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Home > News > Columnists > Major General Ashok K Mehta (retd)

What General Vij plans to do

January 21, 2003

General Nirmal Chand Vij took over onJanuary 1 as the22nd Chief of Army Staff to lead the fourth largestarmy in the world andone that nearly went to warlast year. It has the kind of operational experiencein wars, low intensity conflict and counterterrorismthat no other army in the world has. Vij has a richand varied command and staff experience during a40 year-career.

He is now the lastsoldier towitnessthe trauma of the 1962humiliation as he joined his battalion in Wallong soonafter the unilateral ceasefire by the Chinese. He madea mark in counterinsurgency operations in the NorthEast. It was during his command in 1996-97 thatULFA started surrendering in big numbers whichrendered their movement ineffective. During Kargil, hewas the key planner of operations (Director General,Military Operations) and was responsible forcoordinating the withdrawal of Pakistani troops fromKargil afterJuly 12, 1999. He was also instrumental inplanning the breaking of the siege of the Indianpeacekeeping contingent in Sierra Leone in 2000.

Hislast operational duty was coordinating the deploymentand partial withdrawal of the Indian Army duringOperation Parakram which was called off on October 16last year. Vij is married to Rita and they both belongto Jammu and Kashmir. They have a son and a daughter.He has a tenure of two years and one month, one of theshortest for any Chief. Along with him there is also achange in the person ofthe Vice Chief as well as theChief of Military Operations. So India has a brand newtrio of military leaders at the helm.

Afterassuming charge as COAS in an exclusiveconversation with this columnist, General Vij outlined hisconcerns and priorities for the army. His agenda isfourfold:

  • Operational preparedness
  • Modernisation ofthe army
  • Welfare of soldiers and ex-servicemen
  • Better understanding between the military and themedia.

Vij is quite clear that despite the partialwithdrawal of troops the army can be called upanytime at short notice in the future as the score withPakistan has not been settled as yet. He recalled GeneralMusharraf's chilling disclosure onDecember 30 abouthis readiness to usenuclear weapons in the eventIndian soldiers crossed the Line of Control or the InternationalBorder. Vij recounted Musharraf'sstatementnot too long ago that only a madman couldthink of usinga nuclear weapon. While deployed for OperationalParakram Vij says the troops have had the best andoptimum training for war in the last 12 months. No onecan now say, he asserted, that there is no time fortraining.

Contrary to media reports of deploymentfatigue, the general said troop morale is very high;in fact, theyhave benefited by receiving nearly Rs 20,000 each asfield service allowance while posted in the trenches.Vij isconscious of the need forconsolidating the gains of Parakram as well asrestabilising the army after the year-long dislocationcaused by the deployment. He confidedhe wouldsoon order a study to examine the lessons fromParakram,restructuring ofthe forces and enhancing their operational capability. He also wants to relocate forces so that thereis minimum turbulence during mobilisation. Operationalreadiness is therefore his number one priority.

The continuing modernisation of the army -- especiallythe infantry, which is the cutting edge ofcounterterrorism -- is in full swing. Vijwas recently inIsrael to look at the methods adopted by the Israelisto foil suicide attacks and terrorism. He said noefforts and resources wouldbe spared to ensure thejawans get the best equipment needed to raise the cost for Pakistan waging cross border terrorism. Theinfantry package of modernisation is remedying thedeficiencies of Kargil and neglect of infantrycapability in the past.

The welfare and morale of soldiers is another keypriority. His idea isitmust be more than lip service. These are the men whoserve from Sikkim to Siachen. The welfare of ex-servicemen is also very closeto Vij's heart and he is keen to see the pilot projecton medical facilities being launched late this year.

Last, but notleast, theChief is keen tofurther build on the growing media-military relationsso that both sides understand each other better.

One area where Vij will have to invent astrategyis to ensure the healing touch policy of the newgovernment in Jammu and Kashmir does not emboldenterrorists totarget innocent civilians as they did for fourconsecutive days last month. The counterterrorismstrategy must ensure that security forces kill morenumber of terrorists than those that can get inthrough infiltration. Another of his concerns must beto draw lessons from the most recent operationaldeployment, Operation Parakram, and to ensure thatmobilisation is carried out even more swiftly and withfewer accidents than the last one.

Vij realiseshis plans can only fructify withgood civil-military relations. He is a firm believerthat the military and its political leadership are intouch and in tune for the cost-effective utilisationof military force. He needs and deserves all the goodwill andresources to meet the challenges ahead.

Major General Ashok K Mehta (retd)

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Number of User Comments: 12

Sub: concern

I congratulate u and salute u. We love India. We are proud of our armed forces. What my concern is that even though our hands ...

Posted by Sunny

Sub: opinion

all indians r with u.we love our india.with u, sir at the helm gives much more pleasure.

Posted by SHEELA

Sub: Viz ..

Indian troops have always put their best. Indian media needs to improve a lot with the sense of responsibility.

Posted by Vinay Krishna

Sub: what General Vij plans to do

Noble plans all the way , like all Generals have prior to assuming Command, the vagaries of weather around while commanding however, dilute the sentiments ...

Posted by manoj asthana

Sub: Can someone read this article.

I am extremely sad with the quality of the published article. The sentences are incomplete. I am sure, no one in charge has read the ...

Posted by Anupam



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