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When four Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorists struck Pathankot Air Force Base in the early hours of January 1, 2016, they exposed much more than the poor perimeter security of the complex, miserable coordination between services at the apex level. The airbase was under the New Delhi-based Western Air Command, while a nearby army division of four infantry brigades was under the Chandimandir-based Western Command. The army, which should have responded quickly, was looking for orders in Delhi. The terrorists were eventually eliminated by the army before they could reach their targets, but the episode caused bad blood between the service centers.

Exactly four years later, India's first chief of defense (CDS), General Bipin Rawat, told the media that his job was to "do more through integration." "The synergies shouldn't be the sum of the three. It should be more," he said.

General Rawat will now be the man the political leadership chooses when an issue requires coordination between services – for example a Pathankot-like terrorist attack. As a CDS, however, he is not only the government's primary military advisor, but also the head of the new Department of Military Affairs (DMA) and the permanent chairman of the chief of staff. The CDS will not only advance the integration of the armed forces, but also advance the much more difficult phase 2 – the integration of these armed forces into joint theater commands. The Cabinet's government statement said that the DMA would "facilitate the restructuring of military commands for optimal use of resources by carrying out joint operations, including the establishment of commands for joint actions / theater."

Admittedly, these are still early days. CDS and DMA are India's largest independent military reform, but it is still largely in the works. The roles and responsibilities of the DMA and the personnel model are found out. "We have been demanding entry into the Department of Defense and a CDS for decades. After finally getting what we wanted, we can't afford to fail," said an incumbent three-star general.

We have a three-step process ahead of us. "Our top priority is the DMA, the engine that drives integration. Joint logistics and training would be the next. The cinemas will only open once they have calmed down," says a senior defense official.

General Rawat has received a three-year mandate as CDS to implement these building blocks of cooperation. Army Chief General M.M. Naravane says the time frame is significant because the government is serious. What will develop, he says, are very India-specific built-in commands. "We will address these joint or integrated theater commands, taking into account our requirements and operational circumstances, and will not blindly copy an existing system in another army in the world," he said at his Army Day press conference on January 11.

The Indian system is likely to be unique because few other countries face such controversial borders – over 4,000 km with China and Pakistan armed with nuclear weapons. "Unlike the United States and the United Kingdom, we have an undeniable unique position of two contiguous unresolved borders, both of which are active," said Lt. Gen. Satish Dua, former chief of the integrated defense staff, headquarters of the integrated defense headquarters. "Not only do we need a model that is tailored to our context and needs, we also need to make sure that we never get out of balance operationally."

This phase 2 of military reform is likely to be the most difficult as the three services have operated in silos since independence and are planning, training and equipping to fight war independently. This fragmented approach has led to enormous wastage, doubling of resources and, consequently, dissipation of the fighting potential.

The Indian system will be unique, as only a few other nations face such controversial borders: 4,000 km with nuclear-armed neighbors

Over a decade ago, all three services bought two types of drones from the same Israeli drone manufacturer at different prices and with low interoperability – the IAF drone could not be controlled by a naval ground station. The problem continues. The most recent example of this lack of inter-service coordination was the purchase of Apache attack helicopters from the United States. The IAF bought 22 Apaches in 2015 while the army is negotiating to buy six of its own. Both are designed to destroy enemy tanks, but have different pilots and chains of command, and even separate logistic branches. The IAF Apaches will operate under Western Air Command, while the army will be divided into three commands among the three strike corps.

At the higher levels, this manifested itself in the form of 17 individual service commands – the Army and Air Force each have seven, the Navy has three. In a radical military operation that has not been seen since independence, the government proposes to combine them into joint commands. General Rawat has decided to start with low-hanging fruit – common logistics orders and a single air defense squad that bundles the air defense resources of the Army and Air Force.

