The article discusses the necessity of jointness in the operations of the three services and the perceived need to place resources under joint force commanders as a prerequisite to the best-optimised fielding of forces.
There is no gainsaying in the fact that integration and joint efforts result in a greater bang for the buck. More so when the ‘buck’ has to literally contend with competing demands for growth, development, employment and poverty alleviation. However, according to a veteran Lieutenant General of the Indian Army, in an article in The Tribune, dated 03 April 23, “Theatre Commands will help Optimise Resources,” to say that “given the commitments on the borders necessitating the primacy of operations by the Army, with units and formations being deployed round the year, unified command structures have to be viewed in terms of our current challenges rather than through the seductive prism of a superpower with expeditionary forces,” would amount to a less than the optimal understanding of the character of war, which continues to change while its nature remains constant.
According to Prussian General Carl von Clausewitz, the enduring elements of the nature of war are its violent character, a clash of wills between two opponents, and political primacy. The character of the war, on the other hand, is related to how a war will be fought, and this depends upon military capabilities, economy, technology, political considerations, and the opponent’s aim and strategy. At no stage is there a mention of the preponderance of the army or navy by Clausewitz, who lived before the advent of aeroplanes and air power.
It is essential to understand the context, and vilifying one service over the other would only ensure that we remain where we are instead of progress, which is felt necessary in the national interest. The Indian Army deployed across 3,488 km of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China, and the 740 Km Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan is undoubtedly doing yeoman service to protect the nation’s borders, prevent infiltration and ensure peace and tranquillity. It, however, does not take away the efforts of the other services to deter aggression by inimical interests as also the contribution of the state and civil administration and the citizens of the country.
The recently concluded ‘Combined Commanders Conference’ held in Bhopal from 30 March to 1 April was titled “Ready, Resurgent and Relevant.” With an increasing focus on Atmanirbharta, the coming year’s defence budget has allocated more than 75 per cent of the capital procurement to the Indigenously, Designed, Developed and Made (IDDM) category. The competing demands of an increasing revenue budget would have to be curtailed innovatively for the armed forces to remain relevant.
Integrated warfighting is the need of the hour for which the creation/ establishment of theatre commands is a process that is inevitable and has to be followed. The discourse, however, invariably shifts to placing the workforce and assets of the services under a single theatre commander from any service. The logic or rationale of unsettled land borders with our adversaries is often quoted to justify the primacy of the army for establishing theatre commands. The author of the article in ‘The Tribune’ quotes the primacy of operations by the army because of our current challenges rather than the seductive prism of a superpower with expeditionary forces. Calling India neither expansionist nor a nation that covets foreign territory does not imply that theatre commands serve the purpose of expeditionary forces like those of the United States of America.
While the jury is still out on the Russia-Ukraine, the conflict between the primacy of the Army and the achievement of objectives by the armoured columns of the Russian Army leaves much to be desired. Joint planning and execution and economisation of effort and resources is the key to winning future wars and staying relevant for the armed forces. The debate needs to shift focus from the number of single service commands and placing resources and assets under a single theatre commander to joint planning, unity of effort instead of unity of command and reduction of common resources and manpower that only add to infructuous expenditure. The debate on the number of fighter squadrons, aircraft carriers and attack helicopters are irrelevant if it is not matched with the forecast threats and the capabilities required to deter the same.
Future wars would be fought across the land, sea, air, space, cyber and information warfare domains. These are akin to five fingers of the hand wherein the fist gives a greater punch than one or two fingers. Cyber and space domains transcend the traditional land, maritime and air power forces which could be rendered ineffective unless the effort encompasses all the five fingers to deliver the coup de grace. Future reorganisation or restructuring of the armed forces needs to be deliberated upon and carefully planned so as to ensure unity of effort that incorporates joint planning and execution across all the five domains of warfare. While it is important to learn from history, one must also not lose sight of the fact that the last war has already been fought. There is a need to innovate, think out of the box, use asymmetry as an offensive tool, and combine efforts to plan and execute without thinking of which service gets to command. What if the armed forces have to remain ‘Ready, Resurgent and Relevant’.
AVM Anil Golani (Retd)
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of BharatShakti.in)