US took 50 years to fine-tune joint structures, integration is complicated, says Navy chief
India’s new navy chief Admiral R Hari Kumar said the navy fully supported the ongoing defence reforms to enhance tri-service synergy. The current theaterisation model seeks to set up four integrated commands --- two land-centric theatres, an air defence command and a maritime theatre command.
The US military took almost 50 years to fine-tune its current joint command and control structures after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour during World War II highlighted the need for greater coordination among American forces, India’s new navy chief Admiral R Hari Kumar said on Friday.
His comments, in response to a question on jointness, were a broader attempt to put across the complications associated with creating integrated commands at a time when India is inching towards rolling out its theaterisation plan to enhance the military’s effectiveness and reshape the conduct of future operations.
“Jointness and integration can’t happen in a very, very short time. If you look at the US military, it has taken almost 50 years,” the navy chief said at his annual press briefing on the eve of Navy Day. “The thrust for jointness came after the Pearl Harbour attack. I am not saying that we should take a similar time but it’s a complicated process, and it’s not something which can just be put together in a short time,” the navy chief said.
The US military’s joint command and control model is the outcome of the Goldwater-Nichols Defense Reorganization Act passed by the Congress in 1986.
Kumar said the navy fully supported the ongoing defence reforms to enhance tri-service synergy. The current theaterisation model seeks to set up four integrated commands --- two land-centric theatres, an air defence command and a maritime theatre command.
“We are looking at the establishment of the Maritime Theatre Command in the near future, which would further buttress joint planning and joint application of force. The details are being worked out and may be finalised by the middle of next year,” said Kumar, who took over as navy chief on November 30.
He was closely associated with the theaterisation drive in a former role as chief of integrated defence staff to the chairman, chiefs of staff committee (COSC).
The department of military affairs (DMA), headed by chief of defence staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat who is spearheading the theaterisation drive, last month asked the three services to expedite their ongoing studies on the creation of theatre commands and submit comprehensive reports within six months. The deadline for submitting the reports was advanced from September 2022 to April 2022.
Elaborating on the proposed Maritime Theatre Command, Kumar said the existing command and control structures would largely remain intact with a lean “theatre command organisation superimposed on them.”
The charter of the Maritime Theatre Commander will largely be operations, with little administration or maintenance role, he said. “The navy chief at some point will be responsible only for raising, training and sustaining forces. But certainly, the chief will be in the loop for operations as well because he will be part of the COSC,” Kumar said. .
“These are the broad contours that we are looking at. It may happen in six months...it may take a little longer. The timeframe will depend on how we resolve the complexities involved and the nitty-gritty of theatre commands,” Kumar said.
Any structural changes to an effective organisation to ensure future readiness require detailed deliberations among stakeholders and smooth transition management, said Lieutenant General Vinod Bhatia (retd), the former director of the Centre for Joint Warfare Studies. “Security challenges dictate that we set up theatre commands at the earliest,” Bhatia added.
The armed forces currently have 17 single-service commands spread across the country. The Indian Army and the Indian Air Force have seven commands each, while the Indian Navy has three. Creating theatres would involve merging the existing commands.
The army’s Northern Command is the only single-service command that will stay outside the scope of the military’s theaterisation drive because of its critical role. The Udhampur-based command is responsible for guarding the country’s borders with Pakistan and China in the north, and is the nerve centre of counterterrorism operations in Jammu and Kashmir.
Kumar said the creation of DMA and the post of CDS two years ago was “the single most important” higher defence organisation reform in the Indian military since Independence.
“The benefits include clear dissemination of national policy objectives to the military, greater awareness of national challenges, direct responsibility and accountability to the political executive, faster decisions and approvals and fewer layers of bureaucracy,” the navy chief said.
The appointment of a CDS was one of the most significant recommendations made by the K Subrahmanyam-led Kargil Review Committee (KRC) that was constituted in the immediate aftermath of the 1999 Kargil war to examine lapses that allowed Pakistani soldiers to occupy strategic heights, the initial sluggish Indian response, and suggest measures to strengthen national security.
On the challenge posed by the Chinese navy seeking to increase its footprint in the Indian Ocean Region, Kumar said the Indian Navy was keeping the region under constant surveillance and tracking the deployments of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN).
“We have our plans in place. There is constant surveillance by our aircraft and mission-based deployed ships. The Chinese activities and deployments are kept under close watch,” he added.