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Lt General Satish Dua

The growth story of is only matched by the desire of many countries that India should play a larger role in global affairs. The Russia Ukraine war, the Israel Hamas conflict and attendant turbulence in diplomatic and economic circles is yet to settle. A new world order is taking shape. It goes way beyond the military realm. However, military forms a strong pillar. A much-needed and bold transformation in the structures is underway in India. The most discussed aspect is the integration between the army, navy and air force.

In accordance with the chosen Higher Defence Structures, Integrated Theatre Commands and Functional Commands are being formed out of existing resources for an optimized combat effectiveness in the Indian context. Integrated theatres will be organisational structures designed to control all military assets in a theatre of war to achieve the desired military effects.

However, integration is much more than only theaterisation or creation of theatre commands. In addition to the integration between the structures and processes of the armed forces, at a macro level, it also involves synergy with other instruments of power and civil military fusion, especially in MoD.

Preparing the military for next generation warfare, raising the threshold, and dealing with nuances of multi domain warfare are some of the transformational changes that are underway.

In the operational realm, the biggest challenge will be aligning our operational preparedness to meet a two-front threat, which combined with the threat of proxy war, makes it a two and a half front war. When coupled with the advanced cyber and information warfare that China is capable of launching, layered with diplomatic and economic linkages, it becomes a multi spectrum war that our armed forces have to be prepared for. In fact, the nation is preparing for it, by reorientation of our forces, modernising the air and maritime platforms and raising of new army combat formations. However, some of these threats cut across all boundaries, extending beyond the military domain.

Future wars are not likely to be purely kinetic. In this era of multi domain warfare, other elements like diplomacy, economy, intelligence, information, cyber, space, energy, water, environment and more are likely to be applied as relevant in a graded manner or simultaneously.

Groupings and alliances between nations are realigning in the new world order. More than one element of power will have a bearing on these groupings. Synergising military's power with other instruments of power is therefore, very essential in today's environment.

There is much advantage to be reaped out of fusion and synergy not only with defence ministry, but also with elements of diplomacy and economy (commerce). Military diplomacy can play a lead role in countries where military is in pre-eminent position. Military to Military cooperation can assist in improving bilateral relations and add substantive content to grouping of nations and alliances. QUAD, SCO, I2U2 and other bilateral military exercises are some of the examples. Post Russia Ukraine war, such groupings are likely to assume more importance.

Raising of integrated theatre commands is a major challenge that the country faces, but it is not insurmountable. In almost all countries which have gone down this path, it has not been an easy transition. It must also be appreciated that the theatre commands are arrayed against our two main adversaries, with whom we have unresolved borders and both are nuclear powers. Our forces therefore cannot afford to be off balance at any stage. Smooth transition in these structural changes will be a major challenge for the Chief of Defence Staff, as this mandate has been given to him

No country can hope to be a regional power by remaining majorly dependent on imports for its security needs. Our huge dependence on Russia as well as Ukraine for our defence needs makes us realise its vulnerability, as both of them slug it out in the battlefield. It is, therefore, essential that we attain atmanirbharta in suraksha also. Three major steps are being pursued vigourously for this. One, reforming the public sector and second, incentivising the entry of private sector in defence industry. The third important aspect would be hand holding of the defence industry by respective service – army, navy, air force – in trying to develop weapons and equipment. The services need to take ownership and get into a driving role. These challenges appear to be daunting, but out of box thinking and bold execution is getting us closer to attain the goal of an ‘Atmanirbhar Suraksit Bharat.

To conclude, the Indian armed forces are in midst of a transformation in the backdrop of new age technologies changing the nature of warfare. Non-contact warfare is gaining primacy and more lethality, as can be seen by the rocket and drone attacks in the Middle-East. A new world order is likely after the dust settles in Ukraine, Middle East and continuing confrontation with China in Ladakh. It is in this backdrop that the bold transformation of the armed forces and the integration of the services is taking place. It is a challenge that is a national imperative.


The author is is a former Corps Commander in , who retired as Chief of Integrated Defence Staff. (Views expressed are personal)





The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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