First published on IDR print issue Vol.1-alpha, Jan 1988.
General Krishnaswami Sundarji, PVSM, ADC, was appointed the nation’s fourteenth Chief of Army Staff on 1 February 1986.In the truncated two years and three months he had ahead of him, before retiring at the age of 60, he had much to accomplish. Described in the media as a ‘thinking man’s General’-a man with a modern mind, determined not to let the twenty-first century catch the Army napping in a business-as-usual posture, he is reported to have retreated in the last two weeks prior to assuming office to a ‘hide-out’ in Goa, where he wrote and mulled over position papers and recommendations, designed to break new ground in areas such as strategy and tactics, organizations, mechanization, computerization, methodology and management. The changes that he visualized were basically in the areas of the ‘man-machine mix’ in the ‘plains’ environment, with the emphasis shifting towards the machine. This, according to his percepts, would mean greater mobility, better firepower, better command, control and communication, including surveillance and night-fighting capability. In the plains warfare environment there would be more mechanization to include tanks, infantry combat vehicles, self-propelled artillery and assault engineers. Similarly, for the mountain warfare environment, he visualized formations getting much more combat potential.
In a wide-ranging and candid interview with the editor of Indian Defence Review in the third week of December 1987, the COAS spoke about the state of the Army, the efforts at modernization, the introduction of new methodologies for greater efficiency, the macro-management of personnel, morale and welfare measures and the Sri Lanka experience. The highlights of the interview are given in the following paragraphs.
The Chief’s office and method of functioning
The Chiefs imposing office in South Block is noted for its clinical efficiency. Aided by two IBM PC-AT computers, one of which stands on his sterile desk and the other programmed for exploded display at an immaculate conference table, he can, at the press of a button, retrieve and display stored computerized information, on every important aspect of the Army’s functioning. Explaining his methodology of functioning, he stated that he kept a watching brief and control of the complete spectrum of Army affairs through a series of written and verbal directions, conferences and periodic high-level meetings, presentations, visits and periodic war games. Expanding on this further, he stated that he chaired the Principal Staff Officers’ (PSOs) Conference once a fortnight, and a second enlarged PSOs’ Conference to include Director Generals of Arms and Services once a month, where important aspects of the Army’s modernization plans, fiscal and logistic matters, important arms/services matters and important day-to- day functional affairs were brought up for scrutiny, refinement and decisions taken. Deadlines were then laid down for periodic progress and completion of tasks. The Chief expected discussions to be frank, forthright with no holds barred. In a hierarchical and feudalistic system this was difficult, but in due course of time inhibitions were discarded and discussions became more meaningful and result oriented. The major decisions taken, dates by which periodic progress reports were due and completion deadlines we’re all stored in what the Chief referred to as his ‘monitoring console’. All meetings had structured agendas. To get into the nitty- grittys of arms/services problems, the VCOAS periodically chaired a meeting of Heads of Arms1 Services as well. To cut through red-tape and get a quicker response, the Chief’s imaginative personal staff thought up the concept of SUNDARGRAMS, a personal telegraphic missive, addressed to a particular formation/establishment/personality, for immediate action.
As regards interface with the Ministry of Defence (MOD), the Chief stated that there was a scheduled weekly meeting with either the Raksha Mantri (RM) or Rajya Raksha Mantri (RRM). A computer printout of progress on issues pending with the MOD was forwarded to the Defence Secretary once a month. This has generally speeded up the decision-making process at bureaucratic levels. Once every six months there is a structured presentation by the COAS to -the RM, covering the whole gamut of army affairs, which lasts a whole day. At the biannual Army Commanders’ Conference a ‘State of the Army’ presentation is made to the Prime Minister, where besides MOD officials the two other Service Chiefs are also present.
As an example of how he uses the monitoring mode computer, for getting a feel of the Army’s pulse, he stated that he receives around 300 petitions a day from officers, the rank and file, civilians in Army Service and others. The letters and petitions are graded, listed and information stored in the computer. A percentage of such letters (sifted by his personal staff) are seen by the Chief. Others are passed on to PSOs and Heads of Arms/Services for action. A time-bound programme for redress of the grievance where applicable having been laid down and monitored the petitioner gets to hear an answer in a short period of time. The Chief stated that it was significant to note that almost 55 per cent of such appeals were genuine. This enables him to analyse where the system went wrong and institute remedial measures.
