India has finally taken the first step towards eventually towards integrated theatre commands, where all the manpower and assets of the Army, Navy and IAF are under the operational control of a single three-star general in theatre commands, by improvising command and control rules for joint organizations and establishments.
Sources said, “the government has notified new ‘statutory rules and orders’ to ensure an officer from any one service can now ‘exercise direct command’ over personnel from the other two services, who are all governed by different acts and rules, in tri-service organizations.”
The progress has been put into action especially for the strategically-located Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC), India’s first theatre command since October 2001. But has largely failed to achieve its potential due to internecine turf wars among the three services general politico-bureaucratic apathy, fund crunches and environmental concerns.
A top source said “It might seem a minor structural reform but represents a huge cultural, fundamental shift in the Indian military system, where the three services often pull in different directions. If the country is to have a chief of defence staff (CDS) and theatre commands in the years ahead, this tweaking of the Army, Navy and IAF rules is the first step towards it,”
The ANC’s naval commander-in-chief can now directly be in charge of Army and IAF officers and other personnel under him, even as similar moves are afoot to eventually bring all land and assets under him in the archipelago.
“It will serve as the template for theatre commands in the future. Moreover, we need a fully unified approach in ANC due to the expanding Chinese threat in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR),” he added.
Initially, The NDA government had shown some coerce for meaningful reforms in the country’s higher defence establishment in the shape of creating a CDS post and theatre commands to guarantee much-needed synergy in training, logistics, planning, procurements and operations among the 1.5-million-strong armed forces.
But nothing actually has come out of it. The armed forces currently have 17 single-service commands, with only two unified commands in ANC and the Strategic Forces Command to handle the country’s nuclear arsenal.
In the meantime, China has reorganized its 2.3-million People’s Liberation Army into five theatre commands to crank up its offensive capabilities as well as establish better command-and-control structures.