New Delhi: The ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict reaffirmed the significance of land warfare and the domain will remain “extremely important” in India’s case as well as for countries having contested borders, Army Chief General Manoj Pande said October 26.
In an interactive session at an event, referring to the situation along the Line of Actual Control with China, he said the border situation remains stable and that his force is focusing on boosting its overall combat capabilities to effectively deal with any future security challenges.
Delving into global geopolitical upheavals, the Chief of Army Staff said the key lesson that the Army has learnt from the Russia-Ukraine conflict is that it can’t rely on the import of military hardware and achieving self-reliance in defence is very important. He described the Indo-Pacific as a key region and noted that India has an important role to play.
The Army chief was speaking to Lt Gen Raj Shukla (retd) at the curtain-raiser for the first Chanakya Dialogue. The inaugural ‘Chanakya Dialogue’ is being hosted by the Army, along with the Centre for Land Warfare Studies, next week. The Chanakya Defence Dialogue 2023 will witness a congregation of eminent speakers from India and abroad and is planned to be a regular event in the years to come.
The Dialogue will be conducted in six sessions focusing on the themes of neighbourhood first — South Asia prognosis; Indo-Pacific — the decisive frontier; collaborative partnerships for security; how emerging technologies impact defence and security; Indian defence industry as enabler for collaborative capacity building; and comprehensive deterrence: the India way.
Commenting on the upcoming event, General Pande said that our aim is to complement the Raisina Dialogue. He said the first batch of 40,000 Agniveers have joined the units and the feedback on them from the field units has been encouraging.
To a question on increasing global focus on the maritime domain while both Russia-Ukraine war and Hamas-Israel conflict have the dimension of land, Gen Pande said land warfare will remain crucial in the Indian context. Though he chose not to make specific reference, it was clear the Army Chief was indicating the border issue with China.
“I mentioned about the lessons we drew from the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict. And if I can delve on one of the key lessons — I think land will continue to be a key domain of warfare, especially in cases where you have contested borders just as in our case,” he said. “I think the victory marker will have to be in the land domain. The salience of land domain, I think, is going to be extremely important in our case,” he added.
Talking about India’s rising global profile, Gen Pande said India will continue to play a key role in the Indo-Pacific region. “With the enhanced stature, we will have additional responsibilities and with this we will have certain challenges to encounter,” he said.
The Chief of Army Staff said, “In all of this, we need to remain proactive rather than responding or reacting. We should be able to shape our strategies.” He said there will be responsibilities, opportunities and challenges for India in the Indo-Pacific. “I think the nation is on the rise, be it the economic growth, technological progress or the influence that the nation wields in the world arena,” Gen Pande asserted.
He described the last one-year period for the Army as “challenging yet satisfying”. “As far as the operational situation is concerned, on the borders, I would say it is stable and we have dealt with internal security challenges in a manner that is expected of us,” he said.
The Chief of Army Staff also noted that the ongoing reform process in the Army is being implemented as planned. “About a year back, we spelt out our transformation roadmap. In that we defined five distinct foundations as pillars of transformation. “These were restructuring and right-sizing of the force, modernisation and technology infusion, refining and improving our systems and processes to improve combat and functional efficiencies, jointness and human resources management,” he said and added that the progress of the reform process has been good. The Army chief also listed technology infusion into his force as a key focus area.
In his remarks, Gen Pande also spoke about how national security is emerging as a crucial aspect in the geo-political competition. “What we are seeing is the centrality of national interest in this global flux…The salience of national security is growing in the entire international system,” he said.
Highlighting the changing character of war, Gen Pande said, “By this I am alluding to what we are witnessing in the context of Russia-Ukraine conflict.” “You have new domains — be it cyber, be it space, be it information warfare, battle of narratives and the rest. All these indicate that we need to be better prepared and future-ready to be able to meet future security challenges,” he said.
“Looking at the future security challenges, I think we need to transform and that is what we are doing,” he added.