Thursday, February 9, 2023

Indian Army@75: Empowered By Hi-Tech Vision

By Aritra Banerjee

India celebrated its 75th Indian Army Day on Sunday, 15 January. This year marks a notable shift in the Service’s vision. In the first-ever such instance in the country’s history, the Army Day Parade was held not in the national capital of Delhi but at the Madras Engineer Group’s Headquarters in Bengaluru. Choosing this city, popularly known as the Silicon Valley of India, highlights the Army’s paradigm shift towards being a more technologically adept force. The pivot was well-encompassed in Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Manoj Pande’s address. 

Highlighting the Indian Army’s transition, Gen. Pande said, “we will aim to move from a manpower-intensive to a technologically-driven Army.” He also revealed that the “teeth-to-tail ratio is being dealt with through rightsizing and optimising technology.” The Army Chief shared the Organisation’s evolving management philosophy, a renewed look at human resource management, and new recruitment procedures– especially the novel Agnipath scheme. 

Agnipath Heralding Tech-Revolution In The Army

The first batch of Agniveers have begun training, and the process has been heralded as transformational for the Organisation’s human resource development. From their training to administration, the entire procedure has been automated, with flagship announcements made ahead of this year’s Army Day. These align with the Service’s tech-savvy vision towards warfighting and organisational management. 

Agniveers are being trained using state-of-the-art simulators, with the Army set to buy 36 Tactical Engagement Simulators. These advanced training systems comprise many subsystems, including body and helmet harnesses, laser, sensor, display, exercise control, and wireless communication systems. Notably, these sophisticated machines are equipped to train at least 50 recruits. The technology is being used to optimally use the shorter training time that Agniveers have. Furthermore, the Indian Army has announced a novel software initiative designed to make the administration of the Agniveers streamlined and transparent, a welcome move in an organisation perceived to be highly secretive and marred with red-tapism. 

The Service has leveraged Information Technology (IT) to initiate its novel “Army Software For Agnipath Administration and Networking”, or ASAAN, to record and manage the entire database for all Agniveers. The application is web-based, developed in-house, and hosted on the Army Data Network. The objective is to streamline the administration process for the latest recruitment policy.

IADB has learnt that the software has modules for recruitment, record offices, training centres, units, and the Human Resources Development Centre (HRDC). This enables each of these agencies to populate the requisite data of Agniveers into the database. “All documentation, including assessment and screening, is automated, requiring minimal human interference while ensuring data integrity,” the Indian Army said in a press statement.

Highlighting its aims to facilitate an environment of transparency for the Agniveers about their performance, the Organisation has revealed that “a majority of personal data including their demonstrated performance will be visible to the Agniveers enhancing transparency.” It may be poignant to note that the data can be made available to agencies for those recruits who exit the system after four years.

The application has been in use since 1 January for the first batch of Agniveers. Over 19,000 Agniveers of the Indian Army have already begun training at nearly 40 centres. They will undergo specially curated courses that heavily involve simulator technology.

The new training methodology and infrastructure are adapted to meet the dual purposes of training future-ready soldiers and the short duration of Agniveer training. Simulators for training on weapons and equipment are being set up. 

Human Resources Gets Hi-Tech

Another software aiding the Organisation’s administrative process is Indian Army Data Repository and Analytics (INDRA). The application has been developed to manage a database of Junior Commissioned Officers (JCOs) and other persons, which are spread across 47 Record Offices corresponding to Regiments/Arms/Services. The application will enable the collection, compilation, and extraction of data and information for statistical analysis to various stakeholders per their role and charter. 

A Central Data Repository was already created at the IHQ of MoD (Army) in June 2022. Incremental updates are generated daily by the feeder application Army Record Office Process Automation (ARPAN), and the same is uploaded by the Record Offices on INDRA through their login IDs. These updates are executed through scheduled jobs, which are run after every four hours. The status of the updates and executions is available to INDRA Administrator to ensure an up-to-date database. 

The Indian Army has also announced the Dhanwantri application to seamlessly exchange medical data across all Military Hospitals (MH) and Command echelons using the secure Army Digital Network. 

The software envisages the storage of critical medical information about Indian Army personnel at a centralised database warehouse equipped with the necessary state-of-the-art Unified Threat Management (UTM) processes. 

The system is equipped with adequate safeguards to enable the exchange of patient information across medical branches for use by the treating physicians and enable relevant medical statistics and information to be made available to health planners and Commanders at all levels.

Continuing with its age-old tradition of supporting military families and ex-servicemen, the Service has operationalised a Veerangana Sewa Kendra (VSK) Online Portal as a single window welfare, grievance redressal, and query response mechanism for Indian Army widows and next of kin (NOK). 

The VSK is a Call Centre based on Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software that allows multiple means for approaching VSK, coupled with regular status feedback to the applicants. This digital platform seamlessly integrates all stakeholders for time-bound resolution of grievances. 

VSK will be available as a service to the Indian Army Veterans Portal. The system, thus, caters for registering grievances/queries with tracking, monitoring and regular feedback to the applicant. The only portal also strengthens the government initiatives of Digital India and Nari Shakti, employing six Army widows.” In a short span, the VSK has already made over 5000 calls and endeavours to reach out to the maximum in the coming months. The facility will be extended to all veterans in the near future,” the Indian Army highlighted about this development. 

On the operational front, the COAS has highlighted new warfare domains extending beyond the traditional threats and the Organisation’s readiness to tackle them. Gen. Pande noted that “along with cyber war, grey zone war, there will now be non-kinetic warfare apart from kinetic warfare. The Army is prepared to deal with all these challenges.” 

Tech-Driven Ops

Addressing military-industry collaboration moving forward, the Army Chief highlighted that the Service will focus on progressing its relationship with the industry. The association is moving beyond the traditional buyer-seller model towards collaboration. “We have complete faith in made-in-India weaponry,” the General said to those in attendance before highlighting how the nature of war has changed, alluding to the conflict in Ukraine. He placed an impetus on dual-use technologies. 

“In the past year, the Global Security Environment has also seen a lot of changes. The Russia-Ukraine war has proved the importance of the utility of Disruptive and Dual-Use Technologies. Information Warfare, Cyber and Space have emerged as new domains of warfare. Gray Zone Warfare has proved that in future war or conflict, Non-Kinetic Warfare is just as important as Kinetic Warfare,” he said. 

Indigenous Industry To Arm Future-Soldiers

Gen. Pande explained that continuous efforts are being made to effectively fulfil its operational mandate and transform ourselves into a “modern, self-reliant, technologically-driven and battle-worthy force.” He told those in attendance that the Organisation’s “primary focus will be our soldiers, who will be fully prepared and equipped to face the challenges in the future. The provision of modern weapons and equipment is an integral part of this effort, and the Indian Army is determined to find an indigenous solution. ‘Modernity through self-reliance’ will be our new mantra.” 

Gen. Pande highlighted the strides made by the indigenous defence industry, “Indian Defense – Industry is coming forward to meet this challenge efficiently. The Indian Army is moving from a buyer-seller relationship with the industry to a ‘Partnership’. Several initiatives have been taken to further strengthen this relationship, which includes ‘Hand Holding’. We fully believe in the sturdiness and operability of ‘Made-in-India’ weapons and equipment. 

“Niche Technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, Quantum Communications, Unmanned Systems and Directed Energy Weapons are also being indigenised. We are confident that the Indian Army will fight and win future wars with Indian solutions,” he said, reiterating his belief in the ability of indigenous innovation to meet modern military technology requirements.

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