Panel formed for talks on theatre commands

#Security #Integrated Theatre Command

Why in News?

 For the wider consultations on the creation of integrated tri-service theatre commands a high-level committee consisting of representatives from the services and the Ministries were formed.

Key provisions:

The panel includes:  

  • The Vice-Chiefs of the three services,  
  • The Chief of Integrated Defence Staff to the Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee, and  
  • Representatives from Ministries such as Home Affairs, Finance and Law.
  • The committee will examine all issues and find a way forward before a formal note on their creation is sent to the Cabinet Committee on Security.

The rationale behind the move:

  • It was necessitated due to some aspects like:  
  • Bringing in paramilitary forces, which are under the Home Ministry, under the purview of the theatre commands.
  • The financial implications that may arise in the process of integration.

Government Steps towards formations of Integrated Commands:

  • The mandate of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) includes bringing about jointness among the three services, including through the establishment of joint/theatre commands.
  • The country’s first CDS Gen. Bipin Rawat had constituted teams headed by the Vice-Chiefs of three services to study and submit recommendations on the formation of various commands.
  • The studies reports on the two proposed commands (air defence and maritime theatre) are being discussed and would be rolled out by August.  
  • The proposed Air Defence Command plans to integrate all air assets of the armed forces.
  • While the Maritime Theatre Command plans to bring in all assets of the Navy, Coast Guard as well as coastal formations of the Army and Air Force under one umbrella.
  • On land, the Army’s Northern Command and Western Command would be converted into two to five theatre commands.




Integrated Theatre Command:

  • An integrated theatre command envisages a unified command of the three Services, under a single commander, for geographical theatres that are of security concern.
  • The commander of such a force will be able to bring to bear all resources at his disposal (from the IAF, the Army and the Navy) with seamless efficacy.
  • It 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 his operations will also be placed at the disposal of the theatre commander so that he 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.

The committee, which was headed by Lt General DB Shekatkar (retd) has recommended the creation of 3 integrated theatre commands i.e.;  

  1. Northern for the China border,
  2. Western for the Pakistan border and
  3. Southern for the maritime role.

How is Joint Command different from Integrated Command?

  • Jointness means that while the 3 Services progress and develop in their respective spheres with their independent identity, they function together and so coordinate their operations in war.
  • Integrated commands, on the other hand, seek to merge individual service identities to achieve a composite and cohesive whole.
  • It implies enmeshing the three Services together at different levels and placing them under one commander for the execution of operational plans.

Theatre Commands in India:

  • India currently has a service-specific commands system.
  • The only fully functional theatre command is the Andaman and Nicobar Command set up in 2001 while the Strategic Forces Command, set up in 2003, is an integrated functional command or specified combatant command.

Current commands in India:

  • The Indian armed forces currently have 17 commands.
  • There are 7 commands each of the Army [Northern, Eastern, Southern, Western, Central, South-western and Army Training Command (ARTRAC)].
  • The Air Force has [Western, Eastern, Southern, South-western, Central, Training and Maintenance].
  • The Navy has 3 commands [Western, Eastern and Southern].
  • Each command is headed by a 4-star rank military officer.
  • Interestingly, none of these 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 are headed by rotation by officers from the 3 Services.

Co-ordination of commands during the war:

  • Coordination of operations is expected to be carried out at the level of Service Headquarters through the Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC), which is headed by the senior-most Service Chief who is designated as Chairman, COSC.
  • He is expected to simultaneously perform both the roles of Chief of his Service as well as the Chairman, COSC.
  • The COSC generally functions on the principle of consensus, and this makes decision making on jointness very difficult.



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