Theaterisation of Armed Forces

Theaterisation of Armed Forces

This article covers “Daily Current Affairs”, and the topic details “Theaterisation of Armed Forces”. This topic is relevant in the “Security” section of the UPSC CSE exam.


Why in the News?

The Armed Forces have finalised the structure for making integrated theatre commands. They are now considering appointing a Vice Chief of Defence Staff and a Deputy Chief of Defence Staff.


What is the Theaterisation of Armed Forces?

The reorganisation of the Indian Armed Forces into integrated theatre commands represents a significant defence reform initiative geared towards enhancing coordination and effectiveness. This involves restructuring the military into unified geographic commands termed theatre commands. Key components of this reform include:

  • Establishment of a unified command structure encompassing the Army, Navy, and Air Force under a single commander for specific geographic regions.
  • The primary aim is to facilitate seamless planning and coordination, ensuring the most efficient use of resources to achieve defined objectives.
  • The theatre commander bears exclusive responsibility for integrated planning and execution of operations within their designated area.
  • It fosters synergy among the services, dismantles operational barriers, and facilitates joint planning and execution.
  • Several prominent military powers, such as the US, China, the UK, and France, have already embraced the theatre command concept.
  • The reason behind the establishment of Theaterisation: The imperative for theaterisation in India originates from lessons derived from past conflicts like the 1962 Sino-Indian War and the Kargil conflict. Its objectives include addressing challenges such as service integration gaps, inefficient resource utilisation, and sluggish decision-making processes. The proposed framework for India involves the establishment of two land-based theatre commands (Western and Northern) and one maritime command.
  • Current situation: India’s existing command arrangement comprises 17 individual service commands and merely two tri-service commands. The breakdown of the 17 single-service commands is as follows: 
  1. Army- 7 commands 
  2. Air Force- 7 commands 
  3. Navy- 3 commands  

The two tri-service commands are the Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC) and the Strategic Forces Command, which are responsible for nuclear weapons management. Established as a fully integrated tri-service command in 2001, the Andaman and Nicobar Command operates at full capacity.


Need for Integrated theatre commands

  • Improved Operational Coordination: Integrated Theatre Commands establish a unified command structure encompassing the Army, Navy, and Air Force under a single commander, ensuring smooth planning and execution of operations in specific strategically significant geographic areas.
  • Efficient Resource Utilisation: By centralising resources from all three services under one command, redundancy in resourcing is minimised, and assets can be deployed more efficiently and effectively, particularly during times of conflict or crisis.
  • Enhanced Strategic Response: Theaterisation facilitates swift deployment of military assets, strengthens strategic response capabilities, and bolsters overall defence readiness, especially along borders with neighbouring countries such as China and Pakistan.
  • Synergy and Collaboration: The establishment of Integrated Theatre Commands promotes synergy among the services, encourages joint planning and execution, and fosters cohesion within the defence apparatus, leading to more effective military operations.
  • Learning from International Practices: Drawing insights from successful implementations in countries like the US and China, India seeks to streamline military operations, enhance command-and-control structures, and adapt to evolving security dynamics by instituting Integrated Theatre Commands.

Challenges for Integrated Theatre Commands

  • Structural Organization: An essential hurdle lies in determining the organisational structure, including delineating reporting lines and establishing a transparent chain of command within the integrated theatre commands framework. This entails defining the interactions among the three services, identifying reporting hierarchies, and structuring operational command and control.
  • Financial Allocation: Adequately allocating funds and effectively distributing finances to support the establishment and operation of theatre commands is pivotal but can pose significant challenges. Prudent financial planning is imperative to ensure the seamless functioning of integrated theatre commands.
  • Allocation of Resources: Concerns have been raised regarding the dispersion of assets, particularly by the Indian Air Force, across multiple theatre commands, which could potentially diminish combat efficiency and inflate costs. Replicating resources for each theatre command could strain the defence budget.
  • Service Culture and Competition: The distinctive service cultures and inherent competition for resources and influence among the Army, Navy, and Air Force can hinder the synergy necessary for successful integrated theatre commands. Each service’s management of resources and pursuit of a larger share of the defence budget can impede collaborative endeavours.
  • Experience and Adaptation: India’s limited experience with integrated theatre commands may require adjustments and refinements as these commands evolve. Developing expertise and refining operational strategies will be critical for the effective implementation of integrated theatre commands.
  • Political Decision-Making: Ensuring clear and unified military advice to India’s political leadership is essential to maintain coherence in military operations and strategies. Divergent perspectives among the service chiefs could present challenges for political decision-makers.


Download Yojna daily current affairs eng med 14th May 2024


Mains practise question

Q1. What is the significance of enhancing strategic response capabilities through the implementation of theaterisation, particularly along India’s borders with neighbouring countries?


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