The need for Tri-Service Integration in Indian Army


While India aspires to jointmanship among the three services, statements over the last few weeks point disturbingly to renewed inter-service rivalry to protect their turf.


The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS)

  • CDS will be the single-point military advisor to the Government from any of the three Services and will be of four-star rank.
  • CDS will head India’s Strategic Forces Command as well as the tri-service Andaman and Nicobar Command
  • The most important peace-time job would be to reconcile budgetary and equipment demands of the three services.


  • Strategic and defence expertise still remains in the domain exclusively of the uniformed fraternity, despite the growing emergence of civilian experts in the academic field.
  • India’s land borders and threats are predominantly land-based and oriented. Despite technological advances India’s defence requirements would be man-power extensive based on the Indian Army.
  • India’s strategic weaknesses that have emerged in the wars since 1947 centre on lack of war preparedness, poor intelligence and crippling processing of defence requirements.
  • Internal security threats are overtaking requirements of defence against armed aggression. These entail extensive use of the Indian Army during peace time in internal security operations.
  • The three Armed Forces function largely as separate executive entities without adequate coordination.
  • The Integrated Defence Staff Headquarters (HQ IDS) set up, based on the GOM recommendations in 2001, in the absence of the CDS – i.e. its head, has no effective powers to coordinate the functioning of the three, as a cumulative, integrated structure for optimised pay-offs.
  • All policy and coordination functions are carried out by the Ministry of Defence (MOD). Policy-making on operations, procurement and joint logistics proposals therefore either gets delayed or stuck, without justification and accountability in the absence of background knowledge. This is worrying as the security environment in India’s neighbourhood is rapidly deteriorating.
  • Tactical nuclear weapons are slowly appearing on the horizon and will change the way we fight and militaries win.
  • Violations on the LoC and Chinese incursions across the LAC are on the rise and post the NATO forces withdrawal, the scenario in Afghanistan has fearsome implications which will affect the security situation in India. The tumult in other neighbouring countries – Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives – is also a factor.
  • The institutionalised direct interface of the political leadership with the military, through the CDS or Permanent Chairman Chief of Staff Committee, will provide a single, all-encompassing coherent and cohesive perspective, instead of disaggregated individual single service formulations.
  • This will correct the anomaly of civic-military interface during the shaping/ deterrence phase, during operations, or after the occurrence of unsavoury situations.
  • Close monitoring and candid joint assessment of emerging situations, their implications and responses instead of three separate assessments is a must in the national interest, and this can only occur through better management of higher defence.
  • The proposition also augurs well for strategising of a cost effective and robust national defence policy; synergised and calibrated triservice contingency planning; capital acquisition plan within an affordable fiscal regime.


The Naresh Chandra Task Force (NCTF), constituted by the UPA in 2010, recommended appointing of a Permanent Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee (PC COSC), pending eventual CCS approval for CDS.

Instead of a dual-halted responsibility being filled part time, by a floating chairman (as he is also the Chief of his own service) with changes in tenancy on retirements/ superannuation of the incumbent, a much-needed reform of creating a new appointment of Permanent Chairman Chief of Staff Committee (PC COSC) was proposed for the interim.

The present arrangement of the senior most Service Chief additionally tenanting the appointment of Chairman COSC is inadequate. Combined responsibility is not only overwhelming, often resulting in neglect and delay, but it can also place two roles in conflict.


India has traditionally been a land power and, yes, the primary threats are still on land, from the northern and western borders. But the threat matrix has changed since 1947 and the Indian Ocean region is fast metamorphosing into a major arena of friction, with increasing forays by the Chinese Navy and building up of regional navies with help from China. Also, while the threat of war stills exists in the subcontinent under the nuclear overhang, the room for large conventional manoeuvres is over. In a conflict situation, what would unfold are short and swift skirmishes which call for agility and swift action by the three services in unison. Therefore, a common command centre is all the more necessary.

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