Northern theatre command with China should have Navy element

Northern theatre command with

By Dinakar Peri

The proposed Northern theatre command along the border with China should also have a small Navy element in it as some of the naval systems are useful there, Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Gen. Bipin Rawat said. He also said the naval fighter aircraft can be deployed in the Western sector in the desert areas when not required at sea to effectively utilise existing resources.

“Theatre commands (Land) will mainly be between the Army and the IAF. While it is the northern border there should also be a small Navy element,” Gen. Rawat told a small group of journalists during the week. Referring to the Navy’s fghter jets, he said, “Can we not bring some of the naval assets to the land borders?”

Saying the naval fighter jets can operate in deserts and the IAF jets there can move to the other borders, Gen. Rawat said, “There is not much of difference between sea flying and desert flying.” Gen. Rawat had in the past said the capabilities of the Navy’s P-8I long range maritime surveillance aircraft were used for observing the Chinese movements during the Doklam standoff in 2017.

The first of the integrated commands in the works is the integrated Air Defence (AD) command headed by the IAF followed by a maritime command and then the land based theatre commands. Separately, Army chief Gen. Manoj Naravane said at an event that they have carried out a few brainstorming sessions but the specifics of the theatre commands have not been firmed up like whether the entire western front can be one theatre or the northern front can be one theatre.

“Soon we will have a presentation by the IAF with the representatives from Army and Navy and we will flush out the contours of the AD command,” Gen. Naravane said. “We will do it as per the Indian operational requirements and with Indian characteristics.” Gen. Rawat said the study on the AD command is under way and he already had the first presentation and the standing instructions should be issued by year end.

In 2-3 years it should take shape, he said. He said the idea is that all air defence resources of the three Services should be under one Commander and ensure that there is no fratricide. “The command and control instructions should come from one person.” “In three years, operational instructions will be issued on the theatre commands,” Gen. Rawat said adding that it will take shape after that. The Navy has already started a study on the maritime command.

The next step in the integration is having common communications which presently the three Services have their respective set up and also common training establishments and equipment where possible. Basically with integration, maintenance and logistics elements go down and bring in a lot of savings, he said.

National Security Strategy (NSS)

Asked about the proposed National Security Strategy (NSS) that is being being formulated by the Defence Planning Committee headed by the National Security Adviser (NSA), Gen. Rawat said the draft is being finalised but did not give a timeframe for its completion.

“The draft was ready. But with the CDS coming in, it needs some changes. That is being done,” he said. He said without the NSS too, the three Services have their operational directives and India has a Union war book which integrates everything in terms of war or calamities.

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