After Doklam, Army to make changes at key China border formations
New Delhi: Close on the heels of the Dokalam standoff, organisational changes are likely in some of the key army formations besides steps to boost infrastructure along the nearly 4,000km long China -India border including around the areas of dispute.
The decisions were taken at the army’s commanders conference which extensively deliberated on the Doklam face off with China besides analysing all possible security challenges on the northern border, people familiar with the matter said.
In his address at the week-long conference that began in Delhi on Monday, chief of army staff General Bipin Rawat asked the commanders to be prepared for all eventualities at “all times” while defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman emphasised the need to guard against “inimical forces”.
Director general staff duties Lt Gen. Vijay Singh, briefing on the outcome of the conclave which was also attended by top defence ministry officials, said it was decided that there would be considerable “heft” towards road construction activities in the northern sector.
He said the issue of organisational changes of some of the formations for capability enhancement was examined, adding it was decided to grant additional funds to Border Roads Organisation, a defence ministry entity, for development of roads and other infrastructure.
Officials said capacity enhancement along the China-India border was a major focus area and the conclave decided to boost infrastructure along the entire stretch with China including around areas of dispute.
In her address, Sitharaman lauded the army for its swift and effective response in dealing with “external and internal threats”, seen as a reference to the army stopping the construction of a road in Doklam by China and its anti-terror operations in Jammu and Kashmir.
The conclave Friday discussed issues relating to military operations and evolving security dynamics in the region. While talking about security challenges, the army chief highlighted the need for according priority to procurement of arms and ammunitions, in an apparent indication of unhappiness over delay in buying critical weapons for the force.
“Our approach to procurement process needs to be balanced with focus at the right places,” Gen. Rawat was quoted as saying by Singh. On her part, Sitharaman said focus will be on ensuring capability enhancement and capacity building of the Army in a time-bound manner.
She also emphasised the need for jointness and integration of all the services in effectively dealing with emerging challenges. While Gen. Rawat asserted that there will be no compromise with respect to issues relating to welfare of the army men, Sitharaman said keeping up the morale of the armed forces personnel will remain a priority.
On boosting infrastructure along the borders, Singh said “four passes to Niti, Lipulekh, Thangla 1 and Tsangchokla have been decided to be connected by 2020 on priority.” All these passes are along the Sino-Indian border in central sector.
He said a roadmap for intra-sector connectivity within central sector and inter-sector connectivity with neighbouring areas have been discussed. The commanders also deliberated on the cadre review of junior commissioned officers and other ranks, which now stands approved, and implementation of the Shekatkar committee recommendation on carrying out reforms in the force.
The issue of employment of women officers in areas of specialisation that require continuity also figured. Singh said implementation of cadre review of JCOs and officer ranks resulting in additional promotional vacancies will be the top priority of the army.
In the next two days, the commanders will discuss a number of issues relating to human resources which include promotion of eligible officers to the rank of lieutenant general. He said the army has decided to modernise all military stations on par with the government’s smart city project and initially, 58 stations have been identified for the project.
The army has over 2,000 military stations across the country. During interactions with top officials of the defence ministry, the commanders discussed a host of issues like expediting acquisition projects, providing liberalised family pension to those other than battle causalities and matters relating to defence land, said Singh.
Defence secretary Sanjay Mitra stressed on the need for a time bound action plan to resolve the issues. He said the conference decided to seek necessary sanction from the government to allow the army to carry out procurement under the existing system till 31 March, 2018 when the government’s eMarket system is likely to stabilise.