NSA Ajit Doval spoke at length about Agnipath - the military's new recruitment scheme in an interview. While lauding its objectives, he described those benefitting from the ongoing protests as 'conflict entrepreneurs'.
Context: He was addressing the questions and doubts surrounding the Agnipath scheme.
He spoke about the military's long-standing need and demand for a personnel-based reform.
Doval categorically dismissed the idea of a rollback citing its benefits and need.
Long-standing demand: Doval noted recommendations made by committees in the past for a younger army.
The General Krishna Rao Committee in 1970s
The Arun Singh report in 1989
Group of Ministers report
The Subramaniam Committee report
The Kargil Committee report
Addressing veterans' concerns: Doval sought to alleviate concerns about the regimental system being tinkered with and the impact of having Agniveers in the standing army.
He said that regiments of artillery, electrical, mechanical engineers and others will continue.
On the question of the military's effectiveness coming down, Doval said that Agniveers will only constitute a part of the army and experienced military members would still be in majority.
Those who eventually become regular, ie, 25% of the total recruits each year, will undergo more intensive training.
He said that "after four years, the people who will join the Army will be crème de la crème."
Future-ready force: Doval said that the wars of the future will be increasingly contactless and fought using technology. He underlined that India would need an agile and tech-savvy soldier for such conflicts.
He said "We must have a young, fit, agile and well-trained Army. It is a contradiction that a country that has the youngest population, has the oldest Army,"
"If we have to prepare for tomorrow, then we have to change" said the NSA.
Opportunites for Agniveers post-exit: Doval said that discipline, training, skills, confidence and four years of service in the defence forces would prepare Agniveers for new opportunities after exit.
The Seva Nidhi package - Rs 11 Lakhs which will be given to each Agniveer post their 4 years of service - the NSA said can be utilised for pursuing further studies.
He also hinted at the plethora of opportunities for these trained Agniveers in a $5 trillion economy thus trying to allay their fears.
Impact of Agniveers on the society: Doval dismissed the claim that the Agniveers who exit after four years would become mercenaries for hire.
He said for a peaceful society, a law-abiding citizenry is a must and trained Agniveers with nationalist sentiments would be a boon for developing such a society.
Besides physical training, the military also provides mental training based on which the Agniveers would be an asset to the society, said the NSA.
Calling out the vested interests: Doval said that those indulging in protests, arson, and vandalism have vested interests and would benefit from the status quo.
He described this category as 'Conflict entrepreneurs'. This is similar to 'Andolanjeevis' - those who thrive on conflict, coined by PM Modi in the past.
Doval said these include coaching institutes benefiting from the status quo, people who want to discredit the government and those who are pushing the youth towards vandalism and arson.
He also warned of action against those who engaged in wanton destruction of public property.
Comprehensive defence reforms in action: Doval said that the announcement of the Agnipath scheme should be viewed as part of a series of defence reforms.
The NSA said that PM Narendra Modi had initiated several long-pending reforms to make India secure and strong.
He categorised these reforms under four heads - equipment and technology, systems and structure, manpower policies and future-oriented.
Bottom line: With the NSA addressing genuine concerns and criticising vested interest groups, the protesters may finally get some clarity about the scheme.
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