Perspective planning and modernization
The COAS stated that many of the recent efforts at modernization were part of the first ever Defence Perspective Plan, adopted in 1987. Emphasizing the requirement for the Army to pack a greater punch in the shape of having more and better tanks and ICVs, the Chief stated that the Government was going in for the setting up of infrastructural facilities for overhauling T- 72 tanks and BMP-1 ICVs. These he expected to be functional by the time the first of these systems were due for overhaul. Enlarging on perspective planning, he said that under such a systematic planning concept, the emphasis is not only on modernization by acquisition of new weapon and other defence systems for replacing the obsolete and the obsolescent, but also to take measures to improve the logistic support for maintaining the existing system. Regrettably, earlier ad hoc measures found the country ill-prepared, when both the Vijayanta and T-55 tanks, which when acquired were meant for a service span of 15 to 17 years, were due for discard. No plans for their extension in service had been formulated. Under the new planning parameters adopted, the life of tanks was to be 30 years incorporating planned base repairs roughly after five years or 4000 km, followed after a further five years by capital repairs, entailing almost complete refurbishing.
At the same time, the Chief stressed, scarce and costly resources should not be committed towards overage, unreliable and outdated tanks. The country’s requirements, he said, were to have a minimum of three to four types of tanks to be in service at any one time which could be called Tank-A, Tank-B, Tank-C and Tank-D. Elaborating on this, he said, Tank-A would be the cutting edge tank-our latest, best and most powerful and most combat-effective and which would go to the type of unit or formation which requires such capability. Currently, the T-72 (M-1) tank is our Tank-A. Tank-B, in our present context, would mean T-55/Vijayanta; these have been grouped together, as they are roughly of the same generation. Continuing, he said, in the case of the T-55 Tanks, facilities for overhaul have already been set up at Kirkee. Some younger ones of these tanks are going to be product-improved to a greater extent; some of the middle-aged tanks will be product-improved to a lesser extent while some of the more ancient ones are probably going to be left in their present state but adequate for the remainder of the service life. He said that these will be the ‘C’ tanks. As and when the Arjun (MBT) is introduced into service, it will become the ‘A’ tank and correspondingly, all other tanks would be ‘down-categorized’. Therefore, the Chief said, at any given time, we would have three to four generations of tanks in service. This was a more scientific and cost-effective equipment exploitation.
Referring to modernization plans for the Artillery, the Chief said that the licensed-product version of the 155 MM guns would be the primary medium guns of the Indian Army. For medium self-propelled (SP) guns, plans were underway to mount the 155 MM guns on the Vijayanta chassis. He further said that the entire generation of 75/24 howitzers and 25 pounder guns were in the process of being replaced by the indigenously made 105 mm IFG Mk I and the Light Field Gun (LFG) Mk 11. With regard to the 130 mm Soviet acquired guns, they would continue in service till the early part of the next century.
The Chief was concerned about our air defence (AD) weapon systems, which by and large he considered as not having state-of-the-art capability. However, efforts were in hand, he said, to product-improve them, so that they could serve for a further decade or so. He expressed confidence that as far as AD missiles were concerned, the indigenous version would be available by the early nineties, while indigenous anti-aircraft guns would start rolling out by the mid-nineties.
Commenting on the strides already taken with regard to the establishment of Army Aviation, he said the wing would be further strengthened by the introduction into service of more than one single utility helicopter, besides Air Observation Post (AOP) helicopters. This would cater for the Army’s needs of command, control, communication, light utility and light logistics duties. He further stated that as a part of perspective planning, the Army had agreed to fund the ‘Attack Helicopters’, which would be retained with the Air Force, but would remain under the operational control of the Army.
Proposed reorganization of Army Headquarters
At the apex level, the VCOAS, besides understudying the Chief, has been given a clear mandate of dealing with Operations, Intelligence, Perspective Planning and Financial Planning.
Enlarging on the proposed reorganization at Army HQ, the Chief said this was an ongoing process and many changes have been effected while some more are on the anvil. Many refinements have also been introduced to make the organization more dynamic, responsible and result oriented.
