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After Padma award, Gen Rawat’s theatre commands mission need completion

Source : Hindustan Times

After Padma award, Gen Rawat’s theatre commands mission need completion
Late Chief of Defence Staff of the Indian Armed Forces, General Bipin Kumar Rawat (File Photo)

The Narendra Modi government has taken the right step by bestowing Padma Vibhushan on late Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat, who died in a helicopter crash last month while still in harness. The award is well deserved for a CDS who put respect for military shoulders above all material gains and fought to restore its rightful glory.

While General Rawat has passed into history, the Modi government and its national security planners must take the former CDS mission to fruition by announcing the military theatre commands in the 75th year of Indian Independence. Before Gen Rawat lost his life in Nilgiris, he had sent the final draft military theatre command structure and raising to the Army, Navy and Air Force Chiefs and had directed them to return the report by April 2022 with comments, if any, for incorporation into the final structure.

It is not that the Modi government has put the much-required theatre commands on a back-burner after Gen Rawat’s unfortunate demise. The national security planners have had series of informal and formal meetings with the three chiefs to sort out structural or operational issues and the movement is positive. The government is tight-lipped about the military theatre commands but it is quite evident that in the final announcement each of the three services will spearhead India’s riposte in case of war with other two supporting it. While the Indian Army will spearhead guarding 15106.7 km of Indian land frontiers, the Navy will guard 7516.6 km of coastline and the Air Force will guard the skies and defend the country from any intrusion from either the north or the west. In the military theatre commands, all the three services will have a pin-pointed role, and no one will be reduced to a supporting arm as the Indian Air Force had feared in the past.

Although the basic purpose of military theatres is integration and jointmanship of the three services, it is easier said than done as is evident from the India’s first and only tri-service theatre command at Andamans and Nicobar Islands. Despite the unified command being made operational in 2001, the three services tend to operate in silos and are lacking in much required synergy. Fact is synergy and integration only comes out in times of crisis and not naturally otherwise the colour of uniform decides the operational conduct.

The national security planners and Gen Rawat had plans for integration of ANI command into the Maritime Theatre Command with huge military upgradation of India’s island territories, which sit on the mouth of Malacca Straits, the main route to South China Sea, and have considerable leverage over other ingress routes to Southeast and North Asia.

While the Modi government will appoint the new CDS on merit plus seniority basis, it is quite evident that northern theatre command will be a separate unit headed by a commander from the Indian Army as the area faces threat from Pakistan on its western periphery and a belligerent China on its eastern periphery. The remaining land border will be handled by western command with Pakistan and eastern theatre command with China all the way up to Arunachal Pradesh. The air defence command, logistics command and cyber commands will be key elements of military theatre process. With Chinese Army already on the path of Sinicization of Tibet and Sinkiang, and planning joint moves with client state Pakistan, the Indian military does not have time for debates and discussion over integration of commands. It should be done as of yesterday.

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