New Delhi: From preparedness for any eventuality to Agniveers to Aatmanirbhar in defence, GOC-in-C Southern Command, Lt Gen Ajai Kumar Singh spoke on a wide range of issues at an interaction with a media house.
“India must always be prepared for a conventional conflict. We can’t let our guard down. The capabilities and intentions can change at any given point, relations can deteriorate very quickly. Especially in our context facing two adversaries, Indian armed forces have to be always prepared for any eventuality,” said Lt Gen Ajai Kumar Singh.
On the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, he said that “there are a lot of lessons for us. One of the important lessons is that India must always be prepared for a conventional conflict.” Stating that the Ukraine-Russia war has become something like a multi-domain conflict, and “the conflict is not only on the field between the two armies, everything is being weaponised. Everybody is involved, both people in uniforms and those not in uniform. So, in India we have to look at a civil-military fusion, which will make our defences and capabilities stronger.”
On the challenge of shifting from import dependence to self-reliance in defence in keeping with the government policy of Aatmanirbharta, he said “any shift is challenging. But, we are absolutely convinced that this is the right shift. This shift should have possibly come earlier. We, as the Armed Forces, have to play a very constructive role in this.”
Referring to the role of his Command in Aatmanirbharta, he said “in the Southern Command, we have set out to play a proactive role in this shift. We are ready to tide over a period of transition without affecting our operational preparedness.”
Referring to the cases of espionage, Lt Gen Singh said “it has really affected us and we have taken note of it in a very major manner. This has always been one of our core concerns – social media, cases of honey trapping, because we are aware that both China and Pakistan use these to their advantage and especially Pakistan. So, we are very conscious of this. The Armed Forces and the Army, in particular, the Southern Army, has taken a large number of steps in this direction.”
On the Agniveer scheme introduced by the government, he said it “has worked extremely well. The kind of motivation that they (recruits) have is simply amazing. Josh (enthusiasm) and Jazba (passion) are there.”
He said that the Agniveer scheme is a “win-win situation. If you are absorbed, you become a part of the great Indian Army and if you do not get absorbed, there is nothing to be lost. You have been trained for four years. In this period, that person would have imbibed the principles and discipline of the organisation. They are receiving sufficient money and the government has taken many steps to ensure a smooth transition.”
On the moves to have theatre commands, Lt Gen Singh refrained from talking of it saying “it is something that is happening and in the right manner.” Stating that most of the Air Commands and all Naval Commands are co-located with the Southern Command and “we have a very good equation with them. We have regular interactions. Southern Command becomes an ideal testing ground for both jointness and integration. To that extent, we have covered a lot of ground.”
On encouraging women to join the armed forces and the challenges in this regard, he said “you are aware that women are inducted in around 10 streams in the Army, ranging from engineers, army air defence, ordnance, intelligence and now combat support artillery, in addition to medical corps and nursing services.” Lt Gen Singh said that the mindset too was changing fast in the armed forces, and “today we have Permanent Commission for women and there are women in leadership roles.”
On the “Sahayak” system in the Army coming under severe criticism in 2022 but the Supreme Court eventually rejecting a PIL favouring abolition, he said “the ‘buddy’ system in the Indian Army is time-tested and extremely important to the functioning of the Army. There is a lot of misinformation regarding this system, It is not man-servant relation, but one where both are buddies. Buddies fight with us in wars and other operations, and enable a commander to think, plan, coordinate and execute.
Having said that, I believe that we should take care that the system is not misutilised. I think there has not been a single case of the buddy system being misused in the Southern Command. There are stories galore on how a buddy saved an officer and an officer saved a buddy. It is a profound relationship.”
On incorporating spiritual practices and meditation in the Army, he said “War is the most stressful situation. Anything and everything that can calm you is helpful. So we are trying all means such as meditation and yoga.”