As an example the Chief spoke about the Master General of Ordnance (MGO) Branch, which had been streamlined, made more effective and responsible, as opposed to the past when jurisdiction amongst the MGO, DGEME. DGOS and’ WE overlapped and no one person and no one agency was responsible for provisioning of weapons, ammunition and explosives, vehicles, equipment and spares. The MGO’s Branch has now been given a clear mandate, made wholly responsible and accountable and the equipment management system has improved miraculously in a short period of time. The storage and handling of spares have been decentralized and many of the functional aspects of the WE Directorate taken over by the MGO.
With regard to the long delays experienced by user units in the receipt of B vehicles after release by the MGO’s Branch, a new methodology had been formulated, where the manufacturer was made responsible for delivery to the user. Experiments are being made with Tata’s 4×4 vehicles deliveries in this manner, as there is an overall 40 per cent shortage of such vehicles in existence. It is hoped that delays of upto four months prevalent in the old system will be reduced by this new methodology.
The quicker disposal of surplus holdings of B vehicles, ordnance stores and equipment and also salvage stores which accumulate at Ordnance Depots, has not only benefited formations and units but relieved the depots of having to hold and keep serviceable large surplus stocks.
The Directorates of the Armoured Corps and mechanized infantry have been amalgamated into the Directorate General of Mechanized Forces. Though both the tank regiments and mechanized infantry regiments would maintain their individual identities it was important that weapons and equipment philosophy, organizations and doctrine approaches should be complementary, hence the fusion of the two Directorates for greater combat effectiveness on the battlefield.
A fully effective Perspective Planning Directorate for Concept Development has been created and functions under the VCOAS, as stated earlier. It works in close consonance with military operations and financial planning. Its manifold duties include futuristic force projections based on threat analysis monitoring the Seventh Plan projections-(1985-90) and fusing these into the Eighth (1990-95) and Ninth (1995-2000) plans.
Both the Weapons and Equipment and Staff Duties Directorates have been scaled down somewhat. While some of the important functional aspects of WE like release and issue of controlled stores and A and B vehicles have been taken over by the MGO, the SD Directorate would primarily concentrate on ‘force development’. As a consequence, both the appointments of DGWE and DGSD have been downgraded to Additional Director Generals (ADG) in the rank of Major General, as a part of the drive to ensure functional accountability.
Army Training Command
The COAS stated that an Army Training Command (ARTRAC) is proposed to be established at Mhow. It would concentrate on coordinating training in the Army and on creation of the required training capability. Field formations would continue to be responsible for their own operational training. The College of Combat at Mhow would continue in the present form but the following charter of courses has been recommended:
- An amalgamation of the present JC and SC Courses into one sub-unit/unit level tactical course that would offer 4 to 6 weeks of ‘plains warfare’ training and a second 4 to 6 weeks of ‘mountain warfare’ training. The first plains part of the course will be held at Mhow and other suitable locations, while the mountain part of the course would be at a mountain location (below 10,000 ft) which would not require a period of acclimatization for participants.
- Existing Higher Command Course.
- A series of Senior Officers Training Fortnights, designed to give experience to senior commanders in the ‘Higher Direction of War’.
Once ARTRAC is established the Military Training Directorate at Army HQ would be scaled down and would in addition to the staff functions deal with Training Grant projections, acquisition, notification and allotment of field firing ranges, etc.
The War Room
The COAS stated that the War Room at Army HQ had been totally reorganized and given a new look. The need for such a facility for presentations and war-gaming had long been felt. A war-gaming facility was being set up with the help of the RPSO.
Reorganized Infantry and Mountain Divisions
With regard to reorganization of formations the Chief stated that experiment carried out in Ex Bras tacks on the employment of the RAPID (Reorganized Army Plains Infantry Division) both in the defensive and offensive role were found to be very satisfactory. The offensive RAPID which would form part of Offensive Corps would have sufficient mobility punch and staying power for tasks such as the initial securing of ground overrun by friendly armour, investment and capture/neutralization of ‘nodes’ opening of axes, flank protection pivots of manoeuvre, as also for the capture of bridgeheads across obstacle systems.
The defensive RAPID which would form a part of ‘holding corps’ in the plains would be modelled along the same lines. Its mechanized brigade in addition to being available to the Corps for counter-penetration and counter-attack tasks in conjunction with the independent armoured brigade, would allow for greater gaps between nodes, thereby releasing infantry for other tasks.
