Indian military’s biggest reform move gathers traction; ISO Act becomes effective

A two-day ‘Parivartan Chintan’ discussion concluded in South Block on Friday

(File) Defence Minister Rajnath Singh at the Indian Air Force Station on the outskirts of Srinagar | AP (File) Defence Minister Rajnath Singh at the Indian Air Force Station on the outskirts of Srinagar | AP

In what has been termed the Indian military’s biggest and most complex reformative move in its history, ‘Theaterisation’ or the process to integrate the three armed services—the Army, Air Force and the Navy—into one single fighting unit is finally gathering traction with a two day ‘Parivartan Chintan’ (transformative discussion) concluding in South Block on Friday.

The event was presided over by the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Anil Chauhan, the officer mandated to execute the ‘theaterisation’ plan. It was attended by the heads of all Tri-services Institutes and was “aimed at generating novel reformative ideas & initiatives”. 

The plan is to do away with the functional commands system in vogue now and replace it with Theatre command architecture.

At the basic level, it means that a single commander in a designated zone will command all the assets and resources of all forces be it from the army, the navy or the air force stationed in that zone.

The challenges lie in the fact that it is not just the amalgamation and integration of men but also of weapons systems and platforms that are made more difficult because of the possibility of non-compatability among the systems. For example, it would be technologically difficult to integrate a Russian system with an American or a European one.

There is also a perception that the Air Force was not quite supportive of the Theaterisation plan because of the limited assets and platforms the force has.

Additionally, on Friday, the Inter-Services Organisations (Command, Control and Discipline) Act was also notified—about nine months after receiving the President’s go-ahead.

The Act is among the pre-requisites that clear the deck for the operationalisation of the ‘theaterisation’ process. It empowers the commander-in-chief and officer-in-command of Inter-Services Organisations (ISOs) with all disciplinary and administrative powers in respect of the personnel serving in or attached to such organisations.

What it means is that the commanding officer—regardless of which parent service he or she belongs to—will be able to exert administrative and disciplinary control over the personnel under his command whether they be from the army, the air force or the navy.

The new Act will replace the provisions contained in the specific service acts—Army Act 1950, Navy Act 1957 and Air Force Act 1950—in the ISOs.

In the theatre command scheme of things, it will be the ISOs that will be the pivot of the command structure as opposed to the functional command system that is operational now. 


Join our WhatsApp Channel to get the latest news, exclusives and videos on WhatsApp