India has finally brought in more clarity to the role of Chief of Defense Staff (CDS) as it is setting up two new joint commands — Air Defense Command and Maritime Theater Command — by May 2021. The commanders-in-chief of these commands will report to the CDS, Gen. Bipin Rawat, according to reports.
The joint commands are being set up to cater to the operational needs at the Indo-Tibetan borders in the Himalayas and in the Indian Ocean, both involving China.
The move is part of India’s long-awaited theaterization plans. The Indian military’s top brass has expedited the initiative in view of a threat of a two-front war on the northern borders.
A total of 5 integrated theater commands are planned to secure India’s Western, Northern, and Eastern fronts, which would be rolled out by December 2022 while several studies are underway to finalize the operational requirements and lay down specific working charts for these commands.
Indian daily Hindustan Times quoted an official as saying, “The final validation exercises to set up the two commands are in full swing. Aspects related to executing authority, command and control structures and budgeting are being fine-tuned.”
The Air Defense Command would be the first to set up in April and would control the air defense assets from all three services into one joint operational organization headed by a three-star Air Force officer. The Air Defense Command would be headquartered at Prayagraj.
The Maritime Theatre Command would follow the next and will be headquartered in Karwar in the southern Indian state of Karnataka, on its west coast. According to the sources, this command would be responsible for protecting India’s coastal installations and the management of Naval assets.
The command holds an important strategic value in the backdrop of the PLA Naval buildup in the Indo-Pacific. It would be headed by a three-star Naval officer.
In addition, a logistics command is also being set up to avoid ‘duplication of efforts and resources’.
Another official told HT that the commanders-in-chief of the commands will report to the CDS in his role as permanent chairman of the chiefs of staff committee (COSC). The CDS’ mandate includes bringing about jointness in operations, logistics, transport, training, support services, and repairs and maintenance of the three services.
Currently, CDS Gen. Bipin Rawat is the permanent chairman of COSC, Department of Military Affairs (DMA), and the chief advisor to the Defense Minister. After the setting up of the new theater commands, the command chiefs would report to the CDS, while the Chief of Integrated Defense Staff would become the Secretary of the DMA allowing the CDS to focus more on the Theatre Commands.