This is the fourth article on threatrisation. 

Previous articles can be accessed by clicking on the following titles 

Some Ideas From The Nichols-Goldwater Act 

Theatrisation – Are We Ready ?

Prickles of Theatrisation of Commands

Shapes of Theatres





As per the Press release of PIB Delhi of 24 Dec 19, the mandate of the Department of Military Affairs includes :


Promoting jointness in procurement, training and staffing for the Services through joint planning and integration of their requirements.


Facilitation of restructuring of Military Commands for optimal utilisation of resources by bringing about jointness in operations, including through establishment of joint/theatre commands.


Promoting use of indigenous equipment by the Services.


More importantly the CDS is mandated to bring about jointness in operation, logistics, transport, training, support services, communications, repairs and maintenance, etc of the three Services, within three years of the first CDS assuming office. To have a better idea, the word joint / jointmanship / jointness is used eight times vis a vis theatre commands which appears only once in the press release. The emphasis is clearly on ushering jointness in a time bound manner. It is a considered opinion that level of jointness must increase before forming Theatre commands. Doing it the other way round will be disaster. However there is more discussion and action on Theatre Commands than jointmanship. Why are we doing it the other way round?


The alternate view is that creating joint commands will automatically force jointness on Services. An erudite officer (who has seen it at close quarters), commented on my last article to say “Jointness has been tried for years and not been achieved. I feel that unless theatre commands are created jointness will not come in. In a way jointness will have to be forced!…. It will have to be the other way round though not the best way to do it. It will have to be a political decision just as the appt of CDS. Under the CDS achieving jointness is unlikely since the four lions as you call them do not agree very much on much of everything!


Jointness and Theatre Commands is becoming a chicken and egg story. What should come first? In the prevalent reality, jointmanship is beyond the CDS and DMA alone. It needs political direction and a roadmap. The fact that there is no other option but to achieve jointness, must be firmly  signalled to the Services as it was done  while establishing the post of the CDS and the DMA. Once we embark on the road map and,  achieve a better level of jointness, we can start the conversion into theatre commands. After that jointness can be an ongoing evolutionary process. However it has to be kick started.


Jointmanship is a complicated process and will not be achieved easily in a hurry. The fundamental fact is that everyone has to lose something individually to achieve more together. Everyone knows that but our deep seated biases do not allow us to move forward on our own volition. Having said that all is not lost. There are some aspects of the joint process which are already in place or very nearly so. If these are taken to their logical conclusion, they will drive jointmanship in a major manner. In fact the process has to start formally. People will get the message.  Automatically things will evolve. Actually these are low hanging fruits which, if plucked will assist in bringing in a joint culture.      


When people are governed by the same law, they tend to gravitate towards each other. The first step is to have common laws and Rules. The Armed Forces have common Defence Services Regulations. As an extension, why not have a Defence Services Act instead of separate Army , Navy and Air Force acts?. Additionally the  government must coalesce and convert Army, Navy and Air Force Rules into Defence Forces Rules. The Judge Advocate General branches of all services can be amalgamated and put under the CDS. All legal appointments can be made joint appointments. This is a least cost exercise.      


When people are medicated and treated seamlessly, they will behave better. Lot of friendships develop in hospital wards! As it is the medical services are joined at the hips and limbs. They have to now be joined in the head only. An officer who has a close association with the Services medical system has this to say ”It was suggested that an integrated medical services be created to enable best deployment of resources and enhancing efficiency of this very important service with operational fall out. It is a service which has been superficially joint under the DGAFMS for many years and should have been a low hanging fruit. But even that could not be done!”. Telling indeed. Can doctors do a turnaround and show the way? 


The next low hanging fruit is Supplies. The fundamental scales of rations for all Service personnel and their procurement is almost identical. The procurement procedure follows the GFRs of the Government. Hence to have an integrated Supply system is feasible and can be done with least effort. Again, when people eat the same food, they understand each other better. They will have the same cribs and the same problems and strive for the same improvements. 


