Military & Aerospace

Rebooting the Indian Army: Metamorphosing Dandaman to eMAN
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 22 May , 2015

Blaze the way to far flung goals

Addressing the Combined Commanders of Defence Services on 17 Oct 2014 at New Delhi, Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi said: “When we speak of Digital India, we would also like to see a Digital Armed Force and the Services to give serious thought to upgrade technological skills for effective projection of power by men”.[1]

The Prime Minister has outlined his vision for Digital Armed Forces.

Those familiar with the Army parlance would understand the term ‘Dandaman’. For the uninitiated a little explanation is called for. ‘Dandaman’ was a term used for a soldier, responsible to sit at the tail end of Army vehicle with a wooden stick (danda). His primary responsibility was to look out for approaching vehicles from rear, asking for a pass to overtake. On spotting one, the ‘Dandaman’ was required to strike the tailboard with danda thus making sound to draw attention of the driver to allow overtaking. Discerning mind would question as to why the driver cannot look in the rear and side view mirrors or a rear view camera for such rudimentary driving courtesies. Why waste a soldier for this irrational task which can be otherwise easily fulfilled. Soldier of the yore would give a spirited defense of this now generally faded practice. However the fact remains this practice existed for many decades thereby exposing certain drilled mindsets and may even today be prevalent in isolated pocket burrows.

The Prime Minister has outlined his vision for Digital Armed Forces. The Prime Minister has also desired up gradation of technological skills for effective projection of power by men. He has underscored the old adage “Man behind the machine is more important”. Therefore the task before the Army is well cut out to mutate “Dandaman” to “eMan”. For this transformation, the Army must enable a soldier to learn to differentiate between Colonel and Kernel, SM[2] and SMS, to draw a distinction between Epaulets[3] and tablets, and from control to ctrl alt, among others. The end state of this graceful migration would be realization of fully “Digitally Compliance Soldier”. This would then be in sync with National stated and unstated aspirations of becoming regional and global power through effective force projection by men. The Army would do well to undertake a ground realities check before biting the digital bullet.

E-soldier’s mental abilities and cognitive skills are challenged to react to unforeseen and flash battle situations.

Painfully slow designed decision making processes of Ministry of Defence ensures e-systems, when finally inducted in the Army, are well past their shelf life. Even worse still is the continued usage of e-systems, by the Army, well past obsolescence due to TINA[4] syndrome or out of sheer frustration. The brash approach, in the past, of Politico- bureaucratic vested interests has been that when the need arises “we will buy the systems of the shelf”. The hidden agenda in this “distress purchase” approach, played out so many times in the past, is quite obvious. Arguably latest state of the art systems can be imported overnight, but can soldiers be trained overnight to operate such systems. Under such adversarial military-bureaucracy relationship, the Indian Army has its task cutout to make its soldiers “Digitally Compliance”. The approach therefore has to be per force far sighted and visionary to go the whole nine yards. A credo of “Prepare the soldier digitally, e-systems will come” may save the day for the Army and the Nation when the chips are down, anytime in the future.

Transitional steps to fulfill this credo may need some or all or more of the following:-

  • Recruitment of talent by diligently checking out cognitive skills or discernible scope for development of cognitive skills in potential candidates. This would demand overhaul of current recruitment processes.
  • Hands on military training in Army establishments for instilling a culture of self discipline. It necessarily may not be a typical drill parade type of regimen. Emphasis is more on learning forward mail rather than forward march. This may be on similar lines as existing in productive, hugely successful and profit making multi-national corporations.
  • An IT industry assimilation module with a curriculum to e-shape the soldier at leading national IT hubs. To have an impact and make it effective, the Government would need to make it mandatory for the corporate sector to take it on as national responsibility. At the end of this, an e-soldier is ready to climb the next step onto “Digital Compliance” learning.

The cadre for these TA units would need to be drawn from national IT hubs as part of corporate national responsibility.

