Military theatre commanders to hold four-star rank at par with service chiefs | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

Military theatre commanders to hold four-star rank at par with service chiefs

Jun 20, 2023 07:10 AM IST

The military reform planners are putting up a proposal for two adversary-specific land theatre commands and one maritime theatre command.

The Defence Ministry is putting the finishing touches to a plan that will add momentum to its effort to create theatre commands or so-called jointsmanship of the three services, with four-star rank theatre commanders being at the heart of this radical idea, HT learns.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh with Chief of Defence Staff Gen Anil Chauhan, Navy Chief Admiral R. Hari Kumar and Air Chief V R Chaudhari.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh with Chief of Defence Staff Gen Anil Chauhan, Navy Chief Admiral R. Hari Kumar and Air Chief V R Chaudhari.

That would put the theatre commanders — there are expected to be three, two land theatres and one maritime one — at the same rank as the three chiefs of services, with the Chief of Defence Staff coming on top of all six.

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While the government is tight-lipped about the military theatre commands, it is understood that the commands will be adversary specific with one maritime theatre command to handle the Indo-Pacific. Importantly, the government has decided to ensure that other verticals such as Cyber, Space, Intelligence, Missile, Drone, National Defence University and logistics command are created so that there is no loss of jobs at the three-star (Lt General), two star (Major General) or one star (Brigadier) level after the theatre commands are created.

After detailed deliberations led by CDS General Anil Chauhan, the three services are believed to be on board with the theatre commands plan .

And even as the General Chauhan visits commands and other formations all over the country to explain the need for theatre command to the senior officers, the military reforms are rapidly taking final shape with national security planners putting the finishing touches to the plan that will revolutionize military affairs in India.

It was earlier envisaged that the military theatre commanders would be of three-star rank — that is at the level of Lt Generals, Vice Admirals and Air Marshals — the new plan is that they should be of equal rank as that of the three chiefs or else they will not be able to operationally perform in a hierarchy conscious military where seniority rules the day. “How will the army, navy and air force chiefs listen to the theatre commanders in times of war if they are of a lower rank? Since the theatre commanders are operationally responsible, they have to hold the same ranks as the tri-service chiefs,” said a senior official, one of the few familiar with the plan who asked not to be named

India’s plan for theatre commands is in line with similar hierarchies in the US or China with theatre commanders holding four-star rank. In India, the theatre commanders will report to the CDS who is also the Permanent Chairman of Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC).

The creation of the new military verticals is key to the plan as this will ensure there are no redundancies at the three star, two star or one star or even at the battalion commander level; the new verticals will be utilized for rank appointments which are rationalized during creation of theatre commands. For instance, the revival of the National Defence University is on the anvil as it will be tasked to prepare for doctrines, concepts, theories needed under the new theatre commands. The Intelligence command will ensure that real time information is available to the theatre commands on their demands as well as the service headquarters in Delhi.

HT learns that while the plan is nearing finalization, there could be more changes before the military-civilian bureaucracy and the political leadership give a final go ahead. But with officers now being posted in the army, navy, or air force as per the jointsmanship plan and the creation of a single act to ensure discipline and deployment of the forces without any silos, the big structure of military theatres may start becoming visible before the end of 2023.

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    Author of Indian Mujahideen: The Enemy Within (2011, Hachette) and Himalayan Face-off: Chinese Assertion and Indian Riposte (2014, Hachette). Awarded K Subrahmanyam Prize for Strategic Studies in 2015 by Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA) and the 2011 Ben Gurion Prize by Israel.

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