Getting India’s military jointness formula right


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: The Andaman and Nicobar Command

Mains level: Paper 3- Jointness in armed forces


The Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat’s recent description of the Indian Air Force (IAF) as a supporting arm and the IAF chief Air Chief Marshal R.K.S. Bhadauria’s rebuttal highlights turbulent journey marking the reorganisation process of the armed forces.

Issues before IAF

  • The IAF is warning against splitting it into packets.
  • Reports suggest that counting even ageing aircraft, the IAF is 25% short on fighter squadrons.
  • A pan service shortage of about 400 pilots, almost 10% of their authorised strength, further aggravates this.
  • Therefore, the IAF has a point when it warns against splitting assets, for, there may be nothing much to split.

Way forward

  • Confidence building: A common understanding of the nuances of military airpower is the key.
  • With the experience of operating almost every kind of aircraft the IAF operates, the naval leadership understands air power.
  • This applies to the Indian Army too, in its own way.
  • Confidence needs to be developed that rightly staffed apex joint organisations can draw up professional operational plans for air power.
  • Enhancing military education: Confidence building will need some effort in the short term towards enhancing professional military education though, at the staff level.
  • Analysis before implementation: Major reorganisations must strictly follow the sequence of written concepts, their refinement through consultation, simulation or table top war gaming, field evaluation and final analysis before implementation.
  • This would help address command and control, asset adequacy, individual service roles, operational planning under new circumstances and the adequacy of joint structures.
  • Who gets to lead what also matters.
  • The Western Command between the Indian Army and the IAF, the Northern Command with the Indian Army, Maritime Command with the Indian Navy and the Air Defence Command with the IAF may be an acceptable formula.

Why jointness?

  • With dwindling budgets, a steadily deteriorating security situation and the march of technology, the armed forces understand the need to synergise.


  • Challenges in co-existence: Different services do not co-exist well where they are colocated.
  • Bitter fights over land, buildings, facilities, etc. harms optimal operational synergising.
  • Allocation challenge: Then there is the issue of giving each other the best, or of wanting to be with each other.
  • Lack of operational charter: The Andaman and Nicobar Command suffered from the lack of a substantial operational charter, and the services not positioning appropriate personnel or resources there.
  • Lack of interest in joint tenure: As a joint tenure did not benefit career, no one strove for it.
  • The U.S., when faced with the same problem, made joint tenures mandatory for promotions.

Steps to be taken

  • Security strategy: We need a comprehensive National Security Strategy to guide the services develop capacities required in their respective domains.
  • Professional education: We need to transform professional education and inter-service employment to nurture genuine respect for others.
  • Mutual resolution of difference: The armed forces must resolve their differences among themselves, as the politicians or bureaucrats cannot do it.
  • Quality staff: Good quality staff, in adequate numbers, at apex joint organisations, will help to reassure individual services and those in the field that they are in safe hands.
  • Tailored approach: There is need for the acceptance of the fact that what works for other countries need not work for us.


We may need tailor-made solutions which may need more genuine thinking. For genuine military jointness, a genuine convergence of minds is critical.

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