New Delhi: The three Services — Army, Navy and Air Force — are jointly working to reach a consensus on the exact structure of the theatre commands, a concept that the Modi government is firm on and will be the biggest defence reform that the forces will see.
Government sources as well as those in the defence and security establishment told ThePrint that more discussions will take place among various stakeholders in the coming weeks, and all issues will be thoroughly brainstormed.
It is expected that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his Independence Day address, could announce the government’s decision to adopt theaterisation as a concept.
Sources explained that if an announcement is made, the raising will start and will continue for a year. In this period, existing commanders will assume the role of theatre commanders. Formal appointment of theatre commanders will be done only after a period of one year and operationalisation will be done by 2023.
Theterisation, which seeks to unite the 17 individual Commands of the three Services into four or five joint structures, will not only lead to a joint warfare approach but will also result in cutting down of manpower and joint acquisition that will be cost-effective in the long run, sources said.
Also on the cards are joint training and new Command and Structure that will see the operation role of Service Chiefs being reduced in the coming years.
The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) will eventually become the operational ocmmander once the process is stabilised.
Tweaks and discussion to continue
Sources said discussions on the basic structure of theaterisation will continue in the coming weeks.
“Discussions will continue on the how the theatersisation should be structured. There are various critical issues that need to be brainstormed and only then can a consensus be built. However, every stakeholder is on board on the concept of joint war fighting strategy or theaterisation,” a source said.
The government has directed the three Services to brainstorm together and resolve all concerns.
The direction came after a meeting held in June that showed the three Services are not on the same page when it comes to the basic structure of theatres, which seeks to usher in a joint war fighting strategy, similar to that of the US and China.
Multiple meetings have been held since then, including a nearly five-hour-long meeting last week by CDS Gen Bipin Rawat who has been tasked by the government for ushering in theaterisation.
The meeting, which was attended by the three Service Chiefs, Vice Chiefs and others, deliberated on a number of issues including war gaming.
Sources said the three Services put forth their views and discussions on formulating the structures will be held during further rounds of meetings.
Sources also said that the original plan envisaged for theaterisation may be tweaked to cater to the concerns expressed by some of the stakeholders. This could mean that the number and the structure of Command could change from the five theatres planned initially.
The main changes are likely to do with the proposed Western Land Theatre and the Air Defence Command.
The sources said the joint approach to warfare is something that the three Services and the government are firm on.
India’s theatre command to be different from US
Sources also said that though theaterisation as a concept was initiated by the US military, India will have its own version and will not be a copy.
“The US military’s theatres are to further their national interest globally. India fights to protect its territorial integrity,” a source said.
Sources said the theatres will be based on three key issues — area of concern, area of interest and area of influence.
They added that among the three Services, the Navy and the Air Force have the capability to cater to areas of interest and areas of influence.
“There are various permutations and combinations that are being discussed. The focus is on how wars of future will be fought rather than what each Service will get,” another source said.
The theatre concept was proposed by the government-appointed Lt Gen D.B. Shekatkar Committee, which submitted its report in 2016.
The committee had also called for the creation of the post of the CDS and the next item on its list was thaterisation, sources said.
Even the corporatisation of the Ordnance Factory Board was also a part of the committee’s recommendation.
The report, which has not been put out in public, came out in the year when China rolled out a massive military reform which led to the creation of five theatres by scrapping its seven military regions.
It is also believed that the Shekatkar Committee report had spoken about the joint threat of Pakistan and China and the evolution of cyber and space besides drones as new weapons of warfare.