Chief of Defence Staff (CDS): India
This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.
The post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), India, and its necessity, 1999-2015
Integrated theatre commands
2018: Government amends rules
Amends Rules To Bring Three Forces Under Single Leadership
India has finally taken the first step towards eventually having integrated theatre commands, where all the manpower and assets of the Army, Navy and IAF are under the operational control of a single three-star general, by amending command and control rules for joint organisations and establishments.
Sources said the government has notified new “statutory rules and orders” to ensure an officer from any one service can now “exercise direct command” over personnel from the other two services, who are all governed by different acts and rules, in tri-service organisations.
The move has been implemented especially for the strategically-located Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC), which was established as India’s first theatre command in October 2001 but has largely failed to achieve its potential due to internecine turf wars among the three services, general politico-bureaucratic apathy, fund crunches and environmental concerns.
“It might seem a minor structural reform but represents a huge cultural, fundamental shift in the Indian military system, where the three services often pull in different directions. If the country is to have a chief of defence staff (CDS) and theatre commands in the years ahead, this tweaking of the Army, Navy and IAF rules is the first step towards it,” said a top source.
The naval commander-inchief of the ANC can now directly control and discipline Army and IAF officers and other personnel under him, even as similar moves are afoot to eventually bring all land and assets under him in the archipelago. “It will serve as the template for theatre commands in the future. Moreover, we need a fully unified approach in ANC due to the expanding Chinese threat in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR),” he added.
The NDA government had initially shown some drive for meaningful reforms in the country’s higher defence establishment in the shape of creating a CDS post and theatre commands to ensure much-needed synergy in training, logistics, planning, procurements and operations among the 1.5-million strong armed forces.
There was, for instance, even a proposal to create integrated theatre commands in the shape of one or two (one each for west and east of Nepal) for the northern border with China, a western command for Pakistan, a counterinsurgency operations command and one or two peninsular commands for the maritime borders.
But nothing concrete has come out of it. The armed forces currently have 17 single-service commands, with only two unified commands in ANC and the Strategic Forces Command to handle the country’s nuclear arsenal.
China, meanwhile, has reorganised its 2.3-million People’s Liberation Army into five theatre commands to crank up its offensive capabilities as well as establish better command-and-control structures. Its western theatre command now handles the entire Line of Actual Control with India instead of the earlier Chengdu Military Region in the east and the Lanzhou Military Region towards the north.