Bollywood Theatre Commands

The ongoing tug of war between Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) of India, General Bipin Rawat and Air Chief Marshal (ACM), Rakesh Singh Bhadauria further exposes the Indian defence mechanism. It all started with General Rawat using the term ‘Supporting Arm’ for Indian Airforce while discussing about the proposed theatre commands of India. In other words, General Rawat stated that IAF chief Bhadauria is as important to him as Lt General Ajay Kumar Suri, the Director General of the Army Aviation Corps.

Earlier, ThePrint, an Indian tabloid had reported that “the rollout of the military theatre commands could be delayed as all stakeholders, including the three Services, are not on the same page when it comes to its basic structure, which seeks to usher in a joint war fighting strategy similar to that of the US and China.”

ACM Bhadauria states that the IAF is supportive of the integrated theatre command, but maintains that it is important to “get it right” because it will have an impact on war fighting in the future.

Meanwhile, the defence establishment of India seems confused about having the theatre commands. The core problem it faces is to decide whether to have theatre commands based upon challenges or be more precise about the country. It should be noticed that India is well aware of the fact that it is faced with a two-front threat, especially in the post-Galwan scenario. So far, a series of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) for discussion, planning and approving the creation of the theatre commands has been totally unproductive.

After all the fuss between CDS and ACM, it is believed that on July 9 at 1700 hours, an informal meeting between the both took place at CDS office over a tea. Both agreed to not give further statements on the issues related to the theatre commands. The meeting was arranged by the former ACM Birender Singh Dhanoa, who happens to be a confidant of CDS and a respected former boss of current ACM.

Important to note is the fact that the IAF has time and again complained about its inabilities to counter two-front, especially in post-February 2019 scenario. IAF Chief Bhadauria, since taking office has been on a quest to meet the challenges by procurement of the advanced arsenal. The French Rafales have been talk of the political tables since Indian MIGs & SUs failed in front of the Pakistani F16s & JF17s. The world saw in February 2019, how efficiently the Pakistani eagles thundered down the Indian pigeons.

Eyeing upon the Indian air-impotency, IAF hurriedly procured the Rafales but is still edgy about its air capabilities comparing to those of Pakistan and China. The reason behind confused Indian defence is that they badly failed against Pakistan in February 2019 and to add salt to the wounds, China battered the shattered 16 Corps in Galwan in 2020.

Importantly, US has high hopes that Indian armed forces can engage China in the South China Sea. Experts believe that this is the very reason that US has sold its Chinook and Apache helicopters in recent past. Moreover, the defence secretary Lloyd Austin awarded Sea Guardian Predators to India in his recent tour de India. The sole purpose of equipping Indian armed forces with exclusive arsenal is to make sure that India behaves like a frontline of US against China and China’s economic endeavours in the region. Ironically enough, the disagreement over distribution of the drones is another challenge for Indian department of defence. Once again, the ground troops get the biggest share of it whereas the naval and air forces seem disgruntled about it.

Importantly, India claimed in June that its Jammu Air Force station is under attack. As usual, India blamed it on Pakistan. A flood of media reports and talkshows started appearing on almost all the channels of India. The channels reported that Mujahideen of Lashker-e-Tayyeba (LeT) attacked with planning and logistics exported from Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the premier spy-agency of Pakistan.

I happen to appear in Ghamaasan, one of the most viewed shows of India hosted by Major Gaurav Arya (R). The program was scheduled for midday Sunday to discuss the morning alleged drone attack on Jammu airbase. I expressed my views and termed the alleged attack as yet another ‘Inside Job’ in the beginning of the show.

Furthermore, I gave two expected reasons for which the attack has been staged, firstly, India has recently received the 20 Sea Guardian drones from the US and it is building up a reason to deploy them along the LOC and LAC with Pakistan and China respectively. Secondly, India wants to procure the latest anti drone radars from US, that would require a deal of billions of dollars of the exchequer, if India straightaway procure it whilst COVID failures are no secret, it would not digest well with the voter. Furthermore, I highlighted that the top brass nexus seek kickbacks from this billion-dollar deal.

Ironically, Ghamaasan, which is considered as one of the premier shows of the channel, is nowhere found on websites. Importantly, on June 30, the agenda of the high level meeting to discuss the Jammu Attack consisted upon the two points. The very two points that has already been discussed by Raja Faisal on very first day, “deployment of Sea Guardians & procurement of anti drone technology from US or Israel”.

India has a tradition of false flag attacks to malign Pakistan and to design defence policies. It is time that world must understand the Chanakya philosophy and save the world.

Another important fact is that the idea of the theatre commands is a borrowed one too. India is trying to copy US theatre commands but still failing to figure out the dictation centre of it. Unlike US where the commander in chief of the theatre commands is a democratically elected President, India expects an ‘almost retired’ General Rawat to hold the order stick. The commanders of the three armed forces would definitely feel odd about being receptive to the orders of a technically retired military officer who prolonged his uniformed career only due to his discreet affiliation with Rashtrya Swaymsevak Sang (RSS), the fanatic neofascist Hindutva outfit. It is a known fact that the ruling Bhartya Janta Party (BJP) is a political offshoot of RSS. Important to note is that the commanders in chief of the all three forces hold no grump against CDS if he only pokes his nose to facilitate the reconstruction of the commands. Surely, the CDS is the only bone in Indian Kebab.

The CDS is anxious to kickstart two theatres first, the Maritime Theatre Command and the Air Defence Command. Although the initial plan for the initiation of the theatre concept was as early as 2022, but now CDS office wants to get rolling before the proposed date. The biggest challenge is to achieve required coordination and harmony amongst the tri-services. While the nearly 17-lakh strong Indian armed forces have 19 individual commands as of date, only two of them are tri-service commands, the Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC) and the Strategic Forces Command, which looks after nuclear assets. The program is to distribute these different service commands to five theatres and functional commands like logistics and training. In the meetings to discuss the formulation of the theatre commands, it was felt that all stakeholders were not on board with the way the theatre commands are to be structured. Furthermore, the core discussion was who the theatre commanders would report to.

