Threat Assessment & Combat Readiness Factored Into New Indian Recruitment Drive: IAF Veteran
© AP Photo / Manish SwarupIndian paramilitary soldiers perform neck exercises after rehearsals for the upcoming Republic Day parade amidst morning fog, in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2011
© AP Photo / Manish Swarup
Delhi has announced a "transformative" move to recruit military personnel below officer rank, aiming to cut the average troop age and prepare for future wars. Currently, India recruits soldiers for a minimum service period of 17 years.
The Indian government has announced a new military recruitment drive named ’Agnipath’, or path of fire, in which men and women between 17-and-a-half and 21 will be able to join the Armed Forces for four years.
Regular soldiers spend a minimum of 17 years in service and retire with social security packages, such as pensions.
Under the new system, soldiers will get a fixed salary of $380 per month, out of which approximately $127 will be paid at the end of their service in the fourth year. They will not receive pensions or social security coverage.
Sputnik spoke with Air Marshal Anil Chopra, director-general of the Centre for Air Power Studies, about what Defence Minister Rajnath Singh describes as “historic steps” for the Armed Forces, and how the new programme will impact the three services' operational capability.
Sputnik: The Indian Armed Forces have announced the ‘Agnipath’ scheme to induct youth for four years with lesser benefits. Why did they decide to start this scheme now?
Anil Chopra: Human resources and cadre management are continuous processes. All the organisations and armed forces around the world do it.
The new scheme will result in making the Armed Forces much younger. (The average age of an infantryman will come down to 26 from the current [level of] 32.)
It will also improve promotional aspects for those who are permanent. While in service for four years, they will get all facilities. Many countries have short period engagements in the armed forces.
Sputnik: Do you think the 'Agniveers' (the soldiers recruited under this scheme) will show the same commitment as regular ones?
Anil Chopra: Yes, they will. Since 25% will be able to get permanent commission (enrolled in the Armed Forces as regular cadres with existing terms and conditions of service), there will be greater competition to perform well.
Sputnik: The tension along the northern border has forced the Armed Forces to shift many military assets from the west to the Line of Actual Control. Don't you think the decision to recruit youth on a short-term or contractual basis may impact our strength in changed circumstances?
Anil Chopra: The scheme has been under discussion for nearly two years. The threat assessment and combat readiness have been factored in. The initial groups will be in smaller numbers. The same will increase in years to come.
Sputnik: What impact do you see on the defence budget spending due to this tour of duty scheme?
Anil Chopra: India's annual pension bill is nearly $15.3 billion (the total defence budget is $68 billion). This will gradually start to reduce. It is hoped that the money saved would be used to focus more on the advancement of technology and military modernisation.
Sputnik: What is the global experience of this kind of recruitment process?
Anil Chopra: This scheme is unique for India. However, most countries have done cadre reviews to make the forces lean and mean. This includes the UK, China, and many others.
The military age profile in many countries such as Israel, South Korea, and Sweden is much lower. The scheme is voluntary. When the individual comes into the market, they would have better skills and a richer resume, a corpse amount, and will have higher confidence to get a job.