DTU Times interviewed Retd. Major General PK Sehgal, who was at DTU for an interactive session, organized by the newly elected Student Association.
Now that women in armed forces have been made eligible for permanent commission, what is your perspective on it and how fruitful do you think it will prove to be?
It is extremely important to keep up with the times. All over the world, women are being empowered. As far as India is concerned 49.5% of its population is women. Presently, only 8-10% of this population is working. If India has to turn around and find a place of its own in accordance with its demographic, geographic, economic and military crowd, it has to empower women. I think it’s a very appropriate and properly timed decision.
According to you, what are the internal challenges faced by the Indian Army?
There are huge challenges as far as the internal dynamics are concerned. Firstly, the armed forces are structured to fight the wars that were fought in the Second World War. The army needs to be restructured to fight the network-centric warfare of the 21st century. It requires a huge amount of change at the top-level. After the Kargil War in 1999, remedial and peripheral recommendations have been made. Although bureaucracy has failed to implement major recommendations. Saying that we have an integrated ministry of defense is not precisely correct. All services are functioning virtually in an environment of their own. There is a lack of coordination and intelligence sharing/gathering between the army, the air force and the navy which in turn leads redundancy of work. As a result, a huge amount of money is being wasted. If all this becomes integrated, phenomenal savings will take place.
Secondly, today the biggest threat to the armed forces is the cyber threat which poses a grave danger to the nation. Even today attempts to tweak our water, transport and power distribution systems are being made which if not dealt with properly will prove chaotic. Even before the first bullet is fired, should it ever take place, there will be chaos within the country as we will be defenseless.
Thirdly, the space-based command system is a reality. We’ve been talking about cyber and space command for a very long time. Now would be the right time to work in this direction. Moreover, modernization in the defense system is something that we have failed to follow, steps should be taken in that direction as well. So, these are some of the huge internal challenges that are faced by the armed forces.
What are your thoughts on a career in defense for the youth of the country?
It is an amazing career. At the time when my elder brother and I joined the services, we were very bright students. Defense career was our first option. The highest level of heads and heart used to opt for these services. It is a sad thing that today it has become a career of last resort. Students take it up when they have exhausted all their opportunities. Albeit a population of 1.25 billion in the country yet there is a shortage of 15-20% of officers in the air Force which will have cascading implication in the future. Let us take an example. Suppose each Rafael can carry out 6-8 missions against the enemy. Because of the shortage of officers, those missions will be carried out by the same handful number of pilots. So imagine the state of our pilots after the first 48 hours of grueling flight. But we still refuse to take unfit candidates. We are only looking for people with the highest head. A small mistake and numerous lives will be lost. If an equipment is not handled correctly the defense will have to incur a loss of 20-30 crores and the replacement will not come into service for at least 30 years. So under these circumstances, we cannot make compromises, we are looking for people who can endure such pressure. The integrity of a Nation is at stake.