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Indian Army in 2023: More of the Same Or?

The Indian Army celebrates the 75th Army Day today with ceremonial parade being held for the first time out of the national capital in Bengaluru, the capital of the State of Karnataka which is going in for elections this year.

During the over 250 years of existence counting the days when the first unit of the Madras Regiment was raised in 1758, the Army has distinguished in many theatres of war across the globe. While there is a sentiment that the colonial legacy of the Indian Armed Forces should be discarded as irrelevant, the supreme sacrifice of thousands of the Indian soldiers cannot be brushed aside and is not certainly a dark side of military history.

What the Army has learned and earned is a fearsome reputation of military professionalism which has stood the Indian democracy well in the past seven and a half decades. Never the less what would be the focus of the Indian Army in the current year – 2023 needs a considered look.

Here are eleven areas that may come up for attention for the Indian Army in 2023-

Collusive operational challenge – the attempts by the combined forces of China and Pakistan will no doubt continue to take up time of the Indian Army. There is unlikely to be a rapprochement on either of the fronts given fundamentals of state policy in Beijing and Islamabad.

Any positive outcomes from India’s chairing of the G 20 and Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in 2023 on the situation on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) or the Line of Control (LOC) will be wishful thinking.

The projection of threat may emerge in a new form to which the military will have to be sufficiently alert in the year ahead. What this will be remains to be seen?

Commitment in countering militancy and terrorism is not likely to go down despite downsizing of threat in multiple areas particularly in the North East.

This brings the question of intelligence. The present intelligence paradigm which seems to be driven as is in most hierarchical organizations more by the ‘feelers,’ from the top than distillation of hard facts from the ground is outdated, hopefully lessons have been learnt and preparedness for new forms of conventional military threats can be anticipated by Director General Military Intelligence (DGMI).

Strategic leadership will remain at a premium in 2023 to provide not only the right operational direction but to steer the military through being polluted by politicization. With armed forces personnel voting in local elections, elections in Jammu and Kashmir will be the test where observers will be looking at en bloc votes of army units influencing constituencies.

For the leaders and the rank and file staying above the information bubbles that in controlled mainstream and social media will need deep awareness of how this medium functions and separate the wheat from the chaff.

Reorganisation of the army with the Integrated Battle Groups (IBGs) and induction of unmanned systems to create manned -unmanned teams is another focus for the military in the year ahead. Managing this while being operationally deployed will require some deft skills.

Modernisation to make up the deficiencies and induction of state of the art weapons and equipment will face similar concerns.

More over there is likely to be a need for seeking indigenous sources for maintenance of Russian origin equipment be it tanks or Infantry Fighting Vehicles as spares and ancillaries may be in short supply given the focus of the arms industry in that country on supplying own military as well as Western sanctions.

Constant pressure for indigenization while ensuring that operational readiness is not impacted in the medium to long term also has to be a consideration.

2023 will also be the first time when the much vaunted as well as belittled Agniveer will join the rank and file of the Army. Socialisation, militarization and professionalization of part time soldiers will be a new experience for an all volunteer army where the military is not just a job to many so far.

And finally the chimera of downsizing while fielding boots on the ground in the mountains as well as for counter military operations will also haunt the Army.

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