Theaterisation of Command: The Ill-Advised Brainchild of Pseudo-Intellectual ‘Jaichands’

"Advisors in the Prime Ministers Office on military affairs are intellectual pygmies, whose expertise lies in copying/aping from others without going into the nitty gritty of the issues at macro level."

Theaterisation of Command: The Ill-Advised Brainchild of Pseudo-Intellectual ‘Jaichands’

The world is moving towards de-centralisation. But our pseudo military strategists and uniformed intellectual ‘Jaichands’ want India to move towards centralization. In recent times the most important de-centralisation at strategic level has been splitting up of a single controlling structure of nuclear armed Inter Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM) of the United States Air Force (USAF).

Existing geographical commands were created not merely on regional basis. These commands came up considering, terrain, diverse climate, lines of communication, adversary’s strength and vulnerabilities and most importantly the reaction time.

The advocates of change from existing structure to theatre commands must answer the following questions convincingly:

  • Firstly, enumerate the specific incident/s under actual operational conditions wherein the existing command structure was found wanting for mounting an operation?
  • Secondly, enumerate explicitly the deficiencies in the existing set up.
  • Thirdly, how would creation of theatre command ensure that existing deficiencies would be eliminated?
  • Fourthly, is there a white paper enunciating the need for change from geographical commands to theatre commands?
  • Fifthly, would these proponents of ‘Strategic Reverse Engineering’, explicitly state the gains that would accrue because of their irrational proposal to replace the existing geographical commands with Theatre Commands? let me now state how these Intellectual Jaichands have arrived at this proposal.  

Advisors in the Prime Ministers Office (PMO) on military affairs are intellectual pygmies, whose expertise lies in copying/aping from others without going into the nitty gritty of the issues at macro level.

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A Classic Case of Strategic Myopia. Among Other Ailments…

"Having an ill-informed/inadequately informed individual as Chief of Defence Staff is a national security issue."
Sentry keeping a close watch; Representational Image

Their myopic and tunneled vision enables them to recommend only those issues, which exist somewhere else for instance USA, China, and the United Kingdom.

The United States has theatre commands because it has global footprint. However, the United States still retains all geographical commands within the territory of USA. You will be surprised to learn that few geographical commands in USA have their headquarters located outside the boundaries of that Geographical command.

Now about China. I consider comparing Chinese Military with the Indian Military as an insult to the Indian Armed Forces. The Indian Military protects the national and territorial integrity of India, while the Chinese Military protects the Communist Party of China.

Their pathetic and inhuman role in Tiananmen massacre is only too well documented. The Chinese Military might embark on similar action in Hongkong in near future.

I consider the Chinese Military as a worthy adversary only because we have nearly 3,500 km long land borders. Chinese Theatre Commands concept failed them in the Vietnam war, where they received massive pasting at the hands of a much smaller nation with a much smaller Army.

Do you know the reason? Chinese Military failed to replenish resources as well as troops when they were outnumbered. Why did that happen?

As reported in the international media, the Guangzhu based Southern Theatre Command HQ failed to react to immediate requirements of troops/weapons because the troops on the frontline were from Nanjig based HQ of Eastern Theatre Command.

That is a fine example of total lack of co-ordination in a Theatre Command structure. Do we want to suffer the same trauma? The biggest disadvantage of Theatre Commands is long, stretched and highly bureaucratic chain of command, resulting in delayed/inappropriate response.

Since our intellectual pygmies advising you on theatre command creation based on USA model, I sincerely hope that they have informed you that in USA, the Commander in Chief Pacific Command (CINCPAC) speaks directly to Defence Secretary (the Defence Minister in our case).

Are we going to have the same chain of communication? The single window clearance ‘Policy is good only for the business.