The COAS stated that though his emphasis had been on mechanized warfare in the plains, India’s mountain divisions were not being neglected. Ex Checker Board and experience gained over the years had revealed that our weaknesses lay in a lack of mobility, firepower and defensibility. A new-look mountain division (RAMID) with greater mobility, firepower and staying power would emerge shortly, the Chief said. Stating that in the .mountains, mobility could only be achieved through adequate helicopter support, the Chief explained that qualitative requirements for four types of helicopters required for operating in a mountain environment have been spelt out. The helicopters have been identified as Light, ‘Utility, Attack and Heavy Lift. The biggest hurdle, he felt, would be the operating ceiling. No proven helicopter existing in the world today can fly with loads at the altitudes required to support India’s infantry, perched on the icy, bleak Himalayan heights of the north and north-eastern frontiers.
As regards firepower, the introduction of the Bofors 155 MM 77B Howitzer into service together with the 130 MM gun, the 105 MM LFG and 120 MM Mors, gives adequate firepower capability for both defensive and limited offensive operations in the mountains. This would be augmented by attack helicopter support. Add to this the edge the IAF would have in this theatre against aggressor forces and you have an enhanced capability not only to defend but to react offensively.
The COAS remarked that Infantry capability for operations in the mountains has achieved a qualitative jump. Besides the normal complement of personal and battalion support weapons the introduction of the 40 MM Automatic Grenade Launcher (which can besides HE Grenades fire smoke. to confuse even such state-of- the-art weapon systems as the TOW). Indigenously manufactured claymore mines and a more liberal allotment of the Karl Gustav has sharpened the teeth of the lnfantry. Present plans include the deployment of the SS 11-81 and Faggot Missiles for bunker busting. This could well he replaced by better second/third generation missile systems in due course.
The COAS does not rule out the limited use of armour and mechanized infantry in areas of the’ mountains where terrain and communication systems permit. Trials and exercises to study, evolve and enhance this capability are in full swing. With the introduction in service of the giant Russian 1L-76 transport aircraft, loads such as the T-72, BMP, artillery, plant, etc. can be carried to forward air-bases from where they could move to battle stations on transporters or tracks.
The ability to dig in and fight at high altitudes has been enhanced by the introduction (in a limited way at present) of light, portable shelters, made of material akin to fibre glass, called KAVLAR. The fox-hole type shelter, a computer-aided design is sectionized and of the sandwich type providing insulation against the cold. It is easy to erect with minimum digging. Its ability to blend with the landscape is extraordinary. The models being developed at present, though capable of protection against the vagaries of weather, give only limited ballistic protection. Improved versions of the shelter are also currently under development. Improvements in high altitude clothing and equipment, in cooking and heating arrangements are ongoing.
Communication and surveillance
With regard to improvements in communication, the Chief stated that the Army Radio Engineering Network (commonly referred to as ‘Plan AREN’) would be fully operational for one Corps by 1990. This would give the Army tremendous advantages as field formations could hook up on the grid every 25 to 40 km. In all forward locations ASCON would be available and digital security modes installed by 1990.
With regard to surveillance, the Seventh Plan catered for BFSR (Battlefield Surveillance Radar) at unit level and medium-range radar at Divisional level and PNVD (Passive Nit Vision Devices) at Battalion level. This would be augumented by long-range radars, SLAR (Sideways Looking Airborne Radar), and RPVs (Remotely Piloted Vehicles) with a 20 kg Id. At a later stage, satellite surveillance would be available. In the field of surveillance, therefore, the Chief stated, there would be considerable improvement in the Seventh Plan period.
