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HomeOpinionFor Army Training Command, location is least of its problems

For Army Training Command, location is least of its problems

Army Commander is posted to Army Training Command not based on aptitude but as & when a vacancy occurs. If you don’t give best resources, don’t expect best results.

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On 15 July, Shripad Naik, MoS for defence, settled the six-month-old controversy over shifting of the Army Training Command (ARTRAC) from Shimla to Meerut with a cryptic “No, Sir” in response to a question in this regard in the Rajya Sabha. Ironically, the debate focused on the inconsequential issue of its location and missed the woods for the trees.

There are far more important reforms needed in the functioning of the ARTRAC, which have largely been left unaddressed and rarely make it to a public debate. Beyond location, there are urgent issues like staffing, charter, military education and training.

Modelled on the US Army Training and Doctrine Command, the ARTRAC has a vast charter to carry out threat evaluation and doctrine formulation as well as act as a nodal agency for all military education and training in the Army.

Conceptually, this charter is all-encompassing and the ATRAC is responsible for the development of the human resource from ‘womb to tomb’. However, in execution, multiple agencies not under its command are responsible for implementing many aspects of its charter, which compromises its functional efficiency.

I examine the problems and reforms required in the functioning of the ARTRAC.

Also read: Outdated courses to rampant ragging: Why India’s National Defence Academy needs urgent help

Gaps in staffing

Unless the best officers are posted to the Army Training Command, it is unrealistic to expect it to pursue excellence. Conceptualisation of doctrine and training require ‘intellectual’ officers. Experience based on length of service does not hold good here. The ARTRAC staffing requires a rigorous selection process to choose the best.

An Army Commander is posted to the ARTRAC not based on his aptitude but as and when a vacancy occurs. All commanders like to command field formations as that is where the real action is. More often than not, the GOC-in-C is a reluctant incumbent who tries his best to manipulate his posting to an active command. The normal tenure of an Army Commander is 1.5-2 years, but with the inexplicable connivance of the chief and the government, a game of musical chairs is played with this critical appointment. Since its establishment in 1993, only three Army Commanders have completed their full tenure. Lack of continuity severely hampers the functioning of the ARTRAC.

The situation with respect to the appointment of the chief of staff, the de facto deputy Army commander, is no better. The first available Lt Gen with little or no regard for aptitude is appointed. At best, he remains a ‘hanger-on’.

The quality of the rest of the staff, which includes 90 officers, has improved over the years, but there is still ample scope. If you do not give the best resource, do not expect the best results.

There is no provision of posting/attaching research scholars to the ARTRAC or its institutions. With the impending merger of the Military Training Directorate with the ARTRAC, the study leave system in the Army must be revamped with focus on organisational interests and not on ‘rest and refit’ as has generally been the case so far. Officers on study leave must be utilised as research scholars.

The ARTRAC can improve its staff quality and also address shortage by hiring qualified veterans who are more than keen for a second innings. With 50 per cent of last pay as pension, the veterans will be more than happy to take up research and teaching assignments for 50 per cent of the last rank pay and house allowance. 

Womb to tomb

There is a need to place the Recruitment Directorate, currently under the Adjutant General’s Branch, Army Headquarters, under the ARTRAC. The ARTRAC must be responsible for laying down and reviewing the qualitative requirements for recruitment.

Inexplicably, the basic training of recruits is not under the charter of the ARTRAC. Respective arm and service directorates control the technical and tactical training of recruits, which is supervised by the Sub-area Commanders. This anomaly must be urgently addressed.

Also read: Modi must appoint chief of defence staff – and prove India’s political class isn’t fearful

Junior leaderstraining

The non-empowerment of non-commissioned officers (NCOs) and junior commissioned officers (JCOs) is a matter of serious concern. Only 10 per cent of the NCOs/ JCOs of the fighting arms undergo formal training to command their sub-units due to lack of capacity. There is an urgent need to establish junior leader training academies for all arms and services.

Even during the six years of World War II, no one could be promoted as an NCO in the German Army unless he had completed his training at the NCO academy. This is the reason why the German Army maintained its cohesion even when the ratio of officer to soldier fell from 1:30 at the beginning of the war to 1:300 in the end.

Training and validation of field formations

Due to lack of capacity, our units are saddled with the responsibility of basic training of soldiers and junior leaders. However, due to administrative and operational commitments, the units neither have time nor resources to do so. The ARTRAC should provide the finished product and units and formations should focus on application or mission-oriented training.

