"My feeling is that...the outreach has not been proper. There were people who had appeared and passed the tests and were waiting to be recruited and have now become overage," he said

Former Chief of Army Staff General VP Malik led the Army during the Kargil war. On the Agnipath recruitment plan, he underlines the need for young foot soldiers and a more tech-savvy force in the armed forces. He also emphasizes that four years are not enough to train the technical manpower. Excerpts from an interview to Mayank Singh:

How do you see the concept of Agnipath and the opposition to it?

It is unfortunate that violence is taking place. We have not been able to collect more funds for modernization for a long time. As these reforms got off the ground, there were some compulsions. One, we wanted to bring down the age of soldiers. We had mentioned it in the Kargil Review Committee Report.

As the person gets older, one develops a physical condition. The second aspect is that such persons don’t take risks. We require good leaders at JCO and NCO levels also as they lead the troops along with young officers. The present warfare requires more tech-savvy persons.

Your suggestions to make Agnipath better?

My feeling is that the four-year tenure is a little too short. The outreach has not been proper. There were people who had appeared and passed the tests and were waiting to be recruited and have now become overage. The financial package is all right. By the time a scheme is implemented, you’d get to see the flaws. The government should have also communicated as much.

Modernization and Indigenization is a continuous debate. Your comment?

The relevant point is that modernization should have been at a much faster rate. Whatever money was given during Mr Antony's time (former defence minister) was not enough for modernisation.

Without getting involved into politics, I can say the infrastructure on the ground has started improving, thanks to confrontations with China. Modernization has also picked up; the government is changing rules so that we are less dependent on imported weapons. We must make things work faster.

Major changes have taken place in India’s neighbourhood. How do you see the situation for India?

Our real problem is with China and Pakistan in that order. Ukraine has an indirect effect on us. That war can also convey some lessons for us with respect to the fighting taking place. The situation along our borders will remain sensitive.

What about the standoff at eastern Ladakh?

It is becoming a long-term problem. We want neither China nor India to go to war. Yet China has already occupied certain areas and they don’t want to vacate them as it is quite clear from the statements that are coming in and the kind of posture that is there. It is becoming a long-term eyeball-to-eyeball troop deployment along the border.

India’s defence is undergoing major reforms. How will they change the situation vis-à-vis India?

The post of Chief of Defence Staff was recommended by the Kargil Committee. It took 20 years to bring it.

What has surprised me is that you have accepted the need for an appointment and brought the first CDS. After his untimely demise, the government did not replace him for many months. That’s not understandable at all. It has sent the wrong message.

The new rule framed to include the Lieutenant Generals is flawed. They should have looked into the kind of experience they want for this appointment. You are not dealing with the operations per se.

Even a corps commander, who is a Lt Gen, gets eligible, but he has no experience of commanding two-three corps or the experience of politico-military decision-making.

Ready Reckoner On Recruitment

The “transformative reform”, as the Union govt has called the new military recruitment scheme, will make India’s armed forces fitter and younger, reducing the average age of soldiers from the present 32 years to 24-26 years

Profile of Agniveers

Healthier, more risk-taking, diverse, tech-savvy and dynamic: this is the profile the government wants for India’s “future ready soldiers”


Total induction in the first four years will be 1,75,000 for the Army, 12,500 for the Navy and 15,400 for the Air Force. That will come to an annual recruitment ranging between 50,000 and 60,000. The fifth year onwards, recruitment will match actual release including current cadres and Agniveers


Youth between 17.5-21 yrs eligible, though a one-off increase in the upper age limit to 23 has been announced because no recruitments were possible during the last two pandemic years


Annual package ranges from I4.76 lakh in the first year to I6.92 lakh in the fourth year, plus risk and hardship allowances, as applicable

At the end of their four-year tenure, they will receive a tax-exempted Seva Nidhi Package of about I11.7L. It will have a monthly contribution of 30 per cent of emoluments by Agniveers and an equal and matching amount contributed by the govt

Recruitment Model

It’s a pan-India merit-based recruitment programme. Selected candidates will be enrolled as Agniveers for four years. At the end of that period, they’ll exit the force

Based on merit and organisational requirement, up to 25 per cent Agniveers will be re-join the force as permanent cadre and serve a full term of another 15 years

The other 75% ‘demobilised’ soldiers will return to society as “disciplined, trained and skilled citizens”

In case of disabilities acquired in service, Agniveers will get compensation up to I44 lakh based on percentage of disability, full pay of the unserved period including Seva Nidhi; in case of death on duty, they will get a life insurance cover of I48 lakh, ex-gratia of I44 lakh, Seva Nidhi package.