General Bipin Rawat, Chief of the Indian Army needs no introduction. A soldier’s General, who has led from the front and been in the thick of things through his long and illustrious career. He has been riding over several challenges and occasional controversies with a composure worthy of any battle hardened operational soldier who believes in getting the job done.
An Army which has been continuously combating insurgency and terrorism along with fighting conventional wars with its neighbours since independence is today being led by another worthy Chief, who has been firm in his warning to those supporting terrorists and at the same time handled the backlash created by various political parties with a poise, elan & a smile, a hallmark of a true leader.
Having the onerous task of commanding an army, on the thresholds of modernisation, handling minor man management issues blown out of proportion, getting embroiled into controversy over stern warning to terrorist supporters, General Bipin Rawat, is firmly now in Chair and in control of the reins of, without a doubt, the most professional army in the world.
A chief, leader, soldier and statesman he has shown that the faith reposed in him by the Government is justified and he shall deliver.
In an exclusive and detailed interaction with Ms Anupama Airy, a senior journalist and the Founder&Editor of DefenceAviationPost.com, Gen Rawat spoke at length on various issues and was candid enough to take all kinds of questions.
Q: How prepared is our Army when it comes to weaponry and equipment. In terms of procurement, what is topmost on your agenda and how are we progressing with it?
Ans– See my predecessors have identified priorities. We have identified 23 priority items and with my Deputy Chief, we have started moving with that. Having taken over recently, I would not like to suddenly change things in line with my priority because something which has already move forward, I won’t like it to be put on a back burner. So I am presently looking at those priorities only and within them I am trying to see how things have to move.
I know that proxy war is something that is of immediate concern to us. Therefore if within that I have to prioritise then I would like to say that those people who are involved in that proxy war should get the weapon and the equipment that they need first and then make sure that we move ahead with all those priorities that my predecessors have identified.
Q: Sir in 2016, as per the reports, infiltration has been three times more. What as per you is the reason for this and what are the actions we need to take to improve the situation?
Ans- Yes reports have come from MAC that infiltration has been on the higher side and I won’t like to deny that. Yes there has been a slight increase in infiltration as compared to previous years. When you look at countering insurgency, this is where you have to look at following very dynamic procedures and you can’t go with a static approach. I think that kind of dynamism that is required in countering insurgency has to be necessitated.
And so we have to now look at reviewing our strategy towards countering insurgency whether it is our deployment along the LC fence and the line of control, how we should act and how we should now function in the depth areas and what action needs to be taken…..all those strategies have to be looked at. I have met the Army Commanders and I have given out my guidelines for the same. I am sure they are working on it, some kind of dynamism we want to bring in countering insurgency rather than following the same procedures which have been followed over the years.
Q- Coming to the internal security situation, the situation in South Kashmir has deteriorated. What sort of action is needed to combat and arrest the situation?
Ans- I would say the first thing is to reach out to the people…..reach out to the parent’s of those who have taken to insurgency and tell them that it is doing no good to the people of South Kashmir or Kashmir as such. To live in a Eutopian world and say that there is going to be azadi and in that they are going to join Pakistan which will take over Kashmir, I think such people are living in a euphoria and a fool’s world.
Let it be clear to all…..The Indian Army and the Indian establishment are strong enough to control the situation. So while we will be able to bring things under control, it is going to come at some cost and that cost is being borne by the local population. In the ultimate analysis it is the young boys (Kashmiri’s) who are suffering.
I had always believed and said that the next generation should not live through the sounds of gunfire and the smell of explosives. That is something I have been saying even when I was commanding 5 Sector RR or when I commanded the 19 Infantary Division.
You know ever since 1990, enough has happened to Kashmir and we don’t want this anymore. So one generation has been lost and they have suffered and today they are living in this kind of world. But why should the next generation go through it. So our idea is that let us bring peace and whatever is happening in Kashmir, I would like to reach out to the people and particularly to the parents of those who have picked up arms to say that it is in their interest that they advice their sons and wards, whoever there may be to come and hand over their weapons, we will accept surrenders.
Q: But do you think that this is going to be an easy option for them?
Ans- First let us reach out to them and see. Because if it is not going to be easy and if they have to go through the same cycle as what happened last year, I think the losers will be the people of Kashmir. This is the truth, which the earlier they understand the better it is.
Q: What are those three things which would want to do and achieve during your tenure as the Chief of Army Sstaff?