The first will be the Air Defense Command, which will integrate air force, army and missile batteries. Gene. Rawat announced a schedule for this by June 30. Defense officials believe this makes sense. Even if they are in potential conflict areas like Jammu and Kashmir, the lack of coordination is enormous. The Corps of Army Air Defense (AAD), which is responsible for the air defense units of the army at J&K, reports, for example, to the North Army Command based in Udhampur. Air force missile units in the region report to Western Air Command. There is little coordination between them.

The AD regiment of the army has seen no new acquisitions since the 1990s. This changes when it is combined into an IAF-led command with a common communication network.

Next, logistic commands are created. An attempt by the headquarters' integrated defense staff that was made a few years ago was abandoned due to the fierce resistance of the three services.

A general points out the enormous wastage caused by the inventory of various units, from battalions to command levels, and how civilian expertise may be required to streamline them. A logistics command would summarize the activities of several organizations, e.g. B. DG Operations Logistics, General Headquarters, Chief Engineer and the Ministry of Defense Production.

The three services follow different processes (sales creation, storage, repair and disposal), which require standardization for a common inventory. They also have separate communication networks, a situation that is now being resolved by the Defense Communication Network.

"Future wars are likely to be intense and short. The quality of logistical support will play a major role," said Lieutenant General Rakesh Sharma, former Army Adjutant General. The challenges, he says, are huge. For starters, similar items have different names in the services. The coding of the materials and the inventory itself becomes a nightmare because the Directorate for Standardization in the Ministry of Defense works under common management (supply).


The final step for the CDS will be to weld India's geographically diverse individual service orders into a handful of theater orders. "The CDS from India will be different from systems in the US or the UK," Lieutenant General D.B. Shekatkar, who chaired a committee in 2016 that recommended the CDS and theater orders. "Unlike in the West, where the chiefs of services are only responsible for training and equipping their services – theater commanders prepare the armed forces for war – the chiefs of service in India will continue to have an important say in theater commandos."

One of the Shekatkar Committee's key recommendations was that future wars between India, China and Pakistan would only break out in the mountains and remain confined there. This would require the formation of three theater commandos – West, East and North – which will bring together the Air Force and Army Assets to counter what the armed forces call a collusive two-front war with China and Pakistan.

The Navy will have the Peninsula Command, which will integrate all of the service goods south of the Vindhyas, while the Andaman & Nicobar Command will be a three-service command.

A "theater" command with elements of all three services would mean a reduction in costs and labor and an increase in combat strength. For example, the proposed western theater commando will be a single geographic unit that connects all air force bases and army formations from the Punjab plains to the Rann von Kutch in Gujarat under one theater command, either from the army or from the air.

As a concept, theater orders developed during World War II and are now essential for large integrated military personnel. None of India's operational orders are colinear or colocalized. Eastern Army Command is located in Kolkata, while Eastern Air Command is located in Shillong, just under 500 km away.

The IAF has vocalized against theater because it fears that it will become the larger army's Air Force. & # 39; Even after theater commandos were established, responsibility for the country's air defense would remain with the Air Force, as would offensive flight operations and strategic and tactical aviation support for the full range of operations. IAF assets, including special weapons, are limited in number and distributed across the country, requiring basic installation assistance. It's not possible to triple or quadruple them for every theater squad, "Air Chief Marshal S. Krishnaswamy wrote in an August 2018 article in the IAF think tank, Center for Air Power Studies Reason Why General Rawat last performed the theater has left.

Military analysts believe it is important that the CDS produce a document explaining the reasons, role and expectations of common commands. "As is well known, the experiment with the joint command Andaman & Nicobar was killed by the services that did not want it to be successful. The CDS should therefore clearly define its roadmap and vision for the joint command and go beyond that, making simplistic statements as we do don't want to do with Western role models, "says Anit Mukherjee, assistant professor in the South Asia program at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Singapore. As a CDS, General Rawat will face a long and challenging path over the next three years, leading the Indian military on the path to reform.