Lt Gen AKS Chandele PVSM, AVSM (Retd)
Along with the changing geopolitical situation, the nature of warfare too is undergoing change. World is unlikely to see large scale conventional wars of the past, particularly because of the increasing number of nuclear armed powers and the resultant threat of escalating into a nuclear holocaust. Future conflict is more likely to be limited and asymmetric in nature, with increased incidents of local insurgency and terrorism. Modernisation of the army is a continuous process and needs to be directed towards acquiring a desired capability, which will depend on the analysis of threats. Though Pakistan will continue to remain an adversary in the foreseeable future, our major concern should be China. The army needs to base its capability building catering for this larger threat, which would take adequate care of the threat from our traditional adversary too.
To be able to face the challenges of modern warfare, the army needs to transform to a light-lethal-wired force. This would entail, among other things, the acquisition of a range of sophisticated devices, networked and capable of providing 24×7 surveillance and communications, operating in a hostile electromagnetic environment. Mobile weapon platforms would be required with larger stand-off distances, precision guidance and higher lethality. Also, the army should have the capability of degrading similar systems and platforms of the enemy. Organisational and process changes are necessary for optimising the utilisation of existing combat and logistic resources.
That there are serious deficiencies in the army’s holding of critical weapons, equipment and ammunition was brought to the notice of the Prime Minister by General VK Singh a short while prior to demitting office. Also, a large proportion of existing equipment in service has outlived its life and needs immediate replacement. In an environment of shrinking defence budgets, this is going to be a big challenge, coupled with the fact that the army’s acquisition programmes have been beset with inordinate procedural delays, resulting in cost and time overruns. Indigenisation efforts have been largely the preserve of ordnance factories and defence public sector undertakings, with very little opportunities for private sector in any major defence programme. The entire process of acquisition and indigenous manufacture requires an immediate re-look.
However, capability should not be construed as the mere procurement of sophisticated weapons and equipment. Certainly, providing the soldier with the best wherewithal is an essential requirement for modernisation, but it also includes providing him the necessary technical knowledge and training in the use of these equipment. What use is a technologically superior weapon if the soldier is not competent and confident to use it? Towards this end, an Army Technology Centre was set up some time back to ensure the technology transition management of users, an initiative that needs to be pursued at all levels.