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Defence theatre commands back to the drawing board

About unifying the Armed Forces: A theatre command entails having all war-fighting assets and forces under a single commander for a specific geographical area | Fresh combinations, permutations being studied

Defence theatre commands back to the drawing board


Tribune News Service

Ajay Banerjee

New Delhi, October 4

The creation of proposed defence theatre commands is back to the drawing board with fresh permutations and combinations being now studied by the Department of Military Affairs (DMA).

Sources said this includes the task of defining fresh geographical and operational limits of the proposed commands and a consensus on the rank of theatre commanders. A formula to integrate existing logistics, maintenance, training and supply lines of the three forces is also being worked out.

Training, logistics under consideration

  • Defining geographical & operational limits of commands
  • Rank of theatre commanders
  • Formula on integration of logistics, maintenance, training and supply lines

The DMA, working under Chief of Defence Staff Gen Anil Chauhan, and the three services had originally arrived at an understanding on having three theatre commands — one each for the northern and western fronts and third for maritime domain.

DMA seeks feedback

The Department of Military Affairs (DMA) has sought feedback from the govt on the structure

“This concept has been put on hold for now,” the sources told The Tribune. They said the services and the DMA have options of having more than three commands. “The previous formula of three theatre commands is not final. A new combination is under examination,” said an official. The DMA has sought a feedback from the government on what kind of structure would be acceptable, as this is seen as the single biggest change to the form and shape of the country’s war-fighting structure. The idea is to have a structure that is acceptable to the government and the services. Once the outline is made, the theatre commands can be allocated resources, assets and manpower.

Working on Formula

Previous 3-command formula not final. A new combination is being studied. — An official

A theatre commander is expected to control all war assets of a defined geographical area. At present, the Army, Indian Air Force and Navy have their separate war-fighting assets and strategies. One thing is certain within the top echelons of the government that the theatre commander will be a three-star officer, and not a four-star officer.

“It is logical to have three-star officers at the helm of theatre commands, else what will be the service chief’s role,” said an official, adding that the US concept of the chief just looking after recruitment, training and sustaining the forces might not work in India.

The services chiefs are likely to retain their operational control of the forces. A notification in December 2019 that created the post of CDS explicitly bars him from having any operational command over the military.

Also, once the theatre commands come up, the role of 17 regional commands of the three services will need to be defined. The big question is whether these will be subsumed within the theatre commands.

The CDS is to give a report to the Defence Minister recommending the structure of commands, ranks of commanders and crucially who will be in-charge operationally. “It will take some more time for the report,” said another official, adding that fresh inputs were being examined.

Originally, the CDS was to give the report to Defence Minister Rajnath Singh by August-end. The minister is then to initiate the decision-making process at political level.

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