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India fast tracks formation of theatre commands

India has reportedly set a two-year time line to complete the task of theatre commands and joint operations.

India is fast-tracking formation of its tri-service theatre commands after Prime Minister Narendra Modi imparted urgency to integrated warfare as the way forward during the combined military commanders’ conference in Bhopal earlier this month.

CDS Gen Anil Chauhan visited North Bengal & Trishakti Corps of the Indian Army. He interacted with Commanders & staff, reviewed infrastructure development and also operational & logistics preparedness of the formation. (Photo: Indian Army)

Hindustan Times is reporting that following the Prime Minister’s directive, the Chief of Defence Staff Gen, Anil Chauhan landed at the Southern Army Command headquarters in Pune today.

He had, in the previous days, visited Western Naval Command and the Mazagon Dockyards Limited (MDL) in Mumbai to pass on the PM’s message of urgent integration. The report points out that a two-year time line has been set to complete the task of theatre commands and joint operations.

Unsurprisingly, Gen Chauhan had visited the Eastern Army Command in Kolkata and Central Army Command in Lucknow in the first week of April.

The purpose was to review military preparedness in the sensitive Siliguri corridor and at the Hashimara air base, which houses the latest French Rafale fighters.

There is an obvious China angle to the visits, as Chinese troops had intruded in the Doklam in 2017—a move that had the strategic objective of threatening the Siliguri corridor that links the northeast with the rest of India. The Hashimara base is geared up for air operations in China, should the need arise.

CDS General Anil Chauhan interacts with Lt Gen RP Kalita, ArmyCdrEC and senior officers at Fort William. (Photo: Indian Army)

Gen Chauhan is expected to visit all 18 military commands of the Indian armed forces to make it plain that the decision on forming military theatre commands is irreversible, and is part of a process to transform the military into an efficient 21 st century fighting force.

According to the daily, at the Combined Commanders’ Conference (CCC) in Bhopal, PM Modi is understood to have given a clear message to speed up tri-service integration and avoid duplication in logistics, weapons procurement, and war fighting. The PM said that the armed forces should contribute towards national development in peacetime while remaining prepared for the worst-case scenario on Indian borders.

PM Modi also asked the forces to avoid wasteful expenditure by having separate messes and separate arrangements for rest and recreation of troops and the newly inducted Agniveers. He also delivered the message of the need to form a mature military-civilian industrial complex through the “Atamanirbhar Bharat,” route.

During his visits, CDS is also reviewing India’s military preparedness to deter a rising China along the land borders as well as in the Indian Ocean.

“Specific instructions have been imparted to the military commanders in the Eastern Command to secure the Siliguri corridor by keeping a note of Chinese activities across the LAC. Similar instructions have been issued to Southern Army Command in the context of western borders with Pakistan,” the report said.

(India Narrative)

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IAF chief, CDS take separate stance on theatre command

Speaking at a webinar organised by a defence think-tank on Friday, Rawat had termed the Air Force as a supporting arm, while Bhadauria later said: “it is not”…reports Asian Lite News.

Indian Air Force (IAF) chief, Air Chief Marshal R.K.S. Bhadauria, has expressed his reservation over terming the air force as a supporting arm in the proposed theatre command system, which is intended to bring better synergy between the three branches of the armed forces.

Even IAF veterans have come out in support of Bhadauria, terming Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat talk about the IAF’s air defence charter as well as its role as a supporting arm to the ground forces as ‘controversial’.

Speaking at a webinar organised by a defence think-tank on Friday, Rawat had termed the Air Force as a supporting arm, while Bhadauria later said: “it is not”.

Rawat had said that the air force is required to provide support to the ground forces. “Do not forget, the air force continues to remain a supporting arm to the armed forces just as the artillery or engineers support the combatant arms in the army,” the CDS had said.

They have an adequate charter of supporting the ground forces in times of war, he had said.

The CDS said that the air force has got another charter and that is to provide close air support to land forces when they undertake operations and for offensive air operations in case one goes into the adversary’s territory.

“The same is for the navy, they too require air support,” the Chief of Defence Staff had said.

The theatres with the northern and western adversary (China and Pakistan) will be land-based theatres, Rawat had said.

Later in the same webinar, the IAF chief said that his service was not of a supporting role.

“It is not for a supporting role alone. Airpower has a huge role to play in any of the integrated battle areas and it is not an issue of support alone. And, there are a whole lot of things in any air plan. Those are the issues that are under discussion,” Bhadauria said.

He also said that the formation of the theatre command is much more complex.

“The air force is for the formation of theatre commands. But the issue we have raised is about how we should do it. It is the most important reform that has an impact on war fighting,” the officer said.

He clarified that every service has its own doctrine, and one needs to have the best knowledge of how to employ the capabilities and capacities to get the best results.

Theaterisation is one of the charters of the Chief of Defence Staff’s plans to integrate the forces into five theatre commands — air defence, maritime theatre, eastern theatre, western theatre and the northern theatre command.

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