The mysterious shootout inside the sensitive Bathinda military cantonment on Wednesday that saw four sleeping soldiers being gunned down is likely to be a key focus in the first Indian Army Commanders’ Conference (ACC) of the year to be held in the hybrid mode from Monday.
On Wednesday afternoon, another death happened in the cantonment premises with one soldier being found in a pool of blood which the army authorities suspected to be a ‘suicide’. All five belonged to the artillery.
Other than information from a Punjab Police FIR, with the Army being very tightlipped on the issue, rumours and speculations are having a field time with reasons being ascribed from terrorist motives to an internal fratricide.
Till now no headway has been reported in the ongoing investigations into the incident.
The incident assumes more menace due to reports of a possibility that the shootout assailants—reported in the FIR to be "two white-kurta-clad" and "masked" persons—may have still been present inside the military cantonment in Bathinda—raising very serious concerns of security threats and human resources related issues.
The ACC’s almost weeklong affair this time—from April 17 to 21—will be held in the hybrid mode for the first ever time which among other things will also be a test of exploiting available technology for secure communication.
But after meeting on Monday in the online mode, the Army commanders and other senior functionaries will then travel to Delhi "for the physical meetings on matters which require detailed deliberations".
The agenda points sponsored by various Command Headquarters will be discussed on Monday itself followed by an update from the tri-services commander-in-chief of the Andaman and Nicobar Command followed by sessions by Principal Staff Officers of the Army Headquarters.
Besides the top commanders, the meet is also attended by heads of defence public sector undertakings and director-generals of various military arms and branches. Other important agenda items comprise progress on the “Agnipath scheme, the digitisation and automation initiatives, combat engineers’ tasks, work aspects and budget management" not to speak of the review of operational preparedness of the Indian Army in the backdrop of the current and emerging security scenario.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will address the meeting on Wednesday besides reviewing an equipment display that will focus on "niche technology, innovation, solutions for surveillance, Artificial Intelligence, Training, Robotics, Virtual Reality, Operational Logistics etc".
The commanders will also be addressed by the Chief of Defence Staff, Navy chief and the IAF chief besides a talk "on future contours of Indo-China relations" by Vijay Gokhale, former Ambassador to China.
Held twice a year, the ACC is an important event in the planning and execution process of the Indian Army that undertakes a 360-degree look at the current emerging perspectives on issues relating to operations, logistics, administration, human resources and welfare. To ensure due diligence, decisions taken in the ACC are taken through the collegiate system comprising army commanders and senior officers.