Union Minister for Defence Nirmala Sitharaman File/PTI Photo
FIVE YEARS after they were first proposed by the Armed Forces, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) is expecting the three new tri-service agencies in the field of cyber warfare, space and special operations to be raised shortly. Their formation was announced by the MoD in July this year, and the proposal is with the government for approval. “The new Defence Minister is also keen on seeing them through, and we are just awaiting requisite approvals from the Law Ministry and other government departments,” said an official source.
According to sources, the proposals for the three new formations — Defence Cyber Agency, Defence Space Agency and a Special Operations Division — are with other ministries for approval as the resources for them have to come from “accretion and not under save-and-raise”. The approvals are expected “within a couple of months”, said sources, after which these agencies, to be headed by officers of the rank of Major General and equivalent in the Navy and Indian Air Force, will be raised.
The cyber and space agencies will be based out of Delhi, for close coordination with their civilian counterparts, while the Special Operations Division will be based outside the national capital. The Special Operations Division will have components of the Special Forces of the Army, Navy and IAF, and will be equipped and trained together for various external contingencies. The Army currently has Special Forces battalions, Navy has Marine Commandos (Marcos) and IAF has Garud. This division, which will be based at a location which already has training infrastructure, will have two SF battalions at its core, along with teams from Marcos and Garud, sources explained.
Working in close coordination with the National Cyber Security Advisor, the Defence Cyber Agency will be have over 1,000 personnel. These experts will be distributed to various formations of the Army, Navy and IAF, and will focus on non-civilian cyber issues, including safeguarding critical infrastructure.
The Defence Space Agency will have over 200 personnel, who will work closely with ISRO and DRDO for better utilisation and integration of space resources. This includes information sharing from individual satellites, and surveillance from other satellites which can then be shared with the concerned defence service.
In 2012, the Chiefs of Staff Committee had recommended creation of three joint commands — in the areas of cyber, space and special operations — due to their increased relevance in modern warfare. The new joint military doctrine, released earlier this year, also underscores the need to prepare the defence forces for the “emerging triad” of space, cyberspace and special operations for future combat. But it was only in July this year that the Defence Secretary apprised the Unified Commanders Conference that the Defence Cyber & Space Agencies and Special Operations Division would soon become a reality.
While the 2012 proposal envisaged commands to be headed by army commander equivalents, the current proposal is only for agencies to be headed by Major Generals. Sources said the agencies may eventually be upgraded to commands, after they have stabilised in their functioning. As per the 2012 proposal, a Navy officer was to head the cyber warfare command, an IAF commander was to be at the helm of space command and an Army officer would head the Special Forces command. It is expected that the same arrangement for division of agencies between the three services will continue even now.