The government has now formally approved the first set of joint structures to handle logistics in the 15-lakh strong armed forces, in a step towards injecting some desperately-required integration among the three Services and the eventual creation of unified theatre commands.
The first three joint logistics nodes (JLNs) at Mumbai, Guwahati and Port Blair will handle small arms ammunition, rations, FOL (fuels, oils and lubricants), general stores, civil-hired transport, aviation clothing, spares and engineering support for the Army, Navy and IAF to ensure cost-effectiveness in operations.
“These three experimental JLNs were functioning in an ad hoc manner till now. Now, the entire arrangement, structure and mandate has been formalized through the recent government sanction letter (GSL) approved by the President,” said a senior officer on Tuesday.
Similar nodes will come up in other parts of the country as the integrated “functional” and “geographical or theatre” commands begin to take shape over the next two to three years.
“The JLNs will integrate the common logistics functioning of the three Services as a prelude towards complete jointness in the future,” says the GSL. With each node to have a “lead Service” to handle all provisioning and procurements, it will be Navy in Mumbai, Army in Guwahati and the Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC) in Port Blair.
Chief of defence staff General Bipin Rawat has been tasked with ushering in genuine synergy in planning, doctrines, acquisitions and operations among the Army, Navy and IAF, which often pull in different directions.
Towards this end, the tri-Service “functional” Air Defence Command (ADC), which will eventually be responsible for guarding the country’s airspace against hostile aircraft, missiles, helicopters and drones in an integrated manner, will be the first to be created.
The next will be the geographical theatre commands, with all assets and manpower of the three Services under a single operational commander. These will include a maritime command in peninsular India, one or two commands (a northern one west of Nepal and an eastern one east of Nepal) to handle China, one or two commands on the western front with Pakistan (one in J&K and the other to include Punjab, Gujarat and Rajasthan), as was earlier reported by TOI.
Gen Rawat, at a seminar last week, said these integrated commands will become “operational in the next two to three years”. India till now has only two unified commands, while there are as many as 17 single-service commands (Army 7, IAF 7 and Navy 3). The ANC, the only theatre command till now, was set up in October 2001. The “functional” Strategic Forces Command to handle the country’s nuclear arsenal, in turn, came up in January 2003.