Agnipath will help military, youngsters, economy
Our military forces must be young and agile, and our economy strong, to meet challenges of the changing global order
India is on course to take a monumental leap in the world order. It is already seen as a major pivot in the emerging global order by being a key nation in two security arrangements—one in the Indo-Pacific and the another with the US, the UAE, and Israel. The Indian military has to adapt to the changing strategic interests.
The average age of the Indian military is currently 32 years while there are roughly vacancies of about one lakh armed forces personnel. India has two hostile nuclear-armed neighbours. Our military forces must be young and agile to meet challenges of the changing global order.
The Narendra Modi government’s unveiling of the Agnipath scheme seeks to fill the void in India’s growing fast-evolving role in the global order. The initiative to hire 46,000 Agniveers this year in the armed forces will immediately bring down the average age from the current 32 to 26, helping the Indian military to become much younger.
Besides, it’s pertinent to look at the socio-economic impact of the Agnipath scheme, since India aspires to become a $5-trillion economy, which in turn will throw up newer challenges and opportunities. Economy thrives on a stable security situation, both internal and external. Agniveers will immediately fill a large portion of the vacancies in the armed forces while also creating a large pool of the militarily trained personnel who could be easily drafted into the paramilitary forces, who are engaged in ensuring peaceful elections and maintaining peace in strife-torn and insurgency hit areas.
Among the paramilitary forces, the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) alone has seen a major expansion in the scope of its responsibilities to provide security to industrial units and transportation systems, including Metro services in several cities.
The Agnipath scheme promises to make trained manpower available that could be easily drafted for such duties.
Indeed, 25 per cent of the Agniveers would be absorbed in the armed forces for a longer duration. The Ministry of Home Affairs has already made it clear that the paramilitary services would give preferences to the Agniveers in their recruitments. This truly makes sense as the Agniveers would already come trained and with basic re-skilling they would be able to take up the newer responsibilities.
The ambit of national security is also evolving. Besides safeguarding territorial integrity and internal peace, national security also entails that the economic forces in the country don’t face any security threat. India will have to think about providing a full-proof security ecosystem to economic activities in metropolitan cities and also at places where they are nudged to go, including Jammu and Kashmir and the North-Eastern states. Economic disruptions due to any reason could pose a threat to national security.
Equally important is the social import of the Agnipath scheme as it promises to build a patriotic character among the youth of the country. Disciplined youth is an asset to society. Military training imparts discipline. The Ministry of Education’s policy of recognising military training of the Agniveers for credits in their graduation for in-service courses by the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) is praiseworthy.
After four years of military service, 75 per cent of the Agniveers will come back to the society with training, skills and education to embark on vocations of their choice with capital in hand. This will work as a force multiplier for the Agniveers to play the role of change agents.
A number of countries have similar programmes for their military forces. It has been seen in such countries, including Israel, that the former military personnel have engaged in activities which added value to their economies. Already former armed forces personnel are most sought-after by the private security agencies which have immensely proliferated in the recent years.
It’s futile to argue that the armed forces will be burdened with the training efforts for Agniveers, because India is no more a status quoist country; capacity expansion is the mantra of the Modi government. India not only has to expand the capacity but also qualitatively improve upon the outcome.
Additionally, the state police too are in need of major human resources training and up-skilling because of the rising internal security challenges. State governments, which already have to fill a large number of vacancies in their police forces, can begin to look comfortably at the Agniveers. This can help the state police become more agile and also efficient.
Indeed, the social impact of Agniveers in villages would be substantial as they could become role models for youngsters. Agniveers, by the time they come out of the military service, will also have enough savings.
[The Blog was first published in The Pioneer and the author is Director, of the Public Policy Research Centre.]