Sat, 02 Jul 2022

New Delhi [India], June 21 (ANI): Emphasising that the Agnipath scheme will not be rolled back and was not a knee-jerk reaction, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval said on Tuesday said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had shown the political will to bring about major change in recruitment to give armed forces a youthful profile.

In an exclusive interview with ANI, he said security is not only thinking about the present generation but also about the future generations and the Prime Minister has got the clarity of vision and ability to take decisions.

Referring to protests over the Agnipath recruitment scheme, he said there are "conflict entrepreneurs" with vested interests who are behind the protests over the scheme.

"There is no question of any rollback. This is not a knee-jerk reaction. This has been discussed for decades. In the 1970s, we had the General Krishna Rao Committee of which General Sundarji, General Chhibber were members. They talked about reforming the Army, including the manpower policy, technology and others. Then there was the Arun Singh report in 1989 and then there was a Group of Ministers report...every time it was being felt... there was Subrahmanyam Committee report, the Kargil Committee report... All these consistently had a refrain go for a younger Army. But there was a problem. While everybody realized that it was necessary, no one had the will and ability to take the risk," Doval said.

Citing an example of the UPA government, he said that the Ministry of Defence wrote a letter to the Ministry of Home Affairs in 2006 that they were thinking of implementing if CPMFs (central para-military forces) will be able to take some retiring people (from defence forces).

Doval said Home Ministry gave a reply that they are forming a committee under the DG BSF to examine the matter but that committee's "report has never been seen by anyone".

Citing a lack of political will, he said the then Defence Minister never sent a reminder. "The letter was sent in 2006 and the committee was formed in 2007. It was political will. It is such a big problem, it is such a mass, who will dare getting into it and bringing about the change."Doval said PM Modi visualises what happens to the Indian Army 15 years from now.

"It (the change) can only happen with a leader like PM Modi, who will say that if this is in the national interest, if this will make India stronger and secure, then no risk is big enough, then no cost is high enough. Even if it is a political cost, I will pay it because he visualises what happens to the Indian Army 15 years from now," he said.

"Security is not only thinking about your generation, also about the future generations, You will have an army which has been recruited and selected and manned by people who have got the highest level of fitness, agility, training, and capabilities. They would be manning it. There will be civil society in which there will be thousands of people who are there to bring about the change, they will be catalysts of change," he added.

Asked if PM Modi has the defence forces and the bureaucracy with him to bring about reforms, he said the Prime Minister "has got the clarity of vision and he has got ability to take decisions".

"He is very right in telling that all status quoits will have some doubts, some genuine fears. It requires certain clarity. There is a lot of clutter and confusion and to take it out, you need a very clear-headed leadership. When he is clear-headed, people down the line also become clear-headed. Probably the earlier regimes created a muddle because they themselves were not clear what did they want, what transformation they want to bring about and what is the cost and are they prepared to pay that cost."He said Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat, who died in a helicopter accident, was also involved in the reforms aimed at making defence forces more youthful.

Doval said there was total commitment to bring about change in the form of Agnipath scheme and they resolved the doubts.

"I think it has been going on for the last three years that we have been deliberating and thinking...large number of meetings on this and others, smallest points, detail have been gone into and there is total support, total commitment, total desire and also enthusiasm about bringing about this change. The doubts were in our minds also. We resolved those doubts, we tried to find out how we can minimise that, how we can mitigate the possible threats and dangers," Doval added.

The "transformative" Agnipath scheme, announced by Union Minister Rajanath Singh on June 14, in the presence of the three service chiefs provides for the recruitment of into the armed services of youth between 17-and-a-half-years to 21 for four years with a provision to retain 25 per cent of them. The Centre later extended the upper age limit to 23 years for recruitment in 2022.The Union Cabinet had also approved Agnipath scheme on June 14 and the youth selected under this scheme will be known as Agniveers.

The government had announced that 46,000 Agniveers to be recruited this year. It had said that the armed Forces will have "a younger, fitter, diverse profile" to face future challenges.The Indian Army issued its first notification on Monday for recruitment under Agnipath schemeDoval said in terms of manpower, India must have a young, agile, fit and well-trained army.

"It is a contradiction, a paradox that a country with one of the youngest populations has the oldest army. By 2030, it is predicted that over 50 per cent of our population will be under the age of 25 years in India. In this country, the average age of the armed forces is one of the highest in the world. We cannot afford that..India has a young population which needs to reflect in the armed forces also."He said over the last eight years, a lot of structural and systematic changes have taken place and referred to Defence Cyber Agency, developments related to satellite technology, modern equipment, and new assault rifles.

