Sluggish Kargil ops highlighted age factor

Supreme court wants more agile fighting force

Sluggish Kargil ops highlighted age factor

More than 15 years after the Kargil conflict, the Supreme Court has cleared the decks for having a more agile fighting force at the border.

The sluggish response by the Army during the Kargil episode with Pakistan was red-flagged by a government panel that recommended lowering the age of colonels and brigadiers to make the force more agile.

The panel headed by former defence secretary Ajay Vikram Singh observed that the average age of a colonel in the Indian Army was 41, while it was 37 in the armies of Pakistan and China. 

The panel proposed overhauling the cadre management in the armed forces, though the focus predominantly remains on the army.

Compared to armies of Pakistan, China, UK, Germany and Israel, the Indian Army has a higher age-profile which adversely affects the officer’s physical alertness and operational preparedness. 

Alertness drops after 50Officers beyond 50 years of age find it difficult to sustain mental and physical alertness at high altitude as well as in hazardous and hostile topography along the Line of Control where a brigade commander is required to serve for effective command and control.

This is also true in the case of battalion commanders who are required to move during operations with their units for effective command and control.

In the Indian Army, officers assume battalion command at the age of 41-42 years and continue till 44-45 years in comparison to those in Pakistan and Chinese Armies where the age of the battalion commander, on an average, is about 35 and 40 years, respectively.

Three wingsThe Army is split into three divisions – combat, combat support arms and services. The combat arm consists of armoured corps, infantry and mechanised infantry, which participate in direct tactical land combat with requisite weaponry.

The combat support arm comprises of artillery, air defence, engineers and signals, whereas the remaining four streams–army service corps, army ordnance corps, electrical and mechanical engineers, and other corps, including intelligence, aviation and other minor corps–fall into the service category.

The panel proposed separate promotion policies for these categories. The government accepted the recommendations but breached those provision within months while releasing the first tranche of 750 vacancies, encouraging some officers to approach the court. 

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