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Changes in Afghanistan a challenge for India: Rajnath Singh

UDHAGAMANDALAM, TN (PTI): The changing power equation in Afghanistan is a challenge for India, prompting a rethink of strategy and the Quad initiative underscored it, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said on Sunday.

The Defence Ministry is seriously considering the formation of Integrated Battle Groups (IBGs) as quick decision-making is a key aspect during war time, he said, speaking on structural reforms, including Joint Commands in the armed forces.

He was addressing student officers of the 77th Staff Course at the Defence Services Staff College at nearby Wellington.

"The changing equation in Afghanistan is a challenge for us...These situations have forced our country to rethink its strategy. We are changing our strategy and the formation of Quad underlines this strategy," he said.

"The changing equations have forced every country to think on its strategy. "QUAD (Quadrilateral security dialogue), a group of India, Australia, America and Japan, has been formed under this background."

The perception of linking national security to geographical boundaries -vis-a-vis cyber warfare and biological attacks- has changed and the alignment and re-alignment of global powers add to the already changing security challenges, Singh said.

The government is making all efforts to develop capabilities to deal with these new, emerging threats to national security.

The Minister expressed confidence that the DSSC would train and equip future officers of the Armed forces to deal with these challenges.

India is ready to face the changing security dynamics of the world due to the reforms taken by the government, he said, adding that the Armed forces need to be fully equipped and prepared at all times.

"We will continue to strengthen our military and ensure that we are a step ahead to deal with any challenges arising out of the changing global security environment."

The Taliban insurgents stormed Afghanistan days ago, capturing all major cities in a matter of days, two weeks before the US was set to complete its troop withdrawal after a vexatious two-decade war and the Kabul airport attack has left dozens dead and many injured.

On creation of Joint Commands, Singh termed the decision as a major structural reform, that is progressing rapidly.

"With the formation of Integrated Theater Commands, Armed Forces will have to develop Integrated Operational Concepts and Doctrines to fight jointly. I think the DSSC can prove to be a good platform for brain storming on this issue."

Referring to IBGs, the Minister said these groups would not only facilitate faster decision-making, but also increase the number of integrated fighting units.

A reform initiative, 'Tour of Duty (ToD)' was being considered by the government and it would be a game changing reform as it would help reduce the average age of the military and make it more agile.

The ToD is a proposal that envisages allowing citizens to join the army for a short tenure of three years.

Permanent commission for women officers in defence is a step to increase the role of women in national security, he said.

The appointment of Chief of Defence Staff and setting up of Department of Military Affairs would go a long way in bolstering the security infrastructure, he said.

The appointment of CDS has provided stability to the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee as now there is a permanent and single point advisor to the government on defence and the Army Headquarters Restructuring is a key move as well, he said on reform aspects.

"The aim to increase the teeth to tail ratio of our army, bring decentralisation in decision making and create a future oriented leaner force. Integration of DGMO (Director General, Military Operations) and DGMI (DG-Military Intelligence) under Deputy Chief of Strategy is one such example. This integration at the headquarter level will bring great precision in our operational planning."

On modernisation, he said the induction of Rafale ended the long wait for next generation aircraft. The Arjun Main Battle Tank, Light Utility Helicopter, developing counter measure systems for Armored Fighting Vehicles and modernisation of Air Defence guns are the other steps.

Without naming Pakistan, Singh said "After losing two wars, one of our neighbouring countries has started resorting to proxy war, and terrorism has become an integral part of its state policy."

"If the ceasefire (between India and Pakistan) succeeds today, it is because of our strength. The cross-border attacks in 2016 changed our reactionary mindset to a proactive mindset, which was declared in 2019. It was further strengthened by the Balakot air strike," he added.

On the India-China border standoff, the Defence Minister lauded the Army for behaving intelligently and the security forces once again proved that the nation is committed to face any enemy at any time and in any situation, to ensure national security regardless of the cost.

An unilateral attempt was made last year to change the status quo on the border. "There too, we faced our adversary with a new dynamism," Singh said.

Changes in spheres like the military power, trade, communication, economy and political equation could be clearly seen. In this era of globalisation, no nation could be left untouched by these changes happening around the world, he said.

In such a situation, keeping the nation's security preparedness in proportion to these changes or a step ahead of them is the need.

"Ever since our country became independent, it has been the endeavour of enemy forces to create an atmosphere of instability within the country through one or the other means. Taking the history of the last 75 years, it seems that we have inherited the challenges," he added.

The Minister was given a detailed update on the professional military education being imparted at the DSSC, a defence release said. Chief of Army Staff, General Manoj Mukund Naravane Lieutenant General M J S Kahlon were present.

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