Theatre Commands in India

The country is now a day celebrating 75 years of independence of the nation. During this period, our country has seen development in leaps and bound. However, there is also room for improvement in many of the spheres. 

One of them is the process of constructing a Theatre Command with the aim to bring integration and coordination among all the three services. However, the timeline for which it may start its operations is yet to be made public.

Recently Mr Rajnath Singh, Defence Minister of the country,said that the action of theatre integration is the next step after the Chief of DefenceStaff and Department of Military Affairs in the Defence Ministry has been established.

It was on the occasion of commemorating 50 years of victory in the India- Pakistan War in 1971  at Indian Air Force conclave and the integrated efforts of the three services, which resulted in the biggest surrender of troops after the Second World War, it was felt the need for integration in the changing situation. “The armed forces and Defence Ministry will be further integrated. In the coming days, as a forward process, theatre integration will be ensured. The integration will be in procurement, indigenisation and prioritisingcapability development.”

Borrowing from the best in the world

Chief of the Defence Staff Bipin Rawat presented the progress done so far on the theatrisation of the command. General Rawat said India had extensively studied the models of theatre command of several countries such as the U.S., Russia, the U.K., China in order to adopt some of the best practices.

CDS said that “We will adopt a tailor-made model to meet our national security. We are moving forward with maritime theatre command, joint air defence structure and land-centric theatre command; the concept of theatrisation is being progressed on a consensus-based approach, at various levels. To bring about greater synergy and bring down redundancy, the service chiefs are likely to retain operational control.”

As farv as the identification of theatre command,is concerned, would be based on the tasks, threats, opportunities and assets. After the proposal was examined and finalised by the chiefs of staff committee, it would be operationalised by the Government.

General Rawat further clarified that there are no differences in the act of creating theatre command and will take all the services into account to create a theatre command that will suit the requirement.

On the timeline for theaterisation, he said: ‘Creating an organisation and putting a structure in place will take a long time.

The present system in India

  • India currently has 19 military commands, out of which 17 of them service-oriented.The Army and the Air Force have seven military commands each, while the Navy has three.
  • India also has a Tri-Service CommandatAndaman and Nicobar Command along with theStrategic Forces Command (SFC),which has the duty to look after the country’s nuclear stockpile.
  • An integrated theatre command envisages a synchronized unified command of the three Services, for geographical areas that are of strategic and securityconcern under a single commander.
  • The commander of such a force will be able to bear all resources at his disposal, ranging from the Army, the Indian Air Force, and the Navy, with seamless efficacy.
  • The integrated theatre commander will not be answerable to individual Serviceas such.

Why does India seek theatre commands?

  • Better planning and military response
  • cost-effective in the long term as all acquisitions will be a unified one.
  • It will also provide a unified approach to fighting future wars.

Recommendations of the Committees

The Kargil Review Committee and the then Group of Ministers, along with the Naresh Chandra Committee, had called for structural changes in higher defence management in the country.

It was the Shekatkar committee which was headed by Lt Gen. (retd) D.B. Shekatkar, which recommended the creation of the post of CDS and theatre commands.