'Theaterisation Neither Relevant Nor Warranted'

"Single Point Advice on national security issues is an open invitation to disaster. The Theatre Command Concept is a figment of the imagination of intellectual Jaichands having little or no knowledge of military ops"
NSA Ajit Doval advising the PM: File Photo

‘Single Point Advice’ on national security issues is an open invitation to disaster. The Theatre Command Concept is a figment of the imagination of intellectual Jaichands of the Indian military and ignoramus bureaucrats having little or no knowledge of military operations. It is irrelevant and unwarranted.

I am open to having a constructive and professional debate with the entire lot, which proposes such irrational change. I am afraid the PM and the RM are being wrongly advised by such intellectual Jaichands on many issues such as this.

Let me forewarn the nation; If the Geographical Command structure of Indian Military is tampered with and replaced by unwanted, undesirable and untried Theatre Commands, Indian Military will not be able to ensure Favourable Conflict Termination Situation during the next full blown war, if and when thrust on us, entirely on account of unwieldy structure of Theatre Commands.

Our next full-blown war is likely to be with Chinese in Arunachal, may be twenty years hence it is advised not to approve the proposal of creating Theatre Commands replacing the Geographical Commands as at present. Status quo must be maintained.

Need for Revisiting the Decisions

"A person, who does not have basic knowledge about intercept geometry of an aircraft or missile is talking about creating Air Defence Command for the entire country."
CDS Bipin Rawat with tri-service chiefs during the Republic day parade; File Photo

Mature governments work differently while dealing with military affairs. Let me give an account of recent happening in US Navy. Acting Secretary of US Navy summarily removed the Captain of United States Ship (USS) Roosevelt, a nuclear carrier because the Captain informed about COVID-19 outbreak in an unsoldierly manner as seen by the Secretary Navy.

Senior Military Commanders, both serving and retired, and even American public disapproved the Secretary Navy’s actions. The Secretary Navy resigned and Captain re-instated.

That is professional maturity of the government in a democracy. But in India we dismiss a Service Chief and give a plum assignment to errant Defence Secretary. We still have nearly 300 million Indian below poverty line courtesy intellectual Jaichands.

Of Air Defence, Land Based Thinking & Jaundiced Logic

"We do not have enough Airborne Early Warning (AEW)/Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS) to have round the clock cover even in the sensitive areas."
Air Defence systems prepped for deployment; Representational Image

A person, who does not have basic knowledge about intercept geometry of an aircraft/missile is talking about creating Air Defence Command for entire India.

He obviously does not have a clue about our overall radar cover provided by Civil and Military Radars, at low level (below 500 m), medium level (up to 6 km) and high-level cover (beyond 6 km). He obviously has not educated himself with Purulia Arms Drop incident.

I hope PMO advisors have informed the PM that we have no low-level cover in the entire country except within 30 km radius of military airfields, few Vital Areas (VAs), and Vital Points (VPs).

I am not divulging any secrets. The entire world knows it except Indians. We do not have enough Airborne Early Warning (AEW)/Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS) to have round the clock cover even in the sensitive areas.

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Let me educate the readers how Air Defence Commands are set up. USAF commenced the programme to establish North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) in 1958. It took 22 years to declare seven of its regional operational control centres fully operational.

The area under NORAD's jurisdiction is marginally bigger than India (minus island territories). During this period USAF underwent massive modernization of Radars, SAMs, and most important element communication systems.

We do not have even 1/100th of the resources, both in numbers as well as technology and we are talking about setting up a unified Air Defence Command. Let us not axe our own foot.

Aircraft Carriers: Three's Not a Crowd!

INS Vikramaditya during her delivery voyage in 2014; File Photo

The Indian navy must have two fully operational Carrier Battle Groups (CBGs) to take care of oceans stretching from straits of Hormuz in the west to Malacca Strait in the East and till Diego Garcia in the South.

To have that operational capability a third Carrier is mandatory, which will be in dry docks for refit/re-equipping/repairs while the serviceable carriers roam the seas. We need both, the Sea Denial capability by Submarines as well as Sea Control capability by the Carriers.

