INTERVIEW | Armed forces must always remain alert for ops along LAC: Ex-Army chief Malik

Ground situation is much better but we have a very long disputed LAC with China, along very difficult terrain, says ex-chief Ved Prakash Malik.
An image of former Indian Army chief Ved Prakash Malik (C), used for representational purposes only. (Photo | Twitter @Vedmalik1)
An image of former Indian Army chief Ved Prakash Malik (C), used for representational purposes only. (Photo | Twitter @Vedmalik1)

Former Indian Army chief Ved Prakash Malik in an interview with  Rajesh Kumar Thakur says the armed forces have to remain alert and be prepared for both defensive as well as offensive operations along the LAC with China.

Excerpts from the conversation...

How do you assess India’s defence preparedness since you demitted office?

Since then, there have been substantial improvements in the capabilities and preparedness of India’s armed forces. Some of them are additional raisings to improve defensive and offensive postures on the border/LoC/LAC, the improvement in surveillance provided by satellites, drones and other ground and aerial surveillance equipment, and the making up of weapons and equipment deficiencies to some extent.

The improved jointmanship among the Army, Navy, and Air Force has increased but a lot more needs to be done. A proactive strategic posture has been adopted at the politico-military level, e.g. surgical strikes and occupation of the Kailash Range in Eastern Ladakh. The energising of the domestic defence industry to reduce foreign dependency on weapons and equipment has also been made to some extent.

Amid persisting unsettled situation along the LAC, how far are you confident of India’s stand?

The situation on the ground is much better than it was in my time. However, it must be remembered that we have a very long disputed LAC with China, along a very difficult terrain. Despite improved surveillance and deployments, if the adversary decides to violate agreements, its attempts for minor or major encroachments cannot be ruled out. Our armed forces have to remain alert for defensive as well as offensive operations in all weather conditions.

How do you view the changes in defence preparedness post-2014? Do you see laudable developments under the present government?

Yes. Improvements in political decision-making and in many capabilities have taken place in the last decade. However, updating and improvement of defence capabilities is a continuous process, notwithstanding whichever political party is in power. As seen in the past, the nation has to pay a heavy price whenever there has been any complacency in defence planning and preparedness.

You handled the Kargil operation. Can you explain how the enemy managed to take control of that territory?

The Lahore Declaration had been signed two months before the Pakistani intrusion in Kargil. Due to intelligence and surveillance failures, it took a long time to assess that we were facing the Pakistan Army and not jihadis, for whom our rules of engagement are quite different. We lacked surveillance capabilities and were short of weapons and equipment, particularly for the mountainous, high altitude and glaciated terrain. The situation on the ground was not clear for several weeks.

Due to nuclear weapons tests carried out in May 1988, we faced sanctions from the Western nations and were unable to import any equipment at short notice. However, the coordinated response at political, diplomatic and military levels, and the performance of our young leaders and soldiers on the ground, enabled us to overcome all these challenges.  

How do you view the Agniveer scheme?

The Agniveer Scheme has many advantages and some apprehensions. The advantages are: It will correct revenue vs modernisation defence budget profile and in the long run reduce the pension bill. We shall have younger, fitter, more daring and risk-taking profile of soldiers. The average age of jawans in units will reduce from 32 years to 25/26 years. The number of Low Medical Category soldiers in units will reduce.

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