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China, new technologies and deployment patterns the focus of new Army Chief Gen Manoj Pande

Under his command, specialized coordination centers were set up; there were changes in deployment patterns and these are now being followed in the Northern sector.

new army chief
In his 39 years of service, the new Army Chief has held several major appointments.

History was created when for the first time ever, the Indian Army appointed Gen Manoj Pande, an officer from the Corps of Engineers as the new Army Chief. It was a major departure from the usual practice of having chiefs from armoured corps, artillery or the Infantry for the top position.

“General Manoj Pande becoming COAS is the commencement of a new chapter in our Army’s history. We, from the Corps of Engineers, are justifiably proud that he has made it possible for those in the technical arms to dream of reaching there,” says Indian Army veteran Col K Thammayya Udupa.

His plate is full

An officer who has been Eastern Army Commander, the biggest issue that needs to be addressed is China and the two year old standoff between the troops of India and China along the LAC. He is also keen on integrating technology to meet the new age emerging security threats as well as rationalization of manpower and deployment patterns.

In his 39 years of service, the new Army Chief has held several major appointments and as an old China hand, brings with him a larger perspective on the situation along the LAC.

When he was the Eastern Army Commander, induction of technology was on a large scale and this included drones, as well as new fire support systems — used to counter the threats from the Chinese troops who have been present there and are likely to create trouble.

Under his command, specialized coordination centers were set up as well; there were changes in the deployment patterns and these are now being followed in the Northern sector too.

Challenges

Besides focusing on infrastructure buildup, modernization of the 1.2 million strong India army will be another area of prioritization of the new Chief. For a leaner and a meaner force, the Indian Army Chief will work towards rationalization of the existing manpower and more technology oriented service.

The ongoing Russia-Ukraine crisis has brought to fore new technologies and as the Army Headquarters is already in the process of understanding the implications of the long drawn war and its impact on the weapons and equipment/platform being used by the Indian Army.  The emerging technologies and how that can be used for dealing with the new threats in India’s neighbourhood.

A course mate shares his thoughts on the new chief

Sharing more about his course mate, an Indian Army veteran Col K Thammayya Udupa says, “As someone who has been lucky to be his course mate but not lucky enough to know him as a close friend, I know that he is always soft spoken and highly focused. If you did not talk to him, you would not know who he was. He was not there to be stylish or to impress you by talking and he certainly did not have any idiosyncrasies. But when he spoke, it was with complete self-assurance and confidence, the confidence that one derives from the depth of one’s knowledge. His brilliance would be there for you to notice.”

“Remembering how General Bhagat narrowly missed becoming the COAS, many brilliant officers from the technical arms have not been enthusiastic to opt for General cadre on reaching the rank of Brigadier, preferring to stay within their corps. But there are those like Manoj Pande – the numbers can be counted on your fingertips – who are up for the challenge. When as a Brigadier he opted for General cadre, it did not surprise many,” says Col K Thammayya Udupa.

According to the Indian Army veteran, “He had by then established a formidable reputation of excellence and as a man of substance. He kept rising up the ladder, ticking all the right boxes getting appropriate exposure in command as well as on staff.”

You met him in 2020. What did he say?

“I met him for a few minutes during our Bombay Sappers bicentenary at Khadki, Pune in January 2020. I asked him when was he likely to become an Army Commander. He was humility personified, a bit hesitant to say anything. Another officer, a serving Lieutenant General mentioned that it would happen in May 2022. I think I noticed the slightest hint of embarrassment on him as though he wished to say, “It will happen when it has to happen, why make a song and dance about it now!” But buoyed by the prospect of a highly respected and supremely deserving course mate’s climb to the top, I said, “And of course, after that we would like to see you as Chief!” Now there was genuine discomfort amongst those around us, because I had said something which many felt was beyond the reach of a Sapper officer,” he tells Financial Express Online.

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