Agnipath is part of a larger process of defence reform and modernisation

News: Recently, the government has launched the Agniveer recruitment reform in the context of defence reforms.

Recently other reforms have also taken place. For example; the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) has been appointed. In addition, there has been pursuit for reorganisation of the armed forces into theatre commands to promote jointness and synergy.

History of Defence Reforms

Since the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 till the end of the First World War in 1918, there has been a notion that a general mobilisation for war culminates in a full-scale conflict. This mobilisation was not considered as a peaceful act. It represented the most decisive act of war. For example, the Austria-Hungary and Germany mobilised the army soon after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand which culminated into the commencement of the World War I.

In the Second World War, the alliance system and mobilisation system became important aspects of warfare. These systems were carried forward into the Cold War till the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. This system warranted a mass concentration of heavy armour which necessitated the deployment of large conventional armies.

In post-world war period, the modern warfare based on modern technology overtook the traditional method of determining casus belli of war.

The mutually assured destruction (MAD) doctrine came into the dynamic of war due to the entry of nuclear weapons into the warfare.

In the 1970s, the US defence experts and the Soviet military theorists started rethinking that the landscape of warfare would rapidly transform in the future, due to military-technical revolutions in computing, communications, space know-how, and transformative changes.

In addition to the methods of warfare, there has been a rise of transnational non-state actors. This has led to evolution of the nature of conflict and warfare.

In addition, in the mid-1990s, China also commenced a fundamental restructuring of its force. It tried to prepare its military for modern war. It ramped up defence spending on new weaponry. It enhanced anti-access area denial tactics, and establishing programmes to boost the Chinese defence industry etc. It also restructured command structures to develop an integrated fighting force. In the mid-70s, the Chinese army was shrunk from approximately 3mn to around 9,75,000 and the higher defence management paradigm was reorganised into theatre commands by February 2016.

India’s Defence reforms

India started seriously thinking of reforming and modernising its defence forces and command and control structures in the wake of the Kargil War in 1999.

The Kargil Review Committee (KRC) recommended reforms in the recruitment practices of the armed forces. It stated, “the Army must be young and fit at all times. Therefore, the period of colour service should be reduced from the present practice of 17 years to seven to ten years”.

In 2000, a Group of Ministers (GOM) endorsed the KRC’s recommendation that there is a need to ensure a younger profile of the services to ensure that the armed forces are at their fighting best at all times.

The Way Forward

The future of warfare entails a lighter human footprint. However, it should be kept in mind that soldiers must be equipped with state-of-the-art weaponry, cutting-edge technology and a highly informationised environment.

The proposed recruitment reform in India would help in right sizing the armed forces provided in the future, there are going to be imperatives of fifth generation warfare.

Source: The post is based on an article “Agnipath is part of a larger process of defence reform and modernisation” published in the Indian Express on 29th June 2022.

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