  • During this phase e-soldier is put through e-simulators embedded with current and future technologies. The e-soldier is made to go through network based military digital battle field exercises. E-soldier’s mental abilities and cognitive skills are challenged to react to unforeseen and flash battle situations. Emphasis is on creativity, thinking on the feet, hitting the ground running as opposed to structured routine. Instill a sense of mistake self-correction rather than mistake prevention or camouflage. The envelope is pushed in continuum till finally a “Digitally Compliance” e-soldier emerges.
  • On induction into battle units, the e-soldier is steered into achieving carefully crafted organizational goals through a process of monitoring rather than supervisory.

The present day curriculum of war games or battle exercises inter alia sand model discussions, tactical exercises without troops, map exercises etc are purely officer oriented. These are based largely on conventional warfare or set piece battle settings. These would need to be de novo planned on digital battle settings with equal if not more role apportioned to e-soldiers vis-à-vis the officers for real time active participation.

The above transition would need to be incremental. It is easy to put a new idea in a fresh mind than in a fixated pre-conceived mind. The legacy soldiers therefore would need to be sensibly mutated with great deal of care and caution. Legacy systems, nearing end of shelf life systems and obsolescence systems are in the Army inventory. Some systems may also be in the pipeline for induction in service having some residual technical shelf life. Therefore soldiers with multi layered skill-sets individually and collectively are required. Allied with this is the challenge of coping with technology rolled out by research in motion, as and when inducted, on the whims and fancy of vested interests. For a considerable length of time, legacy soldiers and digitally compliance e-soldiers would have to co-exist and co-habit.

With India having regional and global power aspirations, Indian Military will be failing the nation, if it continues to remain glued to the past and does not reboot to the future in thought and in action.

Transitional e-increments in the form of embodied Territorial Army (TA) units for e-training, e-orientation, e-supplement, e-simulation, CERT[5], Cyber security, Cyber operations among others would need to be put in place or the existing ones e-transformed, on as required basis. The cadre for these TA units would need to be drawn from national IT hubs as part of corporate national responsibility. The role, task and responsibility, as the name suggests, would need to be tailor made to meet specific requirements. This arrangement would not only ensure “e-gap” management but also smoothen rough edges.  TA would also act as second tier of e-defense or e-operations during active hostilities, out of area contingencies, national emergencies, aid to civil authorities or on mobilization.

Quite frequently, learned soldiers and veterans advance arguments against e-upgradation on the specious logic of our immediate adversaries having similar, outdated and obsolete technology and skill sets. Therefore where is the need to see the threat where it does not exist and attempt to upgrade skill sets? Yet another clichéd argument advanced is that our present system has stood the test of time and is good for future as well. With India having regional and global power aspirations, Indian Military will be failing the nation, if it continues to remain glued to the past and does not reboot to the future in thought and in action. Therefore, if at this point in time, Indian Army misses the clarion call of the Prime Minister, it would be bringing a knife to a gunfight, at a future point in time on “Digital Battlefield”.

The Indian Army would truly be “Digitally Compliance Army” when its battle cry changes from “fighting till Last Man Last Round” to “fighting till Last Bit Last Byte”.


[1] 17 October, 2014. Retrieved From.

[2] Subedar Major.

[3] Epaulets of ranks are prominently displayed for soldiers in barracks.

[4] There Is No Alternative.

[5] Computer Emergency Response Teams.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Maj Gen AK Chadha

former head of Signal Intelligence Directorate in Defence Intelligence Agency.

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13 thoughts on “Rebooting the Indian Army: Metamorphosing Dandaman to eMAN

  1. When a recruit joins a training centre, he or she first needs to learn a common language, always Hindi with some English.
    This is the case even in south indian regimental training centres like Madras Regimental Centre and Madras Engineering Group.
    He needs to think, look, walk, talk, behave as an Indian Army soldier.
    He needs to learn his trade as per the weapons and equipment he will handle.
    No point teaching him bits and bytes, when MoD has not provided the soldier with modernisation.
    When the then hi tech befors guns were inducted in 1986, some had misgivings, whether the good old gunner will be able to use the gun or will they all go to waste.
    The army knows how to train.
    When the MoD, does get it’s act together and modernise. We will train in anticipation and learn our bits and bytes.
    I am a gunner and have seen our soldiers taking to technology with alacrity and excellent results, be it, surveillance radars, drones, automated fire control systems, rockets and missiles.
    The dandaman is just a mischievous allusion for a time when most vehicles had no rear view mirror.
    Equipment orientation is easy.
    It’s most important to focus on the minds of leaders, commanders and generals, Defence secretary and defence minister included. That’s where any weakness is an occupational hazard. A disaster waiting to happen.

