Theatre Commands To Be Functional In 2 To 3 Years: Officials
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Theatre Commands To Be Functional In 2 To 3 Years: Officials

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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

The creation of theatre commands to best utilise the military’s resources could take two to three years, with senior officers from the three services being assigned key responsibilities to finalise the joint structures, people familiar with the developments said on Wednesday.

“The three services have nominated C-in-C ranked officers (senior three-star officers) to finalise the organisational structure and other aspects of theatre commands. These officers will submit a detailed report with their proposals in a year, after which the creation of theatre commands will begin,” said a senior official, one of the people cited above.

“The officers will then start raising theatres. That will take two to three years. Right now, they are dual tasked –holding their current C-in-C appointments and laying the groundwork for setting up theatre commands. We are making good progress,” the official added.

This indicates a slight revision in timelines. HT reported in February that India was set to begin the initial roll-out of its long-awaited Theaterisation plan, with the Air Defence Command and the Maritime Theatre Command likely to be launched by May this year, though the commands would take two years to be fully operational. Theaterisation has the full backing of the government.

Defence minister Rajnath Singh on Sunday said discussions on the creation of joint commands and their implementation were progressing well and fast, indicating that differences between stakeholders on the Theaterisation model are being addressed, and India is on course to set up theatre commands.

“Whenever a change takes place, everyone wants to understand the change and its effects,” the official said.

In June, the government formed an eight-member panel under Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat to fine-tune the Theaterisation plans and bring all stakeholders on board, especially the Indian Air Force, for speedy roll-out of the new joint structures.

The Indian military’s Theaterisation model, a long-awaited reform, will have inbuilt flexibility to fall back on the current command and control structures to deal with any contingency during the transition phase, the official said. Stabilisation of theatre commands could take up to five years, and it is critical to ensure that there is a mechanism to swiftly return to the pre-Theaterisation status quo if a crisis unfolds when the restructuring is underway.

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 (except the Udhampur-based Northern Command).

In July, Indian Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria flagged concerns about the Theaterisation model, arguing that it was critical to first get the structure right, even as General Rawat gave out details of the plan to achieve jointness and brushed aside the reservations.

The current Theaterisation model under consideration seeks to set up four new integrated commands for synergy in operations — two land-centric theatres, the Air Defence Command and the Maritime Theatre Command.

The Indian 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 Northern 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 & Kashmir.

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