Theatre Command in India
- 04 May 2019
- 10 min read
According to report of Pentagon, China continues to rapidly modernise its war-fighting capabilities. In this context, Indian Armed forces lacks on various front for a coordinated approach to tackle China threat.
China frontier is handled by Western Theatre command, which handles entire 4057-km of line of actual control. However, the problem of disjointedness still prevails in Indian army.
In such a scenario, creation of unified theatre command is needed for India.
Andaman and Nicobar Command
- It is the only integrated theatre command in India, formed in 2001 after the Kargil war.
- It is a very small command, with limited resources, and there has been a demand to revert the control of command permanently to the Navy.
What is a Theatre command?
A theatre command is an organisational structure designed to control all military assets in a theatre of war to achieve military effects.
- A joint command is called a ‘theatre command’ in military parlance (of army, air force and navy).
- It places the resources of all forces at the command of a senior military commander.
- For example a ‘theatre command’ in the East will integrate components of the IAF and the Army, and also have component of the Navy integrated with it.
- At present, the only joint command is learnt to be in Andaman and Nicobar islands.
Views in favour of Integration
- The integrated theatre commander will not be answerable to individual Services, and will be free to train, equip and exercise his command to make it a cohesive fighting force capable of achieving designated goals.
- The logistic resources required to support its operations will also be placed at the disposal of the theatre commander so that it does not have to look for anything when operations are ongoing.
- This is in contrast to the model of service-specific commands which India currently has, wherein the Army, Air Force and Navy all have their own commands all over the country. In case of war, each Service Chief is expected to control the operations of his Service through individual commands, while they operate jointly.
Views against Integration
- There has been no occasion, during actual warfare, when the three services have not operated with commendable cooperation.
- Faraway lands war and medium to high intensity wars are a distant possibility.
- With increased communication network , interaction between three organization is easy, they can come on board , can planning without much consideration of spatial distance, so there is no need for new organisation.
- Domain knowledge of the integrated force commander is likely to be limited in respect of the other two Services components under his command, thereby limiting his ability to employ them in the most suitable manner and at the appropriate time
Challenges posed by present structure
The structural problem with current structure
- None of the present 17 commands is co-located at the same station, nor are their areas of operational responsibility contiguous.
- In addition, there are 2 tri-service commands Strategic Forces Command (SFC) and Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC), which is headed by rotation by officers from the 3 Services.
- The SFC (Strategic Forces Command), looks after the delivery and operational control of the country’s nuclear assets. It was created in 2003, but because it has no specific geographic responsibility and a designated role, it is not an integrated theatre command but an integrated functional command.
- There has been a demand for other integrated functional commands, such as the cyber, aerospace and Special Operations commands, but the government is yet to approve any.
|Lack of coordination among the three services||
|Chief of staff committee not very effective||
|Requirement for battle preparedness||
|Need for unified expert advice from military||
|Civilian bureaucracy acting as interface||
Opinion of Three Services on This Proposal
ARMY – In favour: It is time to move away from a service specific approach to operations towards a system which avoids duplication, ensures optimum utilisation of available resources.
AIR FORCE – strongly opposed
- It doesn’t have enough resources — fighter squadrons, mid-air refuellers and AWACS — to allocate them dedicatedly to different theatre commanders.
- It believes that India is not geographically large enough to be divided into different theatres, as resources from one theatre can easily be moved to another theatre
NAVY-more nuanced, it too is not in favour of implementing the proposal currently
- The current model of control by the Navy Headquarters ideally suited for its strategic role.
- There are also underlying fears about the smaller Services losing their autonomy and importance.
Recommendation by various committees
Kargil Review Committee, Shekatkar Committee have lamented on compartmentalised planning against external and internal threats with some ‘jointness’ envisaged at the highest levels. According to these committees, this leads to a disjointed and fragmented execution at the operational and lower levels, leading to a lack of synergy within the battle space. To eliminate this, institution and operalization is necessary.
Changing dynamics of national security which, now encompasses cyber, automation and such new challenges, cannot be solved by a disjointed general and MoD labyrinth but rather a clear and robust structure that should quickly respond to emergent situation.