How much preparation has the Theater Command done for the armed forces, know why it is important

Ronit Kawale
Ronit Kawale - Senior Editor
6 Min Read

New Delhi : The country's ambitious defence reform plan aims to integrate the Army, Navy and Air Force for joint operations in specific adversary-based theatres with defined military objectives during a limited conflict or war. The Indian armed forces are finalising the final draft for the creation of Integrated Theatre Commands. The ambitious defence reform aims to integrate the three defence services – Indian Army, Indian Navy and Indian Air Force (IAF) – for jointly operating in specific adversary-based theatres with defined military objectives during a limited conflict or war.

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The government started it in 2019

The government had initiated the reforms in 2019 by creating the post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) and setting up the Department of Military Affairs (DMA) to oversee the transformation. In its manifesto for the Lok Sabha elections, the BJP had promised to 'set up military theatre commands for more efficient operations'. Over the past five years, several drafts have been prepared to focus on the best possible model for India's theatre commands. The government is yet to give its final approval on the implementation of this plan. More discussions are expected in the coming months to fine-tune the existing plan to address potential issues depending on the election results. Meanwhile, other initiatives to integrate the services at the ground level have also been implemented. Chief of Defence Staff General Anil Chauhan

What is the status of theatre commands in India?

The three defence services currently operate separately under their respective operational commands. Theatreisation will involve placing specialised units of personnel from the three services under a single theatre commander so that they can fight jointly as a single unit in a war or conflict. In the process, the manpower and resources of the individual services will be rationalised. Each of the three services has its own culture and approach. The creation of theatre commands will integrate their personnel, assets, infrastructure and logistics. This enables them to work together to achieve defined military objectives in specific theatres covering defined operational areas. The armed forces are already taking steps to bring better integration among the three services. There are plans to make Mumbai the first tri-service common defence station and set up additional joint logistics nodes across the country to promote integration in logistics requirements and streamline the supply chain and inter-service postings of officers.

Command and Headquarters

The Indian Express reported last January that the Army's latest draft envisions three enemy-based theatre commands. These include a Western Theatre Command that will counter Pakistan. A Northern Theatre Command will respond to China. A maritime theatre command will respond to threats emanating from the Indian Ocean region. There are plans to set up a Western Theatre Command in Jaipur and a Northern Theatre Command in Lucknow. The maritime theatre command may be headquartered in Coimbatore, though Karwar and Thiruvananthapuram are also being considered. Earlier drafts prepared in the past have undergone several changes based on inter-service discussions within the Army. There were some plans to create other theatre commands in the Eastern, Northern and Western Commands, including a Joint Logistics Command, a Space Command and a Training Command, as well as an Air Defence Command.

How to rationalise existing service orders?

How will the creation of theatre commands rationalise the existing service commands? Currently, the Army and IAF have seven commands each, while the Navy has three. In addition, there are two tri-service commands – the Andaman and Nicobar Command, and the Strategic Forces Command (SFC). The Headquarters Integrated Defence Staff (HQIDS) is also located here. After the creation of theatre commands, the three command headquarters of the services are likely to be converted into theatre command headquarters. The existing Andaman and Nicobar Command may be included in one of the theatre commands (as per current plans, in a maritime theatre command), and the HQIDS will likely function under the CDS. The SFC will continue to function independently as planned.

Who will lead the theatre command?

According to the report, the three theater commands will be headed by three theater commanders, who will likely be of the rank of General or equivalent. As per the current plans, the theater commanders will report to a National Defense Committee. It is likely to be headed by the Defense Minister. Also, there are plans to appoint a Vice CDS and a Deputy CDS. The Vice CDS will look after matters related to strategic planning, capacity development and procurement. It will likely be an officer of the rank of General or equivalent. The Deputy CDS will be responsible for coordinating operations, intelligence gathering and allocation of assets between theaters. The Deputy CDS is likely to be a Lieutenant General or equivalent. The three service chiefs will be responsible for the creation, training and maintenance of different services. However, it is not yet clear whether they will retain some operational roles.

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