We can find 20 lakh crores, almost instantly, to fight COVID 19 but not for national security over next ten years. I can say with certainty that in 20 lakh crores, two fully operational CBGs can be created.

Two Lakh Crore (1% of current GDP) investment annually for next ten years dedicated towards weapons procurement will make us formidable air, maritime and land power.

But without having done due diligence a jaundiced logic has been put forward by the CDS for not going ahead with third carrier. If India genuinely wants to control IOR, we need three operational CBGs, which means four carriers. With the ‘on land thinking of the CDS, Chinese Navy will roam the waters of Indian Ocean at will before the end of next decade.

The Sri Lankan port of Hambantota is slated to become another Gwadar in the next ten years. We can strangle China, economically and militarily if we take control of Malacca Strait or have the capability and more importantly intention to do so. Only other requirement will be to have friendly relations with Indonesia.

National Security Requires Strategic Vision

"CDS should be assigned the responsibility of national security instead of Defence Secretary as has been the practice and have the same status of NSA"
India's strategic leaders: Representational Image

If Gen Bipin Rawat had an iota of strategic vision and intellectual wisdom, his message should have read:

  • Service HQs must ensure that while writing the desired GSQRs for weapons/platforms must consider available technology/expertise with Indian Manufacturers.
  • DRDO and other manufacturing agencies must ensure that GSQRs projected by Service HQs are met in full so that no concessions have to be granted before inducting weapons/platforms for operational use. Instead he said accept sub-standard weapons (Actual statement read; if the weapons/platform meets 70% of the GSQRs accept it).

Our adversary is unlikely to grant us any concessions during the war. Has he ever authored an original paper on international affairs, prevailing geo-strategic scenario, measures to improve weapons procurement process, high end technological innovations needed for the military and so on?

The issue is not personal; having an ill-informed/inadequately informed individual as CDS is a national security issue. If he had strategic vision, required experience, expertise and exposure, he would have asked for the following before assuming the mantle of CDS: -

  • CDS should be assigned the responsibility of national security instead of Defence Secretary as has been the practice.
  • He should have advised that the DPB should be headed either by respective Service Chief or CDS instead of Defence Secretary as at present.
  • Before accepting the government offer of CDS he should have asked the government to appoint a dedicated Secretary for each Service.
  • CDS should be a five-star officer.
  • CDS should have the same status as NSA. Above could have been suggested/demanded only if the individual had strategic vision. If your government had decided to appoint a CDS, it should have given requisite authority and not made a lame duck appointment.

There are numerous soldiers with brilliant track record, who would have brought respect and glory to the office. I will name a few (views are personal).

Lt Gen Satish Nambiar, Air Chief Marshal NC Suri or Admiral Arun Prakash have all the mandatory qualities viz Experience, Expertise, Exposure and Strategic Vision befitting the appointment of CDS, specially the first CDS.

But for that to have happened, your advisors would have had to think out of box. Age of the incumbent should not have been a constraint. I am labouring on this issue because it is a National Security issue and not an individual’s issue.

Indeed, if the government wants to reward Bipin Rawat for his excellent performance as COAS, give him a Rajya Sabha seat. It is advised to either abolish the newly created post of CDS or appoint a suitable officer

(Gp Capt. Tej Prakash Srivastava has served in Iraq and is a graduate of both DSSC and AWC. He was Directing Staff at DSSC and Chief Instructor at College of Air Warfare. He Served at Air HQ, commanded a MiG-21 Sqn and headed the IAF establishment of Strike Corps during 'Operation Parakram'.

He has authored a book titled 'Profligate Governance – Implications for National Security'. He has written extensively on international and strategic affairs and Defence Procurement Procedures. The IAF officer graduated from the NDA in June 1970 and trained at AFA with 107th Pilots Course. He can be reached at Email: [email protected])

(Views expressed are the authors own and do not reflect the editorial policy of 'Mission Victory India')

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