The process to form integrated theatre commands for better coordination and enhancing combat effectiveness amongst the Indian armed forces is likely to move from the conceptualisation stage to seeking approvals from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) by end of August, informed sources have indicated.
Last week, the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Gen Anil Chauhan convened a meeting of nearly all Commanders-in-Chiefs drawn from the three services and his planning staff at the Lucknow Headquarters of Indian Army’s Central Command to elicit their views on the broad roadmap that has been agreed upon by the Chiefs of Staff Committee (CoSC), comprising the CDS and the three service chiefs after months of consultations.
The two-day confabulations were to figure out the contours of the Northern Theatre Command, to tackle the Himalayan front against India’s principal adversary, China. Lucknow was an appropriate location for these discussions too since the city is likely to be chosen as the Headquarter of the Northern Theatre Command whenever it gets the government approval.
Similar consultations are planned in the near future before the CDS submits a detailed roadmap to Raksha Mantri Rajnath Singh for his initial approval. Once Rajnath Singh signs on the plan, it will be presented to the Cabinet Committee on Security or CCS, the highest decision-making body on matters pertaining to national security.
While the composition of the theatre command meant to counter the northern adversary is not fully clear yet, broadly, it is likely to subsume the India Army’s Northern, Central and Eastern Commands and the Eastern, Western and Central Commands of the Indian Air Force (IAF), people in the know have said.
The CDS and the three chiefs have been meeting almost every month for extended discussions sometimes lasting over four hours to thrash out the differences and evolving solutions to practical obstacles that the services are likely to encounter in implementing the paradigm shift that officers and men will have to undergo in order to usher in the momentous changes in the way operations, logistics and application of force will be handled under the new arrangement of theatre commands.
Simultaneously, a lot of backend work on creating a seamless administrative and logistics structure to support integrated combat operations in the future is underway. In March, the government introduced a Bill which seeks to empower designated defence heads of inter-services organisations with certain administrative and disciplinary powers over all personnel serving in the command or attached to it. The Bill, ‘The Inter-Services Organisations (Command, Control and Discipline) Bill, 2023’, was tabled in the Lok Sabha by Minister of State for Defence Ajay Bhat.
Post the approvals being endorsed, the assessment in the higher echelons of the government is that the theatre commands will get off the ground in a 12–15-month window from now.
Nitin A. Gokhale
National Security Analyst. Media Trainer. Author
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