In the last two weeks, there have been various media reports on the impending formation of theatre commands as a critical step towards enhancing the jointness and efficiency of the Indian military. One of the newspapers even hinted that the IAF was reluctant to support the integrated theatre command.
This probably was a deliberate and engineered piece of news. When the CDS was appointed on 01 Jan 2020, enhancing jointness and creation of theatre commands have been his priority tasks. There is a sense of hurry in pushing through the ‘integrated theatre command’ reforms. However, MOD is right in bringing a sense of balance when it acknowledged last week that more deliberations are required, and the issue cannot be rushed.
The issue of ‘CDS and Theatre Commands’ has animated military and security discussions over the last two decades ever since the Group of Ministers’ report in 2001 on the management of defence. That the CDS was appointed finally is a great step towards realizing long-overdue reforms and restructuring.
While there are many areas such as service-MOD integration, management of intelligence, optimization of manpower, joint training etc. that require the CDS’ attention, it is evident that he is in a hurry to push through the Theatre Commands. There is no ambiguity whatsoever that the nature of modern warfare necessitates jointness and hence, theatre command as the most efficient form to prosecute the war.
While it is certain that a lot of work and deliberations must have been done at the level of the leadership of the three services, IDS, and the CDS, one still gets the impression that the concept is being rushed through while it still lacks clarity in terms of structure, operational control, and various aspects of forces to be held and training.
For nearly seventy years the three service chiefs have functioned as operational commanders as well as chiefs of staff. Changing to the theatre command system will radically alter their positions and roles.