By Jawad Ahmed
Agnipath recruitment process has been launched by the Indian armed forces, this proposal came with an aim to bring transformational changes in Indian armed forces. Agnipath means “Path of Fire”, under this scheme 45,000 youngsters will be inducted every year, they will serve for a period of four years. The new recruitment system, will bring in men and women between the ages of 17-and-a-half and 21 for a four-year tenure, with only a quarter retained for longer periods. After completion of tenure, the service of 11,500 personnel will continue. Previously, soldiers have been recruited by the army, navy and air force separately and typically enter service for up to 17 years for the lowest ranks.
This move by the Indian government came in order to address the increasing military budget in terms of pensions and salaries. India youth is furious over this proposal and small protests have turned into violent clashes in several Indian states. Indian defense minister Rajnath Singh has denied that the armed forces are not looking through the perspective of savings but there has been issue of high salaries and pension costs which Indian army has been facing over the years.
This scheme is being widely criticised in India by the opposition, civil society and former military officers. Rahul Gandhi has also demanded Modi government to take back this proposal. At the same time, concerns were raised on the professionalism, military ethos and fighting spirit of the Indian armed forces. Former military officials of India while criticising Agnipath recruitment scheme opined that this recruitment will lead to poorly motivated and trained military personnel who will become risk averse as bulk of them will have to hunt for second careers after four years.
Indian security experts are claiming that this scheme will reduce the burden of pensions, India has the World’s second largest standing defence force. There are some 1.4 million personnel on active duty and all of these people retire with a pension. As of 2020 India had more than 32 lac defense pensioners and every year this number goes up by 55 thousand. A big chunk of the budget goes in the pensions. Indian security experts say Agnipath will solve the problem and it will help divert money from pension to equipment.
Defence analysts while criticizing this scheme compared recruitment plan with the situation of Ukraine by saying that Ukraine army was also comprised of short term trained military personnel that remained failed in countering the Russian aggression and resultantly Russia is dominating in crisis with Ukraine.
Israel also offers short service in their military but their economy is quite as compared to India. If we talk about Israel, the total population of Israel is 9.2 million and it is surrounded by the countries which otherwise are more populated and power. It becomes a matter of necessity for Israel to train every citizen and to keep them as reserve. It is not the case with India looking into its population and the issues being faced as the country, same at the time, the idea to actually wash your hands off the people who are going to sacrifice for you is not a good idea. In the end it is going to hurt India because, it would resulted in more unemployment after getting out from the institution of Army.
It is being claimed that Agnipath is going to be opened for all and people across the India can apply for this. Looking into the recent treatment with Muslim community and low class citizens there are doubts in this recruitment process.
Pakistan is not much worried about this change being brought in Indian army, the thing which needs to look into how India is going to spend in its military equipment after this. This is a fact that every time when India goes for a change in the strategy whether it is Cold Start Doctrine Pakistan always come up with an answer. Agnipath recruitment process rather than uniting has divided the Indian nation as youth is being forced to join army just for a small tenure without passion and then looking into something else to attain another employment.
Jawad Ahmed is an Islamabad based researcher with having interest in Politics, Bilateralism and Strategic Studies.