Government Sets Hard Deadline For The Creation Of Integrated Theatre Commands — One Year After New Government Is Sworn In

Ujjwal Shrotryia

May 15, 2024, 12:08 PM | Updated 12:08 PM IST

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, CDS Lt General Anil Chauhan and Army Chief General Manoj Pande.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, CDS Lt General Anil Chauhan and Army Chief General Manoj Pande.

The Government of India (GoI) has set a hard deadline for the setting up of Integrated Theatre Commands (ITCs).

According to reports, the GoI has instructed the armed forces to set up the theatre commands within a year after the new government is sworn in. Theaterisation is the largest reform the armed forces have seen since India's independence.

This will see the merging of 17 commands of the army, air force, and navy into just three adversary-specific commands.

The one in Jaipur, the current South-Western Command, will be made into the Western Theatre Command, which will handle Pakistan. The command looking after China will be the Lucknow-based Northern Theatre Command, which was earlier home to the Central Command.

The Commanders of the Western and Northern Theatre Commands will be from the Indian Air Force and Indian Army, appointed on a rotational basis.

The third command will be maritime-specific, commanded by a navy officer, likely based out of Karwar in Karnataka.

Although the command and control of the theatre commands are still not clear, the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) will be the overall commander of the theatre commands, with a deputy Vice-CDS. The Vice-CDS post, however, will not be a new post. It will be a re-designation of the Chief of Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) to the Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee (CISC) as Vice-CDS.

Moreover, the first Jaipur-based Western Theatre Command will be a testbed, used to iron out issues and kinks in the first version of theatre commands for further fine-tuning.

Last year, it was reported that the air force, navy, and army had largely agreed to 99 per cent of the broad structure of theatre commands, and it was estimated that the commands would be rolled out by 15 August 2023.

However, this was not to be, and the rollout was delayed.

Reportedly, earlier the air force had some reservations about some proposals in the theaterisation plan, mostly pertaining to geographically limiting the use of the air force’s already depleted assets.

It argued that the air force has the advantage of strategic mobility, where one jet can conduct a combat air patrol over Pakistan in the western theatre in the morning, and the same jet can conduct bombing operations over Tibet in the northeast in the afternoon.

Various other disagreements also delayed the theatre commands' rollout.

But now that all three of the services are on board with the broad contours of the plan, it is imperative that the remaining issues are ironed out and the theatre commands rolled out as quickly as possible.

Staff Writer at Swarajya. Writes on Indian Military and Defence.

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