Vimarsha: National Security Challenges of the Next Decade - A talk by General Bikram Singh, former Chief of Indian Army & Chairman COS
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On 30 Jul 2015, General Bikram Singh, former Chief of Indian Army & Chairman Chiefs of Staff, delivered an incisive talk, titled as ‘National Security Challenges of the Next Decade’, to a large audience, comprising academia, intelligentsia, soldiers, statesmen and students, among others, who had gathered for VIF’s monthly vimarsha, series of talks by eminent persons on issues of contemporary national importance. He was welcomed and presented to the audience by General NC Vij, former Chief of Indian Army and VIF’s present Director. His opening remarks broadly encapsulated the contours of India’s regional security environment, influenced increasingly by shifting geo-political trends, especially the rise of China. The Director stressed that India has a strategic window of roughly about ten years to rise to the challenge of China.

General Bikram Singh, who retired as Army Chief exactly a year ago on 31 July 2014, painted a broad canvass of India’s security challenges including threats on the northern and western borders, situations in J&K and the northeast, and coastal security, among others. Kicking off his talk with a perceptive analysis of the terrorist incident at Gurdaspur in Punjab, he said it bore the frustration of terrorist groups in Pakistan who are apparently against any rapprochement between India and Pakistan. Alluding to a potential Pakistan’s ISI (Inter Services Intelligence) involvement in the Gurdaspur attack, he said such incidents usually usher in a fortress mentality, resulting into cascading effects with increased costs to security and grave ramifications for maintaining law and order, a cusp between public order and security. He further underlined Pakistan’s strategic behaviour vis-à-vis India is unlikely to change unless it gets over its obsession with Kashmir. While no time-frame can be laid as to when Pakistan will be able to bring about this much needed attitudinal change in its behaviour, it is imperative that the channels of communication between the two countries are kept open. The General underscored that while New Delhi continues with its strategic engagements with Islamabad, it must deal with Pakistan in a firm and decisive manner at the tactical levels.

In so far as threat on India’s northern border is concerned, General Bikram Singh said he did not visualise China, on course to a world power, waging a war against India in a foreseeable future. Beijing is unlikely to get distracted in a needless war with India while it is still consolidating its economic and military power. Furthermore, China and India, both rising and growing economically inter-dependent, will desist from going to war. However, a localised conflict without spiralling into an all-out offensive cannot be ruled out, General Bikram Singh surmised. He assured India’s Armed Forces are adequately prepared and on a high morale ride to meet all kinds of threat challenging India’s territorial integrity.

General Bikram Singh also elaborated upon other challenges to India’s security - the rising insurgent threats in the northeast, the growing ISIS footprints in South Asia, and the militarisation of the Indian Ocean, among others. Responding to the controversy over Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), the former Army Chief said the armed forces do need legal protection to operate in a complex civilian environment. He however assured the audience that human right violations by the Army are very few and far between. Even in a small number of cases where human rights have been violated by the army personnel, the Army has dealt with them in an exemplary manner. Nonetheless, there is need for the Army to hone its skills in perception management, especially in places where it is involved in counter-insurgency operations. Following his talk, General Bikram Singh participated in a lively Q&A session with the audience.

Event Date 
July 30, 2015
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