Debate On Theaterisation Continues

"India ,so far, has been dithering and the reason could be only few, either we don't have the competence at the top to produce such a document or we don't have the will to do so deliberately and a third one is that we don't have neither the will nor the competence to produce it."Opines Col LJ Singh

Debate On Theaterisation Continues

Editors Note:

Gen Naravane's statement on 'Theaterisation' triggered several spontaneous responses from veterans which were published by MVI on 30 Dec 2022. Several well considered responses were received to it. These are being published to give readers several divergent views of veterans on the subject of 'Theaterisation' and linked issues.



Few days back Gen MM Naravane, former COAS, commented that going in for Theaterisation without having spelt out the National Security Strategy (NSS) would be akin to putting  the cart before the horse. This merits elaboration as the ramifications of not following the due process may be very serious.

Indian Armed Forces (AFs)  have duly accepted that they are the AFs of a democratic country and shall abide by the civilian directives as and when they are issued and have done a fabulous job out of it though the political directives have been ambiguous and have been duly punished for it in 1962 and IPKF fiasco.

But has  the Civilian leadership  put their serious attempts behind issuing out a coherent, cogent and a practical strategy and therefore the orders to its AFs?

We have  75 years of Independence behind us, with a  history of 4  full fledged wars, sustained insurgencies or hybrid wars, disputed borders, territories captured by China and still our Politico-Bureaucratic combine has failed to issue NSS! Why has this happened?

NSS is a document which takes into account the obtaining Geo- Political scenario and identifies the strength, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to arrive at some understanding as to which direction should be taken to keep the territorial integrity of the country intact and how to deal with the countries which  indulge in hybrid wars to create a tense internal security situation. This document also deals extensively with our own faultlines and takes measures to prevent their exploitation. In short this document tells the AFs to be prepared and to be prepared for what.

India ,so far, has been dithering and the reason could be only few, either we don't have the competence at the top to produce such a  document or we don't have the will to do so deliberately and a third one is that we don't have neither the will nor the competence to produce it. Competence part can be fixed by wide ranging discussions on the subject between the various stakeholders hence it can be addressed but it is the will which is quite an issue to tackle because this document will force the various stakeholders to act and build capabilities and capacities to support the AFs and with that will come the accountability as the review of these capabilities and capacities will be undertaken by the AFs periodically and serious questions will be asked and Political Class and The Bureaucracy will have to answer them. Now had our Political class and the Bureaucracy been a shade more committed and had they cared for that soldier on that border then they would have indulged in this excercise long time back and certainly after 1962 debacle, but as the things stand we don't have it. This simply means that our Bureaucracy is doing what it does best and that is avoiding accountability at all cost. In 2018 ( 4 years plus gone ) our NSA was given the task of hammering out one and if ex-  COAS is saying that we still don't have it then we are actually doing nothing but grandstanding or bluffing by going in for Project Theaterisation. And if it does come through then we will really compound our problems by many folds instead of solving them as Theatre's require self sustainable models in terms of manpower and equipment, which, as of now, is impossible given the critical shortages in almost everything or else we would not have lost such a large territory to China after 1962 when it was doing salami slicing in plain sight in Ladakh and parts of Arunachal.

Our Bureaucracy (no point in having a hope from political class ),especially will have to prove both its competence and commitment to the country by making sure that it does produces this vital document for the sake of comprehensive understanding by all concerned about the security issues at stake.

Gen Narvane has done well to point out the gap, now it is upto the civil society and the strategic community to force the Government to produce the NSS.

Sometimes , it is worth indulging in valid criticism of the Government and this seems like one issue where our narrow political leanings should be momentarily forgotten to get the government of the day to act appropriately.


Sorry but have to disagree with Col LJ Singh.

Not many can appreciate the brilliance of Indian scientists, technologists and  the political class, certainly not the Indian military, which has yet to display its intellectual or military prowess to the great Indian nation. India has a very successful track record of indigenous strategic thoughts, purpose and actions. The three, Indian missile, space and nuclear programs are tremendous success stories of the decades gone by. And the beauty of this program is that it has NIL contribution from the AFs or the military apart from some logistics support ,etc., at functional level or on delivery/testing mechanism. More importantly, this vital program has succeeded despite many shades of Govts in power due to political consensus; the beauty of Indian Democracy. Feeble military mind is generally unable to think beyond tactical or at best Operational level certainly not Strategic. We have had our share of smart military leaders but very few  ,most of them have been military bureaucrats?

I wonder what triggered Gen. Naravane’s statement  - case of sour grapes.


