IAF not on same page on theatre commands; CDS to hold discussion

With Indian Air Force (IAF) differing on the creation of theatre commands consisting of the three services, Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat is likely to hold a brainstorming session later this week to listen to the views of all the stakeholders.

He will hold the meeting as the head of the proposed theatre commands, approved in principle by the Government three years back, sources said on Monday.

Last week, the Government gave the nod to form a committee of the three Vice Chiefs to find ways to expedite the process of having theatre commands to fight modern-day war in a cohesive and seamless manner. The US and China already have such commands.

Meanwhile, the IAF has said it will refrain from discussing the issue of theatre commands in media as deliberations at various levels are still on. This observation came after reports suggested last week that the IAF is not in favour of having such commands. Reports also indicated that while the Army and the Navy are for the theatre commands, the IAF has reservations.

The IAF is reportedly reluctant about sharing its assets, including fighter jets, helicopters and transport planes, in various commands.  

The IAF also wants more clarity on the role of the theatre commanders amid perception the commander will have the operational control rather than the IAF chief, sources said.

As regards sharing of assets, they said a modern fighter jet in Indian conditions can perform any role as it flies on supersonic speed having pan country reach. Therefore, stationing its jets or planes in a particular theatre may not be feasible, they said

The proposal envisages five commands, including the Maritime Command, Air Defence Command, Northern Land Theatre (Jammu & Kashmir, Ladakh and Central sector), Western Land Theatre (Pakistan) and Eastern Land Theatre. The Northern and Eastern will focus on China besides Pakistan. A proposal is also there for having a logistics and training command.  The Maritime Command and Air Defence Command are likely to become functional by next year, it was learnt.

The theatre commander of the rank of Lt General may be from any of the three services and will lead specific units of the army, navy and air force forming that theatre. Similarly, some commands will also absorb paramilitary forces which are controlled by the Home Ministry. Also, the Coast Guard will be part of the Maritime Command.

At present, the Army, the Navy and the IAF have their own commands totaling 20 besides the joint tri-service Andaman and Nicobar Command and the Strategic Forces Command.  The latter command looks after the nuclear arsenal.

The proposal is to merge some of the commands of the three services into one entity for better utilisation of assets and manpower and avoiding wastage.

The committee of Vice Chiefs will hold discussions with all the stake holders and have wide ranging deliberations, sources said since para-military forces are in the domain of the home ministry and their views have also to be taken.

Moreover, the formation of the new commands will involve some expenditure and therefore the Finance Ministry nod is crucial to move ahead without a hitch, they said.


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