NEW DELHI: The Indian Army chief General Bipin Rawat on Tuesday said it was not possible to bar the forces from using social media, but that they should do so within strictly laid down guidelines.
"Information is one of the pillars of national power. There is no way the Armed Forces can stay away from that," he said while speaking at a seminar on 'Social Media and Armed Forces.' Instead, the forces should be taught to leverage social media to their advantage, he said.
"We have received advice that we should advise our soldiers to stay away from the social media. Can you deny a soldier a smartphone? Can you deny soldier a smartphone at home or prevent his family to own one? If you can't prevent usage of smartphone, it is best to allow it. Social media is here to stay. Soldiers will use the social media. Our adversary will use the social media for psychological warfare and deception. We must leverage it to our advantage," he said.
While social media could be used to combat proxy wars and cross-border terrorism, he said it was "important to have means of imposing discipline" among the soldiers regarding their social media behaviour."I don't have a cellphone and when someone asks me my cellphone number I just give them (any random number) 9868. and if it turns out to be an 11-digit number I just say cut the last digit," he said.
"But we (the Indian Army) have to engage, remain engaged and benefit from social media." Recently, after a senior Army officer was allegedly honey-trapped by an ISI agent through Facebook, the Defence Ministry set out Social media guidelines for the forces, which include not using photos in uniform as profile pictures on any social media platform, exposing official identity like rank, unit name and location , or accepting friend requests from unknown entities.
Separately, in response to another question on the sidelines of the conference, General Rawat action will be taken against Major Major Leetul Gogoi, who was indicted by an Army court of inquiry for -"fraternising-" with a local woman at a Srinagar hotel and being away from his place of duty last month. -"If it is related to moral turpitude, then we will take action accordingly. If it is something else, the punishment will be (according) to the crime he has committed,-" Gen Rawat said.
Major Gogoi hit the headlines last year after he tied a civilian to the bonnet of his vehicle in Kashmir, for use as shield against stone pelters during polling in Srinagar Lok Sabha by-election. He was honoured by Gen Rawat with the Army chief's 'Commendation Card' for his sustained efforts in counter-insurgency operations.