  2. After the 1971 war PAF reported that the bombs used by them were found not effective and the IAF was able to repair the air port run ways with in a few hours. This is the main reason they lost the war in the 1971 though they had better planes than India. This is a very good news. This is a clear example that weapon is important than planes, Guns. warships and submarines. We do not require any more weapon carrying vehicles Super powers are decommissioning Air craft carriers. Where as we are constructing new Air craft carrier. It is unfortunate that majority of the Defense officers have no clear idea about our actual defense requirements and do not know what is happening in the world. The defense policies followed by all the previous Governments were to make this country one of the biggest military powers in the world and not a developed country like Japan, South Korea, Australia and Canada.“The Indian Navy is one of the largest in the world, and as of 2014 possesses two aircraft carriers, one amphibious transport dock, 9 Landing ship tanks, 9 destroyers, 15 frigates, one nuclear-powered attack submarine, 14 conventionally-powered attack submarines, 25 corvettes, 7 mine counter-measure vessels, 10 large offshore patrol vessels, 4 fleet tankers and various auxiliary vessels and small patrol boats.” Despite this, the Navy failed to prevent the 2008 terrorist attack. But None of the latest array sonar will be effective against supercavitation torpedo developed by the Soviet Union. They are capable of speeds in excess of 200 knots (370 km/h).

  3. In 1971 war IAF had only 34 effective squadrons, each of which consisted of 12 planes . IAF had 16 air craft per combat squadron but the effective availability during the 1971 war was 12 per squadron. So in 1971 IAF had 408 effective planes. Now we have 582 effective fighter planes. But IAF will tell they want 44 squadrons. They got this figure from PAF. PAF said India achieved air superiority because IAF had 44 squadrons. if we consider 12 fighter planes in a squadron, it is stated that we have 48 .5 squadrons. If we consider 16 fighter planes in a squadron, we have now 36 squadrons. The important thing to consider is the number of planes, not the squadrons. This is the kind of tricks they play against the civilian Govt. with the help of foreign agents. Develop a computer-aided program to find out the exact requirement, based on 1971 war experience. We know the places where Pakistan attacked us, For example, Chamb sector. We know the longitude and latitude of this place. Calculate the area in square meters where carpet bombing need to be done. Find out the area and the particular type of smart bomb or missile which can destroy. How many numbers of such missiles a particular plane can carry in one sortie. Any other data which requires to calculate the total number of sorties a plane has to perform , Similar data to be generated where IAF had bombed Pakistan locations in 1971. If we feed all these data, the computer should give the number of planes required and the total number of sorties required to be conducted for carpet bombing. Similarly how the army is calculating 20 days requirement of immunizations. Planes, guns, warships and submarines are weapon carrying vehicles. If we have powerful weapons the number carrying vehicles and ammunition will come down. I feel we have more equipments than what is actually required.

