With Lt General Bipin Rawat and Air Marshal BS Dhanoa’s appointments, India is going to get new Army and Air Force chiefs from January 1, 2017. While Rawal will succeed Indian Army chief General Dalbir Singh Suhag, Dhanao will take over from IAF chief Arup Raha. The transition comes at a time when India is facing heightened tensions and insurgency from Pakistan. And even though the border with China has been quiet for years now, India is trying to counter the neighbouring country’s growing influence in the Asian region. The importance and power associated with the posts of Indian Army and IAF chief posts cannot be understated and there is little doubt that both Rawat and Dhanoa face multiple challenges as India prepares ramp up its defence preparedness.
Brigadier Gurmeet Kanwal (Retd), Distinguished Fellow, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) is of the view that Rawat will face three challenges. While stating that the appointment of the Indian Army chief is the government’s prerogative, Kanwal said that for Rawat the most important issue would be to effectively deal with Pakistan. “I believe that dealing successfully with the ongoing war with Pakistan would be the biggest challenge. And I will not call it a proxy war. What Pakistan is doing can no longer be called a proxy war,” he told FE Online. Additionally Kanwal feels that Rawat would have to focus on modernisation of defence equipment and weapons. “India’s military modernisation has been stagnating for years now. For the new Army chief, this should undoubtedly be an area of concern,” Kannwal said. “Finally managing the border with China would also be an important point, even though the border has been quiet for some time now,” he adds.
Ankur Gupta, Vice President- Aerospace & Defence at Ernst Young India is of the view that modernisation is of paramount importance. “The Army is incharge of several large programs that could be the pole bearers for the Make in India campaign, TCS, BMS and FICV. It is critical that these are progressed rapidly so that the user can benefit from them and spur the domestic defence manufacturing sector,” he tells FE Online.
For Air Marshal Dhanoa, ensuring a smooth transition to the new fleet of fighter jets would be the main priority, says Air Vice Marshal Manmohan Bahadur VM (Retd) and a Distinguished Fellow, CAPS. “The IAF is set to see a big transformation with major combat potential. There is a big transformation coming for the Indian Air Force to get the combat potential required in the challenging security sitution. For Dhanoa, it will be important to nurse the combat fleet to maintain the deterrent posture of IAF,” Manmohan Bahadur told FE Online.
Agrees Ankur Gupta, who adds that critical programmes of the IAF need to be completed within time lines. “The modernization of the IAF’s fixed wing fleet has finally taken off with the inking of the Rafale deal. This spirit should now be continued and other critical programs such as the Jaguar re-engine, AVRO, FGFA and LCA also be concluded within the defined time lines,” he says. “Each one of these has a significant Make In India component and will help realize the aspiration of the domestic manufacturing sector,” he concludes.