The Indian Army will embark on an exercise to alter some of its symbolic legacies, including customs and traditions, uniforms and even names of some units. Militaries need to evolve in sync with changes in the society they are a part of. In that context, it’s only appropriate that the Army wants to bring about some changes.
These proposed changes are part of a series of changes which began in 2019. These changes can be ranked according to their substantiveness.
The most important change was the creation of the office of the Chief of Defence Staff to integrate India’s military as a cohesive fighting machine. In this context, the first CDS General Bipin Rawat envisaged four integrated theatre commands, each under a single operational commander.
It’s almost ten months since General Rawat’s untimely demise but GoI has not replaced him. This naturally leads to questions on whether this substantive reform which is the most disruptive one envisaged in independent India was properly thought through.
Another substantive change envisaged was the creation of a non-lapsable fund to procure arms. The last Finance Commission approved the idea. But GoI is yet to work out the details.
Influenced in part by the ballooning pension bill, GoI this year moved ahead with the Agnipath Scheme. It was initially met with dismay in some of the key catchment areas and also triggered a sharp debate among many veterans. This scheme, however, is on course.
All these changes are being brought about when India is confronted with the most revisionist regime in generations that China has had. Since 2020, China has made an aggressive move to shift the LAC westward. India’s military chiefs this week identified China as a clear danger to national security.
Given this background, the Indian Army should avoid any more disruptive internal changes now, which may trigger another debate on the army’s ethos among stakeholders.
It will be prudent to focus entirely on the substantive changes that have been outlined. It should start with the appointment of new CDS at the earliest to see through integrated theatre commands. The symbolic changes can come later.
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