The truth is that single Service Commands are antiquated structures which violate the basic principle of operational art which stipulates single-point command of military resources to attain the desired objectives. Integrated Theatre Commands (ITCs) need to be established encompassing the entire operational spectrum with two to three Integrated Functional Commands (IFCs) that may be Bi-Service or Tri-Service under each ITC. The existing 17 single service Commands need to be reorganised accordingly. Fear of dilution of command authority and loss of promotional avenues due to right sizing, are unwarranted since none of these 17 Commands need be disbanded though re-alignment of operational geographical boundaries will obviously need to be undertaken.
Military thinkers in India have opined that only an Act of Parliament can bring about changes for our defence forces…
The need of the hour is that all single Service Commands gradually evolve into either ITCs (akin to ANC) or IFCs (akin to SFC). Command and staffing of all ITCs and IFCs should be tri-Service taking into account existing rank structures so that promotional avenues of any Service are not affected. The CDS should exercise full operational control on the Commands. Reorganisation of the 17 single service Commands can be on the lines of four to five ITCs based on defined geographical theatres in addition to the ANC. These should be the IFCs consisting of an Integrated Aero-Space Command, Integrated Cyber Defence Command, Integrated Air Defence Command, Integrated Special Forces Command, one or two Integrated Training Command(s) and one or two Integrated Logistics & Maintenance Commands, in addition to the SFC.
There has been speculation in the past to the requirement of separate Integrated Commands for Internal Security and for Disaster Relief but these would be redundant without separate resources being allocated, which is unlikely in the foreseeable future. ITCs and IFCs cannot be established in isolation from implementation of a strategy for fostering jointness and integration in the Services. Steps would need to be taken in phased manner. Gradual changes would need to be brought in both vertically and horizontally without reducing operational capabilities at any stage. In fact, reorganisation of Commands should be orchestrated in a manner that each step boosts combat capability.
The best option is the top down approach by appointing a CDS followed by reorganisation of the existing Commands into ITCs and IFCs. However, this implies wait for strategic wisdom to dawn on the politico-bureaucratic hierarchy. In the UK, the CDS was simply thrust upon the military by the government after 18 years of bickering and dissensions amongst the Services. Other countries adopted government resolutions for such acts, enforcing jointness and integration and for ushering in RMA.
The truth is that single Service Commands are antiquated structures which violate a basic principle of operational art…
Many a time strategists and military thinkers in India have opined that only an Act of Parliament (like the Goldwater-Nichols Act of the US) can bring about such changes in the Indian defence forces but the million dollar question is how this can happen. While there are no easy answers, it may be prudent for the Military (actually HQ IDS in this case) to work on a Draft Act of Parliament, for which adequate interaction with think tanks and strategic thinkers should be done. If the COSC goes to the Government with such a draft, there are bright chances of it seeing the light of the day sometime in the future.
Concurrently, the COSC needs to take a call on the formation of the ITCs and IFCs through reorganisation of single Service Commands (framework for which is already with HQ IDS) and seek government approval through a comprehensive proposal including time-plan of its implementation. Needless to mention, this requires sincere resolve on part of the Service Chiefs and a strong Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee to see it through. Past experience shows that whenever the three Services have come to an agreement at a sufficiently high level before going to the MoD, the bureaucrats find it difficult to reject it.
The Government must seriously look at the resources required for the twenty-first century Indian Military commensurate with the desired global stature of India. There is always a debate as to how much the nation should spend on security and how much on boosting its economy but the fact is that with inadequate security, the economy can suffer major setbacks given the stance of our adversaries.
Permanent allocation of forces is required to ensure security of military theatres. The ANC set up is one example where the operations are still looked after by the Eastern Naval Command (ENC) due to lack of resource allocation by the Navy. Additionally, jointness in operations flows from sound joint training. Permanent allocation of forces is required to train together for fighting jointly.
Changes in nomenclature of the Services HQ to Integrated HQ of MoD have not gone beyond an exercise in semantics…
Meagre resources available with each Service have precluded any meaningful level of joint training, thereby affecting implementation of any joint concept. There are few organisational structures in place, which could meaningfully formulate or impart the desired level of joint training. The essential ingredients of a joint training system (joint training philosophy, joint training infrastructure and joint training processes) need to be implemented. Additionally, technology is one of the principal factors that drive the change in the method of war-fighting. It has been the main impediment in achieving any level of jointness in the Indian context. Key technologies enabling joint war-fighting are a pre-requisite to fighting and training jointly.
The Government must also seriously address the issue of true integration of HQ IDS and the Services with the MoD. Changes in nomenclature of the Services HQ to Integrated HQ of MoD have not gone beyond an exercise in semantics. Integration of Service HQ with MoD should transcend nomenclatures, cut out duplication, decentralise decision making and devolve financial powers. Joint staffing throughout MoD by Service and civilian officers should be the norm. Financial advisers must work under Service HQ and act as advisers not controllers. Cross posting of Service officers to MEA, MHA, NSC should be reciprocated by posting of civilian officers to HQ IDS/Services HQ, ITCs and IFCs, all aimed at political hierarchy getting direct advice from military professionals.
Jointness and integration of the Military is an inevitable requirement for the modern day battlefield. The biggest challenge to jointness is to bring about an attitudinal shift by turning the sense of insecurity and mutual suspicion into a sense of belongingness amongst the Services as well as the politico-bureaucratic establishment. The change will need to be implemented top down for it to take root and be effective.
While there is urgent need to appoint a CDS, we should get on with initiating the process of establishing ITCs and IFCs in the larger interest of achieving jointness and integration. Consensus and determination of the Military would ensure overcoming diplomatic hurdles. If we are to be determined to emerge winners in future conflict situations, we need to begin now.