Our Army has no formal system to ensure ethical validation of individual and collective training standards. This is subjective in nature and largely left to the whims and fancies of higher commanders. All armies have specialist organisations to carry out validation. The ARTRAC must be given the charter to lay down the standards and validate the training in the Army.

War games are the best tool for validation of operational missions of field formations. Currently, commanders design their own war games and the validation remains subjective. It would be prudent for the ARTRAC to set and conduct the war games for objective validation of the operational missions at the corps and command level. 

Professional military education of officers

Military education deals with ‘why’ and military training deals with ‘how’ of matters military. Without the former, the latter is rudderless. There is an urgent need to revamp the professional military education of the officer corps.

Besides launching radical reforms in the military academies and other officer training institutions, the ARTRAC must reform the promotion and competitive examinations for the officers. The standard is so appalling that a large number of officers fail in promotion examinations. The results of the competitive exams are worse. Only a benign system is dragging the officers across the finishing line by giving them grace marks.

To promote professionalism, there is a need to introduce competitive exams for selection to prestigious courses like Higher Command Course, Higher Defence Management Course and National Defence Course.

Also read: ‘Booze Brigadier’ to egg & tent scams: Indian military must check falling standards in ethics

What is the way forward

The Army Training Command should be the most important command of the Army. It is an umbrella organisation, which must be seen as a facilitator and a catalyst for pursuing excellence. Its staff should be the best and it must be allowed the freedom necessary for such institutions.

The Army chief has done well to direct the merger of the Military Training Directorate with the ARTRAC, which is underway. He must now focus on reviewing the charter of the ARTRAC and its executive functions.

Lt Gen H S Panag PVSM, AVSM (R) served in the Indian Army for 40 years. He was GOC in C Northern Command and Central Command. Post retirement, he was Member of Armed Forces Tribunal. Views are personal.

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  1. If you need to make sure that your Army is trained and efficient, then the trainers must be the best officers of the Force. If I can recall, when my Father was an instructor in Staff College, people always said that it would be the instructors who would lead the Army in the future……. most of the officers of that era went on to higher command – rank of Major General and more. To make the best, you have to train people with the best……. most people will not follow a leader – they will tend to first observe the person and then try to imbibe those qualities ….. leaders need to Walk The Talk !

  2. The article is not up to speed on the facts. Gen Panag has covered issues which have long since been addressed.
    He would have done well to update himself before writing.

  3. Gen, there was no need to wash dirty linen in public. This is not Auftraktaktiks. You can do better. Intellectual officers….hmmmm

  4. For once I do agree with the General .. the army to be truly professional need to change its trg infra in terms of the supervision and validation model.. also the selection for career courses need to be competitive ..

  5. First half…good.. improvement .second half of selflessness ..for reemployment for officer.. already u know what re employ officers do…Means u don’t have faith in current officers…or is it a legecy..this article….Second point of JCOs and NCOs..u cultivated…examples of past..u know the reality…what type of officers u have cultivated to cultivate jawans…why wake up know in the name of such jawans to join as TS officer… Established as US…As Gen what were Ur eqpt and training…ufff..I think there is no vacancy as collector. Since u joined as an officer what u did…y question jawans..u and all offers r responsible for the same. It’s a political gimmick….why on social media such fustrating on retirement like Gen VK Singh..Discuss at appropriate level.As a Gen ultimate know…the channel…such comments r weakening Army at International level…Now jawans with China exercising…In they will learn..and our learning will be like Ur comment…just boost as officer..and hide….

  6. There isn’t a dearth of training and efficiency at junior levels, rather in many evaluation, the training in Indian Army is considered even more than desired (required). However, efficiency and concerns at higher level needs right thoughts to be put in. Are we really concerned ? to what for we stand here.. . However, not withstanding the truth to be brought in light, negativity also needs to be tackled to avoid depletion of morale.

