/A lean and mean Indian Army in the making?

A lean and mean Indian Army in the making?

The Indian Army — the second largest Army in the world — is aiming to transform itself into a more lethal force to meet the desired offensive and defensive capabilities of modern warfare by undergoing a complete transformation. To do so, the army has ordered a four-part study — first, restructuring the army headquarters; second, reorganising the Army; third, cadre review of officers; and fourth, enhancing the colour service of soldiers. The current restructuring will take into account future requirements and methods of making the military lean and mean.

Most importantly, it will equip the forces to deal with nuclear weapons in the arsenal of our adversaries.
The restructuring of the Delhi-based Army headquarters will not only trim the flab but also send released officers back into field units to meet the scarcity of soldiers. The study, which focuses on decreasing duplicity, recommends that the Director General of Military Training be subsumed and shifted to the Army Training Command. The headquarters of the Rashtriya Rifles is in Delhi while its units are deployed in Jammu and Kashmir. The headquarters will either be shifted to Udhampur, Northern Command, or Srinagar.

A senior officer said that officers of the rank of Major and Lt Colonel would be sent to the field and their responsibilities would be taken over by Colonels. The Army is planning to post a Colonel at the headquarters after promotion. At present, colonels command their units immediately after promotion. The aim is to decongest the Delhi headquarters and bring down the number of officers from 1,800 to 1,200. The Cadre Review aims to increase promotional avenues and boost the morale of those meritorious officers who get overlooked for promotion due to lack of vacancy.

While the Time Scale Colonels might get their ranks after 23 years of service, which, at present, is 25 years, substantive colonels will get rank after 16 years. Once these officers finish their tenure, they might directly get promoted as Major Generals. However, they will get divided into command stream and staff stream. Those approved for command will oversee brigades, wearing the rank of Brigadiers. The others will wear the ranks of Major General but will be posted for staff duties and will retire from there. The Brigade commanders will be considered for promotion on completing their tenure.

A recent cadre review had improved the promotion avenues of Junior Commissioned Officers and those in other ranks. However, now the Army is looking at their terms of engagement. At present, a soldier is eligible for a pension after 15 years of service. It keeps the Army young, but the experienced and trained workforce is lost. The new proposal suggests increasing the service span to 17 years. The move will retain trained manpower and decrease the pension burden.

A critical aim of the restructuring process is to modernise the Army, which means a state of the art weapons and equipment. However, the budget for this is limited. Budget constraint is visible everywhere. “It is important that services rationalise the budget use for revenue and capital expenses,” said Laxman Kumar Behera, Research Fellow, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, who specialises in military spending.

A staggering 87 per cent of the budget is spent in meeting the day-to-day expenses, which includes buying spares, maintenance of equipment and salaries. It means only 13 per cent is left for capital expenditure. A senior officer said that it would soon go up to 88 per cent. While the revenue part of the budget is allocated for pay, allowances, pension, the capital is used to pay for new equipment and overall modernisation. “Every year, the government provides Rs 20 to Rs 30,000 crore extra. It’s being used to meet the revenue expenditure, and that’s not healthy,” said Behera.

The officers, involved in the restructuring exercise, said that it is being done without any cost to the government. “We are working on the save and raise model, so that we create future structures for cyber, space and Special Forces.”

Another important concept is making the Independent Battle Groups self-sufficient.“The forces have been earmarked for ground testing. One Brigade is earmarked in the Northern Border, and the other two are in the Western sector,” said a senior Army Officer. While the study will be completed in 2019, the implementation might stretch till 2020.

The four-part study ::

The Army has ordered a four-part study — first, restructuring the Army headquarters; second, reorganising the Army; third, cadre review of officers; and fourth, enhancing colour service of soldiers — to undertake restructuring.