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Army’s ex-chiefs to be briefed on Doklam, surgical strikes at special conclave

Former chiefs of the Indian Army will be briefed about the Doklam standoff with China, the 2016 surgical strikes and ongoing military reforms.

india Updated: Sep 05, 2017 11:40 IST
Rahul Singh
Rahul Singh
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Doklam,Doklam standoff,India China standoff
Army personnel pose in front of the national flag during the Independence Day celebrations. Former chiefs of the army will be briefed about the Doklam standoff at a special conclave.(Raj K Raj/HT PHOTO)

The army will brief its former chiefs on significant developments during the last two years, including the recent border standoff with China, the 2016 surgical strikes and ongoing military reforms, at an upcoming conclave, sources said on Tuesday.

Army chief General Bipin Rawat will host the three-day brainstorming session that begins on September 7 in Delhi, with around 10 of his predecessors expected at the biennial event.

“We will be given detailed briefings by important appointment holders, including the heads of military operations and military intelligence wings,” former army chief General JJ Singh told Hindustan Times.

Known as the Army Chiefs’ Conclave, the platform provides an opportunity to the force to draw on the collective experience of its former leaders and seek their inputs on key issues.

The meeting comes a week after India and China ended a 73-day border face-off in Doklam plateau near Sikkim and almost a year after the army carried out surgical strikes against militant launch pads in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir in response to a strike on a camp in Jammu and Kashmir’s Uri that left 19 soldiers dead in September 2016.

From border standoffs, surgical strikes to modernisation, all national security aspects would be discussed, Gen Singh said.

If the army had not confronted the Chinese troops in Doklam, the neighbour would have built the road and “presented it to India as a fait accompli”, he said.

China had accused India of trespass and preventing its troops from building a road in the remote Himalayan plateau, claimed by both China and Bhutan. The standoff ended with withdrawal of troops and China removing road-building equipment.

The restructuring of the army and its modernisation would be another point of discussion, officers said. On August 30, India announced an extensive restructuring of the army, an exercise that will see 57,000 soldiers being redeployed in combat roles.

The revamp is aimed at improving the army’s tooth-to-tail ratio -- the number of personnel (tail) required to support a combat soldier (tooth).

The changes are in line with the recommendations made by an 11-member expert panel, headed by lieutenant general DB Shekatkar (retd), on enhancing the military’s combat capability and endurance.

The government, however, is yet to usher in key reforms, including creation of a chief of defence staff as principal military adviser to the government, restructuring the Defence Research and Development Organisation and setting up special operations, space and cyber commands to fight future wars.

The army is also dealing with a lack of basics, shortage of critical weapons and ammunition and red tape holding up purchases, though steps are being taken to fill critical gaps.

“Modernisation has to happen at a faster pace. Take the case of the M777 ultra-light howitzers. The plan to buy the guns was mooted during my term more than a decade ago. But the guns have started coming in only now,” said Singh, who was the chief from January 31, 2005, to September 30, 2007.

The army design bureau (ADB), set up in August 2016, has listed out 78 problems that need to be addressed quickly to provide the best protection to front-line soldiers and develop cutting-edge weaponry.

An initiative of the Modi government, the ADB is tasked with promoting research and development and act as a bridge between the force and the private sector to meet the army’s requirements.

“Everything ranging from troop welfare to modernisation will be covered. The inputs provided by the former chiefs are taken seriously and implemented as required,” an army officer said.

First Published: Sep 05, 2017 11:40 IST