Second Option. The second option visualises the formation of five geographically based Theatre Commands, viz combining Army’s NC, WC and SWC as Western Theatre and co-locating the joint TC HQ overseeing these three Army Commands with HQ SWAC linked to HQ CAC. Similarly, developing the second theatre at the Army’s Southern Command level that co-joins HQ SC with IAF’s SWAC/CAC and SAC and IN’s WNC/SNC/ENC to form the Southern Theatre, the third theatre as A&N Command and the fourth theatre as the Eastern Theatre with appropriate integration of Air and Naval Commands. To cater to internal Maoist and Naxal problems, there may be a need to additionally form a Central Theatre that links HQ Central Command of the Army with HQ CAC of the IAF.
The linkages with the police and paramilitary forces to tackle asymmetric threats should be established at these TCs. Appropriate representatives of these forces too should be available here. Further, the individual operational commands of each service should be electronically linked to other contiguous operational commands of their own service. For example, HQ NC of Army should be electronically linked with HQ WC and similarly for other commands. In addition, there would be functional commands such as Aerospace Command and Strategic Forces Command. However, this TC option would still need a unified structure above it to evolve strategic art and to establish strategic focus.
There is a need for a five star CDS that provides strategic direction and formulates strategic art alongwith other components of national power. The Chairman, COSC neither has the time nor the institutional authority for the same.
Though airpower employment could be co-ordinated more effectively in this arrangement, the strategic assets and the tri-service OOACs would need to be co-ordinated at a level higher than these theatres. Further, emergent situations and national emergencies would require strategic co-ordination as the resources and assets that are tied down to these geographical locations would need flexibility to cater to situations prevailing in other theatres or existing at the national level.
Third Option. The third option is to create a unified command structure at the national level, viz the IST. Like the Australian model, it would need to consider the entire Indian subcontinent as a theatre and could be named as India Strategic Theatre. Located at HQ IDS, it would have a standing capability of the three components (land, air and sea) with their planning staff under the CDS. The forces would not be permanently attached but could be allocated to this Joint HQ based on the requirement originated from jointly appreciating an imminent threat. This arrangement would thus provide flexibility to tackle threats that encompass the entire conflict spectrum from asymmetric to NBC.
The service chiefs though continuing to raise, train and build their individual services would still provide expert advice on operational matters to the CDS. Whilst the nitty gritty of planning campaigns would lie with the component commanders at HQ IST, the service chiefs would remain part of the joint appreciation and planning process to formulate strategic art. Hence, they would not be isolated from the operational decision making process. Further, this arrangement still ensures that the service chiefs who are yet in the loop of operational planning would know what focus to give towards training own forces in peace time to achieve the desired operational capability. Under the CDS, would lie the Standing Committee formed by the three component commanders of Lt Gen or equivalent rank and their staff from the three services.
The CDS should be one rank higher, on rotation from the Army, the Navy or the Air Force and should be one of the erstwhile service chiefs after completing his tenure. The points of dispute between the service chiefs or those that arise in the Standing Committee would be resolved by the CDS. This necessarily entails that CDS should shed his earlier service uniform. He could be called as Marshal of the Armed Forces. In fact, he and his staff should wear a different uniform that personifies the joint image that they are projecting. This model ensures that there is a standing capability available during peace time that plans and conducts joint operations as well as tackles emergent situations even humanitarian that need inter services co-operation. Yet, the model does not diminish the authority of the service chief’s. They are involved in the planning and conduct of a joint campaign or an emergent situation as an intellectual participant and a decision maker.
In this model, though the identification of strategic focus would be easier and the OOACs and emergent threats could be tackled better, but one major limitation still remains, and that is how does one co-ordinate joint operational art in the different operational commands of the three services in home land defence and how does one provide an integrated environment that houses weapon systems and equipment of the three services that have their own inherent overlaps and uses with the other two services?
Option Best Suited to Indian Conditions
All models have their limitations, but a dispassionate review of these models would highlight that a combination of the second and the third option would centralise strategic and operational art whilst retaining the decentralised structure for execution. For homeland defence, this combined option would exemplify this decentralisation, where Military Strategic Planning Process takes place at the HQ IST located at HQ IDS, but the execution takes place at the existing operational Command HQ of the individual services. However, these operational commands would need to be linked sectorally as mentioned in the Second Option. Instead of calling the integrated operational commands as TCs, they could now be termed Sector Commands.
There would however be a need to construct a Joint Operations Centre (JOC) at or near Delhi where the operational staff of HQ IST would be co-located. The JOC too would need to be electronically linked to all operational commands of the three services.
The anomaly of a lack of link between various operational commands of the three services to form Sector Commands can be resolved by electronically linking HQ NC/WC/SWC of the Army with the existing HQ SWAC/CAC of IAF (Western Sector), HQ SC of Army with HQ SWAC/CAC and SAC of IAF and HQ WNC and SNC/ENC of Navy (Southern Sector) and HQ EC of Army with HQ EAC of IAF and HQ ENC of Navy (Eastern Sector). The Central Sector could also be formed to tackle internal asymmetric threats. In addition, there would be a requirement in the Western Sector to post three representatives of HQ NC, WC and SWC of Col/ Brig rank to HQ WAC operation centre to co-ordinate land warfare for their individual commands. These representatives should be in addition to the Command Ground Liasion Officer (GLO). On the other hand, AOC Advance HQ at individual Army Commands would continue to assist them in identifying air application priorities. The disputes if any during the execution stage could be resolved at the HQ IST level. This method would ensure minimum changes to the existing operational structures whilst optimally co-ordinating joint operational art.
There would however be a need to construct a Joint Operations Centre (JOC) at or near Delhi where the operational staff of HQ IST would be co-located. The JOC too would need to be electronically linked to all operational commands of the three services. The combined intelligence information obtained from all arms of the nation would need to be fused to form one composite picture. In addition, the fused information of various Air Force, Naval and Army Commands should also be available here. Appropriate representatives of police and paramilitary forces beside home ministry should be available at the JOC both for combined intelligence collation and analysis and to tackle asymmetric threats at the national level that require armed forces’ support.
HQ ANC, NCA and Strategic Forces Command too would need to be co-located alongwith HQ IST at the Joint Operations Centre. They would directly come under the CDS. Aerospace Command and Civil Air Movement Group (to co-ordinate civil air assets for operational utilisation and for air space management) would however, function under the Air Force Component Commander for providing integrated Aerospace and Ballistic Missile Defence. At the same time, for OOAC and natural calamities, appropriate forces would be allocated to a Joint Task Force (JTF) constituted under the CDS by the three component commanders. The JTF Commander would be nominated from the appropriate service that is dealing more intimately with these operations.
The transformation towards a unified structure should take place in a phased manner. The first phase should electronically link the various operational commands sector wise, and the second phase should establish Sector Commands and form the JOC at the IDS alongwith the CDS, three component commanders and their staff. The first phase should be completed by 2008 and the second by 2012. The Indian Armed Forces would then be ready to undertake emergent contingencies at home and abroad.