In a major restructuring such as the reorganization of the Indian Army into theater commands, there will be diverging views among stakeholders and many rounds of discussions on the merits and drawbacks of the existing force structure versus the one proposed; therefore, it may not be appropriate to call it a “turf war” as has been mentioned in some media reports.
Is the timing right?
Today India faces a ‘two-pronged threat’ in real terms, in a way that it is already at a stalemate with the world’s largest army, and the other adversary is also developing new ways. to disrupt the peace through drones / terrorist attacks. Whatever the merits and drawbacks of theatricalization, strategically now is not the right time to go through such a major restructuring at the top level, when the greater military force strikes at the real line of control. Such a major restructuring takes at least a few years of start-up problems; therefore, it will bring turbulence to the proven command structure in the interim period, a risk the country must avoid. In an excessive effort to minimize defense costs or meet certain personality-oriented deadlines, the restructuring should not compromise the operational effectiveness of the Indian military.
What needs to be restructured?
Regarding the implementation of the Indian model of theater commands, I endorse the Air Defense Command, Defense Space Agency (DSA), Armed Forces Special Operations Division (AFSOD), l ‘integration into logistics and recommend upgrading the Defense Cyber Agency (DCA) to “Information Warfare Command” as explained in my detailed analysis.
The critical shortage of air and other means is too serious a concern to be ignored. Maritime command, taking advantage of unity of command, will have to be balanced against the capacity to manage an increased scope of control, as the Indian definition of the Indo-Pacific and the area of maritime interest is is extended from the eastern coasts of Africa to the North Pacific, as far as Japan. With a three-department structure, reporting to a single department head has its own problems. It can be difficult for him to report to CDS to manage them in operations (unmanageable scope of control), and he is not charged and organized for it. India’s first priority should be capacity building rather than restructuring restructuring at the top level.
The air power debate!
The Indian Air Force is an offensive component of the Indian Army. It has a national role in addition to synergy with other services to contribute to national fighting power. For a full air battle, with inadequate air resources, switching resources between operational commands in the same service is much more efficient than trying to do so between integrated theater commands with dedicated resources, via the committee system. CDS / COSC.
It should also be noted that with the current speed of combat aircraft and the high intensity of lethal air defense systems, on a global scale, the role of close air support is best played by attack helicopters and the variety of artillery means due to security concerns. The new generation aircraft are mostly versatile, more and more used for long and short range interdiction, creating a favorable air situation, degradation, offensive air missions and strategic national missions.
The United States and China have defined an expeditionary role for their army away from the mainland; therefore, their theater commands like the Indo-Pacific Command cannot be supported by air resources from the continent, which justifies a separate allocation of air resources.
These two countries did so after achieving self-sufficiency in defense production. In the case of India, the expeditionary role does not hold up for a long period, when it finds it too costly to raise the mountain assault corps essential to threaten the immediate adversary. India must first increase the availability of its assets until they can be distributed on a priority basis, with indigenous technology and equipment through self-reliance, which is a work in progress.
Everyone needs to focus on building capacity at this time under a noticeable ‘two-pronged threat’, rather than triggering debates about restructuring at the top, which does not greatly improve combat capability at the forefront, where we need more military assets like planes and drones.
(Disclaimer: The views of the author do not represent those of WION or ZMCL. WION or ZMCL also do not endorse the views of the author.)