Creation Of Theatre Commands

New CDS Asks 3 Defence Forces To Work On Creation Of Theatre Commands

In his maiden communication with the three defence forces, new Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Anil Chauhan has asked the Army, Navy and Air Force to make a move ahead towards the creation of integrated theatre commands.

The CDS will also be visiting Jodhpur on October 3 to witness the induction of the Light Combat Helicopter into the Indian Air Force with Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari on his first visit outside Delhi after taking over his new office.
The post of Chief of Defence Staff was created in 2019 and one of the top mandates was to create theatre commands to help the Army, Navy, and Air Force fight the next wars jointly.

“The CDS has communicated to the defence forces to move ahead on creating theatre commands which would be his priority area. A lot of discussions have already been done on the issue and it is now time to move forward,” government sources told ANI.

The three services have also done several studies in individual capacity as well as joint ones to discuss the issue of theatre commands in detail, they said.

Gen Chauhan’s predecessor, the late Gen Bipin Rawat, was also working under great stress on turning the three forces into leaner and more agile fighting units with modern weaponry.

As per the earlier plans, western and eastern land-based commands along with a maritime theatre command were to be created. Air Defence Command was also to be created and the Ladakh region was to be left out for the time being.

However, the Indian Air Force while supporting the creation of theatre commands expressed its views against creating too many of them which could lead to the division of its existing assets like fighter aircraft.

It was also against any land or maritime commands and wanted theatres to be created to deal with specific threats from different sides.

After the demise of Gen Rawat, these studies and presentations by the three forces have continued and presentations on the matter have been given to the top brass of the defence ministry.

With CDS Gen Chauhan in office now, the creation of these commands is likely to gain momentum and decisions in this regard are expected to be taken soon. (ANI)

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New Chief Of Defence Staff

Lt General Anil Chauhan (Retd) Appointed As New Chief Of Defence Staff

The government on Tuesday appointed Lt General Anil Chauhan (retired) as the new Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). He had retired as the Eastern Army Commander in May last year and was serving as the Military Advisor to the National Security Council.

This is the first time that a retired officer has been appointed at this position for which a gazette notification was issued to announce the change in rules for the appointment.
In a career spanning over nearly 40 years, Lt Gen Chauhan has held several command, staff and instrumental appointments and had extensive experience in counter-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir and northeast India.

He will also function as Secretary to the Government of India, Department of Military Affairs, with effect from the date of his assumption of charge and until further orders, an official release said.

Lt General Anil Chauhan (retired) will be the second CDS of the country after Gen Bipin Rawat who died in a helicopter crash in December last year in Tamil Nadu.

Born on 18th May 1961, Lt Gen Anil Chauhan was commissioned into the 11 Gorkha Rifles of the Indian Army in 1981.

He is an alumnus of the National Defence Academy, Khadakwasla and Indian Military Academy, Dehradun.

In the rank of Maj General, the officer had commanded an Infantry Division in the critical Baramula sector in the Northern Command.

Later as Lt General, he commanded a corps in the North East and subsequently went to become the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Eastern Command from September 2019 and held the charge until his retirement from the service in May 2021.

In addition to these command appointments, the officer also tenanted important staff appointments including the charge of Director General of Military Operations.

Earlier, the officer had also served as a United Nations mission to Angola.

He superannuated from the Indian Army on 31 May 2021.

Even after his retirement from the Army, he continued to contribute to national security and strategic matters.

For his distinguished and illustrious service in the Army, Lt General Anil Chauhan (retired) was awarded the Param Vishisht Seva Medal, Uttam Yudh Seva Medal, Ati Vishisht Seva Medal, Sena Medal and Vishisht Seva Medal.

The CDS is the most senior uniformed officer in rank, the first among equals — the only four-star officers in the country are the CDS, the chiefs of the Indian Army, Indian Navy and Indian Air Force.

The post was lying vacant since December 8 last year after the death of General Bipin Rawat.

When General Bipin Rawat was appointed CDS by the Narendra Modi government within six months of coming back to power in 2019, it was hailed as one of the biggest reforms in the higher military structure of the country.

The CDS is also the single point of contact for the government for giving military advice and is the senior-most bureaucrat in the defence ministry which has four major departments.

The appointment comes amid efforts by the government to give a big push to indigenisation in the equipment for defence forces. (ANI)

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Gen Bipin Rawat – First Among Equals

The tragedy that occurred due to the air crash on 08 December in Nilgiri Hills in vicinity of Wellington, Tamil Nadu, resulting in death of 13 out of the 14 passengers including India’s first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat and his wife Mrs Madhulika Bipin, left everyone including uniformed men, the government and citizens numbed. General Bipin Rawat, PVSM, UYSM, AVSM, SM, VSM, a man of destiny, came from a traditional military background. His father, Lt Gen Laxman Singh Rawat got commissioned into 5/11 GR, commanded the battalion and as a Lt Gen commanded the Maharashtra & Gujarat Area in Mumbai. The son following his father’s footsteps, not only did all that but surpassed his father’s achievements, became the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) and the first CDS!

