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Defence & Security

What is Integrated Theatre Command? How ITC can boost India’s Defence capabilities?

What is Integrated Theatre Command? How ITC can boost India’s Defence capabilities?


  • GS 3 || Security || Tackling Security Threats || Army, Navy & Airforce

Why in the news?

Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat held a meeting to boost India’s Defence capabilities.

Present context:

  • Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat held a meeting with the Vice Chiefs of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force, and representatives of the Ministries of Home and Finance, National Security Council, Integrated Defence Staff, and Department of Defence, among others.
  • The meeting was held in the backdrop of concerns about the proposed model of the integrated theatre commands both within the Services and outside, as it involves paramilitary forces as well.

What are integrated theatre commands?

  • In its most basic form, it is a unified command under which all Army, Navy, and Air Force resources are pooled based on the assessed threat.
  • The instructions may be geographical, such as a command to look at a country’s border, or thematic, such as a directive to look at all marine risks.
  • The integrated theatre commander will not be accountable to individual Services, and theatre commands exist in other countries across the world, including the United States and China. The integration and coordination of the three forces will prevent resource duplication. Other services will be able to access the resources made available by each service.
  • In 2015, the Shekatkar committee suggested the formation of three integrated theatre commands: one in the north for the China border, one in the west for the Pakistan border, and one in the south for the marine role.

How many commands are there now; are any of them tri-Service commands?

  • The three forces currently have 17 commands between them.
  • The Army is divided into seven commands: Northern, Eastern, Southern, Western, Central, and Southwestern, as well as the Army Training Command (ARTRAC).
  • There are seven commands in the Air Force: Western, Eastern, Southern, Southwestern, Central, Training, and Maintenance.
  • The Navy has three: Western, Eastern and Southern, of which Southern is largely about training.
  • Even if these commands operate in the same region, they are not co-located, and their areas of operational responsibility are not necessarily the same.
  • There are two existing tri-Service commands as well the Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC), which is headed by rotation by officers from the three Services, and the Strategic Force Command, which is responsible for India’s nuclear assets.

Is theatre commands a new idea?

  • The notion of establishing an integrated tri-Services command in India is not new; it was proposed at various levels in the aftermath of the Kargil conflict.
  • The notion was eventually brought to the drawing table when Gen Rawat was appointed Chief of Defence Staff in January 2020 with a mission to create such commands during his three-year tenure.
  • Following his appointment, Gen Rawat commissioned studies inside each of the armed forces to develop concepts for these commands. The Vice Chiefs of the Armed Forces were in charge of these.
  • Last year, Gen Rawat stated that the Air Defence Command, the first of four commands, may be operational by the end of 2020.
  • However, owing to a number of circumstances, including the Covid-19 epidemic, the procedure has been delayed; however, officials now believe that some of the new instructions might be implemented by the end of the year.

Advantage of integrated theatre commands:

  • Economic advantage: Experts have emphasized the model’s advantages from both an economic and strategic standpoint. From an economic standpoint, this approach would save money by reducing duplication through optimal resource allocation and utilization while operating under one command.
  • Equipment in bulk: Furthermore, the opportunity to purchase military systems and equipment in bulk for the three services at the same time would result in cost savings and increased leverage for India’s defense sector. Due to the strategic deployment of soldiers under one command, a decrease in troop deployment would also lower the amount of military budget allotted for wages, allowances, and pensions, resulting in a single-handed reduction in a number of extra expenses.
  • Increased combat efficacy: From a strategic standpoint, force synchronization and capability synergy would better prepare forces for contemporary and hybrid warfare, resulting in increased combat efficacy.
  • Increase communication among forces: In addition, these strategic commands would address contemporary and hybrid warfare, as well as cyber and space domains. Enhanced command and communication among forces would arise from joint training and synchronization.
  • These assets and employ them collectively and cohesively: The Air Defense Command is a great example of combining strategic and economic considerations. Forces that previously planned, trained, equipped, and used their air defense assets individually and on different frequencies could now coordinate these assets and employ them collectively and cohesively for their missions.
  • Greater utilization of medical resources: Furthermore, integrating medical services across three forces will strengthen the unified command’s medical arm and allow for greater utilization of medical resources.

Issues with integrated theatre commands:

  • No global interests: One issue with this approach is the perception that India, unlike the United States and China, has no global interests or presence.
  • Model is not that sufficient to protect: Furthermore, the Indian Armed Forces say that, unlike the United States, they do not need to secure vast landmasses or communication corridors; they argue that the existing model is sufficient to protect our territory and communication corridors, and transportation is viable.
  • Inter-service conflict: Some analysts believe that this approach will have an impact on forces’ separate service identities, and that inter-service conflict may arise as a result of who troops would report to.
  • Position to be disrupted: Furthermore, because the Chief of Staff of three forces’ duty would be confined to just deploying resources to the commander, resource utilization would be left only at the discretion of the theatre commander, causing the Chief of Staff’s position to be disrupted. This function of mobilizing resources for the theater commander while restricting the operational role of the Chief of Staff is comparable to what the US unified commands do.
  • In addition, the theatre commander’s sphere of challenge would be a big challenge. Jointness supporters in the military frequently emphasize the fine line between jointness and integration. Supporters of the former argue that a theatre commander’s restricted sphere of knowledge and experience can have an impact on command’s effectiveness.

Some recent development:

  • The nomination of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) and the establishment of the Department of Military Affairs (DMA) are significant milestones toward the integration and progress of the military.
  • CDS: As proposed by the Kargil Review Committee in 1999, it is the government’s single-point military adviser.
  • Department of Military Affairs (DMA): The DMA will be responsible for all work relating to military affairs. Previously, the Department of Defense was responsible for these responsibilities (DoD).
  • The third Joint Logistics Node (JLN) in Mumbai has been operationalized by Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat.
  • In order to synergize their operational operations, these JLNs will offer integrated logistics cover for the Armed Forces’ small arms ammunition, food, gasoline, general supplies, civil hired transport, aviation apparel, parts, and engineering support.


Despite the fact that both the advantages and disadvantages emphasize rational reasons, the truth is that this was a much-needed change in the Indian Armed Forces. As a result, this integration would lead to theaterization, which would then lead to force modernization. Until recently, modernization of forces was mostly focused on equipment and weapons systems, but this restructure into unified commands represents the other side of the coin. Even if there is a distinction between armed forces joint manship and armed forces integration, armed forces collaboration is a must.

Mains oriented question:

What are Integrated Theatre Commands, and how do you use them? Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of implementing the integrated theatre commands in India.