A unified military command is the way to go
There are arguably fewer military reforms that would so greatly enhance India’s fighting capability than the full operational integration of its warships, fighters, tanks and other platforms.Updated: Nov 23, 2018 12:45 IST
The integration of India’s three services has been a can kicked around for decades. Today, it is an imperative with the adoption of network-based weapon systems across the world. The Indian Chief of Air Staff, B S Dhanoa, has joined a line of distinguished voices in arguing for joint planning between the air force, army and navy as soon as possible. There are arguably fewer military reforms that would so greatly enhance India’s fighting capability than the full operational integration of its warships, fighters, tanks and other platforms. Joint planning would only be the first step towards this target. All the soldiers and weapons on land and sea, in air and space, are points in a three-dimensional space. If they are collectively able to detect targets and direct firepower — or detect shipwreck survivors or tsunami victims in the case of humanitarian actions — they become much more effective and accurate in everything they do. Today’s internet centric technology connects all these elements together and shares what each point knows with the other. The “fog of war” is greatly reduced in such a situation and provides a tremendous advantage in battle. A primitive example: World War II aerial bombing had about a 1% accuracy against individual targets while today’s guided missiles boost that figure to nearly 100%. A smaller but smarter military can defeat a larger foe simply because it “sees” the battlefield better, makes fewer errors and makes each blow count.
Unsurprisingly, China has already integrated its military services into five theatres. In comparison, India currently has 17 single-service military theatres. The Andamans are its only integrated command. A series of expert committees going back years have called for the creation of an Indian equivalent of integrated military command and a joint chiefs of staff. However, inter-service rivalry has so far put the idea on ice.
Ultimately, it is an abdication of responsibility for the government to wait for a consensus within the military. This is fundamentally a political decision and it is time for the central government to accept military integration as a national security necessity. Buying weapons and amassing troops is only a small part of warfare. The strategies and means by which they are deployed are even more important. Few reforms would do as much to shift the Indian defence system into the 21st century and help compensate for its undersized squadrons and under-equipped divisions. Unity in diversity is not merely a political concept. It applies just as much to military effectiveness.
First Published: Nov 23, 2018 12:44 IST