Against the backdrop of concerns over growing politicisation of the military, the new Army chief, General Manoj Naravane, has strongly asserted that the Army’s only allegiance is to the Constitution of India.
Addressing the media in Delhi in the run-up to Army Day on Wednesday, Naravane underscored the centrality of the Constitution in greater detail than any Army chief before him.
“The Army swears allegiance to the Constitution of India. Be it a jawan or an officer, you take an oath: ‘I swear by God that I will safeguard and honour the Constitution’.” Naravane was referring to an oath that recruits take before being enrolled as soldiers.
“That is what will guide us in all our actions at all times,” said the new chief.
Elaborating on this, Naravane said the Army would safeguard the “core values which are enshrined in the preamble to the Constitution; that is justice, liberty, equality and fraternity.”
Stressing that the Army must “secure for our people these core values”, Naravane stated: “That is what we (the Army) and I need to keep in mind at all times.”
Naravane’s predecessor, General Bipin Rawat, had faced political flak last month for criticising students demonstrating against the government for a “lack of leadership”. In contrast, Naravane appeared to uphold democratic rights, as enshrined in the Constitution.
“If we realise what is our raison d’etre, and that is to uphold the Constitution and what it stands for, and the core values that are enshrined therein, and the fundamental rights that are guaranteed to all our citizens, then we will not go wrong in the discharge of our duties. We are an Army of the people, and for the people. Whatever we do will be for that,” he stated.
Rebalancing operational emphasis to China border
Naravane also revealed that the Army had rebalanced its operational emphasis from the western front (bordering Pakistan) to the northern front (bordering China).
“We continually evaluate likely threats and challenges that could develop. At one point, that was more towards the western front, but we feel now that both western and northern fronts are equally important and it is in that context that the rebalancing has taken place,” stated Naravane.
In this context, the Siachen Glacier sector has emerged as the most strategic and threatened sector, said Naravane. This was because both Pakistan and China physically bordered Siachen, and the two adversaries could collude to launch a combined offensive here.
“The threat of collusivity (collusion) is maximum in Siachen and the Shaksgam Valley,” said Naravane.
Asked whether the Army was primarily oriented and trained for fighting a full-scale war, or for counter insurgency (CI) and counter terrorism (CT) operations, Naravane stated that warfighting remained the Army’s primary mission.
“We have a short-term threat of CI/CT but our long-term threat will always be for conventional war and that is what we are preparing for,” said the Army chief.
Terming CI/CT as a “short-term requirement”, he said the brunt of this would be borne in the future by 63 Rashtriya Rifles battalions and 46 Assam Rifles battalions, freeing up the Army to train for its primary role, which is conventional warfare.
Naravane also attempted to reach out to all sections of the Army, including non-combat services that have been embittered in recent years by what they perceive as discriminatory promotion policies geared to favour the infantry.
“I also want to assure everyone that in this process of (Army restructuring), we will take everybody along. Nobody will be left behind.