General Bipin Rawat, the Chief of Defence Staff, convened a meeting of the tri-services and other stakeholders on Wednesday to learn about their concerns about theatre commands and to fix disputes before moving forward with the elevation of marine and air defence commands this year. In 2017, the ministry of defence gave theatre commands preliminary approval, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi handing over the mandate of reorganization to Gen Rawat.
Following a presentation earlier this month, defence minister Rajnath Singh directed Gen Rawat to convene a conference of stakeholders to address all outstanding issues before submitting the theatre command concept to the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) for final clearance. From the tiny Maldives to the powerful United States, the majority of countries operate under the theatre command concept, which entails seamless integration of land, sea, and air forces for greater coordination and response. While China has reformed its seven military districts into five theatre commands, Pakistan has requested Beijing’s assistance in reorganising its forces according to the same military idea.
Despite media suggestions that the entire process may be delayed, the ministry of defence, the Indian Army, and the Indian Navy is all in favour of the activated theatre commands. The Indian Air Force ploughs a lonely furrow on even subjects like naming the commands. The Indian Air Force has had its own kind of joint manship and integration since the end of the Kargil war in 1999. Its primary objective is to maintain its air assets undivided and preserve its own turf. The fact is that official army files are still referred to as Integrated Headquarters, Army (Ministry of Defence).