Nov 26, 2006

India's Armed Forces: Ready for the Future?

Nitin points out that motivational levels in the Indian armed forces could fall if compulsory military service for every Indian is brought in. He is of the view that an army that is smaller, well-trained and highly motivated will be far effective than a huge mass of reluctant people forced to serve.

In this regard the Indian army’s GI Joe plan is worth noting.

The Indian Army wants to turn its soldiers into superheroes…

It has embarked on Project F-INSAS (Future Infantry Soldier as a System), which visualises the Indian soldier as the ultimate terminator — one with unprecedented lethality, mobility and survival skills.
Project F-INSAS will exploit advanced technologies to enhance the capabilities of individual soldiers, making them "multi-mission, multi-role war fighters".


The supersoldier will be equipped to fight by day and night, in all conditions and terrain. Modular weapon systems that can be re-configured - allowing an assault rifle, for instance, to be turned into a light machine gun - will equip them to meet changing mission requirements. Integrated sight systems will have thermal imagers, invisible laser aim pointers and a red dot sight.
…F-INSAS intends to make the Indian soldier a self-contained fighting machine. By 2012, the Army will field the first version of F-INSAS, based on available technology….

The supersoldier will sport some incredible accessories. Smart vests, for instance, will come with sensors to monitor vital signs like ECG, body temperature and heartbeat, and will allow pinpointing bullet injuries.

Sensors in the vest will provide online information to doctors about vital body signs. Combat helmets equipped with head-up display will provide a field of view equivalent to a 17-inch computer monitor right in front of the soldier's eyes.

Output from the soldier's personal computer - attached to his backpack frame - and other sensors will be shown on the display unit, which will be the interface with the other subsystems and the digital battlefield.

A futuristic radio subsystem will enable the soldier to transmit and receive voice messages and data, including streaming video. He will also get specially made boots to give some protection from landmines.[HT]

The Indian armed forces should not lag behind in adopting the latest military tactics and technologies that can minimise ones own casualties and inflict maximum damage on the enemy.

Right now technology is being used to fight urban terror attacks in Jammu and Kashmir and this is a welcome development.

The Indian army has digitally mapped both Srinagar and Jammu, installed secret high-resolution cameras at 32 vulnerable public places, and wired police squads with Global Positioning System (GPS) devices in both the cities.
With this new gadget will, among other advantages, enable the police to sit in Jammu and watch live on computer screens the goings-on hundreds of kilometers away in Srinagar or vice versa. This means converting a normal police control room into a command centre.
This new initiative will also help police identify suspects and increase transparency. Camera images will, for example, help establish the truth in cases where the police are accused of excesses in dealing with public protests.

When a militant attack is reported in any part of the two cities, the calls to the police control room will be answered by a call centre where trained police staff will take down information, trace the location of the nearest police cars and direct them to the site of the attack.

The mobile phones of officers will soon be wired into the GPS-based security grid…

Such systems common in the West are used to tackle crime and traffic violations. In J&K, they will be focused entirely on fighting militant attacks.[HT]

There is a lot of time to develop the futuristic soldier. Right now the Indian armed forces should take immediate steps to address more serious problem of shortfall in the armed forces strength.

In many parts of India the army is the only source of employment for many. In strife torn Jammu Kashmir it is that very despised Indian army the only source of employment for large number of people. This is the same in many other areas of India too. Because of this the infantry quota is always filled up.

It is the officers’ quota that has fallen back. It drastically needs new recruits to fill up the shortfall. The officer shortfall is 11,000 in the army, 5000 in the navy and 500 in the air force. This is serious matter and compulsory service is not the answer because an unmotivated force will be sitting duck for the enemy.

To fill up the shortfall, slickly made ads showcasing the extracurricular activities of the army is not just the answer when today’s youth – in a booming economy - has better options of safe and better paying jobs in other sectors. Apart from offering attractive compensation packages matching the best offered in the private sector, the pitfalls of having officer shortfall should be effectively communicated to young prospective candidates. For this the army should take the help of the best PR talent available. There is no guarantee that this will fill up the shortfall but the motivated ones will surely reduce the shortfall.

Sometime back to boost recruitments from Gujarat which has low levels of representation in the Indian army, the army came up with a weird plan of holding an exhibition in Gujarat where arms and ammunition seized from Islamist militants in JK and elsewhere in India. The timing of this exhibition was interesting – soon after the 2002 Gujarat riots when anti-Muslim, Hindu nationalist feelings were very high in Gujarat. I don’t know what success it had.

What size the Indian army should be is still debatable considering the future state of affairs. The present strength of 1.1 million makes the Indian army the second largest after China’s. A time will come when a strong and rapidly growing India will have to assert itself in the world and may have to sent troops to safeguard its interests in other parts of the world. Sooner or later our troops might see action in Afghanistan where we have vital interests. Just like China our hunt for black gold and other minerals could get nasty and then we will have no option but to call up on our troops to safeguard our interests.

We need a blue water navy to keep an ambitious China in check in the Indian Ocean. That means a Navy with at least three Aircraft carrier flotillas, a first-class submarine fleet plus the regular Naval flotilla.

Coastal security should be strengthened without delay, as there is definite threat to vital costal installations – onshore and offshore – from terrorists.

Another Fiji should not happen anywhere. Nowhere should Indian Diasporas be second-class citizens. In case it becomes inevitable in any part of the world, then the government of the day should not shy away from helping that Indian Diaspora by whatever means to achieve their stated goals.

All these scenarios call for a large armed force that is motivated and raring to go at all times.

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