While the Narendra Modi government is yet to appoint the next Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), the Indian military’s plans to transition into integrated theatre commands are in progress, with at least two meetings held since January this year to discuss their structure and other facets of their operations, News18 has learnt.
The latest of these took place in Lucknow last week and was attended by at least three Army commanders and one commander-in-chief each from the Navy and the Indian Air Force (IAF). Prior to that, in January, another discussion between top officers of the three services had taken place in Jaipur.
As per government sources, some internal deliberations on theaterisation had also taken place within the Army in the last week of January. Aside from these meetings, the services are also carrying out internal discussions to fine-tune the modalities.
In the two major tri-service discussions held at the Army’s southwestern command in Jaipur and central command in Lucknow, aspects of employment of theatres in different operational scenarios were discussed, the sources said.
The sources told News18 that the IAF is examining its options and feasibility of employing its resources permanently in different theatres, even as the three services continue fleshing out the finer details of the theaterisation process and reaching a consensus on them.
The Indian Army, Navy and Air Force currently have 17 commands together. The plans, at present, are to roll them into four integrated theatre commands — one maritime theatre command, one air defence command and the two land-based western and eastern theatre commands.
The Army’s northern command and the AOC (J&K) of the IAF will be kept out of the theatre commands at present, keeping in mind security implications.
Driving the theaterisation process was among the top charters of the Chief of Defence Staff and India’s first CDS General Bipin Rawat was actively driving this transition by overseeing a series of studies and simultaneous deliberations between the three services.
As reported by News18 in September last year, the creation of the joint theatre commands was to take three to four years with four commanders-in-chief from the Army, Navy and Air Force first defining the organisational structure of the theatre commands and their composition.
They were to submit their reports within a year, based on which their structure would be finalised.
A senior government official said that the challenge to balance the needs of the three services will continue before the new CDS.
“The current series of meetings between Army’s commanders-in-chief and their equivalents in the IAF and Navy is laying down the groundwork for restructuring of the forces into the various identified theatres. The new CDS, once appointed, would continue from there,” the official said.
Once operational, the western theatre command is likely to be headquartered in Jaipur, while the eastern theatre command will likely be based out of Kolkata or Lucknow.
The air defence command will be headquartered in either Jodhpur, Gandhinagar or Allahabad and the maritime theatre likely in Karwar.
Once the theatre commands are formed, the operations branch from the existing commands will go to the theatre commands first. Subsequently, logistics and other departments will be subsumed into the theatre commands from the existing commands, after which they will cease to exist.