Dispelling notions that the 1.13-million strong Army is ill-prepared to deal with NBC (nuclear, biological, chemical) warfare, Chief of Army Staff, General Joginder Jaswant Singh, says his force is operationally ready and adequately equipped to deal with every eventuality across the entire spectrum of conflict.
With the Army inducting "more accurate and lethal" weapon systems and "effective" surveillance systems like satellite imagery and advanced radars, Gen Singh told TOI on Thursday that the formations based along the Indo-Pak border were also being restructured in line with the government’s approval for a new South-Western Command.
This sixth operational command of the Army is likely to be in place by mid-2005. It will operate in conjunction with the Udhampur-based Northern Command and Chandimandir-based Western Command to have better "command and control" along the entire western front covering Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab and Rajasthan.
"We have now increased and enhanced our fighting capabilities many times more than what we had during the 1971 war," Gen Singh, who describes himself as "a ferocious fighter", said. The Army’s understanding of NBC weapons is very clear. "Our nuclear doctrine says no first-use and no use against non-nuclear nations. It also lays down the need for having a minimum credible deterrent. We are very confident that this has been addressed very squarely by our country and armed forces," he said.
Though nuclear weapons are "not war-fighting weapons", NBC protection equipment had been "made available in the desired numbers" to troops who are likely to be exposed to such threats. The T-72 tanks, which form the backbone of India’s armoured might, and infantry combat vehicles are also being equipped with advanced NBC protection systems.
"The (newly-inducted) T-90S tanks, of course, are well protected. The T-72s were designed to be NBC proof but their filters had outlived their shelf life. These are being replaced," said Gen Singh. "Total nuclear protection" for the "whole Army", apart from being "prohibitively expensive", is not required, he added.
As for modernisation plans, Gen Singh said the Army was already inducting a wide array of advanced systems for precision-strike capabilities. This will soon include the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile.