The new year looks set to bring cheer to India’s armed forces as the government strengthens its resolve to have a leaner and meaner military. The year gone by saw efforts gathering steam to modernise the Indian Army, the Indian Navy, and the Indian Air Force, with a two-pronged approach: military reforms, alongside the hastening of weapons acquisition, and upgrades in the three services.
India faces unprecedented strategic challenges across land, sea and air from belligerent neighbours to its east and west, a vulnerable pelagic stretch — from the Western Pacific to the Indian Ocean — and a struggle for air superiority in the Himalayas. With the country’s armed forces under material and financial pressure, its defence planners have an unenviable task in speeding up military reforms while simultaneously balancing the budget.
Restructuring the military is the centre-piece of long overdue defence reforms, aiming to create a viable force structure by enhancing inter-service communication and interaction. The Ministry of Defence seeks to achieve this through establishing integrated theatre commands — a concept that many governments toyed with in the past, but never had the will to implement.
The existing system of operational commands of the services is handicapped by the fact that they are neither co-located nor share areas of responsibility, leading to a lack of inter-operability in the three arms, which would be a serious constraint in a conflict situation. Theatre commands help overcome this by integrating the three services, and synergising their operations in the terrestrial, aerial and oceanic domains.