Theatre commands and interoperability—the latest catchwords at the Ministry of Defence (MoD)—represent India’s effort to reorganise its armed forces and synergise the combat potential of the Indian Army, the Indian Navy (IN) and the Indian Air Force (IAF).
The MoD plans to replace the separate commands of the three arms with unified theatre commands based on the geographical fronts the forces operate in. The existing assets of all three services in a particular theatre would then be controlled by a single operational commander. One of the many positives of integrating personnel in theatre commands in this manner would be the diversion of funds to the modernisation of weapon systems and capabilities.
Integrated theatre commands, part of the country’s long-delayed military reforms, were fleshed out last year when General Bipin Rawat became India’s first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) with a separate Department of Military Affairs (DMA) in the MoD under him. Rawat is tasked with establishing the new command structures by the end of next year when the army’s seven single service commands are to be merged with the seven air force commands and three navy commands to form six or seven joint-service commands.
The Army commands, which will have elements of the other services,include the northern command headquartered in Lucknow (guarding the 3,500 kilometres of the Line of Actual Control with China), the western command based out of Jaipur (whose area of responsibility runs from the Siachen Glacier region to the tip of Gujarat) and the peninsular command headquartered in Thiruvanantapuram.
A national Air Defence Command (ADC) managed by the IAF will be based in Allahabad and a Maritime Theatre Command (MTC) —formed by merging the Navy’s eastern and western commands—will operate out of Karwar, in Karnataka.