Army again promotes a counter-insurgency (COIN) specialist as chief - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Wednesday 12 June 2024

Army again promotes a counter-insurgency (COIN) specialist as chief

General Dwivedi will be the seventh straight counter-insurgency (COIN) specialist to be appointed army chief

By Ajai Shukla

Business Standard, 12th June 24


The government announced on Tuesday that the present Northern Army commander, Lieutenant General (Lt Gen) Upendra Dwivedi, would take over on June 30 as the next chief of army staff (COAS).


“Vice Chief of the Army Staff Lt Gen Upendra Dwivedi [is] appointed as next Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) with effect from [w.e.f.] afternoon of June 30, 2024,” stated a written Ministry of Defence [MoD] press release.


Gen Dwivedi will be the seventh straight counter-insurgency (COIN) specialist to be promoted to the rank of General and given the coveted appointed of COAS. As evident from the graphic, almost the entire command experience of Indian generals was in the realm of COIN.


Army and tri-service chiefs since September 01, 2016



Battalion Commission

Battalion Command

Brigade Command

Division Command

Corps Command

Theatre Command

Mention of COIN









General Bipin Rawat


(11 Gorkhas)


(11 Gorkhas)

UN brigade + Rashtriya Rifles sector in Kashmir

Infantry Division in Kashmir 

3 Corps (Eastern Command)

Southern Command


General MM Naravane

Infantry (Sikh Light Infantry)

Rashtriya Rifles

Infantry Brigade

Assam Rifles (Inspector Gen)

Strike Corps (Western theatre)

Eastern Command


General Manoj Pande


Engineer Regiment

Engineer Brigade

+ Infantry Brigade 

8 Mountain Division (Kargil)

4 Corps (Eastern Command)

Andaman & Nicobar Command


General Anil Chauhan


(11 Gorkhas)


6/11 Gorkhas


59 Infantry Bde (Manipur)

19 Infantry Div (Baramula, J&K)

33 Corps (Eastern Command)

Eastern Command


Lt Gen Upendra Dwivedi


(J&K Rifles)


(18 JAK Rif)

Assam Rifles (26 Sector

Assam Rifles (IG AR East)

9 Corps (Western Command)

Northern Command











Military planners have argued in the past that, with the army heavily committed in COIN operations in Jammu & Kashmir and the northeastern states, specialists in COIN were urgently required to lead the army.


However, this logic was discredited in December 2001, when the military was required to deploy for battle, after Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorists attacked Parliament on December 13, 2001. By the time the army’s three mechanised strike corps (which are stationed deep inside India in places like Mathura and Bhopal) readied for battle and moved to the border, Pakistan’s army was ready to beat them back.


Army planners concluded that the heavy emphasis on COIN had to be replaced by the army’s traditional skills in conventional battle.


Thus was conceived the army’s doctrine of “Cold Start”, which involved striking Pakistan within 48 hours of a dire provocation – such as a damaging terrorist attack from Pakistan or the assassination of a top Indian leader. Instead of waiting for the mechanised strike corps to poise itself along the border, India would attack by 8-10 “integrated battle groups” (IBGs), cobbled together from tanks and troops, already located along the border. 


Benefiting from surprise and concentrated force, Indian wargames had many IBGs piercing through Pakistan’s forward defences. That allowed Indian strike corps to stream through those breaches, capturing large towns and cities in Pakistan’s heartland. This would allow New Delhi to call off the war quickly, in a victorious position.


Key to this was promoting Indian commanders who were specialists in conventional operations, not COIN. However, when it came to promoting generals, India’s MoD selected COIN specialists such as General Bipin Rawat in 2016, while superseding highly-regarded tank warfare specialists such as Lt Gen Praveen Bakshi and Lt Gen PM Hariz.


Another major step the army has taken towards weakening its offensive strike capability has involved disbanding one of its three strike corps and replacing it with a conventional mountain strike corps. This has amounted to reducing Indian offensive strike power in the plains sectors of Jammu, Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat; while boosting up its ability for offensive strikes in the northern and eastern mountain sectors.

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