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India needs a distinct military command structure to deal with future security challenges: CDS

NEW DELHI  (PTI): India needs a distinct military command structure and a complete paradigm shift to confront the emerging security threats like grey zone warfare, Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Gen Bipin Rawat said on Friday, justifying the ambitious theaterisation process in the Indian armed forces.

Referring to the drone attack on the Jammu Air Force Station, he said if such strikes impact India's national security, it should reserve the right to respond at a place and time of its choosing and in a manner in which it wishes to respond.

In an interactive session at Global Counter-Terrorism Council (GCTC), a think-tank, Gen Rawat said the armed forces have developed a counter-drone mechanism but added that the country needed a very large number of such systems if it has to defend the entire strategic assets.

He also strongly backed the proposed theatre commands integrating the capabilities of the Army, Air Force and Navy, saying the restructuring was necessary to ensure optimal utilisation of their resources for future challenges in wars and operations.

He suggested that the new structures will emerge within one year's time.

The Chief of Defence Staff said one of the theatre commands will look at the overall management of the air space in the country while the maritime theatre command will be responsible for the security of the Indian Ocean region.

"You have an adversary on the West and another on the North and the East. We want to create two separate commands which will be responsible for taking on the western adversary and the northern adversary," he said referring to Pakistan and China.

"Should two-front war is thrust upon us, we will be deciding upon the primary front and the secondary front depending on where the larger threat emerges. Based on that, resource allocation will be catered for. Resources of one theatre can be made available to another theatre," he said.

Gen Rawat said the Northern Command in Kashmir for the time being will remain as a command.

The Chief of Defence Staff said there will be air component commanders who will be advisors in the western and northern commands.

Talking about the role of IAF, he said besides its core domains, it remains a supporting arm to the armed forces just as the artillery support or the engineering support the combatants in the Army.

"In an overall assessment, it is a known fact that there is resistance to change and one needs to be conscious of that and fight that inherent resistance. The nature and character of conflicts will continue to change," he said.

He said the emerging threats demand a distinct command structure for the Indian armed forces and efforts are on to revamp and restructure the higher defence set up without compromising their "core competencies".

"Leadership of the armed forces must be capable of operating in the grey zone while advanced technologies will assist in planning. There is a need to take it forward and look ahead. The next attack may not necessarily be a drone attack," he said.

The Chief of Defence Staff said the character of war is changing and weaker nations will always attempt to play by resorting to grey zone warfare.

"The tendency is to move into grey zone warfare through non-contact means. We have to be prepared for that. I think our armed forces need to reorganise their structures to ensure that we fight the next war through technological developments.

"We got to have boots on the ground but I think they need to be supported by technological advancements that are taking place. It is not necessary now to guard the entire frontier with the boots on the ground when you can do the same thing using technology," he said.

"I think a complete paradigm shift needs to be brought in the way we are going to fight future wars," he said.

In reference to the drone attack in Jammu, Gen Rawat said the "ceasefire does not mean mere stopping of fire between the adversaries on the Line of Control. If you are using indirect systems, disrupt harmony and cause damage to each other... it amounts to a violation of the ceasefire. We will deal with this in that manner," he said.

The Indian and Pakistani armies on February 25 announced that they would cease firing across the LoC while recommitting themselves to a 2003 ceasefire agreement.

On Thursday, Army Chief Gen MM Naravane said there has been no infiltration along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kasmir after the two countries agreed to observe the ceasefire in February.

Talking about regional security issues, Gen Rawat said the Asian region has experienced rapid changes in the geopolitical and geo-economic landscapes with the rise of China.

At the same time, he said the region faces a large number of challenges like the presence of nuclear-armed states, territorial disputes on land as well as on sea, insurgencies, terrorism, and demographic inversions.

He said these threats could lead to bigger challenges.

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