While Prime Minister Narendra Modi's administration gets nearer to the US and its supporters, which are expanding defence cooperation against China, India's long-delayed plans to revamp its military are gaining new life.
Modi, to join Australia's PM and Japan's PM for a meeting of Quad leaders at the White House on Friday, is making moves to reorganise India's military for the first time since the country's independence in 1947. The army, air force, and navy will be integrated at the same time that the US and UK collaborate with Australia to send additional nuclear-powered submarines in Asia-Pacific waterways.
According to individuals familiar with the developments, a newly constituted Department of Military Affairs asked the Indian Army unit in charge of the Pakistan border to draw out a strategy for merging with the navy and air force last month. According to the officials, who begged not to be recognized owing to media constraints, the concept will be copied across the country by 2024, putting the entire military under a new organisational framework.
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A more cohesive Indian military force would make it easier for the country to link with soldiers from the US and its allies in the event of a crisis. Connectivity in a variety of military fields is a fundamental component of the AUKUS collaboration unveiled last week by the US, Australia, and the United Kingdom - something India presently lacks inside its forces.
Modi met individually with Morrison, Suga, and US Vice President Kamala Harris in the US on Thursday before the Quad meeting at the White House. His office stated in a tweet that India and the US have "common principles" and that collaboration is "gradually strengthening."
To avert the coups that were historically typical in the region, Indian leaders maintained military command and authority split for decades. While bureaucrats and military officials have fought unifying ideas since the 1990s, primarily owing to turf battles, the existing structure is proving to be a disadvantage in competing with China, which adopted a similar approach to the US and Australia in 2016.
A. Bharat Bhushan Babu, a spokeswoman for the Defense Ministry said that the Indian military is being modernized to address regional concerns and technology changes, without disclosing further information on the plan. The Indian Navy, Army, and Air Force did not quickly respond to requests for comment.
According to officials, the restructure will result in at least four theatre commands: one in the west focusing on Pakistan, another in the east centred on China, a marine authority for the Indian Ocean area, and an air defence command. For the time being, they continued, the restive northern region of Jammu and Kashmir will stay unaffected.
India's military will be able to operate flawlessly across land, sea, and air as a result of the shift. Officials claimed the theatre commands would combine warships, patrol craft, soldiers, and military aircraft, as well as coordinate with other weapon and gun regiments that have a system of underground radars, to deal with threats along the country's controversial borders with China and Pakistan.
Since India's military reports to elected officials, a long history of political non-interference has allowed rivalries among the three primary services to thrive. This has also bolstered the army, which accounts for more than 60% of the total military budget, resulting in a stronger concentration on land boundaries rather than developing the capability to operate in Indo-Pacific waterways.