    Hope is in hand General the RSS has decided to open its own military schools. We will soon have ideologically motivated officers and shouts of Jai Siri Ram will echo in the mountains fanning the Chinese soldiers cold with fear.
    Now that the Sansangchalk has jumped into the fray and with Bharat Mata led by the Pracharak, we have a disciplined RSS trained political leadership.
    Fear not take that mighty dread away from your mind, all is well !!!
    Emulate Gen Rawat carefully selected by our chief strategist and military genius Doval..
    Let us have a more optimistic outlook, write a inspiration piece for the Shawamsevaks.
    Let’s have no more of this nonsense doom, gloom in your writings, it’s bad for moral, we have the mightiest army in the world, the whole nation swooned in admiration at Narendra Modi’s generalship at Balakot. Our great Parcharak will have them swooning again in case of a China Pakistan Attack.
    What is your game General? Why are you starting a fear psychosis against Bharat Mata? Confess now, be honest.
    Stop acting like a fifth columnist if you wish to style yourself as a journalist act as an ordinary columnist, like those at Times Now, Republic and other patriotic news media.

  8. This article makes very sad reading about the indian army and it is sad that Gen Rawat has not thought on these lines suggested by the article. Gen Rawat was Modi’s pick after overriding seniority so he must be held to high expectations.
    Maybe only a defeat in war will help change the indian army. Hopefully the defeat will happen in a small scale situation where the loss is recoverable and not in a highly damaging event. Wars are always relatively large events and only in wars the weakness of the army is exposed for future improvement.
    Maybe a war where the indian army loses a chunk of territory will have the silver lining of reform, whenever that happens.
    In America, the best generals and officers who have intellectual capability are posted to the training commands. Gen Manekshaw and sundarji were thinking generals and officers, which is sadly lacking in the “something or something singh” with a big mustache clown and buffoon blustering officers who are running the indian army today, as though they are reincarnated from rana pratap who by the way is not known for any victories.

  9. No matter how well Lt. Gen Panag articulates his views, he has to stay away from left oriented website to post his views.

    • Dear Hariji, most people would characterise me as ”Bhakt”. And I do not see any obvious bias in what the The Print prints! Yes there are articles I don’t agree with, some even bordering on being ridiculous but I also find many articles I agreed with or more importantly correctly challenging my beliefs.
      Overall I find the print so far to be balanced and fair presenting multiple views and I enjoy reading it regularly

      Lt Gen Panag has raised a very valid point. And many moons back some time in the early 80, when I was still in school, I remember reading a short article in the TOI which quoted a Rand Corporation. analyst, who said thatBharat has no recent history of strategic thought. In my opinion The last time when someone thought strategically and holistically was Chanakya in CHANDRAGUPTAs time

  10. For a change the good Gen has written the truth.
    The only thing sustainable in the future is a learning army, that constantly aims to learn and relearn. The art of orchestration of a military organisation into a well tuned and efficient fighting machine is as much a function in the classroom as in the field….that’s what makes the Military a unique institute.
    Alas, the ARTRAC is treated like any other military HQ. The staffing of this unique HQ is done on basis of an officer having passed his staff College. One gets really flustered as to what a person qualified as a staff officer is doing in an institute aimed to formulate treatises and doctrines for the Army.
    It’s time that the thinking soldiers at the helm of affairs take control and start posting officers with an intellectual bent of mind…or even worthy civilians with a panache for military art should be considered as potential in the future.

  11. Apart from aptitude, attitude and capability for training, the ARTRAC Commander must be someone who cannot be inbthe running when the current chief retires and he should be told he will not be shifted till retirement. To make the post attractive a fixed tenure of 2 years must be given instead of retirement age.

  12. What can you expect from our defence forces who are run by the Babu’s of the IAS.
    The higher echelons of the Army have been demoralised for long and the Generals have long ceded ownership or responsibilities for the armed forces to the IAS.
    The IAS is dominated by the Brahmins who have been for centuries the most intelligent/cunning of the caste system they have through their religious rules/rituals, also been the most self serving, acquiring a social dominance by a class in society, like no other in any civilisation.
    The IPS their sister service controls all the paramilitary forces too, in the CAPFs they reserve all the senior jobs for themselves, leaving promotion blocked for the more experienced junior officers of these forces, who are expected to do the dirty dangerous field work at junior level.
    The Indian army has gradually had the work of making strategic decisions removed by the IAS.
    The army generals have given up – its all Babu rule at the highest level.
    The Babus who rule us are selected via an unfit academic examination, these IAS Babu’s are fit only for positions at Universities. These are not administrators, they have never been able to organise a garbage collection or clean up of our streets. How can you expect these cretins to make high level decisions regarding our armed forces.
    If the Army was responsible for running itself from ‘womb to tomb’ right up to the highest level, without input from the Babu then we perhaps would not have come to this sorry state.