He said Agniveers will never constitute the whole army. "Those Agniveers who become regulars eventually will undergo intensive training, acquire experience over a period of time."Doval said when PM Narendra Modi came to power in 2014, one of his prime priorities was how to make India secure and strong.

"That required many avenues, many steps - multitude of them. Broadly speaking, they come under the four heads. It requires equipment, it requires change in systems and structures, it requires change in technology, it requires change in manpower, policies and they have to be futuristic," he added.

He said Agnipath scheme does not tinker with the concept of regiments of Indian Army.

"They (regiments) will continue... The regimental system has not ended," Doval told ANI.

Asked about any political element involved in protests against the Agnipath scheme, he said, "FIRs have been lodged, accused identified, after due probe we can say who were the forces behind it". "An investigation must be done and thoroughly so."Asked about the inability of the police to prevent violence and arson during protest in some states, Doval agreed that there was a need of police reforms also.

The NSA said there are people with concerns about the Agnipath scheme whose "fear of unknown" is getting addressed but there is another group which does "not care for the country or security of the nation" and resorts to violence and damage to public property.

"There is another group. They do not care for the country or the security of the nation. They are conflict entrepreneurs. They want a conflict in society. These are the people who will go for stone-throwing, demonstrations, burning trains. They are with a vested interest. Whenever they have an opportunity they think they can mislead the people," he added.

"I think that the protests, raising your voice is justified and is permitted in a democracy. But this vandalism, this violence is not permitted and will not be tolerated at all," Doval said.

Noting that Agniveers will have secure future, Doval said they have age as an asset and do not need to worry about anything.

He said there will be a plethora of opportunities for Agniveers in a rapidly growing economy which will become USD 5 trillion in the coming years.

"We must have a fit, agile, young and well-trained Army. Those Aginiveers who will be regularised will go through more training and become experienced over time. So Indian Army at any point of time will have a large number of people who though recruited as Agniveers but are specially selected for their suitability, fitness, agility motivation and aptitude," he said.

On Pakistan, Doval said, "We can't have peacewar at the choice of our adversary. If we've to protect our interests, then we will decide when and with whom and on what terms we will have peace. We have good relations with our neighbours including Pakistan. We would like to have normal relations with Pakistan but the certainly tolerance threshold for terrorism is very low."On Jammu and Kashmir, Doval said post-2019, the mood of the people has changed.

"They are not in favour of Pakistan and terrorism anymore. Where is Hurriyat today? Where are all the bandhs? There are a few individuals who are misled and are getting into this. We are doing our best to persuade them. Their families are making efforts."On the ongoing impasse with China in Eastern Ladakh, Doval said, "We have got a long-pending territorial dispute with China. We have made our intention clear to China. They know we will not tolerate any transgression. There have been some unsavoury incidents. We have been able to resolve some issues through talks and negotiations. A few points still remain. We will continue our efforts. At the same time, we have to ensure we are vigilant and are able to protect our borders."In his message to the youth regarding the Agnipath scheme, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval on Tuesday said they should remain positive, have faith in the country's leadership as also themselves.

He said people join the armed forces not just for money but for their patriotism and a feeling of what they can do for the country.

He said the scheme is not for those who do not have such feelings.

"As far as the message for the youth is concerned, one thing is clear, nobody is working in the armed forces just for money. People work with the spirit of enthusiasm. People work for the nation. People invest their energies for the nation," he said.

"In this scheme, it is important to have the right skill set, training and physical fitness. But what is more important is the ideology behind pursuing a career in this field. The youth, who wish to become Agniveers should be positive, have faith in the nation, the leadership, the society and also in yourself," he added.

The NSA laid stress on the youth having self-confidence. "Swami Vivekananda used to say that an atheist is the one who does not believe in any religion. Our 'new religion' says that atheist is the one who does not believe in himself, herself," he said.

The NSA noted that no avenue is closed or debarred from Agniveers and they will have second career."Plus, Agniveers will have around Rs 11 lakh cash, they can join any course of their choice. They can go to University. They can acquire technical skills. So they will have a second career. Earlier people talk about one life and two careers. But now its one life and three careers," he said.

"After four years of service, the training, discipline, background and the Army career, they (Agniveers) will have high stature in the society. On top of it there are several announcements by the government and several ministries for the absorption of Agniveers," he added. (ANI)

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