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September 30, 2023

Maritime Theatre Command to be Integrated With Armed Forces

BY Shivani

The meeting was carried out in Mumbai by the three defence forces for setting up integrated theatre command as a part of India’s theaterisation drive for the best utilisation of military resources for future wars and operations.

The government prioritises the integration of the armed forces to improve their effectiveness and reshape the conduct of future operations.

The meeting on February 24-25 was attended by nine officers with the rank of commander-in-chief. Vice Admiral Ajendra Bahadur Singh, the lead commander-in-chief for the study on establishing the maritime theatre command, presided over the meeting.

Aside from the commanders-in-chief, close to 50 senior officers from the three services’ commands, the Headquarters Integrated Defence Staff, and the Department of Military Affairs attended the two-day meeting and provided input on how to move theaterisation forward.

General Bipin Rawat, India’s first chief of defence staff (CDS), was spearheading the theaterisation drive when he was killed in a helicopter crash last December. His successor has yet to be named by the government. The demise of the CDS was viewed as a setback to ongoing military reforms, including theaterisation.

On Thursday, Indian Air Force Chief Air Chief Marshal Vivek Ram Chaudhari stated that no single service can win wars on its own and that integration should focus on maximising the country’s combat capability by leveraging the strengths of each service.

To improve tri-service synergy, the current theaterisation model seeks to establish four integrated commands: two land-centric theatres, an air defence command, and a maritime theatre command.

While supporting tri-service integration, Chaudhari emphasised that “the primacy of who will do what cannot be determined by a pro-rata system of who has a larger mass of forces or equipment.”

Rawat asked the three services in November 2021 to expedite their ongoing studies on the creation of theatre commands and submit comprehensive reports within six months. The report submission deadline has been pushed back from September 2022 to April 2022.

All eyes are now on who will be appointed as Rawat’s successor at a time when the theaterisation plan is at a crossroads and requires a visionary to see it through.

Currently, the armed forces have 17 single-service commands spread across the country. The army and air force each have seven commands, while the navy has three.

The government expected Rawat, who took over as India’s first CDS on January 1, 2020, to achieve jointness among the three services within three years (by January 2023). Previous timelines may now need to be revised, according to officials.

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