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Drones pose new challenge, more state and non-state actors will use them: Army chief Naravane

Army chief Gen M.M. Naravane also said country needs to shed old mindsets to 'harness niche technologies like AI, exploit depth in IT & realise the vision of Atmanirbhar Bharat'.

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New Delhi: With new age threats like drones and artificial intelligence looming large, Army chief Gen M.M. Naravane said the transition of the armed forces to the digital age is “contrarian to” the existing defence procurement process.   

He stressed that in order to harness niche technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), and take advantage of India’s depth in IT and realise the vision of Atmanirbhar Bharat, “we need to shed old mindsets and make our procedures more flexible and adaptive”. He was referring to the existing defence procurement process. 

The Army chief, who was speaking at an online seminar organised by Global Counter Terrorism Council, a think-tank, also noted that both state and non-state actors will increasingly use drones in the future. He said building drones these days was like a “Do It Yourself (DYI) project that could be tackled at home”. 

He added that this will increase the challenges faced by the security forces.

The Army chief’s comments come in the backdrop of the drone attack on the Air Force station in Jammu Sunday. 

The Army chief also said while there has been an overall fall in the level of violence in Jammu and Kashmir following fresh ceasefire agreement between India and Pakistan, “there will always be elements to sabotage the peace process”.

ThePrint had Wednesday reported how the Jammu attack is being seen by the Indian defence and security establishment as an attempt to derail the ceasefire agreement, hit the political process in Kashmir and to send a signal.

Also read: Satellite images reveal Pakistan’s new midget submarine, site for joint project with China

‘Transition to digital age contrarian to DPP & DPM mindsets’

Speaking about the seminar topic, Applications of Big Data Analytics, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, Gen Naravane said developments along our northern borders during the past year are a stark reminder that in order to preserve our territorial integrity, the armed forces need to continually prepare and adapt to the exigencies of modern wars. 

He said the imaginative and offensive use of drones, riding on AI algorithms, “first in Idlib and then in Armenia-Azerbaijan, have challenged the traditional military hardware of war: the tanks, the artillery and the dug-in infantry”.

He said AI is becoming a critical part of modern warfare, adding that compared to conventional systems, military systems equipped with AI are capable of handling far larger volumes of data more efficiently.

“Artificial intelligence is today the modern, holy grail of technology, with far-reaching implications on the nature of geo-politics and geo-strategics. By way of impact and influence, it will exceed the Industrial Revolution by several orders of magnitude,” he said.

He added that AI applications have the potential to revolutionise training and education in the Indian Army.

He, however, said all this would require simplified procedures that facilitate the transition. 

“Unfortunately, this has been one of our biggest stumbling blocks. The transition to the Digital Age is contrarian to DPP (Defence Procurement Procedure, now called Defence Acquisition Procedure) & DPM (Defence Procurement Manual) mindsets. In order to harness niche technologies like AI, exploit our depth in IT and realise the vision of Atmanirbhar Bharat we need to shed old mindsets and make our procedures more flexible and adaptive.”

‘Need to adopt a mix and match option’

Gen Naravane said based on the recommendations of the National Task Force on AI set up in 2018, the Army has streamlined the proliferation and implementation of its AI-driven plans and schemes.

Throwing in a word of caution, he said while the country pursues a quest for niche technologies, including AI, it would be prudent to remember that future wars will also involve low technology, which is easy to obtain but difficult to defeat. 

“Since World War II, high-tech militaries have been thwarted consistently by low-tech opponents. Thus, there is a need to maintain a balance while infusing technology into our inventory and doctrines,” he said.

Noting the peculiarities of the Line of Control and the Line of Actual Control, which are unsettled land borders, he said the country needs to adopt a mix and match option — that is, to evolve into a technology-oriented army, while retaining boots on ground as an operational imperative. 

(Edited by Arun Prashanth)

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