Little did I know on joining the Directorate General of Military Operations (DGMO) as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1993, that the young unassuming Major sitting opposite me would reach such amazing heights in his military career! I found Major Bipin Rawat totally grounded, quick on the uptake and possessing an analytical mind. He was meticulous in handling classified documents and would pull out the required file in a very systematic and organised manner inspite of all the ongoing chaos and confusion in our Section MO 3, during crisis management.

While Major Bipin Rawat looked after the conventional operations in Jammu &Kashmir, I was on counter insurgency desk and invariably both of us had to put our heads together and integrate our papers made for the DGMO to brief the COAS or the Raksha Mantri. Thus, we acted as a team and spent many a late nights together in the office if some important missions were going on. He always retained his positivity and demeanour and his levels of dedication and stamina to work under pressure were worth emulating. After long and grilling hours, once an operation was over, we made it a point to share a drink at his place or mine. We were both staying in NOIDA and were fortunate to have pick and drop facilities to the office at odd hours.

Over the years, in his outstanding career, Gen Bipin Rawat acquired a lot of operational experience and strategic vision which helped him in holding higher appointments very naturally and effectively. He got decorations after all his command tenures. As a Corps commander in the North East, he ordered a trans-border counter insurgency operation to annihilate terrorists belonging to NSCN-K group thereby setting a precedence for surgical strikes launched after Uri and Pulwama incidents and taking the battle into the adversaries land. As the first CDS of India, he set up mechanisms wherein his office was a bridge between the defence forces and the civilian government, thus giving a take off point to his successors who can further refine the procedures.

As we kept meeting at various levels, I was very happy to see that he was still brutally frank and as blunt and clear headed as he was in his younger days. Inspite of the higher and prestigious appointment that he held, underneath he remained grounded and accessible. Even as the COAS and CDS, he spoke his mind, calling a spade a spade, which sometimes did not go well with the public or powers that be. Since he meant well and spoke in the national interest, he could easily get away with it!

When we met at a wedding reception in Chandigarh sometime back, I could see the passion in him to bring in meaningful reforms and changes in the services to meet the challenges of modern day war fighting. He very swiftly took me through his plans to achieve time bound results and was aiming at making the defence forces “a lean and mean fighting machine”. Theatrisation of the defence forces by creating threat based Theatre Commands opposite our adversaries for Northern Theatre and Western Theatre was one of Gen Bipin Rawat’s pet project to achieve optimisation of all resources available in the theatre belonging to the three services.

In addition to the two geographical Theatres, Air Defence Theatre and Maritime Theatre have also been planned to be raised. This project remains work in progress. Whereas, Gen Bipin Rawat was well aware of the efforts of turf guarding by individual services, he was able to reason out the necessity of going in for these theatre commands to have better integration, synergy, optimisation and inter-operability during operations. He confided in me that he had political establishment, complete backing in what he was doing. Our northern adversary China has already raised the Theatre Commands and considering the posturing on our northern borders, it is essential that we also coordinate comprehensive national power in protection of our borders.

One is tempted to compare the journey of General Bipin Rawat with that of General Douglas Mac Arthur of the US Army. General Mac Arthur also inculcated the ethos and elan of the forces from his father who was also a General. Both were out spoken and had the convincing power to alter the opinion of their audience. Both the Generals had a personal connect with the rank and file as well as officer cadre. In different ways, both were charismatic and could influence people around them. Both were also coming into some controversies time and again, but like true fighters, stuck to their guns and had courage of conviction. Gen Mac Arthur and Gen Bipin were great orators and could articulate extremely well keeping their operational plans simple, workable and understandable by the commanders who had to get them executed. They were battle hardened and bold leaders who led from the front with personal example. They could easily read the minds and psyche of the adversaries and outperform them.

General Bipin with his great strategic vision has left a spring board for his successors to operate from. It will be an uphill task for his successor to foot the bill and move smoothly into his shoes. Above all, Gen Bipin Rawat has been the longest serving uniformed man in the history of Indian Defence Forces and died in harness by being at the pinnacle of his career!

(Lt Gen Ike Singha and Gen Bipin Rawat served together in Military Operations Director in 1993-94)

New CDS Has A Dual-Hatted Role & Multiple Challenges

Amidst so much ongoing controversy and toxic debate in India, one decision of the Narendra Modi Government to receive universal welcome is that of the appointment of the first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) at the top of three pyramids of the armed forces.  

Appointed to the post is General Bipin Rawat, PVSM, UYSM, AVSM, YSM, SM, VSM, ADC. Age 61 and commissioned in 1978, his three-year tenure as the 27th Chief of Army Staff concluded over the year-end.   

His appointment fits into the current dispensation’s muscular approach to security-related issues. Some of it has stridently entered the political arena and public discourse (read Pakistan), dividing people, but also capturing popular imagination.

But that does not diminish the CDS’ importance as a reform in management of military affairs at the top and for the vital military-civil synergy.

