In a reference to the eastern Ladakh row, Chief of Army Staff Gen MM Naravane on Thursday said the situation along the northern frontier highlighted the nature of threats facing India in preserving its territorial integrity and sovereignty, noting that the “legacy challenges” have only grown in scale and intensity. He said while the Indian Army will continue to prepare and adapt to the future challenges, the more “proximate, real and present dangers” on India’s “active borders” cannot be ignored.
The Army Chief was addressing a seminar organised by Centre for Land Warfare Studies, a leading military think-tank. For the last nine months, thousands of Indian and Chinese troops have been engaged in a bitter border standoff in eastern Ladakh that created severe strain in overall bilateral ties.
On Thursday, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh announced in Parliament that both sides reached an agreement on disengagement of troops in the north and south bank of Pangong lake which is a major face-off site. Gen Naravane said the ongoing developments along the northern borders should make the armed forces ponder over the nature of the unsettled borders and consequent challenges with regard to protecting the country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.
“Without doubt there are newer threats on the horizon, but the hard reality is that the legacy challenges have not quite gone away. In fact, they have only grown in scale and intensity,” he said. “While the Indian Army will continue to prepare and adapt to the future, the more proximate, real and present dangers, on our active borders cannot be ignored,” the Chief of Army Staff said, in an apparent reference to the nearly 3,500 km Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China.
He said the principal challenge before the Armed Forces today is that of the growing capability enhancements in an era of “finite budgets”, adding the structures, inventories and human resources of the military will need to adapt and transform accordingly. “The future lies in becoming agile, smart, fleet footed and innovative in thought and action alike,” he said.
At the same time, he said the Indian Army is steadily consolidating its structures and capabilities towards winning “wars of the future”. Talking about changing contours of security challenges, Gen Naravane said when India focused on building core capacities in the spheres of land, sea and air , the country’s adversaries took the battle to the newer domains of space, cyber, and informatics. He said India’s adversaries are investing in creating a formidable stand-off enterprise in the form of long range precision fires, hypersonic vehicles and robust air defence capacities.
“In order to win future wars, mere mastery of the traditional domains of land, sea and air will no longer suffice,” Gen Naravane said. He said as the adversaries expand the “contest to the grey zone”, there is a “dire” need for modern militaries to be as proficient in competition as in hard core “kinetics”.
“We need to shed the classical war and peace disposition and enhance cross governmental fusion in order to win aggressively in the competitive space,” he noted. The Army chief also broadly touched upon how the future wars could be fought with the use of highly maneuverable unmanned aerial vehicles, electromagnetic spectrum technology, swarm drones or use of low orbit systems.
He said considering the future threats, the Indian Army is also focusing on multi domain operations (MDO). “We would need to transit rapidly to full scale integration for digital era combat as also in the pursuit of greater interoperability” he said. “We need to recognise the scale and magnitude of the challenge, and move with greater rapidity towards integration in combat, cross governmental fusion and complete dissolution of inter-agency as also civil and military silos,” he added.