Is the whole hullabaloo a ‘storm in a tea cup’? The sudden emergence of the CDS in the public domain proclaiming the rapid progress in the creation of Theatre Commands generated the necessary flurry of anticipation, but simultaneously surprised the media who were rather au fait with the fact that a confluence of consensus had not been arrived at. Obviously, there is more than meets the eye where the expeditious implementation is concerned.
To say that the Kargil Review Committee suggested the integration of the three services and a restructuring of the Higher Defence Organization in 2001, presupposing a timeline of two decades of discussion on the creation of Integrated Theatre Commands, is totally misplaced.
The statement by the CDS on the
Integrated Theatre Commands and
his comments on the IAF have led
to a furore. In this article, Air Mshl
Sumit Mukerji, a former AOC-in-C
of Southern Air Command gives out
his perspective on why the IAF is
concerned about the methodology
being envisaged for setting up such
Certainly, some papers were circulated over the years and many proposals suggested, mainly by the Indian Army, but the collective effort to head in that direction has never found traction. The reason has been just one—the Army’s refusal to understand and accept the multitude of capabilities the other two services bring to bear in modern warfare. Not surprising to many, since integration in some of the most broad-minded militaries across the world has faced severe obstacles and reverses before it was implemented.
It is also true that that the issue of integration in these countries was unconditionally debated in formalized forums for this purpose for over ten years before satisfying the involved players to an acceptable degree to take the plunge. In an attempt to get the derailed CDS back on the rail tracks, the IAF Chief very maturely highlighted the fact that the Air Force was not a ‘supporting arm’ of the Army. His urging that ‘we need to get this right was a clear indicator that inadequate dialogue and discussion had preceded the CDS’ remarks.
A matter of such monumental importance as the restructuring of the fourth largest military in the world was being hurried to achieve some personal agenda or milestone, rather than pursuing the goal in a pre-meditated and collective manner. Undoubtedly, the three services are in consonance for the need to integrate and provide a more synergistic profile to the Indian Armed Forces.
It is the path to achievement that seems to be riddled with issues and problems. It would be prudent to just look at the broader aspects of modern war as compared to the conquering armies through history. Wars between nations today do not envisage capture of territory and at best can only be the ‘holding to ransom’ of certain key areas of the enemy which may force barter. In the context of India-Pakistan-China where the armies are more or less matched and no great asymmetry accrues, the possibility of one army over-running the other hardly exists.
India’s culture and national policy also do not lend itself to the Indian Army capturing land and India claiming it as annexed territory. Under such circumstances, it is unlikely that a standing Army can change the course of the war decisively and make the enemy capitulate. So, in modern warfare, a standing army is, well, ‘a standing army’.
The reality of modern warfare is that to defeat the enemy you need to strike deep into his heart, choke his logistics supplies, de-rail his strategic centers of gracentersd force his systems into non-functionality and collapse, leading to his submission. This is done by elements of the Armed Forces that have the reach and are designed for this particular task.
Following the CDS’ footsteps (of the IAF being a supporting arm), it was horrifying to hear an ex-DG (Arty) speaking on a public platform, making an analogy of how an Artillery Brigade gets affiliated to a Strike Corps with Theatre Reserves as back-up. He also went further to say that rather than beef up the Air Force, increasing SAMs and SSMs could offer a better option, under the circumstances!
There seems to be a serious problem of mindsets here and a grave necessity for imbibing the art of war in the modern era. Going back a little over seven decades, a quote by Winston Churchill in 1949 will not be out of place. He said, “For good or for ill, air mastery is today the supreme expression of military power, and fleets and armies, however vital, must accept a subordinate rsubordinateing statement, which has unflinchingly proved itself over the years and, in fact, grown from strength to strength.
“Minds like parachutes function best when open” — Anonymous
There is still a lot of speculation as to whom the Theatre Commander will report to. Have we put the cart before the horse? It is a well-known fact that a war-fighting machine cannot sustain itself on its own but is dependent on its basic support systems like logistics and communication. Today, virtually everything is dependent on the electromagnetic spectrum and the information space. Would it not be prudent to first lay down the matrices on which joint structures ride – like a common communication grid and data-link set-up; intelligence networks and information flow, to remain current with the accruing situation?
Once the foundation is created and functional, getting on board will become a seamless exercise. Simultaneously, the joint leadership structures on top must be established so that in the merger of the essential war-fighting machine is clean and the Army, the Navy, and Air Force, are not found stumbling in the dark. At a time when peace does not prevail and elements are active at the hot border zone as well as in the grey zone, piecemeal transition and reorganization of one of the largest militaries have to be smooth and seamless so that catastrophic situations are averted and national is not compromised. Let us not get carried away and follow the bull in the china shop.