Indian Navy Chief backs Agnipath scheme to the hilt; tells Arnab why it’s transformative

As aggressive protests, fuelled by misinformation, were witnessed in different parts of the country over the Agnipath military recruitment scheme, Indian Navy Chief Admiral R Hari Kumar on Thursday spoke exclusively to Republic’s Editor-In-Chief Arnab Goswami over the benefits of the Agnipath scheme and the importance of stopping the spread of misinformation which is leading to violence.  

When asked what is his message to those who are outraged by the Agnipath scheme, the Indian Navy Chief said, “My message to them is that this is complete misinformation which is causing such issues. The Agnipath scheme is one of the most transformational schemes that has been undertaken in the history of the Indian Military. It is truly transformational and is looking at developing the National ethos amongst the youth, as well as fulfilling the main aim of the induction of the age profile of the armed forces. 

‘Agnipath one of the most transformational schemes in history’: Navy Chief 

Responding to the question of whether five years is truly enough to be battle-ready, the Navy chief explained, “People who are raising issues have not really gone into the depth of the scheme. Under this scheme, we are opening opportunities more than 4 times for more youth who want to serve in the armed forces. Earlier, we used to have 5000 people joining the Navy, but in a span of about three to four years, we will go up in numbers as much as probably retaining 25% and 75% will be going back. But to answer your question if they will be battle-ready, in that sense I must tell you that there is no major change from what is happening today, the recruit who joins today undergoes training for 22 weeks, thereafter, he does a professional training for another four months or so, and then he continues to serve the Indian Army and the Air Force, and his next course happens only after 5-6 years.”

#NavyChiefOnAgnipath | Many of these people making comments haven’t gone into depths of the scheme. We are opening the opportunities 3x, 4x for youth who want to serve in the forces, to get the opportunity: India’s Chief of Naval Staff Admiral R Hari Kumar pic.twitter.com/3He2GEa6ZN

— Republic (@republic) June 17, 2022

Speaking on questions over whether the training will be equivalent, he said, “So what is happening in the case of Agniveer, we have only reduced the training time marginally, let’s say, in case of Navy, we have reduced it from 22 weeks to 18 weeks, which includes 16 weeks of basic training, and the professional training remains almost the same. We are working on reducing the training periods marginally, to make it more effective and more efficient by the use of modern techniques, so nothing really has changed.”

Speaking on the issue of a long-term commitment by the forces, the Indian Navy chief said, “In the Navy, for example, we have officers and sailors, who come on a ship, to serve for two years and then they move on. So, these posts are made as per a particular plan. Now one cannot say that the commitment of a person is less.”

While responding in the reference to the Russian forces during its war with Ukraine facing shortcomings due to having very young officers in their army, Admiral R Hari Kumar stated, “The Russia-Ukraine conflict has not been analysed in-depth so far, but there are so many other examples where wars have taken place where people with short duration of service were deployed and there have been successful battles, in World War 1, 2, and several others. So, it is incorrect of us to draw conclusions from something that has happened very recently.”

The Navy chief further said, “A lot of people are talking about the cohesion of a unit. Now, one is task cohesion, the other is social cohesion. What is important for the military is task cohesion. It does not depend on the longevity of the person, but on how well one is trained, and how well you are integrated into a unit. So there is an entire environment that makes this cohesion happen.”

‘Protestors must get informed’

When asked if there can be division within the forces between the Agniveers and the ones who are in service for several years, Admiral R Hari Kumar explained, “I do not see any issue in this regard. While many of the veterans were talking about the pilot project being undertaken. We have debated this. I have been involved in this for the last two years. The reason why we decided not to go with the pilot project is that we cannot have two similar entries for Agniveers and general entries at the same time. Therefore, the only entry is going to be the Agniveer entry.”

Speaking on taking measures to stop the misinformation which has led to violence in different states, the Navy chief said, “We have got in touch with all our veterans and we have interacted with them to spread the message because we are aware there could be a possibility of miscommunication. My only message to the people who are protesting is that they must first get themselves fully informed about the scheme.”

‘Benefits in Agnipath scheme are tremendous’

Further explaining the benefits of the Agnipath scheme, he added, “The benefits in the Agnipath scheme are tremendous. Imagine a youth who has joined under this scheme, and then he learns to operate in a modern warship, submarine, or an aircraft, a modern weapon system. He experiences hardships and so many more things. Therefore, there will be a rapid development of his personality, he becomes confident, he gets remuneration, and he has also got a choice of whether he wants to stay or go for a different option. He also gets education benefits, and credits as per the new education policy, and he is only 22 when he leaves. The Government has been kind enough to increase the age this year to 23 years.”

Reacting to the view of imposition by civilian bureaucracy on the forces, Admiral R Hari Kumar stated, “This is a scheme which started two years back, and that time it was looked at as one of the action taken reports to be done for the Kargil Commission report, which had categorically said that it needed to bring down the age profile, and various other measures were examined. It was worked upon over the last two years. It has gone up and down, under various recommendations, and various suggestions.”

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