New Delhi: India’s plan for the Maritime Theatre Command (MTC), which will merge the Eastern and Western naval commands besides getting elements from the Army and the Air Force, could involve bringing the Indian Coast Guard assets under its operational control.

This means that while the Coast Guard will continue to report to the Ministry of Defence, its assets — ships — will be operated by the MTC. The command is likely to start operations by 2022.

According to sources in the defence and security establishment, these are part of the plans mooted by a study conducted by the Navy on how the MTC can be structured. The study aims to get the MTC sailing off in nine months from the date of approval.

The chief of defence staff (CDS) will look into the study before approvals from the government are taken for the same.

Sources said the MTC is likely to be headquartered at INS Kadamba in Karwar. The government will decide which authority the MTC will report to, but it is likely to be the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee headed by the CDS.

The country’s only tri-service command — Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC) — is likely to come under the MTC and will act just like another outpost.

The original plan was not to tinker with the ANC and keep it out of the new Theatre Command doctrine, which is about bringing specific units of personnel and equipment from the three services — Army, Navy and Air Force — under a common leader for cohesion.

Both the US and China follow a theatre command doctrine.

The Coast Guard Assets

A source said, “Besides the ANC, the assets of the Coast Guard will come under the operational control of the MTC. Yes, the Coast Guard DG will be there, he will take care of the raise, train and sustain process.”

This means that the Coast Guard director general will continue to report to the Ministry of Defence and focus on training and growth, but the force’s assets will remain under the MTC.

Sources said this also means that the Coast Guard ships can be used to patrol international waters, if necessary.

The two amphibious brigades of the Army, based in Kerala and Port Blair, will come under the MTC besides maritime strike assets of the Air Force based in Jamnagar (Jaguars) in Gujarat and Thanjavur (Su30 MKI) in Tamil Nadu, said the source.

In February this year, CDS General Bipin Rawat had outlined his objective behind merging the Western and Eastern Command into what was then called as the “Peninsular Command”. The name has since changed to the Maritime Theatre Command.