New Delhi: The Indian military will complete the theaterisation process in the next three years, Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat said Tuesday.
Theaterisation means putting specific units of personnel from the three services — Army, Navy and Air Force — under a common theatre commander so that they fight as a cohesive unit through rationalisation of manpower and resources.
The CDS said a number of theatre commands, beginning with a joint tri-services Air Defence Command, will also come up.
Speaking to a group of journalists in a first after taking over as the CDS, General Rawat said the theatre commanders will report to the three service chiefs to begin with, and he is in discussions with them over the exact number of joint theatre commands that need to come up.
There can be a number of theatre commands, including the Peninsular Command (for the southern part of the state), an Air Defence Command, a Joint Logistics Command, a Space Command,a training command and other theatre commands in the eastern, northern and western commands which takes care of China and Pakistan. The commands could be divided into more than one theatre commands.
Rawat also said he is discussing with the service chiefs about the exact number of theatre commands. India would follow an indigenous model as against the US or China model, he added.
The US Department of Defense has 11 combatant commands, while China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has five theatre commands. The IAF had earlier objected to integrated theatre commands, saying they will be a strain on the resources.
‘Looking at how to synergise the services’
Facilitating the restructuring of military commands for optimal utilisation of resources by bringing about jointness in operations, including through establishment of joint/theatre commands is one of the responsibilities given to the CDS.
While the Air Defence Command, a Joint Logistics Command, integration of medical services are the initial goals for this year, integration of the three services into different theatre commands based on an India-specific model — considering the threats along the borders and prioritisation of resources — will begin from 2021, Rawat said.
The CDS said a complete analysis of the threats is underway and there would be inter-theatre or intra-theatre re-allocation of resources on that basis, which would also result in cutting costs.
“We are looking at how to synergise the services so that we don’t look at each other as an individual service, but as the armed forces of the union,” Rawat said, adding that an Air Defence Command is a low-hanging fruit to begin with.
While the Air Defence is primarily the responsibility of the Indian Air Force, every service has its own Air Defence systems, which Rawat said should integrate under one service so that the command and control issues are simplified.
“So that when the time comes, orders should percolate from a single service,” Rawat said, indicating that the IAF should be responsible for both the Air Defence Command and the Space Command when it comes up in the future.
“Some theatres may have a huge terrain, compelling the groups to go into silos,” he said, adding that theatre commands should have the capacity to move more resources when needed through airlift or via roads.
There would be cross-staffing in the theatre commands and there should be familiarity among the service personnel, Rawat said.
‘Great scope to establish Joint Logistics Command’
The CDS said there is great scope to establish Joint Logistics Command, which would look at common contract management for the three services and be responsible for common inventories for maintaining reserves.
“You can also have similarity in procurement of vehicles. There will be ease of maintenance and spares management (among the services)… specialised equipment can be contracted together,” he said.
In military stations, where services are co-located, there is scope for management of resources, he said. “For example, in Delhi, we are looking at a common transport management,” he said.
‘Medical arm of all services should begin operating jointly’
The CDS also spoke of ensuring jointness among the services in studying and analysing the feed of UAVs, with each service having its own expertise in that field.
Rawat said the medical arm of all the services should begin operating jointly and not in silos, and hospitals of individual services should operate as tri-service hospitals such as the R&R Hospital in Delhi.
He said a countrywide analysis of surpluses and deficiencies of resources is underway and there is a scope of jointmanship for better optimisation and utilisation of facilities.