In the wake of the recent Commander conference, the Indian army is moving towards the path of working with ‘synergy’ and ‘Jointness’. A Ministry of Defence release from September 3rd read, “The conference and the embedded interactions with the NSA, Chiefs of the Indian Army, and the Indian Air Force would also be utilized to analyse the operational environment, deliberate on the issue of Tri-Service synergy, and assess the readiness of the Maritime forces.”
Embracing ‘Jointness’: A Continuing Endeavour
The bid towards Jointness isn’t new. A recent video shared by the Indian Army via X, formerly Twitter, showed an MQ-9 drone, which holds more significance than one might think. The video depicts the efforts made by the Indian Armed Forces to truly become an integrated force via the pursuit of ‘Jointness.’
Not restricted to a single video, but during a UAE Navy Delegation visit to INS Hansa, an image of a Rampage missile in the facility being showcased by the Indian Navy to the UAE made quite a stir.
Not to mention the joint drills that the Indian army has been holding for more than a decade to demonstrate the ‘interoperability’ of the armed forces. According to the Defence Ministry, the Rampage missiles were procured for the Sukhoi 30 MKI for the Indian Airforce and the MQ9 drones are part of a couple that the Indian Navy operates on lease from the United States.
The establishment of the tri command in Andaman and Nicobar, joint exercises, and the conference were steps towards cementing Theaterisation in the administrative and strategic realms, aiming to promote collaboration and coordination among the three services to improve operational efficiency and effectiveness.
Asset Sharing: A Crucial Milestone
Asset sharing is the exact next step in implementing that operational efficiency a bid towards now implementing the initial stages of theaterisation in the operational realms, making the armed forces aware of each other’s capabilities so each can supplement the other in times of need. Some prominent examples would be how the IAF airlifted more than 68,000 troops along with armoured vehicles and logistics during the peak of the Galwan crisis. Even when a Chinook lifts an M777, that itself becomes a depiction of how each wing of the armed forces contributes to ‘Jointness’. India’s desire to form integrated battle groups would only come when the command and the administrative structure are streamlined and each individual entity within the command has synergy and is capable of interoperability with their counterparts in other branches.
Speaking to Republic, Lieutenant Colonel JS Sodhi said, “India has prepared for a 2.5 front war in the times ahead and this Theaterisation and asset sharing by the three armed forces is going to greatly enhance the back potential of the Indian armed forces.”
Anticipating A Unified Force
With two adversaries, and as Indian leaders have reiterated over time, the possibility of the two and the additional point five front might be imminent in the near future. Adding more context to the asset-sharing part, in a bid to bolster Theaterisation at an operational level, he said, “Apart from what comes in the media about the asset sharing, also, for a long time, we have been having a lot of cooperation and synergy between the three services, and many times there are joint exercises which are carried out involving either two of the three services or all three services together with the aim that each of the services is fully conversant with the tactics and the weapons which the other service has so that the employment of each of these weapon systems is maximized.”
However, according to Sodhi, asset sharing is at a very low level because all three services are totally separate. Nevertheless, the implementation of theatre commands will significantly boost asset sharing among the army, navy, and air force, as they will be unified under one commander. The recently passed Inter-Services Organization bill is expected to play a crucial role in streamlining this process, ultimately enhancing the overall operational effectiveness of the armed forces further. Asset sharing comes after cross-posting which means the deployment of personnel from one branch of the armed forces to another. This is done in a bid to understand the capabilities and be apprised of how operations are executed by that branch from a grassroots level, and as per reports, the process is already underway.
Efforts towards Jointness and Integration were further reinforced by the passing of the Inter-Services Organisation (Command, Control & Discipline) Bill in 2023.
According to officials, “The Bill would pave the way for much greater integration and jointness among the three Services, laying a strong foundation for the creation of Joint Structures in times to come and further improving the functioning of the Armed Forces.” Sodhi said something very similar; according to him, the bill is just a foundation, and in the future, more synergy between the three services is anticipated. As Lt. Col stated, they will, in a true sense, become one, and following suit, the Indian armed forces, as he said, “will be able to employ the efforts and the capabilities of each of the weapon systems of the three services which would be part of his command.”