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NEW DELHI: Senior officers of the Indian Army, Navy and Air Force met in New Delhi on Thursday to iron out differences over a major military reform -- theaterisation.

A meeting was underway, a person familiar with the matter said, to sort out the differences in the Indian government's plans to condense its existing 19 commands into five unified or theatre commands, aimed at smoother planning and military response, resulting in a unified approach to fighting any future war.

At present the Indian Army and Air Force have seven commands each while the Indian Navy has three. Then there is the tri-services Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC) and the Strategic Forces Command, which looks after nuclear assets.

Under current plans, five integrated commands are to be formed – the Northern Land Theatre which will look after Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh and Central sector, the Western Land Theatre which will be Pakistan focused, the Eastern Land Theatre, the Maritime Theatre Command and the Air Defence Command.

The process of creating the new threatre commands is being led by Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat. But internal differences over the structure and scope of the theatre commands have come out in public with Rawat terming the Indian Air Force as a support arm of the Indian military in a television interview. This description was opposed by the Indian Air Force chief Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria who said that airpower had a much bigger role to play than just a supporting role.

The need for a unified approach to warfighting came up after the 1999 Kargil War. The Kargil Review Committee and the then Group of Ministers besides the Naresh Chandra Committee had called for structural changes in higher defence management. But it was the Shekatkar committee, headed by former Lieutenant General D.B. Shekatkar, which recommended the creation of the post of Chief of Defence Staff and unified theatre commands.

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