Why a young, fitter and tech-savvy Agniveer is the only answer to China?

Although it is the job of opposition to criticise every step that the ruling party takes, the instigated arson and furore over the Narendra Modi government’s novel “Agnipath” military scheme is playing politics with national security. Already the nation has suffered enough when politicians chose to play politics with terror in the past decades with an eye towards the vote-bank.

The “Agniveer” recruitment scheme is all about making the Indian military younger and more fitter as future deployments will be on the 3,488 km-long Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China as India expects Beijing to mount more military pressure over disputed border. 

ALSO READ: ‘Agnipath’ is the only way out to tackle belligerent PLA

By recruiting Agniveers between 17 ½ -21 (extended to 23 for next two years) years of age, the government wants to lower the age profile of its troops and give preference to merit by only allowing the fittest to stay in the army with the rest absorbed in police or para-military forces etc. For reason why the Agnipath was chosen, consider the following:

1. The current composition of Indian Army in the personnel below officer’s rank (PBOR) category is that only 19 per cent are below 25 years of age; 27 per cent are in the 26 years-30 years bracket; 20 per cent are in 31-35 years category; whopping 19 per cent are in 36-40 years; 10.2 per cent are in 41-45 years bracket and 4.4 per cent are in 46-50 years category. This clearly shows that the median age profile of PBOR of Indian Army is higher as compared to other countries particularly China.

2. Despite the age-profile rising in median age, the Indian Army since May 2020 Chinese transgressions is deployed at rarefied heights to tackle Beijing’s belligerence on the LAC. Under Operation Snow Leopard, the Indian troops are deployed at heights varying from 15,000 feet to 18,500 feet (more than the height of the highest peak in Alps) in Eastern Ladakh. 

The troops are deployed between 12,000 feet to 16,500 feet in the crucial middle sector of the LAC and from 11,000 feet to 18,500 feet in the sensitive Sikkim sector. The troops are deployed at heights 10,000 feet to 16,000 feet in the Kameng and Rest of Arunachal Pradesh region. Deployment at these heights take a huge toll on older soldiers as it is accompanied by sub-zero arctic temperatures and frequent snowstorms round the year. The only two season at this height are cold and freeze.

 3. Since the PLA transgressions in East Ladakh, the total number of admissions in Leh base hospital was 5,349 in 2021 out of which as many as 560 were admitted with deadly high altitude pulmonary edema. The total number of admissions till May 31 are 1947 out of which as many as 113-115 are down with edema. Frost bites and chill-blains account for over 200 admissions and some 250 personnel were medically evacuated from the battle zone along the LAC. Fact is that only a fit soldier and a fitter officer can survive in this environment where lack of oxygen can cloud the decision making and cause delusions.

Rather than make recruitment a free for all based only on fitness and medical, the time has come to have troopers who understand technology, can fly surveillance and armed drones, and use loitering ammunition to target the enemy positions. The days of marching infantry ahead or with the tanks is over long time ago as is evident in Russia’s Ukraine war with the future belonging to stand-off radar-based weapons like anti-tank guided missiles, AI intelligence and information warfare. 

The future war will as much as fought on ground as in mind as perception is the key to information warfare. The future trooper will have to handle latest cyber-secure communication devices not phones of World War II era. 

The future soldier of India will not be a legatee of the British Empire harping on regimental honour but a confident combatant Agniveer of independent India. By placing hurdles in implementation of Agnipath project, the Opposition is only making India more vulnerable to China.

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