Further Delay in Creation of Theatre Commands to Bring in Wider Consensus

Indian Army

New Delhi: The creation of theatre commands as part of streamlining the defence forces by which all war-fighting assets and forces would be under a single commander for a specific geographical area, is likely to be delayed, media reports said.

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According to reports, Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Anil Chauhan has been asked to reach a wider consensus on the contours of creating joint forces comprising elements of the Army, IAF and the Navy, media reports said quoting sources.

The theatre commands are inevitable and will be formed, the forces have been told. The delay is only to bring about a wider consensus, the sources said. In January 2020, Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat was tasked with bringing tri-services’ jointness, including theatre commands, within three years.

Serving CDS Gen Anil Chauhan asked to adopt a “bottom upwards” approach by first integrating logistics, weapons procurement, support systems, transport and communication, and then move on to theatre commands. The matter was debated behind closed doors at the combined commanders’ conference at Bhopal from March 30 to April 1.

The Ministry of Defence issued a statement on April 1 saying that “deliberations over a varied spectrum of issues were held, including on national security and evolving a joint military vision for the future”. Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the commanders, and made it clear that ‘integration’ was needed and flagged immediate common tri-services’ issues like logistics, weapon procurement, communications, etc. of the three forces, the sources said.

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At the conference, there was a lack of consensus on what shape the theatre commands should take, and what should be the contours and operational strategy. In the past, there have been discussions on creating specific theatre commands, among others two for the Himalayas along the Line of Actual Control with China, one for a maritime role, one for air defence and one for the western front. The forces at present have 19 commands, including the Army Training Command.

When the post of CDS was created in January 2020 with General Bipin Rawat taking charge, the Narendra Modi government had set a timeline of three years for sorting out vital issues ‘holding back’ the integration and jointness of forces. The ‘transformational’ directive looked to alter structures not in tune with modern times with technology playing a bigger role. The late General Rawat was given three years to bring about jointness in operations, logistics, transport, training, support services, communications, repairs and maintenance.

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