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CDS must proceed with caution

GS Paper 3

Syllabus GS Paper III: Various Security forces and agencies and their mandate.


Source : Indian Express

Directions: This Article has been taken from the Indian Express Editorial. Go through it once, you can use it for value addition.


Context:  Contrary to popular impression, the appointment of a CDS did not call for the immediate creation of theatre commands.


What is CDS?

  • He is the single-point military adviser to the government as suggested by the Kargil Review Committee in 1999.
  • CDS oversees and coordinates the working of the three Services.
  • Age limit: upper age limit for the CDS has been fixed at 65 years.
  • He will function as the Principal Military Adviser to the Defence Minister and also as the Permanent Chairman of, the Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC).
  • The CDS will be a member of the Defence Acquisition Council and Defence Planning Committee.


Challenges before India’s newly appointed CDS:

  • Management of two live borders, force-modernisation, competing budgetary claims and new personnel policies, and pressure to expedite the creation of new joint command structures.


What is integrated theatre command?

  • An integrated theatre command envisages a unified command of the three Services, under a single commander, for geographical areas that are of strategic and security concern.
  • The commander of such a force will be able to bear all resources at his disposal — from the Army, the Indian Air Force, and the Navy — with seamless efficacy.
  • The integrated theatre commander will not be answerable to individual Services.


What are joint commands?

  • It is a unified command in which the resources of all the services are unified under a single commander looking at a geographical theatre.
  • Functions of joint command:
    • The commander of a joint command will have the freedom to train and equip his command.
    • He will have the logistics of all the services at his beckoning.
    • However, the three services will retain their independent identities as well.


(Fig: General Bipin Rawat is no more)


Why the new CDS must move with caution?

  • The threat of china: Any conflict with China will demand forces/resources from 4-6 of India’s 14 single-service, and two tri-service commands (none of them co-located), as well the space and cyber agencies and the Special Forces division.
  • Inter-service rivalry: there exists inter-service rivalry among the forces which is delaying the establishment of joint commands.
  • Operational guidance issue: while the component commanders may retain a linkage with their chiefs, the question of who will provide operational guidance to the theatre commanders still remains open.
  • Air power: the indivisibility of air power has been a bone of contention among the officials of defence forces.

What needs to be done?

  • Integrating the service command: into 4-5 geographic or threat-based theatres and placing necessary forces under a single commander charged with the conduct of operations.
  • Reconciling service rivalry: the service chiefs have to reconcile themselves to the reality that once theatre commanders assume the “warfighter” role,
    • they will be divested of operational responsibilities, and
    • assume the “raise-train-sustain” functions, involving recruitment and training of personnel as well as the acquisition of combat wherewithal.
  • Nudging IAF: The IAF’s reluctance to share assets must be tempered by the fact that the theatre air assets will be deployed on the advice of and by the IAF component commanders.
  • Recasting of present staff colleges: as a “Joint Services Staff College” with changes in its curriculum to produce “joint staff officers,” ready to serve in sister-service HQs, learning in the process to function as future component commanders and theatre commanders.


Do you know?

·         Several major militaries are divided into integrated theatre commands. China’s People’s Liberation Army has five theatre commands: Eastern, Western, Northern, Southern and Central.

o   Its Western Theatre Command is responsible for India.

·         The US Armed Forces have 11 unified commands, of which seven are geographic and four functional commands.


Insta Links

Prelims link

  • About the tri-service command of India
  • Kargil review committee.
  • Shekatkar committee
  • Power and functions of CDS

Mains Links:

Q. The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) is responsible not only for the integration of the armed forces but also for solving issues in planning, budgeting and force structuring for a military based on a coherent strategic vision. Analyse.

Q. What are Integrated Theatre Commands? Discuss the prospects and challenges faced in the implementation of integrated theatre commands for India.