Integration is the way to go | HT Editorial
India’s defence forces need it. But the process will be delicateUpdated: Feb 05, 2020 18:18 IST
India has just announced a three-year road map towards creating integrated military commands. Chief of Defence Staff, Bipin Rawat, on Tuesday, said that the creation of a combined air defence command, and merging the separate systems of the three military services, will be the first step in this process. He also indicated that the new integrated commands will be both territorial and structural in nature. Interestingly, it has also been decided to allow a single service to be the dominant player in each of the integrated commands. The air force will play the lead role in the new air defence command.
Even more than state-of-the-art weapons, integration will provide the sort of edge that the Indian military needs for the 21st century. In the days before smart weapons, an aircraft could release 1,000 bombs, but only one would hit its target. Today, thanks to targeting technology, a single aircraft can make almost all of its bombs hit a target. On paper, the aircraft number remains the same but its lethality is multiplied several hundredfold. This is applicable to other high-tech weaponry in other services. Integrated commands would weld all such platforms and armaments on land, air, sea and even space into one seamless whole. In a battleground, a military seeks to use the maximum amount of firepower with a maximum degree of accuracy. Integration is the necessary glue to allow this to come together. Recent military experiences for India, whether it was Kargil, Doklam or Balakot, are not about massive military confrontation. It has been about responding quickly and surgically to under-the-radar incursions or terror attacks. A military that has all of its early warning systems combined, and sees its offensive assets as one cluster of options, is much better prepared to detect and respond to adversaries who are less interested in a full-scale war, and more in inflicting terror and causing political punishment.
General Rawat knows that just creating commands is insufficient. The technology needed to merge communication systems, and the creation of a cadre of officers dedicated to the new tri-service structure, are among other steps that are needed. The final proof will be for such commands to actually function, and show that what has been created is greater than the sum of its parts. Integration is inherently difficult when dealing with deeply-entrenched interest groups. It is even more delicate an operation when it is the nation’s military that is involved.