India was the only large democracy without a single-point military advisor with all P5 countries having one, till Modi announced the intent during his Independence Day speech in August 2019. His government stands out, like the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Government did, for taking long-pending security related decisions on which the past Congress-led governments were extremely cautious. After years of debating, the Vajpayee regime had appointed a National Security Advisor. Today the NSA has Cabinet rank in the government.

The status of the CDS, of course, will be below that. He will be heading a new Department of Military Affairs within the Ministry of Defence. As the name indicates, it is envisaged as the principal focal point for military affairs within the civilian set-up.

This has been long awaited by the military, albeit with silent reservations in its top echelons, depending upon individual and institutional preferences. But this military super-boss should certainly cause deep consternation among the civil servants.

On Independence, India inherited British-trained military forces whose top officials took orders from civilians who in turn enforced what London desired. The new leadership, concerned about the role the military was playing post the World War II, particularly in Asia and in its immediate neighbourhood, consciously enforced civilian supremacy. As a result, India became a democracy, howsoever chaotic, while the military seized power for long years in the next decade or so, in Pakistan, Myanmar, Indonesia and elsewhere. 

Also Read: We Stay Away From Politics: CDS Rawat

This political supremacy and civilian control over the military in India has, in effect, meant overriding powers for the bureaucrats who have kept the military way down in parity. The CDS’ appointment tweaks this arrangement a bit, gently introducing into the room a man in uniform. At the same time, the CDS has been assigned no command function, which means the three Services Chiefs are free to run the day-to-day affairs.

By assigning the CDS a key role in planning, procurement, tri-service institutions, defence diplomacy and quality assurance, the government could simultaneously unleash a host of critical reforms that have been unheard of until now.

Past records show that the idea of creation of such a post goes back seven decades to Lord Mountbatten, India’s last British Viceroy. As Army Chief, General KV Krishna Rao had advanced creation of the post of CDS in 1982.

It was formally envisaged after the Kargil war in 1999, but was put on the back-burner, despite authorities recommending the need for creating a post for a single command centre in matters of warfare and nuclear weaponry.

The Kargil Review Committee, Report of Task Force on National Security (Naresh Chandra Committee), and the Committee of Experts on Enhancing Capability and Rebalance Defence Expenditure (General Shekatkar Committee) had chalked out a strategy for higher defence management.

In 2017, intelligence and security officials and analysts had said that the absence of a CDS was hampering India’s combat capabilities. With an ongoing proxy war with Pakistan and a stand-off with China on Doklam plateau, many security officials said a single chain of command was imperative to strengthen India’s collective defence might.

About the CDS’ positioning, veteran security analyst Commodore (rtd.) Ranjit observes: “History needs to be heeded as access to the Prime Minister in India as head of the Cabinet matters as India runs on Cabinet Control. President is Commander-in-Chief only formally. The PM retains the real power.” Hence, personality of the Chief matters.”

He recalls: “In 1971 General (later Field Marshal) Sam Manekshaw set a bench mark as the Chairman of Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC) to act like a CDS with direct access to the Defence Minister and Prime Minister. This instilled confidence and ensured effective preparations for the impending war that followed in 1971. It took months to get the machinery going for that victory, something we ought not to forget.”

But Manekshaw did not make it to the CDS post. He “almost became CDS but then IAF Chief ACM Pratap Lal had objected (as per Lal’s autobiography).”

Rai offers another recall: “When the Navy Chief, Admiral S M Nanda was told by the Defence Secretary on phone that Manekshaw was going to be the CDS, he remarked, ‘make any one anything as long as you do not remove a star from me’, or words to that effect.” Years later, Admiral Sushil Kumar could not become the CDS due to the Air Chief’s objection.

Indeed, several Chiefs of one Service or the other have objected to having a super-boss. If the Army is oldest and many times larger than the Navy and the Air Force, goes the argument, the latter two are more technical in tune with modern times and in no way less in strategic terms. 

The Modi Government has ignored/over-ridden such a possibility. But issues could arise in the future. To avoid such situations, Rai strongly recommends, “the CDS will have to bring in Jointness and many challenges will then ease in his big task of tri-Service training and procurement and operations.”

As an aspiring regional power jointmanship is the way forward for India, like the United States, China, the UK and Australia. It may not be easy since the Services Chiefs have had no experience of working under a single, unified command. On the other hand, given the way the system works in India, there is fear that this may end up as another layer, like an onion peel in the multilayered and often opaque decision-making apparatus.

While the Department and the Defence Ministry shall remain intact in its original form, the CDS will be the single-point advisor to the Defence Minister. But that the three Service Chiefs will continue to remain advisors to the Defence Minister about their own Services seems contradictory.

As Lt. Gen. (rtd.) Prakash Menon puts it, in essence, the CDS “is dual-hatted and will have to adjudge contentious issues initially at the inter-service level as Permanent Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee (PC-COSC), and thereafter as CDS at the departmental level.”

This “dual-hatting” is better explained by the need for the CDS to act as a bridge between the political leadership and the military instrument, which has to encompass the shaping of the military through long term plans that are guided politically.

The writer can be reached at mahendraved07@gmail.com