The current strength of the Indian Army is about 1.3 million. Indian Army’s Head Quarter is in the capital city of New Delhi and it is under the command of the Chief of Army Staff (COAS). To be able to understand the Chain of Command in the Indian Army, one needs to be familiar with the rank structure of the Indian Army.
The following image represents the rank structure of the Indian Army (from right to left in increasing order of seniority).
Ranks in the Indian Army
Formations and Structure of the Indian Army
There are seven operational commands in the Indian Army. These commands receive direct orders from the Chief of Army Staff and each command is headed by a Lieutenant General rank officer. However, an Army officer may even lead a tri-services command like the Strategic Forces Command, Integrated Defense Staff, Andaman and Nicobar Command. The different commands of the Indian Army are given below in the order of their raising and location.
⮚ Central Command: headquartered at Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh.
⮚ Eastern Command: headquartered at Kolkata, West Bengal.
⮚ Northern Command: headquartered at Udhampur, Jammu and Kashmir.
⮚ Southern Command: headquartered at Pune, Maharashtra.
⮚ South-Western Command: headquartered at Jaipur, Rajasthan.
⮚ Western Command: headquartered at Chandimandir, Chandigarh.
⮚ Training Command: headquartered at Shimla, Himachal Pradesh.
Lt-General IS Ghuman assumes charge as Commander of Central Command of Indian Army in 2019
Commands are divided into corps, there are a total of 13 corps in the Indian Army under different commands. The Corps Headquarters is the highest field formation in the Army, commanded by a Lieutenant General rank officer also known as the Corps Commander. There are different types of Corps in the Indian Army, Strike Corps (aimed to conduct offensive trans-border action against the opposition) and Holding Corps.
Division (Div): Furthermore, corps are classified into Divisions and a Corps Commander has 3 to 4 Divisions under his Command. A Division is led by a General Officer Commanding (GOC) who is a Major General rank officer.
In addition, the Indian Army has 40 Divisions spread across India that include 4 Reorganized Army Plains Infantry Division (RAPID), 18 Infantry Divisions, 12 Mountain Divisions, 3 Armored Divisions, and 2 Artillery Divisions. Each Division has a strength of 10,000 - 20,000 combat troops.
Brigades: Likewise, a Division is also subdivided into Brigades and usually consists of 3 Battalions and support elements. A Brigade is commanded by a Brigadier rank officer and has a strength of almost 3,000 combat personnel along with supporting elements.
Secondly, the Indian Army has 5 independent Armored Brigades, 15 Independent Artillery Brigades, 7 Independent Infantry Brigades, one Independent Parachute Brigade, 3 Independent Air Defence Brigades, 2 Independent Air Defence groups, and 4 Independent Engineer Brigades.
Independent Brigades: An Independent Brigade primarily consists of an artillery unit, an infantry unit, an armored unit, and logistics to support its actions. In short, Independent Brigades are not a part of any division and are under the direct command of the Corps Commander.
Battalion: Subsequently, Brigades are classified into Battalions; a Battalion/Regiment comprises three platoons along with supporting Arms and Services. Battalions are commanded by a Colonel rank officer and are the Infantry’s main fighting unit. It consists of more than 900 combat personnel. Infantry Battalions also have a Ghatak (translating to lethal) Platoon, the members of the Ghatak Platoon are the fittest soldiers of the battalion and go through specialized training at Commando School, Belgaum, to undertake specialized operations in wartime.
Ghatak platoon during the surgical strikes in 2016. Source: India Today
Rifle Company: A Rifle Company comprises three platoons and has a strength of around 120 personnel. And is commanded by Company Commander who is of the Lieutenant or Major rank.
Platoon: A Platoon is an intermediate between company and section, a platoon is usually commanded by a Captain or a Lieutenant, or even a Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO). It has a total strength of 32 troops.
Section: Sections are the smallest military outfits with a strength of 10 personnel; led by a non-commissioned officer of the rank of a Havildar or Sergeant.
Major Structural Reforms in the Indian Army
Having considered the recommendations of the Kargil Committee, the first major reform in the structure of the Army was the creation of the post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). The CDS is a four-star General with overarching financial powers to sanction procurement and acquisition of key equipment. Therefore, files from his office will not be required to go through the Defence Secretary which will result in faster procurements. Moreover, the Indian Army also plans to modify its current Command and Corps structure and introduce Theatre Commands.
India's first Chief of Defence Staff, General Bipin Rawat
What are Theatre Commands?
Theatre Commands: The use of the term theatre refers to an area where a conflict takes place whereas a Theatre Command is an organizational structure designed to control all military assets in a theatre of war to increase synchronization between the three forces and achieve effectiveness in military operations. Theaterisation refers to placing combat units of the Army, Navy, and Air Force under a single Theatre Commander. Once the Theatre Commands are operationalized, the Theatre Commander will be drawn from one of the three services and will be a Lieutenant General or equivalent rank officer. The different Theatre Commands in the order of their Area of Responsibility (AOR) have been mentioned below.
⮚ Western Theatre Command: The Western Command’s remit will be from Siachen Glacier to Kutch in Gujarat. The Command is expected to be headquartered in Jaipur, Rajasthan.
⮚ Northern Theatre Command: The Area of Responsibility (AOR) for the Northern Command will stretch from Karakoram Pass in Ladakh to Kibithu in Arunachal Pradesh. The Command will be headquartered at Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh.
⮚ Peninsular Command: Accordingly, the primary role of the Peninsular Command will be to man the coastal borders of India. The command will be headquartered at Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala
⮚ Air Defence Command: It could be said that, the Air Defence Command will not only spearhead India’s aerial attack capabilities but will also be responsible for defending the Indian airspace.
⮚ Maritime Theatre Command: Similarly, a Maritime Command will be responsible for securing the Indian Ocean and India’s island territories along with keeping the sea lanes free and secure for trading. The command will be headquartered at Karwar.
Introduction of Integrated Battle Groups
Proponents of war have also suggested the formation of Integrated Battle Groups or IBGs. IBGs are agile, brigade-sized, self-sufficient combat formations. Each IBG will be headed by a Major General rank officer and will consist of 5,000 troops. In contrast to existing formations, IBGs will be able to strike harder and quicker in case of any hostility as they will be capable of mobilizing their assets within 12 - 48 hours based on the location.
It is important to note that all IBGs will be tailor-made and will be centered on the three Ts- Threat, Terrain, and Task. Therefore, an IBG's operation in the deserts will be different from the operation in the mountains.
In conclusion, the Army’s continuous efforts to improve its warfighting capabilities with the introduction of Theatre Commands, coupled with Integrated Battle Groups will soon prove to be a game-changer for the Indian Army. It can be said from the above analysis that the reforms taken by the Indian Army to modernize its current structure will not only enhance the Army’s effectiveness in military operations but will also boost the synergy and jointness between the three forces.
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Javaid, A. (2020, May 21). What are Integrated battle groups? Retrieved February 27, 2021, from https://www.jagranjosh.com/general-knowledge/integrated-battle-groups-1590058460-1#:~:text=What%20are%20IBGs%3F-,Integrated%20Battle%20Groups%20or%20IBGs%20are%20agile%2C%20brigade%2Dsized%2C,%2D%2D%20Threat%2C%20Terrain%20and%20Task