To defend India’s vast border, Arun Jaitely as the Defense Minister announced a massive restructuring of the Indian Army where 57,000 active soldiers are to be pulled out from peace time duties and will take up combat roles for the security of the nation.
This will see some old functions and units, like Military Farms, being shut down. Functions of some units like Ordinance, Signals, and Engineering are to be reorganized as a result of this decision. Instead of working in silos, the soldiers would be trained and assigned multi-disciplinary roles.
The old Signals establishment would be tasked with handling technical intelligence and performing duties which, until now was reserved only for engineering regiments. The Ordinance regiments would have to perform the duties of Vehicle Repair units as well.
Making the announcement defense minister Jaitely said that the “far-reaching” revamp was aimed at improving army’s tooth-to-tail ratio, reducing the number of personnel (tail) required to support a combat soldier (tooth).
Implementation has begun with the decision of the cabinet committee on security to close 39 military farms in a time bound manner.
Restructuring of the Indian Army, which has around 40,525 officers and 1.15 million in other ranks, is scheduled to be completed by December 2019.
For now, the defense ministry is implementing 65 of the 99 recommendations made by the Shekatkar Committee.
Regarded as independent India’s first such exercise, this restructuring has been recommended by an 11-member expert panel, headed by Lieutenant General DB Shekatkar (retd), in order to enhance the army’s combat potential and trim its expenditure.
On being asked if the restructuring was taken in the light of the recent Doklam stand-off, Jaitely said:
This is not specific to any incident. It had been going on much prior to Doklam.
Indian and the Chinese soldiers were recently locked in a two month long standoff in Bhutan’s Doklam area. The territory belongs to Bhutan but China had unilaterally encroached it and was building a road, when India on Bhutan’s behalf forcibly stopped the activity. Doklam is of strategic interest for India and is very close to the Indo-China border in Sikkim. This was the longest border deadlock between the two country in over two decades.
Hailing the revamp exercise of the army Lt General Shekatkar said
it would definitely boost Indian military’s “combat potential, capability and endurance”.
It maybe recalled that PM Narendra Modi, in 2015 had indicated a need for such a revamp of the army.
Speaking at the Combined Commander’s Conference of 2015, he said:
At a time when major powers are reducing their forces and rely more on technology, we are still constantly seeking to expand the size of our forces. Modernization and expansion of the forces at the same time is a difficult and unnecessary goal.
The Indian Army is currently the world’s third largest military force.