The problem now with the military synergy plan

Source:  The Hindu

Relevance: Establishment of theatre commend is one of the foremost aims of top leadership of security forces.

Synopsis: There is need to address the structural gaps before the creation of theatre commands.


  • The Indian military continues to work in silos.
  • Thus, Prime Minister issued directions to bring about jointness among forces. First Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) of India was assigned with this task.
  • However, as per media reports, the Indian Air Force (IAF) is resisting the formation of theatre/functional commands.

Possible reasons for such demands by IAF:

  1. Firstly, the IAF has been objecting because air power being seen as a supplementaryforce to the two surface forces. Further, if IAF is divided into penny packets, it would seriously degrade the effectiveness of air operations.
  2. Secondly, the Army-Air Force silo.Historically, the Indian Army has always kept the IAF out of the information loop and demonstrated a penchant to ‘go it alone’. The use of offensive air power close to the Line of Control requires that the force leadership be kept informed.
    • After Kargil, the Chief of Army Staff (CoAS) himself admitted that information was not shared even between the Director General of Military Operation (DGMO) and the Director General of Military Intelligence (DGMI) within Army headquarters, much less with the IAF.
  3. Third, the proposed air defence command conflicts with the domain commandsin seamless employment of air power.
    • The IAF does not wish to see its limited resources frittered away in fighting frontal defensive battles by a land force commander with little expertise in employment of air power.
    • The Army fails to realise that offensive air power is best not seen. It should engage the enemy air force elsewhere while giving own surface forces the freedom to manoeuvre and operate with impunity, as shown in 1971.
  4. Lastly, the Chinese incursion into Eastern Ladakh last year is reminiscent of Kargil.
    • Use combat air power, as against 1962, has significantly contributed in deterring China.
    • However, such intent and a joint strategy would have been forcefully signalled by the presence of air force representatives in the ongoing negotiations to restore status quo ante.

What needs to be done before creation of Integrated theatre commands?

  • Firstly, it is essential to first define the political objectivesand a national security strategy.
    • For instance, the failures of the mightiest militaries in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Indian misadventure in Sri Lanka bear testimony to the lack of clear political objectives and appropriate military strategies.
    • It can define the types of contingencies, appropriate military strategies, doctrines and required capabilities.
  • Secondly, identify duplication, wasteful resourcesand practices.
    • A large, manpower-intensive army with unusable armour formations would then also come into focus.
  • Thirdly, theatre or any lower structure requires an institutionalised higher defence organisation, which has been missing since the Defence Committee of the Cabinet (DCC) became defunct in the 1950s.
    • It is leading to little regular dialogue between the political and military leadership, except in crises resulting in knee-jerk responses.
    • In the current proposal, it appears that the CDS, as the permanent chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee (CoSC), would also exercise operational control of the theatre/functional commands.
    • It is unlikely to be palatable to the politico-bureaucratic leadership and which has, called for further deliberations.

Hence, there is need of an adequate deliberations and discussions with all stakeholders to evolve an appropriate military strategy in a nuclear backdrop.

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