Macro-management of officer cadre
The COAS stated that considerable improvement had been effected in the macro-management of senior officers and abberrations resulting from the Cadre Review. Despite the in-house initial opposition to the ‘two streams’ formula (the command and staff (only) streams), the policy had been accepted and is in operation for promotions from Maj. Gen. upwards. This has ensured that the most qualified and competent officers were selected for key command and staff assignments. The two streams formula had not yet been introduced for promotions to the rank of Brigadier, but would follow shortly. Commenting on the tenures of Army Commanders he stated that the Government had approved the proposal of appointing as Army Commanders, those who would have a minimum of two years in the appointment. A new innovation with far-reaching beneficial gains was the ‘promotion in situ policy’. The Government had approved the Chief’s recommendation that upto a period of six months, senior officers cleared for promotion may be promoted in situ against vacant appointments in the rank elsewhere. This enabled the system to fit particularly qualified officers in selected appointments. Although there was some anticipated grousing over this issue the move ensured stability and continuity in appointment was met. The Chief was also concerned with the question of grooming senior officers for the highest ranks and appointments. Every effort was being made to ensure that promotions to the senior ranks were made on the basis of professional capability coupled with integrity and length of service. Those considered fit for the highest appointments would of necessity have to gain experience in dealing with the bureaucracy and the politicians at the Centre and States. A tenure at Army HQ in key assignments for such officers was, in the Chiefs opinion, mandatory. Commenting on the criticism with regard to non-general cadre officers being given appointments such as the QMG, MGO and MS, he said that the old system not only prevented the application of the ‘best man for the job’ criterion, but to a great extent fostered the notion that the Army also had its ‘caste’ system.
Improvements in legal, judicial and disciplinary systems
With regard to ensuring a fair deal for officers, JCOs and OR who were seeking redress of grievances (through statutory and non-statutory complaints), a Complaints Advisory Board headed by a Major General had been set up with effect from February 1986 independent of the MS/AG Branch, functioning directly under the COAS to examine and recommend redress as and where applicable. This cell processes from 100 to 150 cases per month and the level of credibility in the system governing the management of officers. JCOs and OR has risen considerably.
The Chief has introduced qualitative improvements in the Army’s legal, judicial and disciplinary systems. The Judge Advocate General’s Branch (JAG) has been revitalized with a package of reforms after indepth discussions with Army Commanders subordinate commanders and the Army’s Judge Advocate General, resulting in greater efficiency and quicker disposal of cases. Some of these are already with the Government and some are in the process. A Court Martial Appelate Board has been proposed to be set up to examine appeals against the findings and sentences of court martials. This hopefully would generate greater confidence in the system and prevent aggrieved persons from seeking redress through civil courts. A recommendation to increase the powers of a Commanding Officer to include award of minor punishments to JCOs and to summon civilian witnesses is being examined.
Welfare and morale
The COAS spoke about the improvements made in the pay structure of army officers, JCOs and OR.
A single pay band had been made applicable to all officers of the three Services. Officers upto the rank of Brigadier have been granted an integrated pay scale of Rs 2300 to Rs 5100 which is delinked from rank. In addition rank pay at the graduated scale Rs 200 (Captain) to Rs 1200 (Brigadier) is admissible. A minimum level of pay satisfaction had been met by the integrated scale where a Major who is not even selected to the first select rank (Lieutenant Colonel) can reach a Rs 5700 level as basic pay (comparable to the starting pay of a Major General and Joint Secretary-scale Rs 900-200-6700). Similarly the pay scales of a Lieutenant Colonel, Colonel and Brigadier now go up to Rs 5900, Rs 6100 and Rs 6300 and these overlap with the scales of Major General /Joint Secretary. The Chief stated that there was reduced stagnation since the pay progression continued upto the 25th year of service. Besides some stagnation increments have been provided. In the pre- revised scale the Major reached the top of his scale in his 18th year of service. The lifetime earning of Army Officers bears the same general proportion with those of IPS Officers, as it did before the Fourth Pay Commission.
In regard to personnel below officer rank, the COAS stated there was a reduction in the disparity of pay vis-a-vis officers and removal of the depression of 20 per cent of basic pay imposed on the pay of JCOs/OR on account ‘of rations and accommodation provided in kind, which was removed by the Fourth Pay Commission. The pay scales of JCOs had been considerably elongated, to eliminate stagnation and improve pension. The new terminal benefits are much better than before. Good service pay has been increased four-fold and Classification and Appointment Pay has been doubled.
Speaking with regard to pensions, the COAS stated that based on the recommendations of the Fourth Pay Commission, Government orders have been issued on the pensionary benefits for armed forces personnel. Besides the substantial increases in the quantum of pensions which had been granted, the concept of military pensions for officers as distinct from civilian pensions now stands abolished. However, in the case of JCOs and OR the pension will continue to be on the basis of maximum pay of the scale.
