The restructuring efforts, to begin next month, could lead to cuts of 50,000 troops in the next two years and over another lakh over the next five years

New Delhi: In a major move to restructure the Indian Army, General Bipin Rawat has asked for studies to prepare the force for 21st-century conflict. General Rawat wants a leaner, meaner and more technology driven army with fewer troops, envisaging a cut of 150,000-200,000 troops from the current 1.2 million plus force.

The restructuring efforts, to begin next month, could lead to cuts of 50,000 troops in the next two years and over another lakh over the next five years. This is the first time that the Army has considered a cut-- the last time being in 1998, before the Kargil war when General VP Malik, then chief, had looked at a cut of 50,000 troops. Some of the cuts will be from infantry but with India rapidly modernizing and technology at disposal there are sections of the force that are less relevant today.

General Rawat wants to start from Army HQ itself. The Directorate General of Military Training, he feels, can be pared down drastically with much of the work being handed over to Shimla's Training Command. Some parts of DGMT will go to the Combat engineers’ directorate, but much of the rest could go to Shimla.

The Information Warfare section in Military Operations and Public Information section might be merged. A merger of the Weapons and Equipment Directorate and the Policy Planning Directorate is also on the cards. More changes are likely in the logistics sections of the army, considered bloated even earlier.

In the formations, the Engineering Signal regiment and the Operating Signal Regiment could be merged. The Corps of Signals could lose 8,000 posts. In the Military transport department, the "third line" of vehicles that is to be used during conflict may not be used anymore. Civilian transport could well be used.

One far-reaching change could be the discarding of tank transporters. Currently, there are steel transportation trucks that carry 40 tonnes of steel. The army is already in discussions with the union transport ministry to make new steel transports to be capable of carrying 50 tonnes. They should be widened by about a foot to carry the tank with more ease. The new steel trucks will have chips to ensure that they can be brought in easily when they are required.

Major changes are also being considered for senior officers. Currently, infantry officers get to command battalions at the age of 36-37. Officers will now have to wait till they are about 40, as was the case earlier. The army feels the COs should be a little more experienced. But senior officers will be getting to command brigades, divisions and corps when they are younger. An officer can be appointed a brigadier (if the post is not abolished) at 45, a major-general at 50 and a lieutenant general at 55.

Part of the restructuring would also mean fewer promotions to higher offices in the coming years. Instead of 14 officers moving from major general to lieutenant general, there will be only ten and subsequently, eight.

All this, the army feels, given new technologies, could it firmly into the mid-21st century as a fighting force.