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India Setting-Up Three New Armed Forces Commands

Paper No. 5575                                         Dated 07-Oct-2013

By Dr Subhash Kapila

The Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee, Air Chief Marshal N A K Browne announced last week that the Indian Armed Forces are submitting finalised proposals to the Government for approval of setting up three new Armed Forces Commands.

The three new Commands proposed to be set up are as follows:

  • Special Operations Command. To be headed by an Army Lieutenant General
  • Space Command. To be commanded by an Air Force Vice Air Marshal
  • Cyber Security Command. Will be headed by the three Services on a rotational basis by a three-star officer. It is possible that eventually it may be assigned to the Navy.

Also announced was that the Tri-Service Command headquartered in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands which was so far been held in rotation by the three Services will henceforth be headed by a Vice Admiral of the Indian Navy.


Assigning each of these new Commands to a particular Service on the basis of their expertise in a particular field is logical both for operational control, training and administrative sustenance. However, that in no way lessens the Tri-Services cooperation and integrated operational synergies.

The Strategic Forces Command which handles India’s nuclear weapons, it seems, will still continue to be commanded in rotation by the three Services. However, this is one area where extensive fine-tuning is required of Command and Control in terms of political and technical control over nuclear weapons. The Armed Forces are the operational agency and despite that reality the Armed Forces hierarchy is kept out of the decision-making loop on specious grounds of ‘civilian control’.The decision however involves political deliberation and bold political decision-making.

The Armed Forces have been focussing on the establishment of these three Commands for a number of years and held discussions amongst them. It can be presumed that once financial approvals are obtained from the Government the establishment of the new three Commands would be speedily established by the Armed Forces.

In view of modern warfare becoming highly complex and fast-moving the setting up of these three new Armed Forces Commands dedicated to critical aspects of military operations is a pressing military imperative.

More so when China which is India’s main military adversary and threat perception has already moved far ahead in this direction, especially Cyber Warfare

India with its expansive reservoir of highly trained Information technology manpower should have moved ahead long time ago in the field of Cyber Warfare and Cyber Security. The impediment in such progress invariably is bureaucratic and imposition of financial cuts every year in the sanctioned Defence Budget every year.

The establishment of Special Operations Command has been long over-due for more than a decade. Mumbai 26/11 amply illustrated the lack of synergy in the execution of Special Operations. What should have been an overall Special Operations execution under the command of the Indian Armed Forces ended in a disorganised operation because of superimposition of too many different agencies. While dwelling on this aspect, it is hoped that the Special Operations Groups of the National Security Group, who in any case are composed entirely of Indian Army Officers and Commandos are brought under the Special Forces Command for operational synergy and execution of Special Operations.

(Dr. Subhash Kapila is the Consultant, International Relations & Strategic Affairs, South Asia Analysis Group. He can be reached at