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Table-top war-gaming exercise held to fine-tune model of integrated theatre commands

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As part of the process of evolving consensus among the three services on the reorganisation of the forces into integrated tri-service theatre commands and fine-tune the model, for the first time a table-top war-gaming exercise was held on July 22 in which all scenarios including a collusive threat of a two-front war from China and Pakistan were war-gamed, according to a defence official.

“At the meeting held on July 22, for the first time ever a table-top exercise was war-gamed with operational settings which was played across all theatres simultaneously, multi-domain and cross theatre. This was large in extent from the Northern Command to the Andaman and Nicobar islands and catered to the collusive threat we expect from two of our neighbours,” the official said.

This was played for a full day and was attended by around 40 officers including the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Gen. Bipin Rawat, three Service Chiefs, Vice Chiefs and Director General of Military Operations equivalent from the three services.

Frank and free wheeling exchange

There was a frank and free wheeling exchange to evolve the best process on theatrisation and many of the concerns put forward by various sides over the creation of the commands were addressed including that of the Air Force, the official said.

Explaining the consultations, the official said when Defence Minister Rajnath Singh was briefed in June, he had advised two things — to form a consultative committee to address the concerns of the stakeholders outside the services and hold consultations to resolve service issues one more time.

The committee headed by the CDS, with the three Vice Chiefs and representatives from other Ministries concerned had met and resolved most of the issues related to the functions, rotational nature of all commanders, need for a unified maritime structure including the Coast Guard and having the para military in border commands, the official said.

Broad consensus emerged on the need to take forward the theatrisation process expeditiously and the Air Force too is on board, the official said. “Various views were heard and would be taken on board. It was made aware that sufficient time would be given for the structures to be formed, reviewed and stabilised.”

“The creation of integrated theatre commands West, East, Maritime Theatre Command (MTC) and Integrated Air Defence Command are accordingly being progressed,” officials said. As stated by Gen. Rawat earlier, the Northern Command would be left out of the ambit of the process for now and integrated at a later stage.

Once in place, operational planning will be made at the integrated theatre commands, by the joint structures under the CoSC which will translate the Defence Minister’s operational directive into operational directives to be issued to the Theatre Commanders, the official said. “The Theatre Commanders will be the war fighters. They will design their own war plans.”

Separate budget head needs to be created as new joint structures will have to be raised under the Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) since the Theatre Commanders will report to the Chiefs of Staff Committee (CoSC).

Misgivings clarified

It is envisioned that post commencement of the process it would take up to one year to raise the commands and another year before they are operationalised. Various misgivings that the process was being rushed through were clarified and there was unanimity on the process of creating the theatre commands and the fact that the time for the transformation of armed forces has come, an official said.

Commanders would be tasked with raising the various commands and Threatre Commanders are expected to be appointed a year later once the structures are in place.

The final structures would be refined based on the recommendations of the commanders nominated to raise these commands. This would evolve adequate feedback from the field level for operationally effective structures, the official said.

As reported by The Hindu earlier, the Prime Minister is expected to make an announcement on August 15 on the theatre command and the process initiated in couple of months.

All other specialised agencies created, special operations, cyber and space, also need to be further strengthened and integrated into the theatrisation process which are also being looked at, the official said.