Topis Of The Day:-“All For One, One For All?: On Integrated Military Theatre Commands”

Each service of the military extolling its own importance is not helping India to study the changing character of war

There has been much discussion in the media recently on the integrated military theatre commands. Most of the opposition to such a restructuring has been led by Air Force officers, including former Chief of Air Staff S. Krishnaswamy, who have voiced the view that the creation of integrated commands would seriously hamper the effective application of air power, particularly because of the limited resources available with the Air Force.

Initial Steps –

The views of respected Air Force officers, particularly a former chief, need to be taken seriously. There is justification in the argument that moving ahead towards integrated commands without any meaningful restructuring in the higher defenceorganisation is premature. The initial steps should have been an integration of the Ministry of Defence and the appointment of a Chief of the Defence Staff. This would have put in place structures and practices that would encourage a jointness among the three services and perhaps pave the way in future towards integrated organisations. What is more debatable is their somewhat simplistic view on the character of future wars. Wars would “be swift and the objectives… met in days or weeks,” wrote Air Chief Marshal (retd.) Krishnaswamy in The Indian Express on August 16 (“Why theatre commands is an unnecessary idea”). On the same day, in The Hindu (“The roadmap to military reform”) Arjun Subramaniam, a former Air Force officer, wrote that the Air Force would be the decisive arm because: “Capturing ground beyond a few kilometres or taking physical control of vast maritime spaces for prolonged durations are no longer sustainable operations of war as they arguably result in avoidable depletion of combat potential… It is in this context that air power would offer a viable alternative by shaping ‘battle spaces’ adequately before the other services enter combat.”

The Army and the Navy challenge this assertion with their opinions on the importance of land and sea power. The real problem lies in the fact that all three services have their own vision of how future conflicts could unfold and the primacy of their own arm in winning wars. The start point is therefore a common understanding between the services on the nature and character of wars that India could fight in the future.

According to Carl von Clausewitz, the nature of war does not change, it is the character of war that undergoes transformation. The enduring elements of the nature of war are its violent character, a clash of wills between two opponents, and politicalprimacy. There is no war without these elements. The character of war, on the other hand, is related to how a war will be fought. This depends on our military capabilities, economy, technology, political considerations, civil-military relations, and the opponent’s aim and strategy.

Political purpose will decide the start and termination of wars, and the manner in which they will be fought. The services have made their operational plans based on a proactive (cold start) strategy, with the assumption that the war will be short and swift. Maximum combat power is to be harnessed and applied across the border in a series of strikes that will rapidly degrade the military potential of the enemy. The weakness with this strategy is that it seldom takes political objectives into consideration.


1) integrated

Meaning : (of an institution, body, etc.) desegregated, especially racially.

Synonyms : unified

Antonyms : segregated

Example : “integrated education”

2) hamper

Meaning : a basket with a carrying handle and a hinged lid, used for food, cutlery, and plates on a picnic.

Synonyms : bassinet

Antonyms : assist

Example : “a picnic hamper”

3) perhaps

Meaning : used to express uncertainty or possibility.

Synonyms : perchance

Antonyms : improbably

Example : “perhaps I should have been frank with him”

4) debatable

Meaning : open to discussion or argument.

Synonyms : arguable

Antonyms : certain

Example : “it is debatable whether the country is coming out of recession”

5) decisive

Meaning : settling an issue; producing a definite result.

Synonyms : conclusive

Antonyms : indefinite

Example : “the archers played a decisive part in the victory”

6) depletion

Meaning : reduction in the number or quantity of something.

Synonyms : deficiency

Antonyms : rehabilitation

Example : “the depletion of the ozone layer”

7) combat

Meaning : fighting between armed forces.

Synonyms : action

Antonyms : agreement

Example : “five Hurricanes were shot down in combat”

8) assertion

Meaning : a confident and forceful statement of fact or belief.

Synonyms : affirmation

Antonyms : desertion

Example : “his assertion that his father had deserted the family”

9) primacy

Meaning : the fact of being pre-eminent or most important.

Synonyms : domination

Antonyms : inferiority

Example : “London’s primacy as a financial centre”

10) proactive

Meaning : (of a person or action) creating or controlling a situation rather than just responding to it after it has happened.

Synonyms : aggressive

Antonyms : passive

Example : “employers must take a proactive approach to equal pay”

11) harnessed

Meaning : control and make use of (natural resources), especially to produce energy.

Synonyms : strap

Antonyms : loosen

Example : “attempts to harness solar energy”