By Major General Lalit Kapoor
The clarion call by the Honourable Prime Minister and the Hon’ble Raksha Mantri to create ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat in Defence’ has not only been wholeheartedly lapped by the indigenous defence industry but also by the defence services.
The resultant boost to the indigenous defence industry through a more pronounced handholding, including special allowances to Small and Medium Manufacturers and much greater all round emphasis towards Indigenous Research and Development (IR&D) through an ‘India as a Whole’ approach, has become highly visible.
The need for self-reliance is much vindicated with the analysis of the effects of the Russia–Ukraine war, which has led to a short supply of the much-required weapon-grade material ex Russia and the harsh technology regime policies imposed by the Western nations with respect to the supply of critical technology weapon platforms.
Towards this self-reliance initiative, Indian Army, including all the Commands, are contributing significantly. With the Covid threat weaning, a fresh impetus has been provided to “Atmanirbharta’’. There is an ever-increasing need to incorporate technology to ensure the efficient use of human resources in dealing with adversaries.
DIME collusion by the two adversaries and prolonged ‘Grey Zone Warfare’ activities along the Northern borders have transcended beyond the Military domain to information, Legal, Economic and Political domains. Northern Command is the most critical operational command of the Indian Army, actively engaged in Counter Insurgency/Counter Terrorism (CI/CT) operations in the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) hinterland and dealing with adversaries along the Line of Control (LoC) and Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the strategic areas including those in Eastern Ladakh.
The operational and logistics challenges confronting Northern Command are surmounting and necessitate customised dedicated solutions. Northern Command has taken giant strides in the past year to bridge the gap between ‘What we Have’ and ‘What we Need’.
Northern Command has addressed the issues of its needs through a multi-pronged approach by bringing the Indian Army–Defence Industry–Academia on a common platform, for the first time ever, for addressing the present and paving the way for the future.
The North Tech Symposium 2022 in May 2022 and the Techno Commanders Seminar in December 2022 were two significant efforts to analyse and assimilate the user and operational requirements and to identify and map these with suitable technologies and products for subsequent trials and induction in Northern Command.
The North Tech Symposium 2022 carried out an environment scan of cutting-edge technology innovations and products providing solutions to complex challenges faced by Northern Command in particular and the Indian Army in general. It helped customise the needs of the Indian Army.
The symposium theme- ‘Self Reliance in Defence through Atmanirbharta and Infusion of New Technologies to Meet Up Operational Challenges of Northern Command,’ enthused participation of more than 160 vendors in various fields of defence technology to include precision and effective firepower, countermeasures against enemy sniping/fire assault, drone threat, counter Radio Controlled Improvised Explosive Devices (RCIED), convoy attack, situational awareness, weather surveillance, robust communication, security solutions, operational survival, tactical mobility, habitat and medical duly highlighting the use of disruptive technologies, virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR, robotics and artificial intelligence (AI), with nearly 90 vendors displaying products in more than one category.
Concurrently, 15 eminent personalities from industry and prominent defence analysts spoke to the participants on various contemporary topics concerning indigenisation, global trends in defence technology, the transformation of ordnance factories post corporatisation, Indian Army initiatives and Academia-Defence interface.
While the North Tech Symposium helped consolidate the hardware essentials for Northern Command, the creative thinking domains, transcending to imaginative thinking paradigm to address the uncertainty of the future was catered through “Chintan cum Manthan” in the Techno Commanders Seminar in December 2022.
This event was spread over two stages: an essay competition with nearly 400 participants and a techno seminar over two days with academia and think tanks.
With the theme, ‘Future Battle Field: Need for Techno Commanders, ’ the seminar ideated future leaders’ minds on the transformation in Land Warfare due to technological advancements and challenges in balancing technology for the soldier on the ground. 25 eminent speakers dwelled on the ‘Requirement of Technology Empowered Leadership in Indian Army’.
These initiatives have helped in identifying the critical voids in the operational requirements. Procurements worth Rupees 300 Crore, within the inherent powers of Northern Command, through the indigenous industry, have been undertaken to mitigate these voids during the current financial year.
While the current for the Northern Command is being addressed, the need for state-of-the-art for the future by harnessing the powers of AI to effectively and efficiently address the operational requirements of Northern Command is well appreciated.
Northern Command has begun capitalising on the Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) signed with prominent universities in India and has already started sharing the requirements with the academia. This will not only give the much-desired fillip to the IR&D but will orient the effort through the eyes and needs of the user.
Northern Command has a well-defined long-term perspective plan to focus on indigenous defence manufacturing to fulfil its needs not only for the present but also for the future in a holistic manner, duly incorporating the power of AI as a force multiplier for solutions to the challenges and at the same time continue to provide more and more vigour to the indigenous R&D to make Northern Command meets its requirements and at the same time help realise India as a Defence Manufacturing powerhouse.
Major General Lalit Kapoor is an alumnus of National Defence Academy, Khadakvasla, Pune and was commissioned into Corps of Electronics and Mechanical Engineers in June 1989. The General officer has had an exceptional and illustrious academic career which includes Degree of Master of Science in Defence and Strategies from the University of Madras, a Master of Technology from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and a Master of Management Studies from Osmania University. The General officer is also a Master of Philosophy in Public Administration from Panjab University. The Officer is also a fellow with the Institution of Engineers (India) and the Institution of Electronics Engineers (India). The General Officer was awarded the ‘Eminent Engineer Award’, a lifetime achievement award, by the Institution of Engineers (India) in October 2022.