By Rajat Pandit
Jan 13, 2013
NEW DELHI: The Army has come up with a fresh proposal for the new mountain strike corps, apart from two "independent" infantry brigades and two "independent" armoured brigades, to plug operational gaps along the LAC (line of actual control) as well as to acquire "some offensive capabilities" against China.
The raising of the new formations will cost around Rs 81,000 crore, spread primarily over the 12th Plan period (2012-17), with a little spillover into the 13th Plan if necessary, say sources.
"The approved 12th Army Plan, as part of the LTIPP (long-term integrated perspective plan), already ca-ters Rs 62,000 crore for the corps. The Army is now asking for another Rs 19,000 crore," said a source.
With additional armoured regiments and infantry units based in Ladakh, Sikkim and Uttarakhand, the new mountain corps (around 40,000 soldiers) will for the first time give India the capability to also launch a counter-offensive into TAR (Tibet Autonomous Region) in the event of a Chinese attack, say sources.
As with the development of the over 5,000-km Agni-V and 3,500-km Agni-IV ballistic missiles — coupled with the ongoing progressive deployment of Sukhoi-30MKI fighters, spy drones, helicopters and missile squadrons in the northeast — the overall aim is to have "strategic deterrence" in place to dissuade China from embarking on any "misadventure".
The proposal for the new corps — recently approved by the CoSC (chiefs of staff committee) comprising the Army, Navy and IAF chiefs — will of course have to be get the final nod from the CCS (Cabinet Committee on Security) after requisite wetting by the defence and finance ministries for it to be implemented. The plan to raise a new mountain corps, headquartered at Panagarh in West Bengal, is not new. Last year, the government had referred it to the CoSC for a rethink and fine-tuning, which has now been completed.
As part of the overall plan for "major force accretion" along the "northern borders" with China, two new infantry divisions (35,000 soldiers and 1,260 officers), have already been raised at Lekhapani and Missamari in Assam in 2009-10. Their operational tasking is the defence of Arunachal Pradesh, which China often claims as its territory.
"Mechanized elements (tanks and infantry combat vehicles) are also being strengthened in eastern Ladakh and Sikkim," said the source. Moreover, a Rs 26,155 crore plan to develop infrastructure along the 4,057-km LAC by 2020-21 is already underway.
The new corps, with two specialized high-altitude divisions for "rapid reaction force capability in mountains", will add to all this. This will give India, which for long has focused on the land borders with Pakistan, some offensive teeth against China as well.
This is critical because China has "aggressively" strengthened its military capabilities in the TAR, with at least five fully-operational airbases, an extensive rail network and over 58,000-km of roads. This, as earlier reported by TOI, allows China to move over 30 divisions (each with over 15,000 soldiers) to the LAC, outnumbering Indian forces by at least 3:1 there.