  1. I partially disagree with the views expressed by Maj Gen Brajesh Kumar. I do agree that we have advanced tremendously in the sphere of missile and rocket technology in the last few years in the comity of nations. I am sorry to say that we have as yet not been able to develop an indigenous category of Small Arms, which is the Basic weapon of any Army.
  2. Formulation of a National Security Strategy (NSS) is deemed to be very essential for the following reasons as I perceive:-
  • Imperative for us as there's constant threat from China and Pakistan.
  • Need to maintain a Force Level commensurate with the threat posed. Force level required will flow out of NSS.
  • When spelt out in unambiguous terms will caution our belligerent neighbours and other powers the price they have to pay for any confrontation.
  • Price of liberty and freedom is not so cheap.

In order to implement the NSS, there's requirement of having a Higher Defence Organisation (HDO),where all Ministries of the Government are represented  to implement the NSS. There's need of constant interaction to upgrade infrastructure and wherewithal to maintain an optimum force level. It cannot happen overnight.

Employment of nuclear arsenal needs to be integrated with NSS. It's application has myriad implications, both at Tactical and Strategic levels which cannot be overlooked.

Politicos- Bureaucratic combine should understand the necessity of having a NSS in the present scenario in the light of the security issues involved. The role of National Security Advisor (NSA) has an important role to play to formulate a comprehensive NSS and HDO.


What Col L J SINGH has written is so to the point. AIPS officer as NSA is the problem and nobody can Question him as he wears so many hats plus has the ear of the most powerful man who is know all and last word on all issues or subjects. It is amusing to see and  hear Ministers in both Houses invoking his name all the time while taking the floor.


I completely agree with Gen Naravane. Haven't I been saying this very thing for years now? Without a National Security Doctrine in place, you can't even begin to discuss how the defence services should be structured and fight a war, any war, from a national two front full fledged conventional war to a localised conflict like at Kargil. We're actually trying to put the cart before the horse. All those who say otherwise are either YES men, or haven't had sufficient exposure at the national level to perceive issues at this level. Truly professional officers should invite contrarion views and discuss them logically.


Generally, those who have  grown up in a well established system prefer to retain it. Resistance to change is a common phenomenon with old people. They are generally  “in love” with “my times”.

Change is the necessity of time and a desirable feature of human life. Thoughts and beliefs keep changing with advancing time.

I do not agree with those who disagree with the concept of Theaterisation.  You cannot fight future war with yesterday’s template.

Emerging form of war  in 21st century ( from ‘No Contact’ to ‘Invisibility’) makes it utmost urgent to move from “Jointmanship” of three wings of armed forces into an “integrated” single entity under one Commander. This, of course encroaches upon the independence of each wing. That is why the resistance to this attempted change, because fiefdom of each chief will be affected.

Only thing that I question about Theaterisation is the way it was pushed through. First thing is to carry out rank standardisation of three services - to ensure proper integration. Uniform may continue to be worn as applicable to service .

There are many other things which need to be sorted out. But concept is a dire need for a nation having global ambitions. We ought to get out of “Status Quo” mindset.


Theatre commands are not the best solution when the aim is not specified. Let the leadership decide where the nation should be 50 yrs hence, have a National doctrine to follow and then the structure of the military can be designed. Without that, upgrading a GOC in C to a Theatre Commander is change in terminology like he is known as an Army Commander now. Is there a credible Army under his command? Can this Army fight without any assistance from other units. Even an ambulance train has to be provided by Army HQ or Integrated HQ of MoD (Army). When the political mandate as per the press release is for Joint/Theatre Commands, respected Generals who have published articles on the subject, conveniently remove the / (slash) and write Joint Theatre Commands! to mislead the gullible public. Should we doubt the honesty/integrity of such people? How did they become Generals?

I have tried to read the studies carried out by Joint Service Institutions on Theatre Commands. All of them are confidential! Not available to even serving officers!  What is the hidden agenda if it is going to be the future structure? The organization structure of the Army, Navy and Airforce are taught to Cadets! Baffling indeed.


The very system of reporting and  hierarchy  in the Fauj is incestuous and stifles dissenting opinions. Fresh inputs and disruption  in general are frowned and  looked down upon as the Boss projects  all ideas and  reporting is through him. Any contrarian view may make your immediate Boss look sheepish in front of his superior and  create an insecurity regarding "how I didn't know this or why I was not informed" thus, leaving the issue to pass through his filters and selective blocking of crucial information.

That is the reason we have pliant officers rising in the hierarchy. Even at the level of COAS & CDS we will continue to have pliant officers as years of conditioning can't  make you any different.

A vibrant organization should have a massive churn of ideas and methods of implementation at the strategic and  individual flair at the tactical level.

An Officer's task is to lead his men to win wars for his country and  not supplicate to politicians or bureaucrats with personal / party agendas.

(Views expressed are the respondent's own and do not reflect the editorial stance of Mission Victory India)

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