For General Anil Chauhan, who became India’s new Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) on September 30, 2022, the primary task is to implement the ambitious theaterisation plan. This model will bring in tri-services synergy by rolling out integrated military commands, and prepare the military for future security challenges. Chauhan took charge as India’s senior-most commander more than nine months after the first CDS, General Bipin Rawat, died in a helicopter crash in Tamil Nadu on December 8, 2021.
In 2021, the Department of Military Affairs, headed by General Rawat, had asked the three services of the Indian Armed Forces — Indian Army, Indian Navy and Indian Air Force — to carry out independent studies on the theaterisation plan for its rollout. The progress in the process halted following the death of General Rawat last year.
What is the theaterisation plan?
According to the theaterisation plan, each of the theatre commands will have units of the Indian Army, the Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force. All the three services of the Indian Armed Forces will work as a single entity looking after security challenges in a specified geographical territory under an operational commander.
At present, the three divisions of the Indian Armed Forces have a total of 17 commands. Initially, a plan was made to create an Air Defence Command and Maritime Theatre Command. However, the Indian Air Force has some reservations about the proposed theatre commands, according to a report by news agency PTI.
In June this year, Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari said the Indian Air Force remains fully committed to the tri-services synergy for enhancing the comprehensive national combat power.
General Rawat had said in 2020 that India will have two to five theatre commands to deal with future security challenges along the western and northern borders of India. According to a PTI report dated February 17, 2020, General Rawat had said that the theatre commands to deal with the security challenges along the western borders will be operational by 2022. However, the process was delayed following his death in 2021.
Maritime Theatre Command
General Rawat had also said that the Western and the Eastern Commands of the Indian Navy will be merged into the proposed Peninsular Command, which went on to be known as the Maritime Theatre Command. The role of the command would be to look after the security challenges in the entire Indian Ocean region. Envisioned to include assets from all the branches of the Indian military, the command will range from Sir Creek Estuary in the western sector to the Sunderbans in the eastern region.
The proposed Maritime Theatre Command under an Indian Navy officer will have air assets as well as support from the Indian Army. The command will be responsible for maritime security in the entire Indian Ocean region.
General Rawat had said that the commander of the Maritime Theatre Command will get approval from Delhi for operational matters including movement of ships, according to the report.
Theatre Command dedicated to Jammu and Kashmir
The then CDS also said that a dedicated theatre command will handle security challenges in Jammu and Kashmir, including the International Boundary region.
Air Defence Command
The proposed Air Defence Command was scheduled to be rolled out by the middle of 2021. Air assets such as missiles of the Indian Army and the Indian Navy will be part of the command, which will integrate all the relevant assets of the three branches of the Indian Armed Forces under a single command authority.
Other Theatre Commands
General Rawat said in 2020 that the government plans to have a separate training and doctrinal command modelled on a similar structure in the United States. Meanwhile, a separate command will be set up to take care of the logistical requirements of the three services.
It is important to ensure that the theaterisation plan contributes to the ultimate aim of Joint Armed Forces, India’s Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS), an autonomous think tank on strategic studies and land warfare, says on its website.
Since the theaterisation plan will integrate the three services of the Indian Armed Forces, it is important to ensure that the entire process is carried out in a delicate manner.
Thus, the theatre commands aim to bring synergy among all branches of the Indian Armed Forces to achieve military objectives.