In his book, General MM Naravane, ex-Indian Army chief, claims armed forces ‘surprised’ by Agnipath scheme, discusses 2020 Chinese incursion in eastern Ladakh

Team India Sentinels Tuesday 19th of December 2023 08:37 PM

Gen Manoj Mukund Naravane. (File photo) 

New Delhi: In what has come as a surprise to many, former chief of Army staff General Manoj Mukund Naravane said neither of the three services – Indian Army, Indian Navy, and the Indian Air Force – were consulted before the government rolled out the Agnipath recruitment scheme to induct personnel below officer rank in the armed forces. He said this in his upcoming memoir, PTI, which had access to an advance copy of the book, reported.

The book – “Four Stars of Destiny: An Autobiography” – is published by Penguin Veer and will be released in January next year.

The Agnipath scheme kicked up a row when it was announced in June 2022. Under the scheme, all personnel below officer rank in all the three services are recruited for only four-year stints, during which the service personnel will serve as Agniveer recruits without any military rank. After the four-year service, only 25 per cent of the original recruits will be retained for longer service of 15 years or more.

The move sparked furious protests across the country as aspiring soldiers demanded permanent positions with pension benefits.

According to Gen Naravane, who led the Army from 2019 to 2022, his initial proposal discussed with the prime minister, Narendra Modi, involved a “tour of duty” scheme limited to the Army’s personnel below officer ranks, similar to Short Service Commissioned officers. This, Gen Naravane explained, would have involve enrolling a set number of soldiers for short terms with the option to re-enlist for further tours if deemed fit.

However, the discussion never evolved further because of the Covid-19 pandemic and the Galwan valley clashes between Indian Army and China’s People’s Liberation Army troops, the ex-COAS wrote.

Beyond the initial surprise, Gen Naravane’s memoir offers insights into the internal discussions surrounding the Agnipath scheme’s formulation. While the government has touted it as a transformational reform aimed at streamlining the armed forces and lowering their age profile, its reception on the ground remains mixed. Protests have subsided after an age-limit extension for the first year’s recruitment. Nonetheless, concerns about job security and long-term benefits for Agniveers persist.

On 2020 Chinese incursion in eastern Ladakh

On June 15, 2020, a violent clash occurred in the Galwan valley of eastern Ladakh, resulting in the deaths of 20 Indian Army soldiers and an unspecified number of Chinese People’s Liberation Army troops. This fist-and-club fight, which transpired under the cover of night, exacerbated border tensions between India and China.

In his book, Gen Naravane referred to China as the “neighbourhood bully”. He asserted that the Army took a stand against the threat posed by China to demonstrate to the world that “enough is enough”.

In the book, the former COAS highlighted China’s adoption of “wolf-warrior diplomacy” and “salami-slicing tactics” in various regions, including browbeating smaller neighbours, like Nepal and Bhutan. He emphasized China’s assertiveness in the South China Sea, alluding to the absence of significant costs, particularly in terms of human lives.

Discussing India’s response to the Chinese incursion in the book, Gen Naravane underscored its significance as a wake-up call for the Indian Army to enhance its combat readiness along the line of actual control (LAC).

The former Army chief stated: “It took India and the Indian Army to show to the world that enough is enough and to challenge the neighbourhood bully.”

Notably, he also pointed out the date of the clash – June 16 – as the birthday of the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, remarking that it would be a day Xi will not forget easily. Gen Naravane highlighted the historical significance of the event, noting that it marked the first time in over two decades that the PLA had sustained fatal casualties. He said the day was “one of the saddest” in his military career.


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