Theatre commands, including for J-K, to start rolling out by 2022: Gen Rawat

Updated on Feb 18, 2020 12:14 AM IST

Gen Rawat also said that India is also looking at creating a distinct theatre command for Jammu and Kashmir and integrating the western and eastern naval commands to create a Peninsular Command.

Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat(PTI)
Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat(PTI)
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By

India is looking at creating a distinct theatre command for Jammu & Kashmir, and integrating the western and eastern naval commands to create a Peninsular Command, chief of defence staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat said on Monday, disclosing the broad contours of the country’s theaterisation plan to optimally utilise the resources of the armed forces.

Rawat said that India could have up to five theatres to address the country’s security requirements, and the new structures would begin “rolling out” in two years.

The government expects Rawat, the country’s first CDS, to bring about jointness among the three services within three years. One of the key objectives behind jointness, or jointmanship, is the setting up of theatre commands for the best use of military resources to fight future battles.

The CDS said a raft of studies would be ordered by the year-end to evaluate how many theatre commands are needed and theaterisation would start in 2021-22.

Theaterisation refers to placing specific units of the army, the navy and the air force under a theatre commander. Such commands come under the operational control of an officer from any of the three services, depending on the function assigned to that command.

Rawat, who took over as CDS on December 31, said that J&K, including the international border with Pakistan, would come under a separate theatre. He said the number of theatres required would be decided after the study groups submit their reports.

He said the military would also have separate joint commands for logistics and training.

Rawat said a study to create the Peninsular Command, responsible for securing India from seaborne threats, will be ordered by March 31, with a report to be submitted three to four months thereafter. He said the Peninsular Command was likely to be functional by 2021-end with army and air force elements under it. The Port Blair-based Andaman & Nicobar Command, India’s first tri-services command, would remain as it is, the CDS added.

The IAF has in the past opposed the setting up of theatre commands as many in the service believed the air force had the speed and reach to project military power across geographies without being confined to theatres.

However, all the three service chiefs have extended their full support to the CDS in creating new military structures.

In his first official directive after stepping into the new role, Rawat last month directed top officials of HQ Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) to prepare a proposal to create an Air Defence Command to enhance military synergy.

Rawat said the proposal will be submitted to him by March 31, after which implementation orders will be issued. The setting up of the Air Defence Command could take a year. To be headed by an Indian Air Force officer, the it will include air defence resources of all the three services.

Rawat said he would focus on creating avenues that allow the officers of the army, navy and air force to interact more with each other at different stages of their careers to have a better understanding of the three services. “If you have better knowledge of each other’s service, then there are no issues regarding integration and jointness,” he said.

As CDS, Rawat is the permanent chairman of the chiefs of staff committee (COSC), heads the newly formed department of military affairs, and is the single point military adviser to the defence minister.

The prioritisation of military purchases to be made by the three services also comes under Rawat’s purview. He indicated that he prefers a procurement model that involves buying weapons and systems in a staggered way so that the requirement of the three services can be met within the available budget.

“I believe we should not go in for a large number of procurements at one time. If you have a requirement for, say, 10 submarines, 100 fighter jets and 1,000 tanks, you can either buy the submarines or the jets or the tanks. You can’t buy all three together. But you can spread out the purchases over 10 years and buy that equipment in four or five tranches,” said Rawat.

He said buying equipment in one go would also result in all of it becoming due for repairs and overhaul at the same time. He added that he would prefer the Indian Air Force’s requirement for 110 new fighter jets to be met in phases. Asked if the big priority for the Indian Navy was a third aircraft carrier was or next-generation submarines, Rawat said that submarines would be more important if India’s underwater force levels were dwindling.

Lieutenant General Satish Dua (retd), a leading expert on tri-services issues, said, “As far as theaterisation is concerned, we are moving in the right direction at good speed. The CDS has been given three years’ time to set up the new structures. The experience of setting up the Air Defence Command will help in creating the other structures too.”

Dua added that with active borders with China and Pakistan, it was critical for India to ensure it was not caught off balance during the military transformation.

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