  13. As a patriotic Indian I am sadden to say,
    INDIA is way behind Pakistan let alone China, our WW2 Army is in danger of being obliterated in a full scale war, just as Saddams divisions were destroyed by the Americans from the Air in what the Americans described as a ‘Turkey Shoot’.
    Our adversary China is well underway to fully upgrading their Armed forces
    Everybody has heard of the PLA modernisation started fifteen years ago – an ‘informatised’ Defence at every level in conjunction with a smaller army and the use of IT, as one of the two major reforms, the second reform is training of their armed forces to conduct this informatised warfare and to use their new weapons.
    The PLA knows that if it has to deploy technology in diverse ways, training in battle like situations is the key, it tries to learn from the USA experience in overseas wars and develop its own, in March 2019 it adjusted it training doctrine to focus on measuring, and performance reviewing its training against real war situations.
    Decision makers in India do not fully understand the scale of the lead China has, they fail to grasp how antiquated our armed forces, they also do not have the mindset to understand the urgency of reform.
    Changes that happen in China soon gets imbibed by its proxy Pakistan. Pakistani generals frequently visit China and at least understand what modern war entails.
    Indian Generals either lack the military education to even grasp these shortfalls, either this or professional standards have fallen so far that India’s self serving senior generals have ceased to care.
    The Indian army as an Institution cannot be kept separate from the wider Indian public administration and society.
    The bloated million strong Indian Army or call it our antiquated militia, is a joke, just as the rest of what happening in the public sphere in India.
    If it’s too late to reform then to survive in face of certain defeat, our Army should be taught the tactics of the Taliban to disappear when faced with a high tech enemy, disband itself and regroup as a irregular force. The million mouths in the Army, our taxpayer is feeding is just a vanity project and for all practical purposes, apart from putting down Kashmiris and cross border incursions, is money wasted.

    • Obviously you have very little idea of what you are talking about. Pak has a very large Army compared to its land mass and populationand a very large Defence Budget in relation to its GDP. Pak rathe than being a country that has an Army is in fact an Army that has a Country. China on the other hand is an Authoritarian, Totalitarian Communist State with single mind, total focus, voice and action. To even compare them with us is not very sensible. Pak has also very since its birth received lots of free Arms, Eqpt and Funds from many quarters for being a lackey or hired Gun. By likening the Indian Army as a Mililtia and commenting on its great numbers and being a burden on Tax Payers you have taken away whatever little credibility your comment may have held. Our Land Mass, location, Geography, Neighbourhood, Terrain, Security Challenges, frequency of Natural Disasters etc etc all necessitate having adequate number of Boots on Ground. Inspite of the great technoogical Superiority of the US forces and vast funds and resources at their disposal, it is no hidden fact regarding the incompetence in planning, execution and disproportionate losses in any onflict they may have chosen to engsge in. Regarding Tax Payers Money Remsrk it was in very poor taste. If you had your facts right you would be knowing that out of a population of around 135 M only approx 15 M pay any taxes (pl do not count the GST on the Soap or Toothpaste you may be using) out of which all those enrolled in the Defense Services are also included. In Def Services are among the very few in the World who pay Income Tax. Even a middle Ranking Offr pay anthing between Rs 35 K to Rs 50 K plus all Surchsrges every month. They also pay House Rent, License Fees, Furniture Rent, Electricity, Water Charges etc, etc. And mind you they dont have any right or avenue to challenge whatever charges are levied and IT is also of the TDS variety. Many are not even able to claim Refunds due to them sitting in remote inhiospitable areas with poor communication facilities and no Internet. I am talking of those who somehow, after months or sometimess yesrs of waiting manage to get a leaku, smelly, moldy, congested, dilapidated quarter alloted. There is no uniformity and no say of Uniformed Personell in such matters. They are at the mercy of the System or Civilians. So before Criticizing all and Sundry or Shooting from the Hip it is better to ask yourself how many years have you served or are one of those who once upon a time owned a Shop in a Sadar Bazar somewhere, knew few Soldiers and started thinking of themselves as Defence experts competent to comment on all Military Matters. Ladt but not the least, nobody is putting down any Kashmiris. The only people being put down are Militants, Terrorists and Religious Fanatics with Weapons.

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