“Army, Navy and Air Force are the military instruments of state power. The history of warfare bears testimony that ultimate victory in war will be achieved through jointness among the three services.”
—Shri Pranab Mukherjee, President of India
Air Marshal (Retd) PK Roy
Success in the complex nature of the 21st century warfare, rapidly changing technology as well as the strategic and security environment, will be contingent on the degree of cooperation between the arms of armed forces on how well they are able to communicate, cooperate and synergise their efforts in training, preparation and execution. Jointness is not a choice but a critical requirement today. The Indian armed forces must be prepared to deal with these ever evolving challenges in the region not only through capability enhancement but also by establishing structures of jointness.
Experience of the Indian Armed Forces in Jointmanship/ jointness since Independence has not been
encouraging. However, post Kargil, on the recommendations of Kargil Review Committee, the Group of Ministers (GoM) approved establishment of Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC) giving birth to the first and the only unified operational command. It had also sanctioned a Headquarters Integrated Defence Staff (HQ IDS) to provide a single point, tri-service, military advice to the government.
ANC was raised on October 8, 2001 with an all-encompassing role of “Defence of A&N Islands” including its waters and air space. It is also responsible for Coastal Security of ANI. The Commander-in-Chief (CINCAN) was to be drawn from the three services by rotation. The ultimate aim of establishing this unified command was to foster jointmanship amongst three services and the coast guards in the unique operational environment of ANI.
However, the GoM made individual Service Headquarters responsible for manning, equipping, training and
basing of forces for their respective services in ANC. Unfortunately as the Service Headquarters continue to remain engaged in their turf battles and vie with each other for what they perceive as their core interests, capacity and capability of the command has suffered.
The current force levels have not seen major changes since 2001. This is possibly in sync with the current threat perceptions and priorities of the respective Service HQ. Even though infrastructure development has been
accepted as key to force accretion, it remains a major issue as individual services are responsible for their infrastructure development and the scarce defence land in the island territories is held service wise. The planning of infrastructure is therefore compartmentalised. Establishment of a Joint Material Organisation (Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard) to support the units in the islands has been delayed for too long. There are serious issues of compatibility between the automated material management software of Navy and the Air Force. Compatible software system amongst the services of ANC including the coast guards is mandatory to enhance its potential.
The debate on the level to which jointness should be achieved is unending. It is a known fact that Tri Services Organisations and Unified Commands will continue to grow with time. Reports indicate that the Ministy of Defence has accepted suggestions that given the maritime nature of ANC, command and control of ANC should be with the Indian Navy. This could have merits; but the problem actually does not lie in the command and control structures of ANC but in implementation of the vision for ANC by the Service HQs. The level of jointness achieved at the field level in the command indicates its acceptance and viability at lower levels of hierarchy. The problem actually lies at the Service Headquarters. Interfacing of a Unified Command with non-unified Services Headquarters located far away on the mainland with their own respective priorities therefore would not work.
(The writer has served as Commander-in-Chief of the Andaman & Nicobar Command (CINCAN))