CDS General Bipin Rawat. The operational control of all the theatre commands will eventually come under CDS. (File photo)
CDS General Bipin Rawat. The operational control of all the theatre commands will eventually come under CDS. (File photo)

Panel formed to settle theaterisation concerns

  • Theaterisation refers to placing specific units of the army, the navy and the air force under a theatre commander.
By HT Correspondent, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JUN 19, 2021 01:29 AM IST

The government has constituted an expert panel for consultations on the military’s theaterisation plans before seeking the approval of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) to implement the long-awaited military reform to optimally utilise the resources of the armed forces, officials aware of the matter said on Friday.

“A committee has been formed to look into different aspects of theaterisation. It has members of the armed forces, defence ministry and other ministries involved in the planning and implementation aspects,” said one of the officials.

Issues related to theaterisation were discussed and examined in detail by top officials who reviewed a draft cabinet note on new joint structures at a meeting this month, as reported by HT on Thursday. HT learns that there were some differences that emerged at that meeting and that the panel is expected to address these.

The key points discussed included the executing authority for theatre commands, the geographies they will control, command and control structures, budgeting and placing some paramilitary forces under the commands. Some of these issues involve the finance and home ministries.

Theaterisation refers to placing specific units of the army, the navy and the air force under a theatre commander. Such commands are to be led by an officer from any of the three services, depending on the roles assigned to them.

HT reported in February that India was set to begin a formal roll-out of its long-awaited theaterisation plan, with the Air Defence Command and the Maritime Theatre Command likely to be launched by May. “Processes have to be followed before the proposal is sent to the CCS for approval. We have to have more discussions to iron out the details of the theaterisation plan. All stakeholders have to be in agreement... But there will be no inordinate delay,” another official said on Thursday.

Apart from the Air Defence and Maritime Theatre Commands, India is expected to have three other integrated commands to secure its western, northern and eastern fronts. In addition, a logistics command is in the works to avoid duplication of efforts and resources.

Experts said building consensus among all stakeholders was crucial to take the theaterisation plan forward.

There are some very substantive issues involved in the raising of theatre commands, said former Northern Army commander Lieutenant General DS Hooda (retd). “...Theatre commands are essential, but the model can only be successfully implemented if there is a consensus within the three services, which currently appears to be lacking. Hopefully, the new committee can iron out the differences,” Hooda added.

The government expects General Bipin Rawat, who took charge as India’s first chief of defence staff (CDS) on January 1, 2020, to bring about jointness among the three services in a three-year time frame (by January 2023). One of the means to achieve this is the setting up of integrated theatre commands for the best use of military resources to fight future battles.

The operational control of all the theatre commands will eventually come under CDS, with the service chiefs being responsible for raising, training and sustaining their forces, as previously reported by HT.

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