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IANS Opinion: My reminiscences of the next Indian Army chief

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New Delhi: Critics abound with tireless attacks on the NDA government for giving one-month extension to the present Chief of the Army Staff, General Manoj Pande, by labeling it an ‘unusual move’ continue to fuel controversy out of thin air, speculating that there were plans to break the succession line by ignoring the principle of seniority.The appointment of Lt Gen Upendra Dwivedi (PVSM, AVSM), who is currently serving as the 46th Vice Chief of the Army Staff with vast operational experience in dealing with China and Pakistan, as the next Chief of the Army Staff on June 11 based on the seniority principle should have quelled the motivated narrative around the government’s decisions.The same, however, continues unabated even now by multiple agencies that earlier tried to influence the voter mindset with their infructuous and inconsistent demands for an explanation from the government on the entire extension issue.This got me thinking, and I took pen to paper to rubbish this false narrative.It was quite clear that the Modi government was not keen on going ahead with the process of appointing the new Army Chief considering that the nation was in the midst of an election.I, for one, was overjoyed after hearing that Lt Gen Upendra Dwivedi will be the next Army Chief with effect from the afternoon of June 30. He will succeed General Manoj Pande, the 29th Chief of the Army Staff, after a lot of speculation and a month’s delay. Having served with him as a young Captain in the Indian Military Academy (ima) and following him closely since then makes me feel well-equipped to write about him.All of us are aware that he hails from Madhya Pradesh and has studied in Sainik School Rewa, but what is most important is that he was among the fittest in his class of 1980. He joined the prestigious National Defence Academy (NDA) in January 1981 in the Charlie Squadron and passed out from the 65 NDA course.From his school days, he was an outstanding sportsman as he excelled in both NDA and IMA, where he was awarded the blue in Physical Training and was high in the course merit. He continued to excel and won the gold medal in the Physical Training course post-commissioning. He passed out of the esteemed IMA in December 1984 and got commissioned in the 18th Battalion of Jammu and Kashmir Rifles. His regiment has the unique distinction of being the only Indian Army regiment which never came under British Rule and its regimental history highlights the battles won in Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, and Tibet by General Zorawar Singh. I won’t be surprised if he provides a roadmap for reclaiming our lost territories in the North.He served in varied terrains and operational environments, including deserts, high-altitude sites, riverines, built-up areas, and Jammu and Kashmir. He commanded his battalion in active counter-terrorist operations in the Kashmir Valley during the peak period post Operation Parakram and in the deserts of Rajasthan in the famous Gadra-Munabao area.His staff exposures provide him the unique distinction of having served in an armoured brigade handling conventional operations in the Punjab plains, providing logistical support to a mountain division in the Northeast along the borders, and operations of a Strike Corps in the deserts. All three appointments are considered highly challenging in the Army – mechanised operations in Punjab plains, Strike Corps operations in deserts, and logistics in the mountains, that too in the Northeastern part of the country.Considering these staff exposures, it would be prudent to highlight that Lt Gen Dwivedi would be working relentlessly to remove the trust deficit between Arms and Services; Infantry and Armoured; Armoured and Mechanised Infantry. He is one that I know will ensure that the Army works with all its components at their best, and a distinctive flavour of inclusive growth and organisational climate will be evident soon.His operational experience of Command of the Assam Rifles Sector in the Northeast and as Inspector General gives him an excellent understanding of the Manipur situation and the dynamics of the India-Myanmar border. He had pioneered the first-ever compendium on Indo-Myanmar Border Management. At a time when both issues are troubling the nation and the government, I am sure the Modi 3.0 security apparatus will look at him to find suitable solutions at the earliest.During his command assignments of the Rising Star Corps and Northern Command, he provided strategic guidance and operational oversight for planning and execution of sustained operations along the Chinese and Pakistan borders, besides orchestrating the dynamic counter-terrorism operations in J&K. There