CDS Gen Chauhan Starts Work On Creating Military Theatre Commands
The new CDS has given them three months to streamline their perspectives on the issue because theatre commands can no longer be delayed
With Gen Anil Chauhan settling into his role as the government's principal military advisor, the second Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) has begun to build consensus among the three services on the proposed creation of military theatre commands.
On 22 October, a detailed discussion on the proposed commands was held between the CDS and the three service chiefs – Gen Manoj Pandey, Admiral R Hari Kumar and Air Chief Marshal V R Chaudhari – at the NDA in Khadakvasla in Pune.
The new CDS took the three chiefs to Khadakvasla to remind them of their beginnings at the National Defence Academy (NDA) and the importance of future military operations as the country's focus shifts to China as the primary threat from Pakistan.
According to officials, CDS Chauhan allowed the three chiefs to speak in detail about their perspectives on military theatre commands in order to reach an agreement.
Gen Chauhan graduated from the NDA's 58th course, while the three chiefs graduated from the 61st. The new CDS also has a distinct advantage, as he was appointed to the high-powered China Study Group during his tenure as military advisor to the National Security Council Secretariat.
The new CDS has given them three months to streamline their perspectives on the issue because theatre commands can no longer be delayed. Gen Chauhan is said to believe in a bottom-up approach, promoting joint manship from the soldier rather than imposing a theatre commander on the top without basic architecture and war doctrine.
In China, the Central Military Commission, led by President Xi Jinping, oversees five theatre commands in China. Western Theatre Command is responsible for the entire 3488 km Line of Actual Control with India, with the dedicated army, air force and naval assets.
While the Army and Navy are ready to establish theatre commands in India, the Indian Air Force has legitimate concerns about dividing its limited air assets among the various theatres.
However, as air warfare has evolved from manned fighter planes to armed drones and kamikaze drones equipped with the most advanced and long-range surface-to-air missile systems such as the Iron Dome and S-400, the air force will need to reconsider its war doctrine.
The ongoing Ukraine conflict has demonstrated that, despite having a massive air force, the Russian Air Force is still unable to gain control of Ukraine's airspace and is vulnerable to shoulder-fired Stinger missiles.
The Ukraine war demonstrated the effectiveness of stand-off weapons, prompting Indian national security planners to consider establishing a separate rocket and missile command within the Air Force. Aside from missiles, armed drones have caused havoc in the Ukraine conflict, with Russia using Iranian drones to target key infrastructure in the Central European nation.
Whatever the inter-services reservations, the answer to coordinated and rapid military response lies with a military theatre commander who has access to the ground, air and sea assets to make quick decisions and communicate them to troops on the ground.