The retiring pension of officers will be calculated at the flat rate of 50 per cent of the average pay drawn during the last ten months of service and the actual qualifying service plus weightage of service as presently admissible, subject to the condition that the total qualifying service including weightage does not exceed 33 years.
In the case of personnel below officer rank, pension continues to be calculated on the basis of maximum pay of the rank, even if the same is not attained by the individual. Besides, service personnel can continue to commute upto 45 per cent of their pension (43 per cent for officers) as compared to 33.5 per cent applicable to civilians. The provision of restoration of pension after 15 years of retirement is particularly favourable for our JCOs and OR. Some of the other pensionary benefits are:
- The minimum pension has been increased from Rs 188 to Rs 375 per month, while the maximum pension has been fixed at Rs 4,500 per month.
- Family pension has been improved from the earlier range of Rs 188 to Rs 1,047 per month, to Rs 375 to
- The Death-cum-Retirement Gratuity (DCRG) ceiling has been improved for Government Servants dying in harness after 20 years of service from Rs 50,000 to Rs 1,00,000. –
- For 100 per cent disability the pension has been revised from Rs 200 to Rs 750 for officers and Rs 401 Rs 60 to Rs 450 for OR. This facility has been extended to past disability pensioners as well.
- The ‘liberalized family pension would be equal to last pay drawn till death/disqualification of the widow/nominated heir, for all ranks.
- War injury pay has been enhanced to last pay drawn for 100 per cent disability. This will not be less than 60 per cent of pay for officers and 80 per cent for JCOs/OR.
With regard to past pensioners who retired before 1 January 1986, the minimum pension has been raised to Rs 375 per month. To remove the disparities in the existing pensions of ex-servicemen retiring at different times, additional relief ranging from 10 per cent to 95 per cent of pension has been proposed, with special dispensation to those drawing pension of Rs 500 and more. The increase in rates of war injury pay and disability pension recommended for serving personnel, has also been made applicable to ex-servicemen.
Besides the above, proposals with regard to field service concessions to ensure that troops serving in field areas get adequate compensation has been finalized at Army HQ and are being processed further. Further, a special incentive to officers of Combat Arms, equal to three months pay was recommended for those selected to join the Infantry and Artillery. The Pay Commission had accepted that qualification grant may be given to officers passing specified Courses for Infantry, Artillery and Armoured Corps. The Military Training Directorate is in the process of identifying such courses.
Welfare measures for ex-servicemen in the form of canteen services based on NCC Battalions located throughout the country, additional infrastructure at selected military hospitals for medical cover to ex-servicemen and their families were some of the many innovations introduced.
With regard to prompt disposal-of pension cases, the Chief stated that the percentage of ex-servicemen retired with Pension Payment Orders (PPOs) in their pockets was 97 per cent for JCOs and OR and 95 per cent for officers (December 1987 statistics), as compared to 35 per cent for both categories in December 1985. As of December 1987, the Chief said, there were only 263 disability pension claims and 627 family pension claims pending.
The Sri Lanka experience
The Chief was full of praise for our Jawans and Officers in Sri Lanka. He said he was proud of the way in which all segments of the IPKF were fulfilling their mission. Unlike a straightforward war in defence of our borders, these kind of peace-keeping, anti-insurgent and anti- terrorist operations are always much trickier. Despite various constraints placed on them they have done magnificently, accepting a heavy toll in killed and wounded, to save Sri Lankan civilians lives. Very few armies in the world, he added, would accept such operating conditions for humanitarian considerations. “I want to go on record to appreciate how gallantly and compassionately our brave men have carried out and are carrying out this mission,” he said, “enhancing the prestige of our country and of the Army, throughout the world.” He lamented the fact that certain doubts and reservations were being generated in the media and the public. He was concerned as these would be detrimental to the morale of the men. He very aptly described the situation as a fire in one’s neighbour’s house, which if not contained and extinguished by your assistance, would spread to your own house. Giving help to put out the fire in your neighbour’s house, especially when he is urgently asking you to do so, should be seen as legitimate, he said. The intervention in Sri Lanka, requested by the President of Sri Lanka and the constituted Government, should, he said, be seen in the correct overall perspective of India’s security compulsions. This type of action should not be questioned for partisan considerations.