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Proposal for Integrated Theatre Commands

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August 16, 2018


What is the issue?

  • Military reforms and creation of "Integrated Theatre Commands" (joining Army, Navy and Air force) is being debated widely now.
  • In this context, there is a need for clear policy-driven directives that meet India’s national security needs and challenges.

What is the context of the proposed defense reforms?

  • "Naresh Chandra Committee report", prepared in the aftermath of Kargil War focused on a restructuring of "higher defense organization" as the first step.
  • This was intended to improve synergy among different state departments - bureaucracy, military, research and development, intelligence etc.
  • While little progress has been made to institutionalize these recommendations, the debate has now gone towards reforming the operational realm.
  • Here, the proposal is to set up joint theatre commands where interoperability across services like "army, navy and air force" is being sought to be enhanced.
  • Unfortunately, in this regard too there has been no progress, with services getting pitted against one another in a series of turf wars for operational control.

What are the concerns?

  • The proposal for standalone theatre commands like the pilot in Andaman & Nicobar Islands lacks clarity on the overall picture.
  • The discussion of the kind of integration envisioned at the higher echelons (like the post of "Chief of Defense Staff") hasn't been having a clear direction.
  • Whether theatre commands would reduce the powers of chiefs of the various services over their resources is also not known currently.
  • The Indian Air force has also expressed operational problems in being delegated under theatre commands, due to shortage of resources.
  • Notably, with a sanctioned strength of 45 squadrons, the Air force currently operates with just about 32, due to shortage of fighter jets.
  • Further, during all previous military initiatives, the Air force under the current command structure has delivered clear and appreciable results.  

What is the way ahead?

  • The evolving nature of the warfare has changed the way combat is carried out and the focus on integrated commands might actually be redundant.
  • Further, it's only for far off offensive missions that theatre commands are more suited to and home defense is largely done through conventional commands.
  • With technological advancements in weaponry, the focus should be more on upending the defense arsenal and its operability.
  • The future battle field is lesser about mobilizing large armies and more about better surveillance, and cyber capabilities to pre-empt attacks. 
  • In this context, reducing the tooth-to-tail ratio (combatants-to-support staff) and improving the potency of the tail operators is vital for the military.


Source: The Hindu

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