Ans- The first thing that I would like to see is that our Army is seen as a people friendly army and not just one that consumes the exchequers funds, budget and the money. Indian Army is for the people, of the people and by the people and is fully committed to nation building. It should be seen as an Army that is ensuring that the sanctity of our borders is maintained and that its people back home can live in peace.
If that happens then our country’s economy, which is growing, will be able to attract investments from all fronts as then investors will have faith in investing in India because they will appreciate that we have a very strong armed forces, which can look after the security situation, both from external threats and within and that there will be a safe environment for industry.
So my first priority is to make sure that we become the part of nation building and with the growing economy, world over people to have faith in us.
The next thing is to always look at the image of the Army. At no stage would I want the image of Indian Army to be dented. We have a very strong foundation on which our Army rests, we have a very good ethos and culture and I feel that we need to carry this process forward.
Some of our brothers, whether they are officers, JCOs or NCOs, who have got carried away and feel that things are going wrong in the Army. We need to bring them on the right track and tell them that whatever be their grievances, they will be addressed.
Q: Sorry to interrupt, but why this sudden dissent..?
Ans. I can assure you that this is a very small fraction of our large Army who is feeling so. I have already and repeatedly said that whatever be their grievances, they will be adequately addressed. But at the same time, if people think that they are going to continue with this to avoid some kind of disciplinary action that they may be facing because of some follies they may have committed, then those people will be taken to task.
So I am reiterating the point that we have very strong foundation and if anybody who is aggrieved, there are mechanisms in which the grievances are addressed. I would like that these mechanisms are followed and that every person, rank and file in the army has faith in the system. I wish to assure that we will look after everybody in the Army and make sure that nobody is discriminated.
I want the image of the Army to remain where it is and nobody should ever feel that things are going in a wrong way in the army.
And my third thing is that the time has come for the armed forces to look at the modernisation process. Today as our economy is developing, it is also time to look at the modernization of armed forces. There are cycles which we go through and this is one cycle that we are looking at in the next 6-10 years, where we need to start looking at getting some modern weapons and equipments and if we don’t start the process now and delay it further , it won’t happen.
Q: As COAS, what is your thought process, focus and strategy when it comes to dealing with neighbouring nations?
Ans- I feel neighbours are important and let me tell you one thing that I have prioritized my visit pattern to see that I would like to first visit our neighbours. So while my office will be planning my visits, the priority that I have given to them is ‘Neighbours First’.
On what my focus will be during this visits is to tell them that we are a strong nation and that any kind of support that our neighbours need, we will always be willing to support them; re-assure them that India has no hegemonistic designs and that they can look at us with healthy attitudes and not fear India or the Indian Army.
Q: And would you say the same when it comes to Pakistan and China?
Ans With Pakistan and China, my message is that let’s look at peace. We have always wanted peace and I have said this before as well that let’s work towards maintaining peace and tranquillity along our borders but if the other side does not believe in moving forward with peace, then we will act accordingly.
Q: In the recently held exercise of the Indian Navy, TROPEX-17 we saw you taking the lead in terms of integration of services. How was the experience and what is the possibility of more such integrated exercises by the Army, Navy and Air Force.
Ans- I am very clear on that. In fact I believe that the services have to work in an integrated manner. All the three chief are looking at it very positively and are of the view that we must integrate and ensure that we interact with each other more often and given an impetus to jointmanship.
Q: – Do we have something being planned in the Army in the near term.
Ans- Yes you will see that soon. I will come back to you later as I have already discussed with the Navy and Air Chief and they are in agreement. (Laughing he added in a lighter vein: “You will first see us watching movies together…Let people first be happy seeing the three chiefs walk together to a movie hall and see that socially we are together).
Q- Although you have just taken over and you have long way ahead but one thing you would like to be remembered for. What would Gen Bipin Rawat want the people to remember him for, something which would you like to do and focus upon during your tenure?
Ans– I thought I will have to answer this in my third year as the COAS and it’s too early to say now what I would like to be remembered as but I would certainly like everybody to believe in me and that I am fair in my judgement. It’s too early to say that but that is something I would like to be remembered for that I was be fair in my journey and I took things in a fair and pragmatic manner, without biases and without any kind of corruption.
(This Interview With the COAS, Gen Bipin Rawat was taken during the Aero India 2017 in Bengaluru)