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Implementation of Agnipath scheme will not impact Army's operational capabilities: Gen Pande

NEW DELHI (PTI):  Indian Army Chief Gen Manoj Pande has said that the implementation of the 'Agnipath' scheme will in no way impact the Army's operational capabilities and preparedness along the borders with China and Pakistan.

The government unveiled the "Agnipath" scheme for the recruitment of soldiers in the Army, Navy and the Air Force on a short-term contractual basis with an aim to cut the ballooning salary and pensions bills and enable a youthful profile of the armed forces.

"I want to assure you that during the implementation and stabilisation of the Agnipath scheme, the Army's operational capabilities and preparedness along the borders and the ability to deal with internal security challenges will be fully maintained," Gen Pande said at a press conference on Tuesday.

When asked whether rolling out of the new scheme would impact the Army's combat readiness along the borders with China and Pakistan, he asserted that there will be no impact on overall military preparedness.

The Army chief said he was confident that the change in the recruitment process will bring "new vigour and confidence" in the force and help in making it stronger and more capable and that a fair, transparent and scientific method will be put in place for screening the initial intake.

"We will institute a fair, transparent and scientific method in screening the initial intake for four years and apply similar yardsticks to select those who will get re-enrolled," Gen Pande said.

Describing the scheme as one of the "most significant" initiatives, Gen Pande said it aims to make the Army a future-ready fighting force, capable of meeting multiple challenges across the full spectrum of conflict.

"The Agnipath scheme is a transformational reform for the Army and the nation and aims to bring paradigm changes in the human resource management of the Indian Army," he said.

He said an enhanced youthful profile of the Army that is "reduction in average age from 32 to 26 years" will be achieved over a period of time.

The Chief of Army Staff emphasised that the Army is proud of its heritage, history, tradition, military values and culture and they will be fully maintained.

He said the new recruits will be integrated into the Army in "every way" including deploying them in operational units as well as various organs of the force.

The Army chief said the new measure complements other ongoing initiatives to transform the Indian Army into a modern, technology driven, self-reliant and battle-worthy force.

He said the scheme will attract young talents and motivate educated youth with the right skill sets to join the Army.

"A wider recruitment base will provide equal opportunities to youth from all parts of the country, to join the Army," he said.

Gen Pande noted that screening and selection, based on a sound, transparent, fair and robust assessment system will ensure that the Army retains the "best of the best" for a longer service duration.

"These personnel will form the core of the organisation," he added.

"The Agniveer, leaving after four years, will be empowered with suitable skills and financial means and carry a unique resume, that will significantly enhance his value and employability in the civil society," he said.

The armed forces will recruit 46,000 'Agniveers' this year and the eligible age for selection will be in the range of 17.5 years to 21 years. The recruitment under the scheme is set to kick in within 90 days.

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