It is believed that at least five theatre commands will be formed, Northern Land Theatre for Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh and Central sector, Western Land Theatre will be Pakistan centric, Eastern Land Theatre for internal and external threats on east,  Maritime Theatre Command and Air Defence Command.

Importantly, India has extreme reservations on sudden US withdrawal from Afghanistan as India wanted to continue the buildup on western border of Pakistan. In his exclusive interview recorded in January 2020 to the Indian tabloid, the Print, Zamir Kabulov plainly stated that India has no influence at all in the Afghan Peace talks. Kabulov is a highest ranking Russian diplomat and special presidential envoy to Afghanistan. His response to the Indian anchor’s question about Indian role in Afghan Peace process was straightforward and blunt, “India has no influence”.

India always wanted a role in Afghanistan. Be it during Cold War, Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, civil war in post Soviet withdrawal era, US invasion and war on terror, and most recently, US withdrawal and Afghan Peace Deal. India desperately wanted importance in Kabul not for Afghans but to engage Pakistan. India believes that if it can permanently and clandestinely engage Pakistan on the western front, it would be beneficial for India on Pakistan’s eastern front with India, especially on Line of Control (LOC). Furthermore, two open fronts for Pakistan would mean that Pakistan would constantly consider it as a hindering factor to toe the Kashmir conflict. Resultantly, Pakistan’s grip on internal security as well as on Kashmir would loosen and India can dictate itself in Kashmir. Importantly, the two front would require hefty increase in the defence budgets of Pakistan that would mean unreasonable burdens on Pakistan’s treasury.

Important to note is the fact that India, in recent past, has been displaying eagerness to be undisputed regional power. India’s hegemonic behaviour towards it’s smaller neighbours like Myanmar, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan is an evidence that it seeks a regional hegemony. India wanted to portray itself as a key regional player so to attract attention. Frankly, India already has won that attraction of the US in South China Sea. It is evident that in trade war between US and China, East China Sea as well as the South China Sea would play pivotal role. US believes that it has what it takes to contain China in the East China Sea, owing to US presence in South Korea and Japan, but in South China Sea, it needed an alliance and India seemed well placed to cash on it. Importantly, the ongoing territorial conflict between China and India has turned India into a frontline of the US against China.

Since very recently, Indian Disinfo-Banks have been working overtime to write and issue the cheques on Indian talks with Afghan Taliban. The cheques as always get bounced as India is bankrupt when it comes to the credibility accounts. The EU-DisInfoLab scandal is still fresh in the memories of the keen readers. India, that claimed to have opened the channels of communication with factions of Taliban and initiating a dialogue, is yet again trying to paint itself in Afghan canvas. Afghan Taliban on the other hand has continuously distanced themselves from India for many reasons. Taliban have always considered India as an ally of the enemy, be it Indian alliance with the US or with anti-Taliban Afghan players. Interestingly, post Soviet withdrawal, India constantly supported northern alliance lead by Ahmad Shah Massoud against Taliban. Post 9/11, India played key role in Afghan invasion, especially by enhancing its support for the anti-Taliban elements. India’s relations with current Kabul regime are no secret. Former NDS chief, Amrullah Saleh and President Ashraf Ghani have time and again hailed the role of India in Afghanistan.

To bust the Indian balloon of exaggerations, it is enough to say that Taliban had always been aware of India’s role in Afghanistan. India’s presence in Tajikistan has always had attracted raised-eyebrows from Taliban. To add, Taliban are aware of the hegemonic design India seeks in the region and how it is in alliance with the US in the region against China.

Interestingly, Taliban have categorically and repeatedly mentioned that the land of Afghanistan under the rule of Taliban will never be used against any neighbouring state. This statement had two indications, firstly, Taliban clearly endorsed the statements of Islamabad that India is using Afghanistan to infiltrate terrorism in Pakistan, and secondly, Taliban openly warned India that Afghanistan under Taliban will put an end to the ongoing terror promotions in Afghanistan against Pakistan.

In the current scenario, India is running to make sure that the Indian unholy investment in Afghanistan is secure. Last month, the minister for external affairs flew to Iran to meet the president elect Raeesi. Meanwhile the Naval chief is in Russia apparently for annual exercises but it is believed that he is on a quest to try to convince Russia to help the current Kabul regime against Taliban. Importantly, Indian defence minister is in Tajikistan for the summit but has successfully secured high level meetings with the Tajik power hubs. It must be kept in mind that India has invested on Farkhor airbase which is located on walking distance from Afghanistan-Tajikistan border. It is highly expected that India wants to use the facility for its newly inducted Predators against not only Taliban but Pakistan.

In the midst of the failures on all fronts within, India is desperately trying to stay relevant in Afghanistan. It is time that India accepts its surrendering defeat in its clandestine war against Pakistan from its unholy presence in Afghanistan. Taliban, if were not a reality, the US would have been still in Afghanistan. It is time for India to accept defeat in Afghanistan. It is time for Indian defence establishment to realise that the theatrisation of the commands is not an answer to its impotency in the field of defence. It is time that India gives peace a chance as egoistic approach can take India to an undesired destination, especially in case of a two-front war. Surely, the real world does not function like a Bollywood movie.

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About Raja Faisal 3 Articles
The author is a Senior Journalist, an Executive Editor at The Asian Telegraph, Melange Magazine, and Advisor on Indo-Pak & SAARC at COPAIR. He tweets at @RajaFaisalPK