The bitter festering turf war within the Indian armed forces over the creation of four new integrated theatre commands erupted in public on Friday, with chief of defence staff General Bipin Rawat firmly rejecting the concerns of Indian Air Force and even dubbing it “a supporting arm” in war-fighting akin to artillery or engineers in the Army.
— IndiaToday (@IndiaToday) July 2, 2021
The country’s senior-most military officer said the maritime theatre command (MTC), air defence command (ADC) and two land-based theatre commands for Pakistan and China already have government sanction and would be created in a time-bound manner whether the IAF likes it or not.
During his interview with India Today TV, General Bipin Rawat had said, “Do not forget the IAF continues to remain a supporting arm just as artillery support or engineers support the combatant arm in the Army. They will be a supporting arm.”
Declaring world's 4th biggest Air Force as "Supporting Arm" of Indian Army like "Artillery" & "Engineers", speaks volumes regarding Indian Military CDS General Bipin Rawat's calibre & knowledge on modern warfare. pic.twitter.com/fYdCxziz3B
— Pakistan Strategic Forum (@ForumStrategic) July 3, 2021
General Bipin Rawat said that the Air Force is responsible for the air defence of the entire country, but along with it, it was also mandated to provide close air support to land forces when they undertook operations.
In response, speaking to India Today TV, Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria said, “It’s not a supporting role alone. Air power has a huge role to play. In any of the integrated battle areas, it’s not an issue of support alone. A whole lot of things go into any air plan that’s made. And those are the issues that are under discussion.”
Air Chief Marshal R K S Bhadauria also stressed the air force’s primacy in shaping the battlefield. The IAF is not against integrated theatre commands but the country “must get it right” because this “most important defence reform” would have a decisive impact on war-fighting in the future, he said.
According to India media, the CDS-led defence establishment plans to “raise and operationalize” the four new commands — each of which will place all the assets and manpower of the Army, Navy and IAF under a single operational commander — over a two-year period by August 15, 2023.