Indian Army Chief General Bipin Rawat, who doesn’t carry a cellphone, said soldiers could not be denied access to the social media and they should be allowed to use smartphones within a line of controlled discipline.
He said the Indian Army needed to make optimal usage of the social media in the advanced age of communication and information.
“The social Media gaining momentum faster than we thought. (If we don’t catch up) we will be left far behind and we will be fire fighting again,” General Rawat said on Tuesday, speaking at a seminar on ‘Social Media and Armed Forces’.
“Information is one of the pillars of national power. There is no way the Armed Forces can remain away from that,” he said
“We have received advice that we should advise our soldiers to stay away from the social media. Can you deny a soldier a smart phone? Can you deny soldier a smartphone at home or prevent his family to own one. If you can’t prevent usage of smartphone, it is best to allow it (the access to social media).
“The social media is here to stay. Soldiers will use the social media. Our adversary will use the social media for psychological warfare and deception. We must leverage it to our advantage.”
The Army Chief said the social media could be used in combating proxy war, cross-border terrorism but drew a note of caution, saying it was “important to have means of imposing discipline” among the soldiers regarding their social media behaviour.
He, however, said he himself didn’t possess a cellphone but that should not mean that his force should be denied of it.
“I don’t have a cellphone and when someone asks me my cellphone number I just give them (any random number) 9868… and if it turns out to be an 11-digit number I just say cut the last digit.
“But we (the Indian Army) have to engage, remain engaged and benefit (from the use of social media).
“In modern day warfare, information warfare is important and within it, we have started talking about Artificial Intelligence. If we have to leverage Artificial Intelligence to our advantage, we must engage through the social media as a lot of what we wish to gain as part of Artificial Intelligence will come via social media.”
The views by the Army Chief came months after the social media policy for soldiers was criticized when a senior Army officer was allegedly honey-trapped by an ISI agent through Facebook.
The Defence Ministry set out guidelines for the soldiers on the usage of the social media. They have been asked not to use photos in uniform as profile pictures on WhatsApp, Facebook or any other platforms.
The guidelines also bar them from clicking on advertisements on social media sites alluring for prizes/awards, exposing official identity, revealing their rank, unit name and location or anything related to their work, accepting friend request from unknown users.