New Delhi, August 14
As the options get fine-tuned on the structure and operational control of forthcoming theatre commands of the Indian armed forces, the future role of 17 regional commands, which the three services collectively have across the country, will be crucial.
Will these be subsumed into the proposed theatre commands? Or will these commands continue to function with only the reporting channel getting changed — from the Chief of the service to the Theatre commander? If these regional commands are not subsumed, the exercise of creating theatre commands will be just adding another layer of hierarchy without doing a structural change on positioning and defining roles of all officers in the rank of Lieut General and Major General and their equivalent in the IAF and the Navy.
For now, these 17 commands are headed by three-star generals who are a step behind the Chief’s of their respective service. These Commanders in future are likely to report to the theatre commanders.
The restructuring thought process, critics says, should include that theatre commanders are positioned at three-star ranks, meaning they retire at 60 years of age. They should report to the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) for operations. The CDS for now is explicitly barred from holding an operational position. So will the government change the rules?
For the rest of the administrative issues, including, supplies and weaponry, etc., the theatre commanders should draw on the Chiefs. The theatre commanders should have age on their side to be promoted as Chiefs and also the CDS. The Chiefs retire at 62 and the CDS at 65. Such a move will automatically subsume the 17 regional commands and ensure that theatre commanders get promoted Chiefs and CDS firming up the jointness process in future, is an opinion.
In the past few months the forces have taken steps towards integrating the cutting-edge level, Army officers have been cross-posted to IAF and Navy units which operates BrahMos. The Air Force has ground-based BrahMos units and the Navy has it on warships.
The other aspect is cross-service postings Brigadier and Major General and equivalent. They will be transferred to other services to missile units, handling UAVs, logistics, repair and recovery and material and supplies management among other roles in the other services.
The three services have common advanced light helicopters (ALH). General Bipin Rawat, the previous CDS had laid out a plan that spoke of integrating war-fighting units of forces at the level of Major and Captain before moving upwards. In the recent past, two new divisions — Defence Space Agency and Defence Cyber Agency—were created as tri-service organisations and have cross-posting of officers from all three services. In special operations, Garuda commandos of the IAF get to work along Army units. Navy marine commandos called Marcos operate in the Kashmir Valley and were among the forces tasked with security at the G20 event in Srinagar in May.
Structural change vital
If these regional commands are not subsumed, the exercise of creating theatre commands will be just adding another layer of hierarchy without doing a structural change on positioning and defining roles of all officers in the rank of Lieutenant General and Major General and their equivalent in the IAF and the Navy.
Lesson from 1971
Plans of 1971 are a lesson in jointness. Discussed at various levels, during war, these did not talk about Dhaka being the final military objective. The original plan of the Army’s 4 Corps was to advance only up to Meghna river. It was quick thinking of Lt Gen Sagat Singh to cross the Meghna with a large troop to be air-lifted and then race towards Dhaka. Then Army Chief SHJF Manekshaw was the single point military adviser.
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