National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval said on Tuesday that a clear message should be sent to the youth that those who join the armed forces are not there only for the money, adding that the Agnipath scheme will not be rolled back and the reforms were in the making since 1970 but the “political will was missing”. He said the regimental system was a colonial legacy to divide the people of India but the Agnipath scheme will not tinker with it. He said that while there was a fear of the unknown in some quarters, protests were being fuelled by “conflict entrepreneurs”.
Mr. Doval, in an interview with private news agency Asian News International (ANI), said the government’s move was “not a knee-jerk reaction that has come overnight” but has been debated and discussed for over decades.
“In the 1970s, we had committees that talked about reorganisation and reforming the army, including the usage of manpower, technology and others….in 2006, the then Defence Minister wrote a letter to the Ministry of Home Affairs, seeking to know if young cadets could be absorbed in the CPMFs (Central paramilitary forces). The MHA constituted a committee but there was no political will to implement the decision,” he said.
Mr. Doval said the regimental system will remain untouched under the scheme.
“The concept of regiments — nobody is tinkering with it. If there are regiments, then there will be regiments of artillery, electrical or mechanical engineers or mechanical engineers. They [the regiments] will continue... There is confusion among some sections of people about some units of infantry. There are only a few caste-based regiments left, only two or three, and this is a colonial legacy. Britishers wanted that nothing should be pan-India. They wanted to divide the people into sections so that they represent particular areas or sects so that there is no national perspective left among the soldiers, otherwise, there would have been a threat to their colonial empire,” Mr. Doval said.
Mr. Doval said that Agniveers will never constitute the whole army.
“Agniveers will never constitute the whole army. Those Agniveers who become regulars eventually will undergo intensive training, acquire experience over a period of time,” Mr. Doval said.
He said Agnipath is not a “standalone” scheme and said that it was the Central government’s priority to make India secure and strong.
He said he had a message for the youth that “they should be positive, have faith in the nation, have faith in the leadership and also in yourself”.
“Every youth of this country who has got the desire and motivation and feels a sense of commitment to defend the country gets an opportunity. His energy and talent are used to make this country strong,” Mr. Doval said.
Mr. Doval said that while there are people who are truly concerned and “their fear of unknown” is being gradually addressed, there is another group which does “not care for the country or security of the nation” and resorts to violence and damage to public property.
“I will say there are two kinds of opposition. There are one group of people who are truly concerned, who have served the country. They only have the fear of the unknown. ...But there is another group. They do not care for the country or the security of the nation. They are conflict entrepreneurs. They want a conflict in society. These are the people who will go for stone-throwing, demonstrations, burning trains. They are with a vested interest. Whenever they have an opportunity, they think they can mislead the people,” he added.
He said the youth who are serious about joining the armed forces do not get misguided.
“A true Agniveer will not be influenced or misguided. They will prepare rather than do protests. The people who are doing all this, I do not think they are willing to join the armed forces or have a psychic mental set,” he said.
He said raising voice is justified but vandalism will not be tolerated.
“I think protest, raising voice is justified in a democracy. Violence and vandalism will not be tolerated. Reforms are required in various forms such as police. Lessons should be learnt from the circumstances. Many FIRs have been lodged. People behind these will be identified,” Mr. Doval said, when asked about any political connection to the violent protests.
Violent protests have been reported from several parts of the country since the Agnipath scheme for short-term recruitment in the armed forces was announced by the government on June 14.