There is also a very strong case for joint recruitment of PBOR. Complete recruitment can be done centrally without diluting individual Service requirements for various trades and their QRs. It will send a larger national message that the Services are integrated. It can be done with very little change to the existing systems. In any case most of the entry norms and procedure for the officers are already integrated through the UPSC.


Training of officers is the key to jointmanship. We have some great edifices for training and can build on them very easily. The National Defence Academy,  Defence Services Staff College, College of Defence Management  and the National Defence College are joint institutes in the true sense already.  Additionally, all officer-oriented training need not be joint. Specialized training on weapon systems and tactics must continue as it is. Command-oriented training must be integrated. The NDA remains our pride and provides a solid platform of jointness. At the DSSC, there has to be a mental shift and a structural change. The DSSC actually runs three courses with a joint leg with a smattering of officers from one Service doing the course with the other two Services. It should be restructured where in all officers do one course with specialized legs /capsules for each Service. The emphasis on preparing officers for joint staff should be higher. There must be a joint course equivalent to the Junior Command between NDA and DSSC. It is important that jointness is ingrained early in an officer’s career. Such a course will be a link between NDA and Higher Command Course. In the same vein, the Higher Command Courses are run separately at present. These also have to be amalgamated forthwith. In fact, it is after the Higher Command Courses that officers start tenanting senior appointments and start hardening their attitudes. It is officers who do the Higher Command Courses and Higher Defence Management Courses who go on to higher ranks. If they are to be theatre commanders of the future, they must be trained together. Courses promoting jointness must be specified and mandatory prior to assuming joint staff and command appointments.       


The CDS must come out with a joint manning policy in staff and command appointments in consultation and approval of the government. The staff and command appointments which contribute to jointness must be designated as criteria appointments for higher ranks. There should be a policy for posting the best available officers in joint staff and command posts. Promotion of officers must be linked with joint appointments. Staffing and manning joint appointments will have to be a phased roll out which should expand beyond existing joint edifices like the ANC, SFC, IDS, Cyber, Space and Special Forces. 


The Indian Armed Forces lay a lot of emphasis on traditions and bonding. As it is there are some ships, air squadrons and army units which have such linkages.  Hereafter all ships and air force units should be affiliated to Army units. This affiliation should be across the board and not limited to any one particular Arm or regiment. When people attend each other’s raising days and battle honor days, and get to know martial traditions of each other, jointness will improve.  


The aspects highlighted above are low hanging fruits of jointness  which can be achieved within a year very easily. There could be a few more or less. There could be disagreements with what I feel is a  low hanging fruit. That is fine. Start somewhere with a plan; which is available in public domain. The next phase could be communications, logistics, maintenance and administration. The last phase should be Operations. In fact by the time the first two phases are put through, the last phase should sort itself out. Another aspect we should not lose sight of is that we have achieved a reasonably high degree of jointness in procurement through the DAP. We need to evolve into a long term integrated capability development plan.  As per the interview of  the CDS in India Today, such a plan  is already a work in progress. 


A very important aspect of jointness is integrating the MOD with the Services. It is my conviction that unless, at least 30% of the appointments in the MOD, are not manned by Service officers, India will neither achieve jointness nor have an integrated HQ of the MOD. If an accountant from railways or a veterinarian from the animal husbandry department can deal with the procurement of the M777 ULH through the FMS route, surely, we will be better off with Service officers manning the same appointments! There is some serious thought that needs to be given to this important aspect. The mandarins of South Block need to heed to reality. 


My discussions and experience on jointmanship with stakeholders, makes me realize that the threat to jointness is internal. It emanates from senior officers who fear that they will lose their little niche empires. They do not allow jointmanship to happen. Not because they are bad people. It is more a psychological issue. Only  firm political insistence and oversight on jointmanship will take us past this barrier. As I had recommended earlier a parliamentary committee with military advisors should be constituted make a jointmanship road map and also ensure its implementation in a time bound manner. That is the best way to pluck low hanging fruits of jointness without wasting time.


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