  4. The moment I use this word God knows what I would be dubbed as — Proceeding regardless of the repercussions OUR ARMY IS HINDU ARMY which has been feed and tutored to be non violent and meek, cautious and above all pardoning the enemy and be vegetarian and non alcoholic WE MUST INCULCATE IN OUR TROOPS to do and see SLAUGHTER AND GORE(BLOOD)AND I MEAN BLOOD AND GORE and THAT THEY HAVE SEEN BLOOD OF A LIVING THING BY THEIR OWN HANDS A NUMBER TIMES BEFORE THEY GO TO BATTLE. AND MUST BE AN IMPORTANT PART OF TRAINING — JUST BY POKING THE BAYONET IN THE GUNNY BAG IS NOT ENOUGH
    These days animal sacrifice is banned (IN NAME OF PREVENTION OF CRUELTY TO ANIMALS) to the extent Gurkha troops are made to cut pumpkins,carrots and drink Limca during dussehra festivals where earlier murgas and bakras were slaughtered for sacrifice AND ANIMAL SACRIFICE IN TEMPLES IS BANNED OR HIGHLY DISCOURAGED.
    what I mean to say is if you have not seen blood earlier then in the battle, one would not be able to overcome its horror in the battle what would the soldier do fight to kill or brace himself to see the blood even a person sitting far away post would not be able to PRESS THE REMOTE BUTTON OF THE DRONE TO kill OR draw blood remotely.
    ALL I HAVE TO SAY IS BY ALL MEANS UPDATE TO eMAN but don’t let the killing instinct fade away or be subdued IN armed forces it must be ENCOURAGED


  5. Good article and well voiced opinions. However, before we decide on how to prepare the army for a digital world, we must first change our attitude towards training. It is now regarded as a burden to be borne and got over with, except for very few courses; and they are conducted the same way. The core syllabus to be taught is forgotten and padded up to with superfluous topics. People are just detailed at last minute on ‘as available’ basis to attend courses and just get over with it.
    Change the attitude towards training; easy to say but difficult to do especially when it involves breaking imagined empires and castles.

    • I fully agree with you . Fist they should change their mind set.”Majority of people from Army, IAF and Navy have lost the capacity to think beyond conventional war strategy. In case of war against Pakistan they first use Artillery guns, Hand Grenade to neutralize enemy power before moving Mechanized infantry. So far as my knowledge goes in the modern war fare they use fighter planes and Helicopter guns ships to neutralize the enemy power. We get exact enemy concentration from UAV, AWACs and GPS. .Army has to use mechanized infantry, instead of soldiers marching or fighting on foot. Instead of assault rifle soldiers should use laser weapons which is compact and lighter, They have to carry spare battery instead of bullets. . You can get the details from the article ” Laser weapons development in full swing in U.S. and Russia”. I am sure the present Govt will take necessary step to reduce unnecessary expenditure and implement valuable suggestions given by general public.”

  6. Thought provoking article. With leading edge, computer and communications networks, systems and devices as the tools of the trade for all combatants in the Army and other Defence Services of the future, the combatant soldiers have to be tech-savvy. The ability to use technology is more important than the technology itself. Technology up-skilling of combatants is a must. That gap has to be plugged. Expert trainers from the industry in IT and Telecom domains can also be co-opted from NASSCOM and TSSC (Telecom Sector Skills Council) respectively. This matter deserves attention now.

  7. A typical military theoretical paper which uses flowery language to present a rosy picture and displays total lack of ground knowledge of real problems which field army faces. Of course if any action is taken on such papers they will lead to disaster projects of network centric warfare which are pending till infinity. A good paper for staff college students to answer quedtions though..

    • The comments are welcome. Gap analysis of “Technology Perspective and
      Capability Roadmap” of Indian Armed Forces 2013, put on the net by Defence Forces HQ, compels that given the technology proposed to be developed and possible to be inducted in next 15 years, there is a need for skills upgrade. Hardware and software can be purchased of the shelf but skinware needs to be painstakingly developed. About 50,000 persons are recruited each year therefore skill development assumes as much importance if not more than e-systems. There is space for diverse views and fresh ideas for those who have it apart from critique.

  8. This is the need of hour and there is no compromise. Don’t want Indian Army to be left behind and have to utilize all IIT and other akin institutions in India to develop long term stratgies and provide workable, economical and effective solution. Utilize the wealth of experience all Veterans have got, age is no barrier. I got Master, s degree in information System management from a regionally accredited university ( Highest accreditation in USA) in 2004 at the age of 53 after taking premature retirement at the age of 46 and still working as Sr. Director in a college at the age of 63+, play golf every week at 7 handicap and support Gen Chadha,s views.

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