• As part of defence reforms after the appointment of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), the government is working on the formation of integrated theatre commands. 

About Integrated Theatre Command 

  • The idea of Theatre Command was suggested in the reports of the committee The military reforms committee – under Lt General (retd.) DB Shekatkar. It recommended the creation of 3 integrated theatre commands northern for the China border, western for the Pakistan border and southern for the maritime role. 
  • An integrated theatre command is one that enables the pooling of resources of all three services under a single commander, towards securing a particular geographical area. 
  • A theatre will be identified on the basis of its sharing of a contiguous geographical boundary with a competing entity or an adversary. The geographical area must also include adjoining seas and space that may be essential for manoeuvre of own forces to address the threatening entity/adversary and also its geographically contiguous collaborators. 
  • The commander of a Theatre Command will not be answerable to individual Service in particular and will have all resources from the Tri-Services at his disposal. 
  • The integrated theatre commander will be free to train, equip and exercise his command to make it a cohesive fighting force capable of achieving designated goals and the commander will have all the logistic resources required to support his operations at his disposal. 


  • The structure of command – who will report to who within the tri-services and joint theatre command configurations, and who will have operational command over personnel and machinery, service chiefs or theatre commanders 
  • Shortage of resources within the Indian Air Force (IAF) which has only 31 operational squadrons against a modest sanctioned strength of 42, would make it difficult for the IAF to permanently station assets in a particular command with territorial boundaries; 
  • The inter-services competition wherein each service zealously oversees its own assets and strives for a greater share of the defence budget and influence might prove to be an obstacle in creating synergy among the services; 
  • India’s limited experience with integrated command structures may require a fair bit of “mid-course corrections,” as acknowledged by the Army Chief as well, which would require problems to be timely identified and remedied, and slowdown the integration process regardless 


  • The common aim of the armed forces is undoubted to secure India from external aggression and protect its sovereignty at all costs. While each of our services has different approach, resources and strengths to achieve this aim. Gone are the days where the army alone could win battles. This necessitates a combined and joint operation of all the services to not only address security issues of the nation but also to avoid reduplication of resources and technologies and synergising their strengths. 
  • One of the main advantages is that the leader of unified command has control over more varied resources. The naval fighter aircraft can be deployed in the Western sector in the desert areas when not required at sea to effectively utilise existing resources. 
  • The naval fighter jets can operate in deserts and the IAF jets there can move to the other borders. Air Defence Command will have air assets such as missiles from the army. The navy will be a part of it as well. 
  • Other countries having such commands: Several major militaries are divided into integrated theatre commands. China’s People’s Liberation Army has five theatre commands: Eastern, Western, Northern, Southern and Central. Its Western Theatre Command is responsible for India 
  • The US Armed Forces have 11 unified commands, of which seven are geographic and four functional commands. 


  • Indian defence reforms are moving apace and the idea of integrated theatre commands is one whose time seems to have finally come in India. 

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