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Shreyash Krishna asked: What is the envisaged role of the border guarding forces such as BSF and ITBP as new theatre commands take shape?

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  • Vivek Chadha replies: Until recently, the long-standing objective of integration of the armed forces and higher defence organisations, as also enhancing jointness amongst them, had remained largely unfulfilled. Even though some changes came about based on recommendations made in the Kargil Review Committee Report of 1999 and Group of Ministers (GoM) Report of 2001, certain critical aspects such as the appointment of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) and creation of joint commands had continued to linger.

    The Prime Minister since his speech at the Combined Commanders Conference in October 2014 had been focussing on enhancing jointness amongst the armed forces. A major step in this direction was initiated when he announced the creation of the post of CDS on August 15, 2019. India finally got its first CDS on December 31.

    As part of his mandate, the CDS made it clear that joint commands would be created in a time bound manner. In this regard, the first structure he proposed was the creation of Joint Air Defence Command. The CDS has also indicated the formation of theatre commands, with the first possibly being established over the next three years.

    The details of the structure are still being worked out and are not available in the public domain. However, the envisaged integration may see a close role for associated agencies like the border guarding forces, though their primary role and organisational structures are unlikely to undergo any major change. Theatre commands are likely to focus more on synergising the three armed forces, and the joint structures that will come up will probably remain largely limited to them.

    The establishment of theatre commands will also see border guarding forces interacting with joint structures manned by multiple services. This will help improve coordination and enhance response mechanisms that are in place. As an illustration, incidents like the Pathankot terror strike could have been handled better between a joint theatre, border guarding forces, and the local police.

    Posted on March 26, 2020

    Views expressed are of the expert and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Manohar Parrikar IDSA or the Government of India.