Gen Bipin Rawat, after assuming charge as India’s new chief of Army Staff, started his first day in office with saluting the martyrs at India Gate. Thereafter he visited the injured soldiers in hospital and after a host of meetings in his south block office went home where he gave a series of interviews to the media, listing his priorities and challenges as the new chief of Indian Army.
Excerpts From His Interview
Gen Bipin Rawat came out clear that under no circumstances will India resort to petty and old tricks from across the borders and if need arises, toughest and appropriate actions will be taken against those promoting or indulging in an act of terrorism. Sending a strong message across the border, Army Chief Gen Bipin Rawat without mincing any words said that if Pakistan resorts to old tricks, India will not hesitate to retaliate and strike back.
While making it clear that Indian Armed Forces were capable and prepared to go for a two front war if need arises, Gen Rawat said he prefers co-operation than confrontation. He said while we (India, Pakistan and China) may be competing with each other for space and economic development and prosperity, there are also areas of co-operation which he said should be our focus.
It is to fulfil these objectives, border level talks are taking place at 4 places today along the Line of Actual Control (LOAC), he said.
Gen Bipin Rawat further said that India’s policy has always been to maintain peace and tranquillity along the borders. “Our troops have been tasked to ensure sanctity of our borders, defend our territory and ensure that the population living in the hinterland is not affected by any violence,” he said. To that extent, he said, that so long as the other side is ready to co-operate and ensure that peace and tranquillity prevails, “we will go along but should our adversary continue to support terrorism or resort to unwarranted violence, our strategy is very clear which is that we will not hesitate in using force whenever and at whatever time it is required.”
However, he clarified that the manner in which force is to be used can be calibrated based on “our considerations and for this we have been given a very free hand by the government.”
Gen Rawat added that directions have been given to all lower commanders that while we must ensure peace and tranquillity but when required we will not hesitate to use the force.
On Issues and Challenges Surrounding The Army
On challenges he faced as the new chief of world’s third largest Army, Gen Rawat said, “Challenges are welcome and I look at them with a positive perspective.”
Stating that the Indian Army is dedicated to safeguard and serve the nation, Gen Rawat said, “The need is to recognise the challenges.”
First challenge he said is to ensure that “we imbibe modern technologies with our weapon systems that we are now identifying for induction into the armed forces ..as imports are not the best way forward and we have to look at future ready technologies…modern weapon systems for the infantry.”
“Mechanised forces is next we need to modernise…. Air Defence systems, aviation where we are looking at new helicopters with weapons system integration …We are looking at upgrades in our logistics support,” he added.
Another important issue, he said, was right deployment and utilisation of human resource of the Army. “We have a very large trained manpower that superannuates at a rather young age…we have to see that this manpower should not go waste and be utilised by the government or the industry or civil organisations.”
Asked to comment on the cordial working of different arms (Infantry, Armoured, Artillery and other services), Gen Rawat said each member of the Indian Army in whatever rank he may be, irrespective of his arm and service, has a major role to play. Each one of is working to ensure that the Army works in synergy and carries out its task with perfection and competence, he added.
“We all have to work in synergy for the making the Army stronger.”
On the recent terrorist attacks in Uri, Pampore in Kashmir, Gen Rawat said as far as terrorist activity is concerned, what has been observed is they (terrorists) are continuously changing their modus operandi.
“There methods of attacks are changing….And it’s not only in India but world over these tactics are being changed by these elements.”
In Indian context, Gen Rawat said the attacks are coming more on military bases/camps and for that “what we need to do is to stay ahead of the terrorists thought process…. I think we need to think like a terrorist to counter every attack…which means think and look at methodologies being thought by these terrorists to counter them.”
Gen Rawat said the government has given some guidelines and has asked “us to identify our bases and qualify them into four categories.”
“Based on these qualifications, we will be providing them (camps and bases) with additional infrastructure (including boundary walls to fences to technologies etc) to guard our bases and camps, he said.
“While we may incorporate technology, we will still have to ensure boots (manpower) on ground. So we will dovetail technologies and other physical means along with manpower to counter any such attacks. I am confident that we should be able to curtail these attacks,” he added.
On the surgical strikes and political controversy surrounding it, Gen Rawat said that Indian Army has always remained apolitical.
He said that to say that the Army is getting politicised, may not be a right statement.
“We get our directions from the polity. we have a role and task to perform and the manner in which these have to performed is best left to the Army to decide.”
On What will be his Policy Towards Pakistan From Military point of view and as India’s army chief, he said that The Army has to keep thinking ahead.
Asked if we could again retort to surgical strikes to fight terrorists activity from across the border, Gen Rawat said surgical strikes was just one of the means of using force and that there are other methods that can be adopted.
“We can use better technologies, can use better methods of operations and tactics at ground level to deliver the same message. I am quite sure, those on ground are continuously reviewing their strategies to combat infiltrations along the borders,” he added.
“We have to remain alert at all times and counter the nexus between the terrorists and those supporting them in whatever way we can.”
Asked to comment On India’s Other Neighbour China and How big a threat China Is, Gen Rawat said As far as Our northern border is concerned, the Army has adopted certain mechanism to ensure that we maintain harmonious relations with the Line of Actual Control. However, he stressed once again the need is to look at cooperation. At the same time he added that there should be no doubt on Indian Army’s capabilities that is trained to take on any unforeseen situation. General Bipin Rawat said his force is prepared for a two-front war involving Pakistan and China simultaneously but re- emphasised on the need to look at cooperation and not confrontation with Beijing.
On Controversy Surrounding His Appointment
Commenting on his appointment and the controversy surrounding it, Gen Rawat said, “I will just say that it’s a decision taken by the government and in all humility I have accepted the responsibility.
He added that he respects the two senior Generals as they have rubbed shoulders together. “I think the kind of support I have received from them so far is indeed exemplary. The support is to the Indian Army and to the head of Indian Army so as to help us achieve greater heights in the years ahead.”
He said that Lt Gen Praveen Bakshi spoke to him and he did not in any way feel that they he (Praveen Bakshi) was disturbed or showed any sign of unease. “He was courteous and the call was very-very friendly. In the betterment of the organisation, we will continue to work together.”