Theatre Commands

[vc_section][vc_row][vc_column width=\”1/2\”][vc_column_text css=\”.vc_custom_1672135711794{border-top-width: 1px !important;border-right-width: 1px !important;border-bottom-width: 1px !important;border-left-width: 1px !important;padding-top: 20px !important;padding-right: 20px !important;padding-bottom: 20px !important;padding-left: 20px !important;background-color: #434a9b !important;border-left-color: #434a9b !important;border-left-style: solid !important;border-right-color: #434a9b !important;border-right-style: solid !important;border-top-color: #434a9b !important;border-top-style: solid !important;border-bottom-color: #434a9b !important;border-bottom-style: solid !important;}\”]1 Expert in the Panel

  • Vice Admiral, (Retd). Shekhar Sinha, Former Head of India’s Western Naval Command
  • Air Vice Marshal Sunil Nanodkar (Retd.), Defence Expert
  • Lt. Gen Vinod Bhatia (Retd.), Former Director General of Military Operations, Indian Army

[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]2. Reasons for being in News

New Chief of Defence Staff Lt. General Anil Chauhan recently asked the Indian Armed Forces to prepare for new integrated theatre commands.

3. Discussion

3.1. Introduction

The Government of India on September 28, 2022, appointed former Eastern Army Commander Lt. General Anil Chauhan as the next Chief of Defence Staff (CDS).  Lt General Anil Chauhan (retd) shall also function as the Secretary to the Government of India, Department of Military Affairs. The post has been vacant since the death of the country’s first CDS Gen. Bipin Rawat in a helicopter crash in December 2021.

Newly appointed Lt. General Anil Chauhan in his maiden communication with the defence forces asked the Army, the Navy and the Air Force to make a move ahead towards the creation of integrated theatre commands.  Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on July 24, 2022, announced the setting up of joint theatre commands of the tri-services to enhance coordination among the armed forces.                                                                                   

3.2. Theatre Command System


An integrated theatre command envisages a unified command of the three Services, under a single commander, for geographical theatres (areas) that are of strategic and security concern. The main objective is to bring synergy and coordination between the three wings of the armed forces.

The commander of such a force will be able to bear all resources at his disposal — from the Army, the Indian Air Force, and the Navy — with seamless efficacy and he will not be answerable to individual Services. It’s a concept that has its origins in the 1st world war, but became much more prominent during the second world war with battles being fought across continents.

Today, almost all major countries like China, Russia, the US, the UK and France work on a theatre command concept.  In India, the Shekatkar Committee had recommended the formation of three integrated theatre commands namely, western for the Pakistan border, northern for the China border and southern for the maritime role.  The Kargil Review Committee (1999), which was set up after the end of the Kargil War, also recommended the creation of joint theatre commands.



Another major factor, pushing for the need for Theatre Commands, has been the broad military reforms within the Chinese military. For example: China’s Western Theatre Command looks after the entire border with India, unlike India where it has multiple Commands and structures to respond with different officers at the top.


3.3. What is the kind of theatre command system India is working towards?


As of now, almost all major countries like China, Russia, the US, the UK and France work on a theatre command concept. However, most of this theatre is based on its global outlook and part of their expeditionary character. China is the latest entrant to a theatre concept. China’s theatre command system is said to be based on the US model and has “five peacetime geographical commands”. India currently has 19 military commands with 17 of them service-oriented.


While both the Army and the Air Force have seven commands each, the Navy has three. India also has a Tri-Service Command — Andaman and Nicobar Command — besides the Strategic Forces Command (SFC), which looks after India’s nuclear stockpile. The aim is to bring all 17 individual commands into four unified or theatre commands along with two more functional commands for training and logistics.

The proposed four theatre commands: air defence, maritime, integrated eastern and integrated western theatre commands, will promote ‘jointness’ among the three branches of the armed forces.

3.4. Significance of Integrated Theatre Command

The theatre command system is intended to bring better synergy between the three branches of the armed forces.  The military assets that are now split under separate centres of command will be fused into one single command under one operational head who will be responsible for directing and controlling their activities in a given situation. But apart from operational synergies, experts point out that a theatre command system will also contribute to more streamlined costs and a leaner fighting force.  The theatre command system will help remove redundancies and bring greater focus to the allocation of resources.

3.5. Delays in forming integrated theatre commands:

The rollout of the military theatre commands is delayed as all stakeholders, including the three Services do not agree on its basic structure, which seeks to usher in a joint war-fighting strategy similar to that of the US and China. The government and the armed forces are facing a dilemma in deciding whether to have theatre commands based on challenges or be country specific.  In future wars, we expect military actions to be swift and the objectives to be met in days or weeks. Changing global political scenarios makes the planning of integrated theatre commands more complex which results in delays.

3.6. Concerns and Challenges:

  • The integration of three forces would require an intricate chain of command flow. It comprises hurdles related to operational command and control over assets.
  • The Indian Air Force has only 31 operational squadrons against the sanctioned strength of 42. This would make it difficult for the IAF to permanently station assets in a particular command with territorial boundaries.
  • Each service zealously oversees its own assets and strives for a greater share of the defence budget and influence, this might prove to be an obstacle in creating synergy among the services.
  • India’s lack of enough experience in integrated theatre commands will mean that as such commands evolve, some course corrections might be required.
  • The military expenditure may go up in the immediate future since all theatres would have to be armed with sufficient systems.
  • Besides, budgetary allocations, fund distribution and assets between the army, navy and air force need to be clearly worked out to enable the setting up of a seamless theatre command.

3.7. Way forward

  • A supportive ecosystem is necessary for an effective theatre command. Indigenous technology and weapons production should be a priority instead of importing them.
  • A Dedicated Standing Committee of Parliament staffed with military advisers and other professionals to independently monitor the transition very minutely.
  • No theatre should ‘belong’ to any service, and command appointments should be decided based on talent and experience in joint operations.

The Indian military of the 21st century must be equipped to cope with the challenges with which it is likely to be confronted, not only with hardware and manpower of the desired quantity and quality but equally with structures that will exploit these capabilities in the most efficient and economical way.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=\”1/2\” is_sticky=\”yes\” sticky_min_width=\”767\” sticky_top=\”130\” sticky_bottom=\”0\”][vc_custom_heading text=\”Perspective – Theatre Commands | 03 October, 2022\” font_container=\”tag:h2|font_size:24PX|text_align:center|color:%23ffffff|line_height:34PX\” use_theme_fonts=\”yes\” css=\”.vc_custom_1672137357192{margin-top: 0px !important;margin-bottom: 0px !important;padding-top: 10px !important;padding-right: 10px !important;padding-bottom: 10px !important;padding-left: 10px !important;background-color: #434a9b !important;}\”][vc_video link=\”\” css=\”.vc_custom_1672137373652{margin-top: 0px !important;padding-top: 0px !important;}\”][/vc_column][/vc_row][/vc_section]

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