couldn’t have been anyone better than him, as he handled the talks and sensitive period along the Chinese borders in Eastern Ladakh and ensured that the negotiations with the Chinese resulted in gains for the Indian side. He also controlled the Kashmir Valley violence levels to a record low, which resulted in increased tourism and high voter percentage in the recently concluded elections.One thing that I always cherish about Gen Upendra is his personality. He is effective in his communication, decision-making under pressure, and has the ability to inspire and motivate troops at all times by reaching out to the rank and file. He is a visionary and has pioneered a large number of out-of-the-box initiatives during his illustrious military career. His ability to adapt to changing circumstances and incorporate new technologies and tactics which are essential in modern warfare is exemplary. Also, his ability to build happy, inclusive, and cohesive teams and foster a culture of collaboration and innovation within the military is going to prove a gamechanger. He is very humane and along with Mrs Sunita Dwivedi, he brings so much happiness to the various teams that they have led over the years. He means business and yet prioritises the welfare of the officers. He is also an avid reader and remains prepared for future challenges. His performance in the US War College during the NDC as a Brigadier provides him an excellent understanding of the geopolitical developments, integrated application of forces, and a unique understanding of warfare from a global perspective. He has been an instructor in the Higher Command Course at AWC, Mhow, and was made the ‘Distinguished Fellow’ in the coveted NDC equivalent course at USAWC, Carlisle, USA.As India embarks on its journey under Modi 3.0 and leads the Global South and the region, its armed forces will be undergoing transformational changes in terms of theaterisation, Army modernisation, and capability development. His understanding of these issues and with his personality of participative leadership, he will steer the armed forces towards better organisational structures and doctrines. Also, his staff exposures in capital procurement as DG Infantry provides him an excellent understanding of modernisation and equipping of the largest fighting arm of the Indian Army.He carried that experience forward to the Northern Command wherein he steered the induction of indigenous equipment as part of ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ and enhanced infrastructure development across the northern borders in Eastern Ladakh.Another area which generally remains a weakness with some army officers is the technological absorption for enhancing operations. Having worked as the Deputy Chief (IS&C) earlier and being a tech enthusiast himself, he will give impetus to automation and absorption of niche technologies in the Indian Army. He will work towards enhancing the tech threshold of all ranks and push for critical and emerging techs like Big Data Analytics, AI, Quantum, and Blockchain-based solutions. I won’t be surprised if he provides the much-needed impetus to technological absorption in the Indian Army.Gen Upendra has had two overseas tenures, including in Somalia as part of HQ UNOSOM II, and Seychelles as the Military Advisor to the Government of Seychelles.His understanding of the growing challenges in the Indian Ocean Region, need for enhancing military diplomacy in the immediate neighbourhood, region and the Global South are some of the initiatives that he is likely to take based on his past experiences. I won’t be surprised if he joins hands with his Naval friends and incorporates the Indian Army troops to counter the ever-increasing threats in the IOR.Having served with the General, I am sanguine that his achievements and past experiences will bring new ideas, and innovative solutions for overcoming the challenges that the Indian Army faces today.In the end, I wish him good luck and success as the 30th Chief of the Army Staff.Further, I would recommend the following 10 areas for focus in the short, medium, and long term to be addressed at local, regional and global levels.* Robust defence along the northern border* Zero terrorism and hybrid warfare, especially in J&K* Normalcy in Manipur* Secure Siliguri Corridor* Operational effectiveness of the Agnipath scheme* Aatmanirbhar Bharat* Counter China, especially in AI, auto/semi-auto weapon platforms, space, electromagnetic radiation, cyber, information warfare, and precision-guided weapons* Settle borders* Effective surveillance* Military diplomacy(Major General Sudhakar Jee, VSM (Retd), is a former Colonel of the Mahar Regiment who served in the Indian Army for over 37 years. An author and a columnist, he is also an active participant in panel discussions on geo

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