At a conference conducted by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in New Delhi on July 14, 2023, the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Anil Chauhan said that the Theaterisation of the Indian military was on the anvil and would be the most ambitious change in the armed forces with far-reaching implications attempted post-Independence.

He also underlined that the national security strategy must evolve in line with the changes in the geopolitical order. Speaking on the next military reform, he said that “It is one of the most ambitious changes with far-reaching implications attempted post-independence. The start of this journey depends on the right steps taken together towards jointness and integration,”

He explained that Theaterisation involved the creation of tri-service commands and theatre-specific structures for an effective response along the entire spectrum of the conflict. Theaterisation is a concept that seeks to integrate the capabilities of the three services-Army, Navy and Airforce and utilize their resources for wars and operations.

The generals’ comments came a day after the Indian Military would go in for three geography-based integrated theatre commands to take on China and Pakistan, with the first to come up opposite Western Borders.

As per the plan, the city of Jaipur, home to the Indian Army Southwestern Command, will be the headquarters for theatre commands that will look after Pakistan. The other theatre commands to take care of the northern border with China will come up in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, which is the current headquarters of the Central Command.

The maritime theatre command to look after India’s coastal and maritime interests come up in Karnataka’s Karwar, which is close to Goa. While a naval officer will lead the maritime command, they said, the other two will see rotational appointments from the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force (IAF).

Talking about the Military Reforms, General Chauhan said that international geopolitics was in flux and the national strategy should aim to absorb the changes in such a way that it meets challenges and exploits opportunities. He further stressed on the need to “perform, reform, transform and conform to meet the emerging challenges.”

The CDS, as the head of the Department of Military Affairs, had been tasked with the “facilitation of restructuring of military commands for optimal utilization of resources by bringing about jointness in operation, including through establishments of joint/theatre commands.”

India’s first CDS, General Bipin Rawat, had spearheaded it and wanted it to be launched by 2022. However, they were deep divisions within the armed forces over the basic structure of the theatre commands. It was earlier reported that the rollout of the military theatre commands could be delayed as all three services were not supposed to the tri-service were not on the same page.

The Air Force Chief, Air Marshal VR Chaudhari, had said that the forces were not opposed to the tri-services Theaterisation plan but asserted that the doctrinal aspects of the force should not be compromised by the proposed structures. At that time, General Bipin Rawat’s plan was to create five different theatres.

Once the theatre commands are in place, they will take over the “operational role” of the single-Service commands under them. At present, India has as many as 17 single-Service commands (Army-7, IAF-7 and Navy-3), which have very little synergy in planning, logistics and operations.

China re-organised its 2.3-million People’s Liberation Army (PLA) into five theatre commands in early-2016 to boost offensive capabilities and establish better command-and-control structures.

Its Western Theatre Command, for instance, handles the entire 3,488-km Line of Actual Control from eastern Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh. India, in contrast, has four Army and three IAF commands for the northern borders with China.