Theatre Commands: Is India on the Right Path? The Questions That Remain

The Andaman and Nicobar Command, established in 2002, is India’s sole tri-service theatre command.

1 min read

The Indian armed forces may get the biggest re-organisation since independence if the proposition of creating theatre commands is finalised.

Essentially, theatre command is a unified command under which resources of all three armed forces – army, air force, and navy – are integrated depending upon the threat or location. It has been the top agenda of Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat since his appointment in January 2020.

However, the road has been bumpy since the announcement was made because not all services seem to be on board, especially the Indian Air Force, which has reportedly stated in the past that the implementation will be operationally unwise, given the limited air assets of the force.

Adding to the IAF’s hesitation for the formation of theatre commands was General Rawat’s recent comment on the Indian Air Force “being a supporting arm to the armed forces just like the artillery and engineers in the Army.”

Aside from the hesitations expressed by the IAF, there are several institutional questions about theatre commands that need further clarity. For instance, what would the structure of the commands be like, who will report to whom, and of course there is a fundamental debate on whether India requires this move.

To look at these questions, we spoke to former Deputy Chief of the Integrated Defence Staff and the first Chief of India's Defence Intelligence Agency Lt Gen Kamal Davar.

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