The most far-reaching structural change to the military that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) is currently evaluating relates to restructuring the army, navy and Indian Air Force (IAF) into integrated theatre commands. This involves merging 17 single-service commands into a smaller number of joint-service commands, in which the combat capabilities of all three services are synergised to create greater battlefield effect. To plan, oversee and implement this essential reorganisation, the government created the post of a tri-service Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) and, on January 1, 2020, elevated the army chief at that time, General Bipin Rawat, to be the first CDS. In the 15 months since then, much work has been done, but crucial questions remain: Who will the theatre commanders report to in wartime? Will their boss be the CDS, who will directly control combat operations? Or will they report to a Defence Council — an unwieldy committee, headed by the defence minister.
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