On Tuesday (21 June), National Security Advisor Ajit Doval spoke at length about the military's Agnipath recruitment scheme in an interview with ANI, as protests against the reform continued in different parts of the country. Here are eight things Doval said during the interview:
1) No rollback of Agnipath
The National Security Advisor said that the launch of the Agnipath scheme was a major step towards the reform and manpower reorganisation in the armed forces and ruled out the rollback of the scheme.
"There is no question of any rollback. This is not a knee jerk reaction. This has been discussed for decades. In 1970s, we had General Krishna Rao Committee of which General Chhibber and General Sundar were members. They talked about reforming the Army, including the manpower policy," Doval told ANI during the interview.
"Then there was the Arun Singh report in 1989 and then there was a Group of Ministers report… there was Subramaniam Committee report, the Kargil Committee report… All had this consistent refrain that go for a younger Army," he said, adding, "But there was a problem. While everybody realised it was necessary, no one had the ability and the will to take the risk."
2) Agniveers will have opportunities after exit
Doval said that discipline, training and four years of service in the defence forces would prepare Agniveers for new opportunities after exit.
"We are talking about a young man who is 22 or 23 years old, has done four years of service and now is in the market. This man has become disciplined, has got the capability to work in a team, has learnt skills, developed confidence, is trainable and has got all-India perspective," Doval said.
"Compare him with any other 21-122 years old youth who is not an Agniveer. He is much more equipped to face the society. On top of it, he has been given a qualification equivalent to plus two. Then he will have Rs 11 lakh with him which he can use to study further," he said.
"By the time Agniveer retires, India will be a $5 trillion economy. There will be a lot of opportunities in the private sector. Industries will want to hire people who are disciplined and trainable. Their biggest asset will be their young age. Their future is totally secure," he added.
3) Contactless Wars
The National Security Advisor 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.
"Security is a very dynamic concept. The whole world is going through great change. Increasingly we are going towards contactless war… 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," he said.
"We are...going towards the war against the invisible enemy. Technology is taking over at a rapid pace. If we have to prepare for tomorrow, then we have to change," ANI quoted the NSA as saying.
4) Agnipath will not compromise Army's capabilities
While some veterans who have criticised the Agnipath scheme argue that it could dent the capabilities of the Army to deal with the threats the country faces, the fear was dismissed by National Security Advisor Doval.
"Agniveer will never constitute the whole Army. They are there for only four years. Rest of the Army will be made up of experienced people. Those Agniveers who become regulars eventually, will go through more intensive training. So Army will always have people who, though recruited as Agniveers, have been selected for their agility, motivation and aptitude," he said.
He added, "Selection is one part, but when you observe people over a long period of time, you realise who is an ideal soldier. So, after four years, the people who will join the Army will be crème de la crème."
5) Concept of regiments not being tinkered
The National Security Advisor clarified that the new recruitment policy would not affect the current regimental system of the Army.
"The concept of regiments, nobody is tinkering with it. If there are regiments, then there will be regiments of artillery, electrical or mechanical engineers," Doval said, adding, "They (regiments) will continue. The regimental system has not ended."
6) Agniveers won't be a threat to society
Doval dismissed the claim that the Agniveers who exit after four years of service in the armed forces would become mercenaries for hire.
"This fear is totally invalid. I have been in the business of security for the last 55 years. I can tell you, if there is any guarantee in the society to keep peace, stability and rule of law, it will be the civilian population of the country who have to become law abiding. And you will find the best of the law-abiding citizens in these youth who will have nationalist sentiments and protect the national interest and create that environment," he told ANI.
"In those four years in the forces, only their bodies will not be trained, but even their minds will be transformed. They will become an asset for our internal security when they go into the society," he added.
7) Those opposing the scheme have vested interests
Doval said that those indulging in protests, arson, and vandalism have vested interest and would benefit from the status quo.
"These are those who have no concern with the security of the nation nor are they dedicated to the nation. They are conflict entrepreneurs. These are people who will go for stone throwing, demonstrations and burning trains. An Agniveer will never be misled into this. I don't think any of these people (those protesting) are interested in joining the forces," Doval said.
The National Security Advisor also stated that the government had anticipated some protests against the Agnipath scheme.
"We thought these people who have got some vested interest… some people are making money through coaching centres… some want to discredit the government… some want the youth to go against the government… But we are a democracy. But once they transgress those red lines where the limits of their freedom start undermining the country's security and its law and order, certainly the action has to be taken and has been taken," he said during the interview.
8) Agnipath is part of a series of defence reforms
Doval said that the announcement of the Agnipath scheme should be viewed as part of a series of defence reforms.
The National Security Advisor said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had initiated a number of reforms which were pending for years.
"There is a need to look at it (Agnipath) in a perspective. Agnipath is not a standalone scheme in itself. When Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power in 2014, one of his prime priorities was how to make India secure and strong. That required many avenues, many steps - multitude of them," he said.
"Broadly speaking, they come under the four heads. It requires equipment, it requires a change in systems and structures, it requires a change in technology, it requires a change in manpower, policies and they have to be futuristic," he added.
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