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Army Headquarters

The President of India is the Supreme Commander of the Indian Armed Forces. As in all democracies, the Indian Armed Forces are controlled by the elected political leadership of the nation (Government of India). Executive control is exercised sequentially through the Union Cabinet, the Defence Minister, the Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC) and the Chiefs of Army, Naval and Air Staff of their respective Services. The Ministry of Defence handles matters related to personnel, financial and resource management.

Indian Army Headquarters began its life in the Red Fort - Delhi. Imposing edifice that it is, it was hardly suitable to house a complex entity such as this. Supreme Headquarters at that time retained its seat in South Block and refused to share space. Mercifully, it was wound up in short order. Today Army Headquarters occupies portions of South Block along with a gigantic, architecturally modern Sena Bhavan adjacent. Some portions are still housed in barracks of Second World War vintage. By 14 January 1949, the Army had its first Indian Commander-in-Chief (in 1956 designated as Chief of the Army Staff) - General (later Field Marshal) KM Cariappa.

The army is headquartered in New Delhi and is under the direction of the chief of the army staff, always a full general. The chief of the army staff is assisted by a vice chief, two deputy chiefs, a military secretary, and the heads of four main staff divisions: the adjutant general, the quartermaster general, the master general of ordnance, and the engineer in chief.

The Chief of Army Staff (COAS) wears multiple hats. To the entire army, now some 1.1 million men and women strong, he is the Chief. A number of Staff Officers assist him, such as Principal Staff Officers (PSOs), Heads of Arms and Services, etc. It would take a book of considerable length to even set down their designations and functions.

Until the 1960s, staff coordination was a one-man affair in the form of a three-star General Officer designated the Chief of the General Staff, with direct access to the Chief available to 'some' - the PSOs. Today a Vice Chief and two Deputy Chiefs of Army Staff handle coordination. The command channel is absolutely one to one between the Chief and his Army Commanders -with no one - but no one authorized even to say hold the line'.

PSOs at Army Headquarters (and others down the line) have retained their nineteenth-century designations, not having succumbed to new managerial nomenclatures or alpha-numeric designations. The Quartermaster General, Master General of Ordnance, Adjutant General, Military Secretary, Engineer-in-Chief, Signal Officer-in-Chief, therefore, find traditional mention. At the sharp end a brigade-level General Staff Officer and his logistic equivalents are still called Brigade Major, Deputy Assistant Adjutant General and Deputy Assistant Quartermaster General respectively. Quite a mouthful, paper-filling designations when no abbreviations are used.

The Army consists of a number of arms and services. These are: Armoured Corps, Regiment of Artillery, Corps of Engineers, Corps of Signals, Mechanised Infantry, Infantry, Army Service Corps, Military Nursing Service, Army Medical Corps, Army Dental Corps, Army Ordnance Corps, Corps of Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, Remount and Veterinary Corps, Military Farms Service, Army Education Corps, Intelligence Corps, Corps of Military Police, Judge Advocate General Department, Army Physical Training Corps, Pioneer Corps, Army Postal Service Corps and Defence Security Corps. In addition, the Army has its own Recruiting Organisation, Record Offices, Depots, Boys Establishments and Selection Centers and training institutions. These units are organized in twelve corps-level formations.

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