Army Chief Gen M M Naravane on Saturday asserted that the conduct of the 1.3 million-strong Army will be guided by its “allegiance” to the Constitution and its core values of justice, liberty, equality and fraternity, comments which came in the backdrop of criticism that the military was politicised under his predecessor.
Gen Naravane, addressing a press conference on the eve of the Army Day, also said that his force can take control of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir if it gets orders from political authority.
Delving into evolving security matrix in the region, he said the Army is taking a raft of measures including moving advanced weapons and developing infrastructure to “rebalance” its operational preparedness to deal with challenge along the frontier with China.
Talking about his overall focus as chief of the Army, Gen Naravane said it will be ‘ABC’ — “allegiance, belief and consolidation”, noting that protecting the core values of the Constitution will remain the driving force of his personnel.
“We swear allegiance to the Constitution of India. Be it officers or jawans, we have taken oath to protect the Constitution and that is what should guide us in all time and all our actions,” the Army Chief said.
“What it translates into is also the core values which are enshrined in the Preamble to the Constitution which are justice, liberty, equality and fraternity. That is what we are fighting for,” he said.
“We are deployed on the border safeguarding the sovereignty and territorial integrity, it is to secure for our people these core values. And, I think, that is what we and I would like to say that we need to keep in mind,” he added.
Gen Naravane took charge as Army Chief on December 31, succeeding Gen Bipin Rawat.
In his three-year tenure as Army Chief, Gen Rawat faced allegations of not remaining politically neutral and allowing politicisation of the Army.
Last month, he triggered a huge row after he publicly criticised people leading protests over the new citizenship law, saying leadership is not about guiding masses to carry out arson and violence across the country.
He was slammed by opposition parties as well as former military officers who stressed that the armed forces must follow the decades-old principle of serving the country and not any political force.
Asked whether top Army commanders should comment on domestic legislation, Gen Naravane said his force will not go wrong in discharging its duties if it understands the importance of protecting core values enshrined in the Constitution including the rights of the citizens.
“We are an Army of the people and for the people,” he said, adding “We are not seeking any publicity and will continue to serve the nation to the best of our ability.”
Asked whether the Army was ready to free PoK from Pakistan’s control, the Army Chief referred to a parliamentary resolution of 1994, and said his force was ready to follow orders.
“As far as Pakistan-occupied Kashmir is concerned, many years ago there was a parliamentary resolution on it that entire J and K is part of India. If Parliament wants that area should also belong to us, if we get orders to that effect, then definitely we will take action on it,” Gen Naravane said.
The Army Chief said his force is much better prepared today to deal with any security challenge than ever before and that its combat capability will be enhanced further.
On Siachen, Gen Naravane said Indian forces should not lose sight as there could be collusion between China and Pakistan.
“We must not lose sight from where collusion between China and Pakistan can take place. We need to hold on to it. Though it can take place at any level, Siachen and Shaksgam Valley are the places where territory of these two countries meet. Threat of collusion is maximum in the important glacier,” he said.
Answering a question, he said that there is a shortage of officers in the Army but clarified that he would prefer quality over quantity.
Asked when women will be given combat role, Gen Naravane did not give a direct reply and said training of the first batch of 100 women personnel for induction into military police has started from January 6.
On the killing of two civilians by Pakistan Army in Poonch sector in Jammu and Kashmir, Gen Naravane said Indian Army does not resort to such barbaric activities.
“We do not resort to such barbaric activities and fight as a very professional force. We will deal appropriately with such situations in a military manner,” he said.
He said the Indian Army conducts itself in the most professional and ethical manner including on the LoC.
“Professional armies never resort to barbaric acts,” he said.
Gen Naravane also said that his other focus areas would be ‘ITPQ’ — which he explained as Integration, Training Personnel and Quality.
He said integration of purposes within the Army and with the two other forces would be a key area for him.
“The formation of the Chief of Defence Staff and the creation of a department of military affairs is a very big step towards integration. We on our part will make sure that this is a success,” the Army chief said.
“Integration will also be within the Army and the integrated battle group is just one example of that. But I also want to assure everyone that in this process of integration, we will take everyone along. Nobody will be left behind,” he said
The Army Chief said the focus of training will be on preparing the Army for future wars which he said will be network-centric and complex.
He said the personnel were the “greatest strength” in the Army, adding “quality and not quantity will be the mantra, be it the selection of personnel or equipment.”
“We are in a transformative stage and all the transformation that we are doing, we will have to consolidate upon them. We will have to carry forward the initiatives and policies set by my predecessor and make sure that all of them reach a logical conclusion,” the Army Chief said.
“Of course somewhere along the way, there will be mid-course correction,” he said.