New Delhi: It gives one a sense of the extreme work overload when even the world's second-largest Army feels a manpower crunch.
While it’s doctrinally equipping itself for the long haul of battling terrorism, a stretched-out Indian Army does not want to be saddled with the additional responsibility of battling Left extremists.
Saddled with tackling one internal security problem after another, the Indian Army has decided that it's time for some plainspeak: that it can't keep on indefinitely taking up additional challenges unrelated to its primary task, which is, guarding the nation's frontiers.
Displaying candour rare for an Indian Service Chief, Army Chief J J Singh made it clear that taking on Naxalites is a job he would rather do without.
Singh made the blunt declaration that he does not have resources to open up another front. "As far as the Naxalite issue is concerned, we have all along advised the Ministry of Home Affairs that we would like to be helpful in every other way except active deployment in handling these problems," he said.
With about half of the 1.2-million-strong Army already bogged down in tackling insurgencies, the General suggested that ex-servicemen be tapped by states whose writ has been challenged by Left extremists - a reminder that policy makers need to recognise the limitations of military action against insurgents.
"There can never be a situation where we could ever task ourselves to finish the entire lot of ULFA all over, wherever they are,” he said
There is an acknowledgement that terrorism will continue to be the principal military challenge for India in the foreseeable future.
But while adapting itself to counter a menace that won't go away soon, the Army is now beginning to publicly say that it can only take on so much and no more. This must surely rank as a first.