There is no denying the fact that the Indian Army needs to be restructured, reorganised and reorient to effectively meet the emerging challenges of new age warfare. During the recently concluded Army Commanders Conference, the focus of discussions and decisions was on ‘Restructuring the Army’

by Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia (Retd)

The Indian army is the second largest army in the world , it is also the largest voluntary army and among one of the most combat rich, battle hardened, professional, committed, disciplined and effective force in the world. This, despite some antiquated organisations, structural and systematic infirmities, a pronounced obsolescence in weapons and equipment, inadequate budgetary allocations and with little or no say in the national security architecture and decision making.

While addressing the Combined Commanders Conference in December 2015 , Prime Minister Modi directed “At a time when major powers are reducing their forces and rely more on technology, we are still constantly seeking to expand the size of our forces. Modernisation and expansion of forces at the same time is a difficult and unnecessary goal. We need forces that are agile, mobile and driven by technology, not just human valour.” Thus challenging senior military commanders to reform their beliefs, doctrines, objectives and strategies and review established structures, systems and organisations. The PMs directions are categorical and clear and if implemented sincerely will transform the Indian military from a ‘military force to military power’. Unfortunately the status quo continues and other than some talk there has been no serious effort by the Ministry of Defence to address the directions. It is the army alone which has taken the initiative and initiated the change. Gen Bipin Rawat the Chief of the Indian Army deserves the credit for demonstrating an urgent and positive resolve for the long overdue restructuring of the Army.

During the recently concluded Army Commanders Conference, the focus of discussions and decisions was on ‘Restructuring the Army’. The preparatory work for the restructuring was carried out by four major studies aimed to achieve an agile and flexible structure for the field formations, a younger profile for the Army leadership, optimising the terms of engagement and colour service of JCOs and OR and streamlining the duplication at Army Headquarters and enhancing its efficiency.

There is no denying the fact that the Indian Army needs to be restructured, reorganised and reorient to effectively meet the emerging challenges of new age warfare. The Armed Forces as also all other national security structures and support systems also need an overhaul. The need is to carry out a holistic restructuring of the entire security apparatus and organisations to enhance the combat effectiveness of the Armed Forces and optimise the defence expenditure. Over the years a number of transformational studies have been conducted by the Army alone, only to find their resting place in the cupboards of Army HQs. Whatever be the planned changes, the first thing should be to study and carryout a ‘Cause and Effect Analysis’, organisations often resolve one problem but create a few more, thereafter going in a loop of corrections adversely impacting effectiveness.

The restructuring and reform should aim at enhancing combat effectiveness and in that may address the issues of ‘congruence between organisational needs and individual aspirations’ as motivation and moral is a critical component of war fighting. Given our war waging strategy (Proactive) along the Western borders, there is a need for restructuring. Some of the Divisions can be reconfigured into Integrated Battle Groups (IBGs) and Brigades controlled by the Corps HQs. This however, may not be feasible along the Northern borders, given the current state of infrastructure with fragile lines of communication prone to disruptions. The need to reduce the number of ranks from 9 to 6 is dictated by an imperative to ensure status equivalence and addressing the aspirations of officers. The non grant of NFU to armed forces has resulted in major command and control issues in conjointly manned organisations like Army Headquarters, MES, BRO, DGQA, DRDO, etc as established norms and hierarchy have been violated leading to these organisations becoming dysfunctional.

For any meaningful restructuring the army needs to factor in transition management. One of the major reasons for non implementation of earlier studies has been the lack of any thought and plan to manage transition. Given India’s security challenges the Army has to be effective at all times. To ensure a smooth transition army must constitute a monitoring organisation responsible and accountable only to the Chief. The modernisation of PLA is an indicator, the transformation of PLA is top driven with very tight timelines and hence at the unit level there is reportedly confusion and uncertainty in the role definition and tasks allocation. A situation in which the Indian Army on account of its internal security commitment and a proactive strategy can ill afford. Another major challenge is the change management. It is a given that Armies the world over specially big armies resist change and live in a comfort zone based on their history and traditions. It is indeed near impossible for Armies to change. It took the Goldwater – Nichols act of 1986 to thrust a change in the US Army, even after three decades though the structures have changed but the mindset mostly remains the same ‘ My service, my regiment and my Unit first’. The Army will need to factor in and plan the change and implement it in a pragmatic and doable manner. There is an old saying in the Army – the more things change the more constant they remain.

Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia, PVSM, AVSM, SM (Retd) is former DGMO