The Indian Army currently has its hands full with two restive borders, internal insurgencies and the need to trim its fat. It has done a good job of all the three. When the Army Chief dwells on these aspects, and even if some observations step on civilian toes such as the one about J&K’s school education system, he still operates within his envelope of expertise. His concern on the two-map system in J&K schools, for instance, hints that this perception of separateness opens the door for radicalisation. Social scientists can contest the perception, but for an Army combating recurring bouts of militancy, the Chief cannot be faulted for airing his conceptual worldview about the root of the trouble.
However, Gen Bipin Rawat left his crease by seeking to draw a distinction between the traders of violence in Kashmir and Afghanistan. Talks with the Taliban are at a fragile juncture and India is treading a very fine line; which the Army Chief sought to enlighten the audience about and ended up sending a tangential message. Dissimulation has never been a soldier’s forte; it is a task best left to the diplomat. India needs a course correction in its approach towards Afghanistan, which has witnessed some forward movement. It demands complex political manoeuvring and also picking and choosing of allies, which are beyond the pale of an institution that has less to do with international relations.
General Rawat was on familiar turf when he dealt with the restructuring of the Indian Army to make it a weapon-intensive, manpower-lean force. The Army also has the more painful task of integrating the command and control of all the three services for the armed forces to integrate with the times. By all accounts, the General is up for the task. His men have also performed uniformly well in manning the borders and tamping down on insurgencies. The Army needs to retain focus on its task in Kashmir and leave the categorisation of militancy in faraway lands to domain specialists.