment policy offers employment with armed forces for a period of 4 years on a contractual basis. Only 25 per cent of the recruited will be regularised in military service.

However, the policy has not gone down well with the youth who have erupted in protests demanding a roll back. Bihar has seen the largest number of protests across the state, with irate youth turning violent damaging public and private property. Violent protests have been reported from 17 districts of Bihar leaving half a dozen trains torched and several properties damaged in arson. Indian Railways has cancelled 34 trains, 5 Mail/Express and 29 Passenger in view of the ongoing violent protests. The protesting youth also damaged the BJP office in and attacked houses of 2 MLAs in the state.

Thousands of irate youth were seen protesting in Nawada, Siwan, Chhapra, Kaimur, Gopalganj, Ara and Rohtas in Bikramganj, torching trains, even looting shops in Ara. Protesters torched three passenger trains in Chhapra and Kaimur, vandalized around 12 trains at Chhapra Junction. A passenger train was set on fire in Gopalganj.

Demanding a roll back of the recruitment policy, which seeks to contractualize jobs in the military, the aspirants said they were unhappy over the changes introduced under the new recruitment scheme, particularly the length of service, no pension provisions for those released early, and the 17.5 to 21 age restriction that now makes many of them ineligible. “We demand that the recruitment be done as it used to be done earlier. Tour of Duty (ToD) be rolled back and exams be held as earlier. Nobody will go to Army just for four years,” a protestor in Munger was quoted as saying by ANI.

As the protests turned violent in Haryana, local authorities suspended Internet and SMS services for some time. It was withdrawn later. To keep the situation under control, Section 144 has been imposed in Palwal, where police vehicles were set ablaze and several roadways buses were damaged. National Highway 19 was also blocked was blocked by the protesters, while some policemen were injured due stone pelting.

Taken aback at the widespread violent protests, the Centre issued a statement clarifying that only 3% of the armed forces will be recruited as Agniveers in the first year and the scheme will no effect on the regimental system.

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Defence

In-service training received by Agniveers to be recognised as credits for graduation

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Education Ministry on Wednesday said that a special, three-year skill-based bachelor’s degree programme will be launched for serving defence personnel that will recognize the skill training received by Agniveers under the ‘Agnipath’ scheme during their tenure in the defence establishments.

The Union Cabinet on Tuesday approved an attractive recruitment scheme for Indian youth to serve in the Armed Forces called ‘Agnipath’ and the youth selected under this scheme will be known as Agniveers. AGNIPATH allows patriotic and motivated youth to serve in the Armed Forces for a period of four years. The ‘Agnipath’ scheme has been designed to enable a youthful profile of the Armed Forces. Education Ministry in a statement said, “In order to enhance the future career prospects of our Agniveers, and equip them for various job roles in the civilian sector, the Ministry of Education is to launch a special, three-year skill-based bachelor degree programme for serving defence personnel that will recognize the skill training received by them during their tenure in the defence establishments.”

“Under this programme that has been designed by IGNOU and will also be executed by them, 50 per cent of the credits required for a graduate degree will come from the skill training – both technical and non-technical – received by the Agniveer, and the remaining 50 per cent will come from a basket of courses that cover a wide variety of subjects like languages, Economics, History, Political Science, Public Administration, Sociology, Mathematics, Education, Commerce, Tourism, Vocational Studies, Agriculture and Jyotish, as also Ability Enhancement Courses on Environmental Studies and Communication Skills in English,” the Ministry said.

Education Ministry further said, “This programme is aligned with UGC norms and with the National Credit Framework/National Skill Qualification Framework (NSQF) as mandated under the National Education Policy 2020.”It also has provision for multiple exit points – Undergraduate Certificate on successful completion of the first-year courses, Undergraduate Diploma on successful completion of the first and second-year courses, and Degree on completion of all the courses in the three-year time frame.

The framework of the programme has been duly recognized by the concerned regulatory bodies – All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and National Council for Vocational Education and Training (NCVET) and UGC.The degree will be awarded by IGNOU as per UGC nomenclature (BA, B.Com, BA (vocational); BA (Tourism Management), and will be recognized both in India and abroad for employment and education. Army, Navy and Air Force will sign Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) with IGNOU for implementation of the scheme.

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Defence

REMINISCING GLORIOUS INNINGS OF INS AKSHAY AND INS NISHANK

Urvashi Khona

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The sunset of 3 June 2022 will mark an end to the glorious voyages of two Indian Naval Ships Nishank and Akshay, wherein both the ships will be decommissioned at Naval Dockyard, Mumbai after 32 years of being at the forefront of safeguarding the maritime interests of our nation. Commissioned in the freezing temperature of the Poti Shipyard of erstwhile Soviet Union which is presently in Georgia, the ships will be decommissioned in the tropical temperature of Mumbai wherein the atmosphere will be laden with the emotions and nostalgia of all the ex-crew of both the ships. All the seafarers bear the names of their ships as their own identity. Home to many sea warriors, these ships will always remain a source of honour and pride.

INS Akshay

A ship in the Navy is treated as a living entity. Decommissioning is a very formal, yet very emotional ceremony for a ship, her crew and the Navy in general. During decommissioning ceremony, the ship’s decommissioning pennant, which is flown by ship on Sunday before decommissioning date is hauled down. The pennant is a mark of the ship being in commission. The hauling down of the pennant takes place during sunset, signifying the end of the commissioned service of the ship. The decommissioning pennant is equal to the ship’s length and post decommissioning, is preserved as a part of naval history. This is also the last time when bugle is piped on the ship. This signifies the transition of a living soul to a mere steel structure.

Nishank, the fourth of the Veer Class Missile Corvette, has been an integral part of the Killer Squadron renowned for its heroics in the 1971 War. Nishank holds the distinction of having operated on both the eastern as well as western seaboard. The ship, armed with a potent surface-to-surface missile, possessed the capability to strike fear in the heart of the enemy. The journey of Nishank is not yet over. The ship has been earmarked to be displayed as a war relic at a suitable historic location. The ship will continue to motivate our future generations to be part of our glorious past and bright future, showcasing the might of the Indian Navy.

Akshay is part of the 23rd Patrol Vessel Squadron whose primary role is anti-submarine warfare and coastal patrol. The ship has been operating under Naval Officer-in-Charge, Maharashtra. With her formidable armament of long-range torpedoes and anti-submarine rockets, the submarine hunter was perennially on petrol keeping the enemy submarines at bay.

As the Indian Navy/ nation prepares to bid adieu to these fine men of war, the guest of honour for the event would be VAdm R K Pattnaik (Retd) and VAdm SPS Cheema (Retd), the commissioning Commanding Officer of INS Akshay and the commissioning Commanding Officer of INS Nishank respectively, the very first men to take these war machines to sea. Adm R Hari Kumar PVSM AVSM, VSM, ADC, Chief of the Naval staff will be the Chief Guest. VAdm AB Singh, PVSM, AVSM, ADC Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief Western Naval Command and VAdm Biswajit Dasgupta, AVSM, YSM, VSM Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief Eastern Naval Command will be among the distinguished guests present for the ceremony. The event will also be attended by the veterans, who had the privilege to serve on these ships along with their families.

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