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Agnipath : The Kindergarten Mathematics

The movie ‘Hidden Figures’ recounts the time when NASA was first attempting to put a man in space. Scientists are not sure that the orbit they had figured out would enable them to get their astronaut back to earth. An African American lady who is a whizz at maths and space geometry is called upon to work out a safe orbit. She examines the problem and says words to the effect “The answer will be in the maths. Maths cannot be wrong”. In the event, she re-works the orbit mathematically using complex equations (including Euler’s and Navier Stokes equations I guess) and presents a solution. The astronaut is launched into space based on her maths. He completes the space orbit and enters back safely into the earth’s atmosphere. This is a true story. However the hidden truth is in Maths.

What has this got to do with Agnipath and Agniveers? It’s the maths. Let us not have any doubts. The nation is embarking on a military transformation of a mammoth order. It is similar to entering a space orbit. Full of uncertainties with doubtful outcomes. However as in the movie, if we get the maths right, we can enter the current orbit. Failure to get the “Sahi Ganit” will leave us stranded in no man’s land. Good maths keeps us on our desired orbit with due course corrections. Look at it this way. I have long been of the opinion that the Indian Armed Forces are strong enough to defend the nation but are not modern enough to enable India’s rise, to be a regional power of consequence. Hence we must get the maths right in this transformational orbit. Otherwise we might be left struggling to defend the sovereignty and integrity of the nation. Being a regional power of consequence is a later day story.

As against previous articles, time, more inputs and better understanding, have led to an evolutionary model based on first principles. The model is in four year blocks from 2022 to 2034. Earlier methods and figures have been applied differently to evolve an easy to understand model with relatable time lines. The focus is on the Army, due to its sheer size, centrality of India’s continental compulsions and its long unresolved land borders with belligerent adversaries. One can never forget that India has always been invaded from its land borders. It has never been invaded from the sea or air. If we get the Indian Army equation right, then we are on our way. Our transformation has to be right from two perspectives. At the top, we must have the right mix of man and machine in balance. This includes technology, training, age profile, experience, and leadership, in tailormade organisations to meet perceived threats. However all this has to enable the fighting end to execute its tasks. Hence the fighting end, which is represented by units and sub units – companies, squadrons and batteries, must be in harmony and well-honed to face the enemy. After all they are in the business end of “theirs but to do and die, theirs not to reason why”.

In this context, I have heard all the head honchos of India’s military enunciate some issues repetitively. The Agnipath Scheme will stabilise with time…It is a far reaching transformation…It will reduce the age profile of the Army and make it youthful…It will enable better induction of hi-technology…The reduced pension outgo will enable the nation to spend more on modernisation…Those who criticise it cannot understand its vision…Veterans are fixated…This is an era of modern warfare…We have studied models of other armies…so on and so forth. All that is fine. However, we have not seen the maths. The orbit is hazy.

This model analyses Agnipath quantitatively to identify the problem. Once identified, solutions can be worked out. The model is based on certain assumptions. The four year block principle is based on the four year tenure of the Agniveers. It gives great clarity across time lines. The first and reasonable assumption is that the yearly intake into the Army is 65000 soldiers. This figure has been applied across the entire 17 years of colour service of a soldier in a uniform manner. This intake has stopped for 2020, 2021 and 2022 due to Covid. The resultant shortfall is 65000 x 3 soldiers (which is 1.95 lakhs). This shortfall is not factored for being made up. I think the government will not let this opportunity go. Hence the strength of the Army is being maintained at 10.05 lakhs (12 lakhs – 1.95 lakhs) in the model. If this strength is made up, the imbalances creep up faster. Also, the government has announced 46000 vacancies for Agniveers. That is for the first six month cycle. The Army share of these vacancies is presumed to be 32500 at present. Over the annual period, it will be 65000. This is assumed to be sustained for the first four year block. After that, it will have to be increased. Incidentally, this model can be tweaked with varying numbers to get different outcomes.


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