- The day Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the appointment of the first Chief of Defence Staff two years back, the debate on theatre commands started. Within a month of taking over, General Bipin Rawat announced the formation of theatre commands.
Does India need to adopt this concept? Has the subject been debated enough? Are we in a great hurry to implement it? Definitely we are, considering the tight timeline that has been drawn. It has been announced that the first two theatre commands to be formed will be air defence and maritime theatre commands by 2022.
The concept is derived from the US Armed forces, which divides its entire defence forces in theatre commands covering the globe. To understand it, we will consider the example within our region — the USPACOM (US Pacific Command).
This theatre command is responsible for all countries and oceans from the US West Coast to India, which means that any operation or exercise that needs to be undertaken in this region will be the sole responsibility of the PACOM. These theatre commands operate kilometres away from their homeland, so it’s mandatory to have all their resources built-in to undertake operations independently.
Each theatre, thus, is separated from the other functionally. The integral resources include army, navy, air force, satellite backup, logistic backup, missiles and counter-missiles, cyber cell, etc.
India is planning to have three integral theatre command one each facing Pakistan and China, and one for the southern peninsula. However, even though the geographical size of US is much larger than India, the Americans have only one theatre command called USNORTHCOM for their homeland.
The example of US clearly illustrates those countries that have a larger area to control, have ambition to be a world power and maintain larger expeditionary forces use theatre commands. Therefore, Russia and China also can be placed in this category.