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The grandiose Theaterization of the Armed Forces moved slowly for more than a year. The most thorough master plan since Independence has gained momentum with the appointment of new CDS General Anil Chauhan.

The most complex defence project in the nation is again getting underway after being put on hold in December 2021.

After the nation’s first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Bipin Rawat, passed away in a helicopter crash only days before the start of the year 2022, the plan for theaterizing the armed forces—or creating integrated theatre commands—came to a grinding halt.

The strategy is now being adjusted for implementation after a few revisions.

Integrated theatre commands are war-fighting organisations that include elements of the army, navy, and air force. They would work together to concentrate and coordinate the combat capability of all three services, providing the long-needed security adrenaline that analysts have long called for.

After General Anil Chauhan, the current CDS, assumed command in September of last year, the plan picked up speed once more. According to a senior official, the proposal will soon be finalised and will then be reviewed, examined, and further fine-tuned in cooperation with the CDS. He emphasised that the current strategy is still a work in progress and may see future adjustments as a result of additional internal discussion and feedback from the government.

The former Army chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane, who stated at a Memorial Lecture in the last week of December 2022 that framing a national security strategy was a prerequisite for taking Theaterisation forward to best utilise the military’s resources for future wars and operations, significantly contributed to the need to swiftly implement this plan in light of tensions with China and Pakistan. A rare sarcastic remark from a former leader of the military, which, unlike in many other nations, has chosen to remain in the barracks, he claimed that pursuing the long-awaited reform without such a clearly defined strategy would be equivalent to “putting the cart before the horse.”

A nation’s national security policy effectively lays out the course it should travel to realise its goals and interests at home. The absence of such a plan has long been a topic of debate among the strategic community.

It seeks to put into place a broad range of reforms, primarily strengthening the nation’s capabilities to combat a two-front threat from China and Pakistan, at intra-defence turf wars, and the dynamics of how it would be executed on the ground.

What Does The Indian Defense Forces’ Traditional Command Structure Look Like?

There are now 17 single-service commands dispersed across the nation for the Armed Forces. While the Navy has three commands, the Army and Air Force each have seven. Six operational commands (field armies) and one training command make up the Army. Each is commanded by a Lieutenant General, who has the same authority as the Vice-Chief of Army Staff (VCOAS) and reports to Army Headquarters in New Delhi. There are seven commands in the Indian Air Force (IAF), five of which are active and two of which are functioning. At present, the Indian Navy is divided into three commands: the Western Naval Command, which is based in Mumbai, the Southern Naval Command, which is based in Kochi, and the Eastern Naval Command, which is based in Visakhapatnam.

What Kind Of Structure Did The Former CDS, General Rawat, Propose?

Under General Rawat, the theaterization model aimed to establish four integrated commands: two land-centric theatres, an air defence command, and a sea theatre command. The military refers to this area as the “western theatre,” where the first joint theatre command would be in charge of the border with Pakistan, and the northern theatre command would be in charge of the border with China. The security of the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) will be handled by a third, Navy-dominated theatre known as the “maritime command,” while the Andaman & Nicobar Command (ANC), an island command that is already operational, will project strength into the eastern Indian Ocean.

What Does the Diversity of Command Mean, and How Has It Influenced the Theaterization Plan?

India’s military strategy has historically been determined by a number of commands. For instance, four different Army commands—the Northern, Western, South-Western, and Southern commands—now oversee Pakistan. While the Navy only has two commands responsible for that boundary, the Air Force has three. A similar number of commands oversee the border with China. The Eastern Air Command, based in Shillong, is in charge of controlling the northern theatre, while the Central Air Command, based in Allahabad, is in charge of overseeing both the western and northern theatres. The Army’s Northern Command is divided between the western and northern borders, with the Central and Eastern Commands in charge of the northern frontier. There are overall

What Changes Is the New CDS Gen Anil Chauhan Proposing?

The Army, Navy, and Indian Air Force and their resources are being integrated under specialised theatre commands as part of the Armed Forces’ theaterisation plans, which are currently in their last stages of development. Initially, late Gen. Rawat had intended to establish four theatre commands, however the

Gen Chauhan asked services to review the planned reform again, and they chose to do so. Making joint theatre commands based on India’s neighbours as opposed to the four designated theatre commands originally envisioned is one of the main ideas being studied. This entails first separating the 17 theatre commands into three integrated theatre commands: one for the western borders with Pakistan, another for the northern and eastern borders with China, and a third marine command to handle maritime threats.

military commands that are currently operating under the control of the three services. There are several potential locations being discussed for its headquarters, including Visakhapatnam, Jaipur, and Lucknow. The formation of a joint training command is another topic up for debate. Up till 2021, three collaborative logistics nodes were already functioning. Currently, India has two combined services commands: the Strategic Forces Command (SFC) and the Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC) (SFC). Plans for theatre commands take into account threats coming from China, Pakistan, and via marine channels.

What Restrictions Did The Indian Air Force Have On Gen. Rawat’s Suggestions?

The IAF had objected to earlier theaterisation plans, claiming that it would divide their fighting resources. Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari, the head of the IAF, had stated last year that the IAF is not against the theaterisation process as long as the doctrinal aspect of the force is not compromised by the development of the new structures. Additionally, he had stated that while the theatre commands should be prepared for the future and be able to handle new kinds of warfare in the cyber and space domains, they shouldn’t raise the decision-making hierarchy above its current levels.

How Do The Three Services Reach Their New Consensus?

Top officials from the three services have conducted numerous studies over the past two years to look into the Theaterisation process, which slowed down following Gen Rawat’s passing. However, the services proceeded to discuss the planned reform by conducting a few tabletop exercises to assess how theatres would be used in various operational circumstances. After Gen Anil Chauhan, the current CDS, assumed command in September of last year, the plan picked up speed once more. Officials claim that the services were ordered to independently research and assess the viability of using a fresh strategy in contrast to the Indian military’s Theaterization plans. There have been numerous meetings throughout the past three months, and

How Will Defense Theaterization Function Locally?

An interface between the government and the military leadership, the higher defence organisation (HDO), is also required, according to defence officials, along with a national security policy. Given that nations wage wars, HDO must represent the “whole-of-government, whole-of-nation” philosophy. The HDO must include representatives from all ministries, not only the defence ministry. Once decisions have been made, the Armed Forces are free to carry out their duties, and this organisation is responsible for all other coordination.

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